Morocco, Spain Trade Accusations of Violating Good ‘Neighborliness’

Morocco and Spain traded new accusations on Monday in a diplomatic row triggered by the Western Sahara territorial issue that led this month to a migration crisis in Spain’s enclave in northern Morocco.Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described Morocco’s actions in appearing to relax border controls with the enclave of Ceuta as unacceptable and an assault on national borders.Morocco’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile blamed Spain for breaking “mutual trust and respect,” drawing parallels between the issues of Western Sahara and Spain’s Catalonia region, where there is an independence movement.The dispute was sparked by Spain admitting Western Sahara independence movement leader Brahim Ghali for medical treatment without informing Rabat.”It is not acceptable for a government to say that we will attack the borders, that we will open up the borders to let in 10,000 migrants in less than 48 hours … because of foreign policy disagreements,” Sanchez said at a news conference.Most migrants who crossed into Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, but hundreds of unaccompanied minors, who cannot be deported under Spanish law, remain.The influx was widely seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to discreetly take in Ghali.Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its own territory. The Algeria-backed Polisario seeks an independent state in the territory, where Spain was colonial ruler until 1975.Describing Spain as Morocco’s best ally in the European Union, Sanchez said he wanted to convey a constructive attitude toward Rabat but insisted that border security was paramount.”Remember that neighborliness … must be based on respect and confidence,” he said.Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Spain violated good neighborliness and mutual trust and that migration was not the problem.Rabat added that it has cooperated with Madrid in curbing migrant flows and in countering terrorism, which it said helped foil 82 militant attacks in Spain.The case of Ghali “revealed the hostile attitudes and harmful strategies of Spain regarding the Moroccan Sahara,” the ministry said in a statement.Spain “cannot combat separatism at home and promote it in its neighbor,” it said, noting Rabat’s support for Madrid against the Catalan independence movement.Separately, Ghali, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Logrono in the Rioja region, will attend a Tuesday high court hearing remotely from the hospital, his lawyer’s office said.Morocco, which has withdrawn its ambassador to Madrid, has said it may sever ties with Spain if Ghali left the country the same way he entered without a trial. 

Turkish Agents Capture Nephew of US-Based Cleric Overseas

Turkish agents have captured a nephew of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in an overseas operation and have brought him to Turkey where he faces prosecution, Turkey’s state-run news agency said Monday.Selahaddin Gulen, who was wanted in Turkey on charges of membership in a terror organization, was seized in an operation by Turkey’s national spy agency MIT, the Anadolu agency reported.  The report did not say where he was seized or when he was returned to Turkey. Gulen’s nephew, however, was believed to be residing in Kenya.His case is the latest in a series of forced repatriation of people affiliated with Gulen’s movement, which the Turkish government blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016.  Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, has rejected the accusations of involvement in the coup attempt.Turkey has designated his network a terrorist group, which it has named the Fethullahist Terror Organization, or FETO.Erdogan announced earlier in May that a prominent member of Gulen’s network had been captured but did not provide details.On July 15, 2016, factions within the Turkish military used tanks, warplanes and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Fighter jets bombed parliament and other spots in Turkey’s capital. Heeding a call by the president, thousands took to the streets to stop the coup.A total of 251 people were killed and around 2,200 others were wounded. Around 35 alleged coup plotters were also killed. 

Turkey’s Erdogan Under Renewed Pressure Following Mafia Boss Accusations

The Turkish government is facing accusations of arming and funding jihadists in Syria. The allegations are just the latest by an exiled mafia boss in a weekly YouTube broadcast that are putting the Turkish president in an increasingly tight spot.  
 
Among the many allegations being spread by Sedat Peker on YouTube is one that allegedly implicates the Turkish government of arming and buying oil from Syrian jihadists. In one of his broadcasts Peker explains in detail how key aides of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ran the scheme.  
 
Peker, who analysts say once enjoyed close ties to Turkey’s rulers, started broadcasting weekly Sunday videos on a YouTube channel, alleging government misdeeds after he was forced to flee the country.  
 
Analyst Atilla Yesilada says the mafia boss has a growing audience.  
 
“It is huge. He is easily attracting audiences in excess of four and five million per video. And everything he says is scrutinized in the opposition channels. So, I would say everyone knows about what he is saying. Obviously, the most damaging is him opening the 1990s file, the extrajudicial killings,” Yesilada said.
Peker alleges former interior minister Mehmet Aga was the head of a shadowy organization known as the “deep state,” which is said to have been responsible for a series of assassinations of prominent journalists dating back to the 1990s. Aga is closely linked to Erdogan, and his son Tolga is a parliamentary deputy for the ruling AKP, Turkey’s ruling party.  FILE – A photo taken May 26, 2021, in Istanbul, Turkey, shows a YouTube broadcast by exiled mob boss Sedat Peker on a mobile phone.Aga has denied the allegations. Erol Onderoglu of Reporters Without Borders says there is a need for government transparency.
 
“This should be part of a parliamentary investigation first, but I think that it will never be possible without the Turkish government naming some state actors in this period. So, transparency today should calm public opinion today and show respect to victims’ families,” Onderoglu said.
 
But Erdogan is dismissing the allegations.
 
Speaking to his party’s deputies, the Turkish president claimed the accusations are part of an international conspiracy to oust him.  
 
But Peker’s allegations continue, accusing the son of Erdogan’s close confidant, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, of cocaine smuggling, and turning Turkey into one of the biggest hubs for importing and distributing drugs into Europe. Yildirim dismissed the allegations.  
 
Analysts point out Erdogan is experienced at weathering political storms. But analyst Yesilada says, unlike in the past, Turkey is in the midst of an economic crisis and record-low opinion poll ratings for Erdogan.
 
“These are all unmistakable signs of Armageddon for Erdogan approaching. It will really take a miracle to repair the reputational damage that is caused by the Peker videos. The picture that emerges is that this is a government set for personal benefit and for the benefit of cronies and [one that] has completely lost interest in the voters,” Yesilada said.
 
Peker is promising more YouTube videos that he says will share more intimate secrets he claims he learned from spending two decades in the inner circles of the ruling party.
 

Georgia Opposition Ends Parliamentary Boycott

Georgia’s main opposition party on Sunday announced the end of a months-long parliamentary boycott that has plunged the Caucasus nation into a spiraling political crisis, following disputed elections last year.Georgia’s opposition parties have denounced massive fraud in the October 31 parliamentary elections, which were won narrowly by the ruling Georgian Dream party.In the months since, they have staged numerous mass protests, demanding snap polls and refused to assume their seats in the newly elected parliament.The boycott that has left around 40 seats vacant in the 150-seat legislature weighed heavily on Georgian Dream’s political legitimacy.On Sunday, Georgia’s main opposition force — the United National Movement (UNM) founded by exiled ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili — said it had taken the decision to end the boycott.”We will enter parliament to liberate the Georgian state captured by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili,” UNM chairman Nika Melia told journalists.He was referring to the billionaire founder of the ruling party, who is widely believed to be the man in charge in Georgia, despite having no official political role.The post-electoral stalemate worsened in February after police arrested Melia in a violent raid on his party headquarters, leading to the prime minister’s resignation and prompting swift condemnation from the West.Melia was released from pre-trial detention in May, on bail posted by the European Union.The move was part of an agreement Georgian Dream and the opposition signed in April under the European Council President Charles Michel’s mediation.The deal commits opposition parties to enter parliament, while Georgian Dream has promised sweeping political, electoral and judicial reforms.In power since 2012, Georgian Dream and its founder Ivanishvili — Georgia’s richest man — have faced mounting criticism from the West over the country’s worsening democratic record.Critics accuse Ivanishvili of persecuting political opponents and creating a corrupt system where private interests permeate politics.
 

Far-Right Party, Centrist Group Gain Big in Cyprus Poll

The far-right ELAM party and a centrist splinter group made big gains in Cyprus’ parliamentary election on Sunday as a sizeable chunk of supporters appeared to have turned their back on the top three parties amid voter disenchantment with traditional power centers.With 100% of votes counted, ELAM garnered 6.78% of the vote — a 3% increase from the previous election in 2016 — to edge out the socialist EDEK party by the razor-thin margin of around 200 votes.The centrist DIPA — made up of key figures from the center-right DIKO party which has traditionally been the third biggest party — gained 6.1% of the vote.The center-right DISY emerged in first place with 27.77% of the vote, 5.4% more than second-place, communist-rooted AKEL. But the parties respectively lost 2.9% and 3.3% of their support from the previous election.“The result isn’t what we expected,” AKEL General-Secretary Andros Kyprianou told a party rally. “We respect it and we’ll examine it carefully to draw conclusions, but we can now say that we failed to convince (our supporters).”Analyst Christoforos Christoforou said the results indicate a “very big failure” on the part of both DISY and AKEL to rally more supporters by convincing them of the benefits of their policies. A last-ditch appeal by the DISY leadership limited a projected 5% voter loss to 3%.Christoforou said the real winners were ELAM with its strident anti-migration platform and hardline nationalist policies and DIPA whose top echelons still have connections to the centers of political power as former ministers and lawmakers.He said that the high electoral threshold of 3.6% means that 15,000 voters who cast ballots for smaller parties who didn’t win any seats are left without a voice in parliament.Opinion polls in the weeks preceding the vote indicated that both DISY and AKEL would hemorrhage support as disappointed voters seek out alternatives among smaller parties.The election won’t affect the running of the government on the divided Mediterranean island nation, as executive power rests in the hands of the president, who is elected separately.About 65.73% of nearly 558,000 eligible voters cast ballots for the 56 Greek Cypriot seats in parliament. Voter turnout was 1% less than the previous poll.Among the key campaign issues were the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hoped-for economic reboot as the country ramps up vaccinations. Migration has also been an issue as the Cypriot government insists it has exceeded its limits and can no longer receive more migrants.Smaller parties have appealed to voters to turn their backs on DISY, which they said is burdened by a legacy of corruption.An independent investigation into Cyprus’ now-defunct investment-for-citizenship program found that the government unlawfully granted passports to thousands of relatives of wealthy investors, some with shady pasts. DISY bore the brunt of the criticism because it backs the policies of Anastasiades, the party’s former leader.Christoforou said there are questions as to whether the government has breached rules by using state funds to campaign for DISY.
 

Studies Reveal China’s Dominant Position in High-Tech Minerals

New clean energy technologies like solar power and electric vehicles are expected to remake the global energy industry. Trillions of dollars used to drill and ship oil and gas will instead be spent finding and processing the specialized minerals used to make high-tech gear including advanced electric generators and powerful, compact batteries.Energy analysts say this will challenge the United States, which will likely need to import vastly more minerals like cobalt, lithium and aluminum, at the same time that China has increased its control over the supply of some key resources.People cool off in the beach near the mining pipeline “Puerto Coloso” of the “Escondida” cooper mine in Antofagasta, Chile, Feb. 16, 2017.A VOA examination of U.S. government data shows how China has become the main supplier for some of the most important raw materials that Western countries import, giving Beijing leverage over the materials that go into everything from advanced fighter jets to solar panels.Not only has Beijing bought up some of the world’s biggest mines for these minerals, the country also has invested heavily in the processing facilities that refine the raw materials into industrially-useful products, strengthening Beijing’s position in global supply chains.Beijing has already given the world reason to worry about its reliability as a global supplier. In 2011, it used its position as the top global supplier of rare earth metals to cut exports, driving up prices. China’s critics say Beijing’s dominant position in so-called “critical minerals” gives them similar leverage.Aerial view of evaporation pools of the new state-owned lithium extraction complex, in the southern zone of the Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia, on July 10, 2019.35 critical mineralsThe United States has designated A man watches a conveyor belt loaded with chunks of raw cobalt after a first transformation at a plant in Lubumbashi, Congo, on Feb. 16, 2018, before being exported, mainly to China, to be refined.Chinese dominance in U.S. allies’ supply chainsOther Western countries have different lists of minerals considered critical to their economies. Among the lists of Australia, U.K. and Canada, rare earth minerals account for only one of the 24, 41 and 31 critical minerals, respectively.  The European Union classifies light and heavy rare earths as two separate critical elements on its 30 Critical Raw Materials (CRM) list.A study published last year by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center, a science and technology service agency, found that the production of a Rafale fighter aircraft requires a total of 16 CRMs, of which only three are rare earth elements. Although each country makes up its own list of “critical minerals” based on its strategic needs, China is a dominant supplier in all of the lists.In the EU’s list, China is the largest source of imports for 10 minerals. Among the 24 critical minerals identified by the Australian government in its Critical Minerals Prospectus 2020 report, China is listed as the largest producer of 11 of them.   In the U.K.’s Risk List, China is the leading producer of 23 minerals.Similar findings were reported by Chinese researchers as well.  A study published by China Geological Survey stated that “after combing through the list of Critical Minerals in the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and other countries, it can be seen that half or more of the country’s main producing countries and main sources of imports are our country.”The 2019 report said that of the 35 key minerals in the U.S., the largest supplier of 13 CMs is China, and China is also the largest producer of 19 CMs.This story originated in VOA’s Mandarin Service. 

Belarus News Site Editor Arrested Over Extremism Suspicions 

The chief editor of a popular internet news site in one of Belarus’ largest cities was detained Sunday on suspicion of extremism. The arrest Sunday of Hrodna.life editor Aliaksei Shota comes amid a crackdown on independent journalists and opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. The publication focuses on Belarus’ fifth-largest city, Grodno. City police said the website “posted information products that were duly recognized as extremist,” but didn’t give details. It wasn’t immediately clear if Shota had been formally charged with extremism, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Shota had collaborated with the country’s most popular internet portal Tut.by, which authorities closed this month after arresting 15 employees. Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich stands in an airport bus in the international airport outside Minsk, Belarus, May 23, 2021, in this photo released by Telegram Chanel t.me/motolkohelp. He was arrested shortly thereafter.Belarus’ crackdown escalated a week ago with the arrest of dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend who were aboard a commercial flight that was diverted to the Minsk airport because of an alleged bomb threat. The flight was flying over Belarus en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. The move sparked wide denunciation in the West as an act of hijacking and demands for Pratasevich’s release. The European Union banned flights from Belarus. Pratasevich is charged with organizing riots, a charge that carries a potential sentence of 15 years. The day after his arrest, authorities released a brief video in which Pratasevich said he was confessing, but observers said the statement appeared to be forced. The Belarusian human rights group Viasna said Sunday that Pratasevich had received a package from his sister but that an unspecified book had been taken from it. Large protests broke out last August after a presidential election that officials said overwhelmingly gave a sixth term in office to Lukashenko, who has consistently repressed opposition since coming to power in 1994. Police detained more than 30,000 people in the course of the protests, which persisted for months. Although protests died down during the winter, authorities have continued strong actions against opposition supporters and independent journalists.  

Ukrainian Ambassador in Thailand Dies on Resort Island

The Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand collapsed and died on Sunday while on a resort island with his family, authorities said.Andrii Beshta, 44, was declared dead on Lipe Island in southern Satun province, Gov. Ekkarat Leesen told The Associated Press.Police quoted his teenage son, who was staying in the same hotel room, as saying his father vomited and fainted early Sunday. He said he was feeling fine before. Police said they suspect he may have suffered a heart failure.Leesen said the body was sent to the police hospital for an autopsy.Beshta had assumed the post of ambassador in January 2016. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, according to a bio on the embassy’s website.

France Reports Drop in COVID Hospitalizations

France reported Saturday that the number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 had fallen by 76 to 3,028, while the overall number of people in hospital with the disease had fallen by 425 to 16,847.Both numbers have been on a downward trend in recent weeks.While reporting 10,675 new cases, the health ministry also announced 68 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals and said there had been 487,309 COVID-19 vaccine injections over the past 24 hours.

British Prime Minister Weds Fiancee in Secret, Reports Say 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson married his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, The Sun and Mail on Sunday newspapers reported.A spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office declined to comment on the reports.Both newspapers said that guests were invited at the last minute to the central London ceremony, and that even senior members of Johnson’s office were unaware of the wedding plans.Weddings in England are currently limited to 30 people because of COVID-19 restrictions.The Catholic cathedral was suddenly locked down at 1:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) and Symonds, 33, arrived 30 minutes later in a limo, in a long white dress with no veil, both reports said.Johnson, 56, and Symonds, 33, have been living together in Downing Street since Johnson became prime minister in 2019.Last year they announced they were engaged and that they were expecting a child, and their son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, was born in April 2020.Earlier this month the Sun had reported that wedding invitations had been sent to friends and family for July 2022.Johnson has a complicated private life. He was once sacked from the Conservative Party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extramarital affair. He has been divorced twice and refuses to say how many children he has fathered.Johnson’s last marriage was to Marina Wheeler, a lawyer. They had four children together but announced in September 2018 that they had separated.