Tens of Thousands of Greeks March to Demand Sole Right to the Name of Macedonia

Tens of thousands of flag-waving Greeks rallied in Thessaloniki Sunday, demanding Greece never compromise on the name Macedonia for its northern province.

Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic that shares the same name have been feuding over who gets to use it since Macedonia became independent Yugoslavia in 1991.

Police put the turnout for Sunday’s march at 90,000 while organizers say it is much higher.

Some of the protesters wore costumes from the period when Macedonia was ruled by the ancient Greek King Alexander the Great.

They say allowing the neighboring country to use the name Macedonia insults Greek history and implies a claim on Greek territory.

Sunday’s march was largely peaceful. But police quickly intervened when scuffles broke out between far-right extremists and anarchists who held up banners denouncing nationalism.

Greece has blocked Macedonian efforts to join the European Union and NATO because of the name dispute.

But United Nations negotiator Matthew Nimetz said last week he is “very hopeful” a settlement is near.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tells the Ethnos newspaper “If there is an opportunity for a solution, it would be a national stupidity not to make good use of it.”

The country of Macedonia is officially known at the U.N. as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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Spain to Seek Catalan Politician’s Arrest on Denmark Visit

The office of Spain’s state prosecutor said Sunday it will move to reissue a European arrest warrant for the fugitive former leader of Catalonia if he leaves Belgium and enters Denmark as planned.

The region’s ex-president, Carles Puigdemont, is scheduled to attend a debate Monday at the University of Copenhagen titled “Catalonia and Europe at a Crossroads for Democracy.”

The trip would be Puigdemont’s first outside Belgium since he fled there to avoid a court summons in Spain for his role in an illegal- and unsuccessful- secession bid led by his government in October.

If Puigdemont makes it to Denmark, the prosecutor’s office said it would immediately ask the Spain Supreme Court to approve a European warrant for his arrest by Danish authorities.

Spain issued a European warrant for Puigdemont’s arrest in November, but withdrew it after a month based on concerns that Brussels would send the Catalan politician back while restricting the crimes with which he could be charged.

Spain is investigating Puigdemont for possible rebellion, sedition and embezzlement linked to a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia’s parliament on Oct. 27.

His proposed appearance at the debate in the Danish capital comes while Puigdemont is trying to be reinstated as the regional president of Catalonia.

Spain’s prime minister removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet from office and dissolved Catalonia’s parliament as part of a crackdown on the separatist push. But pro-secession political parties won the most seats in the December election for a new parliament, which must form a government by the end of the month.

It remains unclear how Puigdemont could be sworn in again as regional president without returning to Spain and therefore putting himself open to likely arrest.

The Spanish government has vowed to impede Puigdemont’s reinstatement with court challenges, if necessary, and to keep direct control over the region until a new government takes over.

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Кількість загиблих українців у Кабулі може зрости до 7 осіб – МЗС

Кількість загиблих українців у столиці Афганістану Кабулі може зрости до 7 осіб, повідомив у Twitter начальник управління консульського забезпечення Департаменту консульської служби Міністерства закордонних справ України Василь Кирилич.

«Триває оперативна робота з компетентними органами Афганістану», – зазначив дипломат.

Раніше міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін заявив про шістьох загиблих українських громадян в готелі Intercontinental у Кабулі. За словами президента України Петра Порошенка, вони були співробітниками української авіакомпанії.

Тим часом,BBC із посиланням на афганську поліцію повідомили, що серед загиблих було 9 українців, один німець, один грек і один громадянин Казахстану. Також інформацію про дев’ятьох загиблих наводить посол Великобританії в Україні Джудіт Гоф. Офіційного підтвердження цього, однак, наразі немає.

Як повідомила афганська служба Радіо Свобода «Радіо Вільний Афганістан», угруповання «Талібан» узяло на себе відповідальність за напад на готель у столиці Афганістану Кабулі, внаслідок якого загинули щонайменше 18 людей.

20 січня в готелі Intercontinental відбулася перестрілка між нападниками (за різними даними, їх було 4 або 5) та афганськими силами безпеки.

Готель Intercontinental в Кабулі зазнав нападу терористів-смертників у червні 2011 року, тоді загинула 21 людина, серед яких 10 цивільних осіб.

 

 

 

 

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Іспанія хоче арештувати відстороненого лідера Каталонії, якщо той приїде до Данії

Іспанія каже, що він знову видає ордер на арешт відстороненого лідера Каталонії, якщо він виїде з Бельгії та поїде до Данії, як це було заплановано.

Екс-президент регіону Карлос Пучдемон планує відвідати обговорення в Копенгагенському університеті 22 січня.

Це буде вперше, коли Пучдемон опиниться за межами Бельгії, куди він виїхав, щоб уникнути виклику до суду в Іспанії за його роль у спробі виходу регіону з-під контролю офіційного Мадрида.

Державний прокурор заявив 21 січня, що якщо Пучдемон поїде до Данії, як це передбачалося, він «негайно просить» Верховний суд Іспанії видати європейський ордер на його арешт з боку влади Данії.

Іспанія видала європейський ордер на арешт Пучдемона в листопаді, але зняв його через місяць.

Минулого року в Каталонії пройшли дострокові регіональні вибори. Їх призначили після того, як регіон оголосив про незалежність за підсумками місцевого референдуму. Мадрид назвав голосування незаконним і ввів у Каталонії пряме правління. Регіональний парламент розпустили, а місцевий уряд відправили у відставку. Усунений від влади голова Каталонії Карлес Пучдемон виїхав до Бельгії, звідки вів виборчу кампанію.

Після перемоги на виборах відсторонений голова Каталонії Карлес Пучдемон закликав іспанську владу сісти за стіл переговорів. Політик заявив, що готовий зустрітися з прем’єр-міністром у будь-якій країні Євросоюзу, крім Іспанії. За словами Пучдемона, для повернення на батьківщину йому потрібні гарантії, що він може зайняти посаду голови нового каталонського уряду.

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Mattis: Turkey Alerted US Before Striking Kurds in Syria

Turkey alerted the United States before striking a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“They warned us before they launched the aircraft that they were going to do it,” Mattis told reporters Sunday on a plane headed for Southeast Asia.

Turkey on Saturday began bombing the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin along the Turkish border in northern Syria, in an attempt to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, from the area.

Mattis said the communication took the form of a telephone call between high level Turkish and U.S. military officials. But he declined to say whether U.S. officials cautioned Turkey against the strikes.

“We are very alert to it. Our top levels are engaged…and we’re working through it,” Mattis said. “We’ll work this out.”

The YPG is a key U.S. partner in the war against Islamic State, and makes up a large portion of the Syrian Democratic Forces  a coalition that has forced Islamic State from virtually its entire so-called caliphate.

 

But Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group, and says it is linked with Kurdish separatists within its own borders.

“They have proven their effectiveness,” said Mattis. “It has cost them thousands of casualties, but you have watched them, with coalition support, shred ISIS’ caliphate in Syria, and that’s a matter of arithmetic.”

Mattis acknowledged that the success against Islamic State “does not remove many of Turkey’s concerns,” adding that it is “easy to understand” why Ankara is worried the conflict will spill over the Syrian border.

“Turkey is a NATO ally. It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns,” Mattis said.

The U.S. and Turkey have worked together to fight Islamic State as part of an international coalition. Specifically, U.S. and other planes have used Turkey’s Incirlik military base to carry out strikes on IS.

The U.S. military currently has about 2,000 personnel in Syria. But no US forces are at risk because of the Turkish offensive “at this time,” Mattis said.

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Australia, Canada Trade Blows over Wine

Australia has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization that accuses Canada of placing “discriminatory” rules on the sales of imported wine.

Canada is Australia’s fourth-biggest wine market. Officials in Canberra say rules in Canada unfairly discriminate against overseas wine.

An official protest has been lodged with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against regulations in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where wine produced locally can be sold in grocery stores but imports must be sold in a “store within a store” with a separate cash register.

Canberra’s objection also targets policies in other provinces, including Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, as well as federal practices in Canada, which could breach a WTO agreement. They mean higher prices for foreign wines, as well as other barriers to sale, according to the Australian complaint.

“Australia is seeing its market share and that market erode. That concerns me, it concerns wine exporters,” said Australian trade minister Steve Ciobo. “Potentially this could cost Australian jobs, so I want to make sure we are on the front foot about protecting Australia’s interests.”

Australia’s complaint to the WTO is similar to one made by the United States, which has accused Canada of placing unfair limits on the sale of imported wine.

In October, the U.S. said British Columbia was favoring local vineyards by giving their wine an exclusive retail outlet in grocery store shelves and cutting out U.S. competition.

A spokesman for Canada’s international trade minister said the federal government works to ensure its liquor policies “are consistent with our international trade commitments”.

Under WTO rules, Canada has 60 days to settle the dispute with Australia.

After that, Canberra could ask the WTO to adjudicate, which could result in Canada being forced to change its laws or risk trade sanctions.

 

 

 

 

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Iran May Try to Loosen Revolutionary Guard’s Grip on Economy

Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to loosen its hold on the economy, the country’s defense minister says, raising the possibility that the paramilitary organization might privatize some of its vast holdings.

The comments this weekend by Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami appear to be a trial balloon to test the reaction of the idea, long pushed by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate. Protests over the country’s poor economy last month escalated into demonstrations directly challenging the government.

 

But whether the Guard would agree remains unclear, as the organization is estimated to hold around a third of the country’s entire economy.

 

Hatami, the first non-Guard-affiliated military officer to be made defense minister in nearly 25 years, made the comments in an interview published Saturday by the state-run IRAN newspaper. He said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered both the country’s regular military and the Guard to get out of businesses not directly affiliated to their work.

 

“Our success depends on market conditions,” the newspaper quoted Hatami as saying.

 

He did not name the companies that would be privatized. The Guard did not immediately acknowledge the supreme leader’s orders in their own publications, nor did Khamenei’s office.

 

The Guard formed out of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution as a force meant to protect its political system, which is overseen by Shiite clerics. It operated parallel to the country’s regular armed forces, growing in prominence and power during the country’s long and ruinous war with Iraq in the 1980s. It runs Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well its own intelligence operations and expeditionary force.

 

In the aftermath of the 1980s war, authorities allowed the Guard to expand into private enterprise.

 

Today, it runs a massive construction company called Khatam al-Anbia, with 135,000 employees handling civil development, the oil industry and defense issues. Guard firms build roads, man ports, run telecommunication networks and even conduct laser eye surgery.

 

The exact scope of all its business holdings remains unclear, though analysts say they are sizeable. The Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which long has been critical of Iran and the nuclear deal it struck with world powers, suggests the Guard controls “between 20 and 40 percent of the economy” of Iran through significant influence in at least 229 companies.

 

In his comments, Hatami specifically mentioned Khatam al-Anbia, but didn’t say whether that too would be considered by the supreme leader as necessary to privatize. The Guard and its supporters have criticized other business deals attempting to cut into their piece of the economy since the nuclear deal.

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Saudis Urge Oil Production Cooperation Beyond 2018

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister urged global oil producing nations on Sunday to extend their cooperation beyond 2018, but said this might mean a new form of deal rather than continuing the same supply cuts that have boosted prices in recent months.

It was the first time that Saudi Arabia had publicly raised the possibility of a new form of coordination among oil producers after 2018. Their agreement on supply cuts, originally launched last January, is set to expire in December this year.

Cooperation ‘here to stay’

Khalid al-Falih, speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting later in the day of the joint ministerial committee, which oversees implementation of the cuts, said extending cooperation would convince the world that coordination among producers was “here to stay.”

“We shouldn’t limit our efforts to 2018, we need to be talking about a longer framework of cooperation,“ Falih said. ”I am talking about extending the framework that we started, which is the declaration of cooperation, beyond 2018.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean sticking barrel by barrel to the same limits or cuts, or production targets country by country that we signed up to in 2016, but assuring stakeholders, investors, consumers and the global community that this is something that is here to stay. And we are going to work together.”

Falih said the global economy had strengthened while supply cuts, of which Saudi Arabia has shouldered by far the largest burden, had shrunk oil inventories around the world. As a result, the oil market will return to balance in 2018, he said.

$70 a barrel oil

Falih and energy ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Oman noted that the rise of the Brent oil price to three-year highs around $70 a barrel in recent weeks could cause an increase in supply of shale oil from the United States.

But both Falih and UAE minister Suhail al-Mazroui said they did not think the rise in prices would hurt global demand for oil.

Kuwait’s oil minister Bakheet al-Rashidi said any discussion among producers on the future of the agreement on supply cuts would not occur Sunday, but was expected to happen at a meeting in June. OPEC and other producers led by Russia are next scheduled to meet to discuss oil policy in June.

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На Донбасі постраждали п’ятеро українських військових – штаб

У зоні бойових дій на Донбасі 20 січня був поранений один український військовий, ще четверо зазнали бойових травм, повідомляє штаб української воєнної операції. За цими даними, підтримувані Росією бойовики шість разів порушили режим тиші, це сталося на Луганському напрямку та на Приазов’ї. 

В угрупованнях «ДНР» та «ЛНР» ще не оприлюднили повідомлень про бойові дії 20 січня.

Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголосила черговий, новорічно-різдвяний, «режим тиші» з півночі 23 грудня 2017 року. Нинішнє нове перемир’я, як і попередні, порушується практично щодня. Сторони заперечують свою вину в цьому і звинувачують противників у провокаціях.

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British Group Works to Preserve Afghanistan’s Arts & Crafts Heritage

Afghanistan’s arts and architecture were once the pride of Asia. However, more than four decades of war have left many of the country’s traditional crafts on the verge of extinction. Now a Britain-based organization, Turquoise Mountain, is working to preserve Afghan heritage in the capital’s still surviving commercial district, Murad Khani. VOA Deewa service’s Munaza Shaheed reports from a recent trip to Kabul.

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