Posts Tagged EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

Ankara Rocked By Terrorist Car Bomb

AnkaraAt least 28 people were killed and 61 wounded Wednesday by a car bomb targeting the Turkish military in the heart of the capital Ankara, the latest in a string of attacks to shake the country.

The blast struck a convoy of military service vehicles but it was still not clear who carried it out, said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, confirming the latest toll.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed retaliation against the perpetrators of the attack, which came on the heels of a spate of deadly strikes in Turkey blamed on jihadists but also on Kurdish rebels.

The car bomb detonated when a convoy of military buses carrying dozens of soldiers stopped at traffic lights in central Ankara, creating scenes of panic and chaos.

“This attack has very clearly targeted our esteemed nation as a whole and was carried out in a vile, dishonourable, treacherous and insidious way,” said Kurtulmus.

Plumes of smoke could be seen from all over the city rising from the scene, close to the headquarters of the Turkish military and the parliament.

The powerful blast was heard throughout Ankara, sending alarmed residents rushing to their balconies. The army said the attack took place at 1631 GMT and had targeted “service vehicles carrying army personnel”.

Without specifying what the retaliation could entail, Erdogan warned that “Turkey will not shy away from using its right to self-defence at any time, any place or any occasion.”

“Our determination to respond in kind to attacks taking place inside and outside our borders is getting stronger,” he said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled a planned visit to Brussels on Thursday, his office said. Erdogan also shelved a trip to Azerbaijan.

A mini-summit on Europe’s refugee crisis gathering 11 EU countries and Turkey scheduled for Thursday was cancelled due to Davutoglu’s absence, diplomats said.

In Ankara, ambulances and fire engines were sent to the scene and wounded victims were seen being taken away on stretchers.

Images showed fire-fighters trying to overcome a fierce blaze engulfing wrecked service buses that were gutted by the blast.

Turkish police threw a security cordon around the area. A second blast later rocked the area, but officials said this was police detonating a suspicious package.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance strongly condemned the bombing. “NATO Allies stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

French President Francois Hollande denounced the attack as “odious”.

“We are with Turkey and its people in these difficult times,” added EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Kurtulmus acknowledged that “we don’t have any information yet about who carried out this attack” but vowed the perpetrators “will be revealed as soon as possible.”

The Islamic State group has been blamed for a slew of bombings in the country since the middle of last year but the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has also killed dozens of soldiers in attacks mainly in the southeast of the country.

The capital was already on alert after 103 people were killed on October 10 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, the bloodiest attack in the country’s modern history.

Eleven people, all German tourists, were also killed on January 16 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the tourist heart of Istanbul.

Those attacks were blamed on IS jihadists, as were two other deadly bombings in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the year.

But Turkey is also waging an all-out assault on the outlawed PKK which has repeatedly attacked members of the security forces with roadside bombings on their convoys in the southeast.

The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although now more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority.

The conflict, which has left tens of thousands of people dead, looked like it could be nearing a resolution until an uneasy truce was shattered in July.

Meanwhile, Turkish artillery in southern Turkey shelled positions of Kurdish fighters in Syria for the fifth day in the row on Wednesday in an escalating standoff, reports said.

Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) are merely the Syrian branch of the PKK and themselves terror groups.

The banned ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C) has also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the last few months.



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Iran Complies With Terms of Nuclear Deal Resulting in International Sanctions Being Lifted

Iran SanctionsCrippling economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted as the UN confirms Tehran has drastically scaled down its nuclear programme.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says Tehran has fulfilled its side of last year’s landmark deal with six world powers.

“Iran has carried out all measures required under the (July deal) to enable Implementation Day (of the deal) to occur,” the Vienna-based agency said in a statement.

In return, the United States, European Union and United Nations have lifted a raft of nuclear-related sanctions.

The move will allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100bn (£70bn) in assets frozen overseas.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “I hereby confirm that the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iran has fully implemented its required commitments… The US sanctions-related commitments… are now in effect.”

Meanwhile, in a  joint press conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “As Iran has fulfilled its commitments, today multilateral and national economic and financial sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme”.

“(The deal’s) proper implementation will be a key contribution to improve regional and international peace, stability and security,” she said.

The announcement came hours after the US and Iran reached an agreement on a prisoner swap, bringing an end to 14 months of negotiations,

Tehran confirmed that four inmates with dual Iranian-US nationality have been released from its jails, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian,

US officials say a fifth American, student Matthew Trevithnick, has also been freed, but that his release was not part of the prisoner swap.

Seven Iranians, being held in prisons across the US, have been released in return.

Western powers imposed sanctions on Iran over fears it was planning to use its atomic programme to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran always maintained its nuclear ambitions were peaceful.

It is thought that since 2012 the sanctions have cost Iran on some £102bn in oil revenues alone.

Iran has the fourth biggest oil supplies in the world and the free flow of Iranian oil into the world market could mean lower prices at the pumps.

Restrictions on Iran’s shipping, energy, banking and automotive sectors will begin to be lifted, along with so-called secondary sanctions, which penalised foreign nationals with large dealings in Iran, being cancelled. Some sanctions not linked to the nuclear deal will, however, remain in place, including European sanctions relating to human rights and US sanctions relating to terrorism.

In comments posted on his official Twitter account, he wrote: “I thank God for this blessing & bow to the greatness of the patient nation of Iran. Congrats on this glorious victory!” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said it would make the world a “safer place.”

“The nuclear deal with Iran, in which Britain played a major role, makes the Middle East and the wider world a safer place,” Mr Hammond said in a statement.

“Years of patient and persistent diplomacy, and difficult technical work, have borne fruit as we now implement the deal,” he added.

There are those, however, who are alarmed at the prospect of closer western ties with Shiite Iran, chiefly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Israel.

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran “has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons, and continues to act to destabilise the Middle East and spread terror throughout the world”.

The Iran deal with foreign powers operates on a snap-back system, meaning that sanctions would be re-introduced if Iran were deemed to violate the terms of the agreement in any way. Some of the deal’s provisions are also set to run out in 15 years, meaning that Iran could revert to enriching uranium to a higher level at a later stage.

“Iran may test the boundaries of the agreement. It is critical that violations do not go unpunished, or the deal could be killed by a thousand paper cuts,” Kelsey Davenport, of the Arms Control Association, said in a statement.

This year’s US presidential and congressional elections could also spell trouble for the deal, with many Republican presidential candidates likely to take a tougher stance on Iran. While many believe the deal will help boost the reformist camp in Iran, many conservatives have been less receptive to the new relationship with the West.


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