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June 25, 2012

EU condemns Syria for shootdown, urges Turkish restraint

EU condemns Syria for shootdown, urges Turkish restraint

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Syria
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A regular conference of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg today issued condemnation of Syria’s recent shootdown of a Turkish fighter jet, but also sought restraint from Turkey in its response.

A Turkish F-4 Phantom jet, from file.

Catherine Ashton, head of EU foreign policy, said the bloc is “very concerned” by the situation “and very concerned for the family of the two pilots who are missing”. She speaks ahead of a NATO meeting called by Turkey under provisions allowing members to seek urgent talks if they perceive themselves under threat. Turkey is a NATO member, and an EU membership candidate.

The disputed incident saw a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet destroyed on Friday, with Syria claiming they were unaware of the aircraft’s origin and merely defending themselves. The Turks claim the jet mistakenly entered Syrian airspace, but had left again after a warning and was in international airspace when it was attacked.

The EU has today announced fresh sanctions against Syria: Another person and six organisations were added to the EU’s sanctions list, which now imposes asset freezes on 43 groups and over 100 people; the individuals also face travel bans. The growing list is in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violent suppression of an uprising against his rule. China and Russia consistently use their vetoes as permanent UN Security Council members to prevent calls for al-Assad to step down.

The UN puts deaths at the hands of Syrian government forces at 10,000; Syria attributes 2,600 government and security forces deaths to “terrorists” with foreign assistance. Turkey and the West are uncertain if removing al-Assad would simply make Syria even more fractured and volatile.

Cquote1.svg This plane was not carrying arms and was on a routine flight Cquote2.svg

—Laurent Fabius

Giulio Terzi, foreign minister of Italy, said the shootdown highlighted the need for an end to violence in the region and “illustrates how the Syrian crisis is escalating”. His UK counterpart, William Hague, said “I don’t think it illustrates a different phase” but agreed it was “important that we increase the pressure with additional sanctions”. He predicts some nations “will be very active in arguing for a new resolution from the Security Council.” Their French colleague, Laurent Fabius, said the destruction with “no prior warning” of an aircraft that “was not carrying arms and was on a routine flight” is “completely unacceptable.”

A Turkish cabinet meeting is due today to examine the shootdown, with Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal telling al-Jazeera the attack was “a hostile act”. Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been more measured in his response, and has avoided calling for military intervention.

“Military intervention in Syria is out of the question,” according to Uri Rosenthal, foreign minster of the Netherlands, for either “the Dutch government… [or] in the… context of NATO.” NATO’s North Atlantic Council meets tomorrow to discuss Turkey’s concerns, with any action needing unanimous approval from ambassadors representing all 28 member states.



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March 15, 2010

Sarkozy\’s party defeated by Socialists in French regional elections

Sarkozy’s party defeated by Socialists in French regional elections

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France

The Socialist Party took a strong lead in the first round of regional elections in France on Sunday. Its main opposition the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), which is the governing party of incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, is predicted to be defeated. The election results, while marked by low turnout, strongly favored leftist candidates according to official returns. This has given the ruling right wing party a blow in the last nationwide election before the 2012 presidential elections.

When 96% of votes had been counted, candidates from the Socialist and other leftist parties had won 53.6 percent votes according to the Interior Ministry. The conservative UMP party and other right-wing candidates won 39.8 percent. The far-right National Front outdid expectations with 12% of the vote. It seems to be favored by voters concerned about immigration and the growing Muslim population. According to polls the Socialists will win with a majority in the second round in all 26 regions of France. The Socialists already control twenty of the twenty two regions on the French mainland.

Sarkozy has dismissed this result as “regional voting, regional consequences,” but indicated his intention to slow the pace of reforms and make a minor cabinet reshuffle. Prime Minister François Fillon said “It’s not over. Everything is open” before the decisive runoff on March 21. He urged voters who missed the first round to come out for the second round, “at a moment when the economic and financial crisis demands sang-froid, courage and unity.” Jean-François Copé, a leader of Sarkozy’s parliamentary group said “We had massive abstention — that is, an absolute record,”. Sarkozy supporters argued that the “triumphalism” of the leftists had been tempered by the record voter abstention, on television debates.

Martine Aubry, the Socialist leader
Image: Incorruptible.

Socialist leader Martine Aubry, in a speech to supporters Sunday night, called the result “encouraging”. “By this vote the French people have sent a clear and strong message of refusal to a France that is divided, anguished and weakened,” she said. She urged supporters to come out again next Sunday “to give a win to hope” that Sarkozy could be defeated in 2012.

Former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius called it “an excellent halftime for the Socialists,” saying that voters wanted to voice their displeasure against Sarkozy’s policies. He said the high rate of abstention indicated Sarkozy’s failure to motivate citizens facing economic crisis and record unemployment. Ségolène Royal, expected to be Sarkozy’s Socialist opponent in 2012 called this election “a severe sanction vote” against Sarkozy.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front
Image: David Monniaux.

The 81-year-old National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said, “The National Front was declared beaten, dead, buried by the president. This shows that it is still a national force, and probably destined to become greater and greater”. He appeared on national television after the vote, holding a poster banned by a court that reads: “No to Islamism.” He called on voters to back the party again in round two, saying his party was “combative and capable of rebuilding this country, which is in a horrible state.”

The National Front has tied for third-place nationally with Europe Écologie, the green-minded party campaigning about climate change, each winning 12 percent of the vote.”Europe Écologie is the third political force,” in France, said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a leader of the party. It has frayed a “tremendous path,” he said. His candidates are expected to align with the Socialists in many regions for the runoff polls.

Sarkozy had promised reforms to make the economy more dynamic before he was elected in 2007. But he changed this free-market strategy when the financial crisis hit and called for “moral capitalism” and proposed limiting bankers’ bonuses and global regulation of hedge funds. Sarkozy’s successful intervention to keep carmaker Renault from outsourcing jobs to Turkey and stimulus packages failed to lower the 10% unemployment rate inviting anger of the French citizens and causing his approval rating to fall below 40 percent. He was not able to stop the numerous strikes and protests by factory workers in recent months. He also started the ‘Burqa’ debate on the basis of which the far-right National Front has succeeded.

Turnout was estimated to be around 48 percent of France’s 44 million eligible voters, a sharp drop from the roughly 60 percent who voted in 2004.


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