UK diplomacy encouraged Turks to swoop for British Steel

British Steel workers who have been frantically watching their company barrel its way to liquidation have good reason to be relieved this weekend: the company set to take it over is as safe as houses.

That is because Ataer Holding’s parent company is a leviathan pension fund owned by Turkey’s armed forces.

Oyak — an abbreviation of the Turkish for “Military Mutualisation Corporation” — is a well-recognised brand that once appeared everywhere on the Turkish high street, from banks to supermarkets.

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Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot speaks to the Jewish Chronicle

The new chief Palestinian diplomat in the UK discusses antisemitism, engagement terms with Hamas and unwittingly reveals some common ground with Likud party members

Originally published in the Jewish Chronicle, Friday 10 May 2019

It was an hour and a half into our interview that Husam Zomlot’s voice cracked, quite suddenly, with emotion, over a memory of his grandfather’s advice about Jews.

“I was raised by a grandfather. His name is Shehada,” he said.

“My grandfather taught me when I was little. He would take me to places to pray.

“He taught me, ‘Husam, Judaism is the closest to Islam.’

“He taught me to look up to Judaism, that if you want to eat, go and eat with a Jew, because they have the same habits and rituals.”

The most senior Palestinian diplomat in the UK is an affable, courteous man. He speaks animatedly, waving his arms and slapping a nearby coffee table as he punctuates his points. This — and the slight quiver to his lip as he remembers the man who raised him — gives his demeanour a strongly Mediterranean quality.

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No revolution in Iran – yet – but protests reveal depth of regime split

Originally published as a front page splash in the Jewish Chronicle, 5 January 2018

What is remarkable about the unrest in Iran is that, one week on, the protests remain without a leader.

That is in contrast to 2009, the last time there were major protests on this scale, when Iranians were driven onto the streets by allegations of vote rigging in the election that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win a second term.

Then, the protesters — many of them well-educated, middle-class urbanites — were ushered on by the defeated candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. His movement eventually led Iran’s Supreme Leader to order a partial recount of votes. Mr Ahmadinejad was confirmed the victor.

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Author interview: Ian Black’s ‘Enemies and Neighbours’ is an ambitious attempt at even-handedness

When it comes to history’s most intractable conflict, Ian Black is not an easy man to pin to an opinion.

The veteran journalist has spent decades reporting on Israel and Palestine, mostly for the Guardian, first as a correspondent in Jerusalem and then as the newspaper’s Middle East editor. He left the paper in July 2016

Over the past four years, he combined the day job — he is now a senior Fellow at the London School of Economics — with work on a book tracing the events of the past century in that narrow strip of land next to the Mediterranean Sea.

The resulting volume, Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017, was published this month and focuses “pretty relentlessly” on Israel and the Palestinians, Dr Black says.

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Turkey’s No campaign is not going to take its defeat lying down

Yesterday was the day Turkey shed away the few remaining checks and balances that made it a recognisably Western parliamentary democracy.

By November 2019, the post of prime minister will be abolished and its responsibilities transferred to the president. The holder will have vast powers: to select his party’s MPs, to appoint senior judges, and to rule by decree.

It will be much harder to keep that single office in check. Previously, MPs in parliament could vote to come together to investigate and topple any minister they suspected of wrongdoing. The process took no longer than 18 days.

That same process will take longer for the president under the new system – up to 10 months – and the number of MPs who need to vote for it has increased dramatically.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan is about to make himself a virtual dictator in Turkey

As you read this, a rapid and turbulent revolution is underway in Turkey. The country’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is pushing proposals through parliament that would radically alter the system of government.

By abolishing Turkey’s long-established system of collective cabinet government, the AK Party says it will stabilise the country and streamline decision-making. But the proposed law will pool power in the hands of the president and dramatically reduce the top job’s accountability to parliament. In effect, it codifies a system of one-man rule for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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Children risk lives ‘every day’ as UK builds Calais wall

CALAIS, France — The migrant camp in northern France known colloquially as “the Jungle” does a roaring trade in energy drinks.

Row upon row of Red Bull and Monster Regular cans line the wooden shelves of a makeshift convenience store serving the camp’s mostly male inhabitants.

The caffeine-heavy drinks sell in droves for €1 ($1.12) each and it is little wonder. The dozens of migrants who each night use the cover of darkness to try and hitch a ride on a heavy goods truck need all the energy they can get.

Their coveted destination is Britain, but the British government is funding a new 4-metre-high barrier close to the northern town of Calais that it hopes will stop them trying.

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UK party slammed over ‘Islamophobic’ TV ad

Political broadcast by Eurosceptic UKIP party provokes fury from viewers, MPs and members of Britain’s Turkish community

LONDON — Scenes showing the Turkish flag, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and boats buzzing across the Bosporus were transmitted to millions of British television viewers on Wednesday night.

But it was not the latest advertising spot by Turkey’s tourist board. It was a warning against Turkish membership of the European Union – coming in the form of a propaganda broadcast by the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing group that took nearly four million votes in last year’s parliamentary election.

The broadcast contained extensive footage of mosques and women wearing headscarves before urging viewers to vote against Britain’s continued membership of the E.U. in the country’s forthcoming referendum.

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Tourism sows divisions in fiercely communist Cuba

Booming private sector, fueled by foreign visitors, threatens to upset island’s prized system of social equality

VINALES, CUBA — “This one is ready,” Lucilo said, turning the rooster upside down in his hands to inspect its plucked, featherless bottom. “He’s going to be a good fighter.”

The bird squirmed, unable to escape his grasp. It was weeks away from being thrown into the arena as gambling fodder in a cockfight.

While the farmer returned it to its small cage, his sleeve pulled back to reveal a nasty gash on his arm. Was that the work of one of his angry birds?

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Secret papers show Greek plans for 1983 Cyprus invasion

LONDON — An armed confrontation between Greek and Turkish soldiers on the island of Cyprus was a real possibility as recently as 1983, declassified documents have revealed.

Papers released in London show that Greece’s then Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou was prepared to send troops to divided Eastern Mediterranean island after the Turkish community unexpectedly declared an independent state in the north.

He made the offer of military support to Spyros Kyprianou, the then leader of the Greek-Cypriot administration, at an emergency meeting in Athens just hours after the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was proclaimed on Nov. 15, 1983.

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