© AFP | A woman and her children look on as migrants and refugees wait to cross the Greece-Macedonia border in the rain on November 27, 2015
Following the downing of Russian jet a series of retaliatory measures is being adopted by Russia against Turkey among which is the suspension of the visa-free regime between the two countries.
This, reports say, will come into effect on January 1, 2016. In a news conference in Moscow Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called in question Turkey's genuine commitment to fighting terrorism saying there is no justification for what Turkey did to its jet on a sortie over Syrian border. This is in reaction to Turkish Prime Minister warning Russia ''not to play with fire''
Meanwhile, Turisk President Erdogan says he hopes to meet face to face with President Vladimir Putin to further discuss the contentious issue in the forth-coming UN climate summit in France.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia on Friday not to "play with fire", citing reports Turkish businessmen had been detained in Russia, while Moscow said it would suspend visa-free travel with Turkey.
Relations between the former Cold War antagonists are at their lowest in recent memory after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border on Tuesday. Russia has threatened economic retaliation, a response Erdogan has dismissed as emotional and indecorous.
The incident has proved a distraction for the West, which is looking to build support for the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Syria. The nearly five-year-old Syrian civil war has been complicated by Russian air strikes in defense of President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey, which has long sought Assad's ouster, has extensive trade ties with Moscow, which could come under strain. Erdogan condemned reports that some Turkish businessmen had been detained for visa irregularities while attending a trade fair in Russia.
"It is playing with fire to go as far as mistreating our citizens who have gone to Russia," Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey. "We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia ... We don't want these relations to suffer harm in any way."
He said he may speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a climate summit in Paris next week. Putin has so far refused to contact Erdogan because Ankara does not want to apologize for the downing of the jet, a Putin aide said.
Erdogan has said Turkey deserves the apology because its air space was violated.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow would suspend its visa-free regime with Turkey as of Jan. 1, which could affect Turkey's tourism industry.
Turkey's seaside resorts are among the most popular holiday destinations for Russians, who make up Turkey's largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany.
An association of Russian defense factories, which includes the producers of Kalashnikov rifles, Armata tanks and Book missile systems, has recommended its members suspend buying materials from Turkey, according to a letter seen by Reuters. That could damage contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Russia's agriculture ministry has already increased checks on food and agriculture imports from Turkey, in one of the first public moves to curb trade.
Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Friday Turkey's council of ministers was also discussing which measures to take, but that he hoped that these would not last long.
"I couldn't imagine that Russia would completely abandon its relations with Turkey over such an incident," he told a news conference. "For us it's impossible for Turkey to abandon its relations with Russia over such an incident."
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Erdogan said that Turkey did not go looking to shoot down a Russian jet but acted after it strayed into Turkish airspace. It was, he said, an "automatic reaction" to standing instructions given to the military. Moscow insists the jet never left Syrian air space.
Lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin called the incident an "intentional murder" of its soldiers, saying Russia had the right to mount a military response.
The incident has worsened the outlook for the Syrian peace process, dashing recent optimism following the Group of 20 meeting in Turkey where U.S. President Barack Obama held an informal meeting with Putin.
"It certainly did not help," U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said.
However, Putin did ask France to draw up a map of where groups fighting Islamic State militants operate in Syria in order not to bomb them, France's foreign minister said.
Turkey and Russia have also traded blows over Islamic State, with each side accusing the other of being soft on terrorism. Lavrov, Moscow's foreign minister, said on Friday Russia had "more and more questions" about Ankara's commitment to eradicating terrorism.
Erdogan has rejected Russia's accusations that Turkey is buying oil and gas from Islamic State, calling it "slander" and saying Turkey only made purchases from known sources. He also accused Russian companies and Islamic State of selling oil to the Syrian regime.
Separately, warplanes believed to be Russian carried out several air strikes on a Syrian town near the Turkish border on Friday, a monitoring group said, one of several reported close to the boundary this week.
Here is a recent picture of Bilal, shown in a photo from a Turkish 2014 article, which "asked why his ships are now in Syria"
Russia's Sergey Lavrov is not one foreign minister known to mince his words. Just earlier today, 24 hours after a Russian plane was brought down by the country whose president three years ago said "a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack", had this to say: "We have serious doubts this was an unintended incident and believe this is a planned provocation" by Turkey.
But even that was tame compared to what Lavrov said to his Turkish counterparty Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier today during a phone call between the two (Lavrov who was supposed to travel to Turkey has since canceled such plans).
As Sputnik transcribes, according to a press release from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lavrov pointed out that, "by shooting down a Russian plane on a counter-terrorist mission of the Russian Aerospace Force in Syria, and one that did not violate Turkey’s airspace, the Turkish government has in effect sided with ISIS."
It was in this context when Lavrov added that "Turkey’s actions appear premeditated, planned, and undertaken with a specific objective."
More importantly, Lavrov pointed to Turkey’s role in the propping up the terror network through the oil trade. Per the Russian statement:
"The Russian Minister reminded his counterpart about Turkey’s involvement in the ISIS’ illegal trade in oil, which is transported via the area where the Russian plane was shot down, and about the terrorist infrastructure, arms and munitions depots and control centers that are also located there."
Others reaffirmed Lavrov's stance, such as retired French General Dominique Trinquand, who said that "Turkey is either not fighting ISIL at all or very little, and does not interfere with different types of smuggling that takes place on its border, be it oil, phosphate, cotton or people," he said.
The reason we find this line of questioning fascinating is that just last week in the aftermath of the French terror attack but long before the Turkish downing of the Russian jet, we wrote about "The Most Important Question About ISIS That Nobody Is Asking" in which we asked who is the one "breaching every known law of funding terrorism when buying ISIS crude, almost certainly with the tacit approval by various "western alliance" governments, and why is it that these governments have allowed said middleman to continue funding ISIS for as long as it has?"
Precisely one week later, in even more tragic circumstances, suddenly everyone is asking this question.
And while we patiently dig to find who the on and offshore "commodity trading" middleman are, who cart away ISIS oil to European and other international markets in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars, one name keeps popping up as the primary culprit of regional demand for the Islamic State's "terrorist oil" - that of Turkish president Recep Erdogan's son: Bilal Erdogan.
His very brief bio:
Necmettin Bilal Erdogan, commonly known as Bilal Erdogan (born 23 April 1980) is the third child of Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, the current President of Turkey.
After graduating from Kartal Imam Hatip High School in 1999, Bilal Erdogan moved to the US for undergraduate education. He also earned a Masters Degree in John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2004. After graduation, he served in the World Bank as intern for a while. He returned Turkey in 2006 and started to his business life. Bilal Erdogan is one of the three equal shareholders of "BMZ Group Denizcilik ", a marine transportation corporation.
:In the next few days, we will present a full breakdown of Bilal's various business ventures, starting with his BMZ Group which is the name implicated most often in the smuggling of illegal Iraqi and Islamic State through to the western supply chain, but for now here is a brief, if very disturbing snapshot, of both father and son Erdogan by F. William Engdahl, one which should make everyone ask whether the son of Turkey's president (and thus, the father) is the silent mastermind who has been responsible for converting millions of barrels of Syrian Oil into hundreds of millions of dollars of Islamic State revenue.
By F. William Engdahl, posted originally in New Eastern Outlook:
Erdogan's Dirth Dangerous ISIS Games
More and more details are coming to light revealing that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, variously known as ISIS, IS or Daesh, is being fed and kept alive by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President and by his Turkish intelligence service, including MIT, the Turkish CIA. Turkey, as a result of Erdogan’s pursuit of what some call a Neo-Ottoman Empire fantasies that stretch all the way to China, Syria and Iraq, threatens not only to destroy Turkey but much of the Middle East if he continues on his present path.
In October 2014 US Vice President Joe Biden told a Harvard gathering that Erdogan’s regime was backing ISIS with “hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons…” Biden later apologized clearly for tactical reasons to get Erdo?an’s permission to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base for airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, but the dimensions of Erdogan’s backing for ISIS since revealed is far, far more than Biden hinted.
ISIS militants were trained by US, Israeli and now it emerges, by Turkish special forces at secret bases in Konya Province inside the Turkish border to Syria, over the past three years. Erdo?an’s involvement in ISIS goes much deeper. At a time when Washington, Saudi Arabia and even Qatar appear to have cut off their support for ISIS, they remaining amazingly durable. The reason appears to be the scale of the backing from Erdo?an and his fellow neo-Ottoman Sunni Islam Prime Minister, Ahmet Davuto?lu.
Nice Family Business
The prime source of money feeding ISIS these days is sale of Iraqi oil from the Mosul region oilfields where they maintain a stronghold. The son of Erdogan it seems is the man who makes the export sales of ISIS-controlled oil possible.
Bilal Erdo?an owns several maritime companies. He has allegedly signed contracts with European operating companies to carry Iraqi stolen oil to different Asian countries. The Turkish government buys Iraqi plundered oil which is being produced from the Iraqi seized oil wells. Bilal Erdogan’s maritime companies own special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports that are transporting ISIS’ smuggled crude oil in Japan-bound oil tankers.
Gürsel Tekin vice-president of the Turkish Republican Peoples’ Party, CHP, declared in a recent Turkish media interview, “President Erdogan claims that according to international transportation conventions there is no legal infraction concerning Bilal’s illicit activities and his son is doing an ordinary business with the registered Japanese companies, but in fact Bilal Erdo?an is up to his neck in complicity with terrorism, but as long as his father holds office he will be immune from any judicial prosecution.” Tekin adds that Bilal’s maritime company doing the oil trades for ISIS, BMZ Ltd, is “a family business and president Erdogan’s close relatives hold shares in BMZ and they misused public funds and took illicit loans from Turkish banks.”
In addition to son Bilal’s illegal and lucrative oil trading for ISIS, Sümeyye Erdogan, the daughter of the Turkish President apparently runs a secret hospital camp inside Turkey just over the Syrian border where Turkish army trucks daily being in scores of wounded ISIS Jihadists to be patched up and sent back to wage the bloody Jihad in Syria, according to the testimony of a nurse who was recruited to work there until it was discovered she was a member of the Alawite branch of Islam, the same as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who Erdogan seems hell-bent on toppling.
Turkish citizen Ramazan Bagol, captured this month by Kurdish People’s Defence Units,YPG, as he attempted to join ISIS from Konya province, told his captors that said he was sent to ISIS by the ‘Ismailia Sect,’ a strict Turkish Islam sect reported to be tied to Recep Erdogan. Baol said the sect recruits members and provides logistic support to the radical Islamist organization. He added that the Sect gives jihad training in neighborhoods of Konya and sends those trained here to join ISIS gangs in Syria.
According to French geopolitical analyst, Thierry Meyssan, Recep Erdogan “organised the pillage of Syria, dismantled all the factories in Aleppo, the economic capital, and stole the machine-tools. Similarly, he organised the theft of archeological treasures and set up an international market in Antioch…with the help of General Benoît Puga, Chief of Staff for the Elysée, he organised a false-flag operation intended to provoke the launching of a war by the Atlantic Alliance – the chemical bombing of la Ghoutta in Damascus, in August 2013. “
Meyssan claims that the Syria strategy of Erdo?an was initially secretly developed in coordination with former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and Erdogan’s then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu, in 2011, after Juppe won a hesitant Erdogan to the idea of supporting the attack on traditional Turkish ally Syria in return for a promise of French support for Turkish membership in the EU. France later backed out, leaving Erdogan to continue the Syrian bloodbath largely on his own using ISIS.
Gen. John R. Allen, an opponent of Obama’s Iran peace strategy, now US diplomatic envoy coordinating the coalition against the Islamic State, exceeded his authorized role after meeting with Erdogan and “promised to create a "no-fly zone" ninety miles wide, over Syrian territory, along the whole border with Turkey, supposedly intended to help Syrian refugees fleeing from their government, but in reality to apply the "Juppé-Wright plan". The Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, revealed US support for the project on the TV channel A Haber by launching a bombing raid against the PKK.” Meyssan adds.
There are never winners in war and Erdogan’s war against Syria’s Assad demonstrates that in bold. Turkey and the world deserve better. Ahmet Davutoglu’s famous “Zero Problems With Neighbors” foreign policy has been turned into massive problems with all neighbors due to the foolish ambitions of Erdogan and his gang.
Source: Zero Hedge
MOSCOW/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Russia is sharply upgrading the firepower of its Baltic Fleet by adding warships armed with long-range cruise missiles to counter NATO's build-up in the region, Russian media reported on Wednesday.
There was no official confirmation from Moscow, but the reports will raise tensions in the Baltic, already heightened since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, and cause particular alarm in Poland and Lithuania which border Russia's base there.
The reported deployment comes as NATO is planning its biggest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War to deter possible Russian aggression.
Russia's daily Izvestia newspaper cited a military source as saying that the first two of five ships, the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol, had already entered the Baltic Sea and would soon become part of a newly formed division in Kaliningrad, Russia's European exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
Another source familiar with the situation told the Interfax news agency that the two warships would be joining the Baltic Fleet in the coming days.
"With the appearance of two small missile ships armed with the Kalibr cruise missiles the Fleet's potential targeting range will be significantly expanded in the northern European military theater," the source told Interfax.
Russia's Defence Ministry, which said earlier this month the two ships were en route to the Mediterranean, did not respond to a request for comment, but NATO and the Swedish military confirmed the two warships had entered the Baltic.
"NATO navies are monitoring this activity near our borders," said Dylan White, the alliance's acting spokesman.
The Buyan-M class corvettes are armed with nuclear-capable Kalibr cruise missiles, known by the NATO code name Sizzler, which the Russian military says have a range of at least 1,500 km (930 miles).
Though variants of the missile are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the ships are believed to be carrying conventional warheads.
"The addition of Kalibr missiles would increase the strike range not just of the Baltic Fleet, but of Russian forces in the Baltic region, fivefold," said Ben Nimmo, a defense analyst at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, who has been tracking the ships' progress.
"The two small corvettes, with their modern, nuclear-capable missiles, may yet have an impact out of proportion to their size in the Baltic."
SWEDEN, POLAND WORRIED
Izvestia said Russia's Baltic Fleet would probably receive a further three such small warships armed with the same missiles by the end of 2020.
It said the Baltic Fleet's coastal defenses would also be beefed up with the Bastion and Bal land-based missile systems. The Bastion is a mobile defense system armed with two anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 300 km (188 miles). The Bal anti-ship missile has a similar range.
Sweden's Defence Minister said his country was worried by the presence of the warships in the Baltic Sea, complaining the move was likely to keep tension in the region high.
"This is ... worrying and is not something that helps to reduce tensions in our region," Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Sweden's national TT news agency. "This affects all the countries round the Baltic."
Swedish media said the Kalibr missiles had the range to hit targets across the Nordic region. The Russian Defence Ministry said in August that the two corvettes had been used to fire cruise missiles at militants in Syria.
Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, in Brussels for a NATO meeting, called the deployment "an obvious cause for concern," the PAP news agency reported. "Moving such ships into the Baltic changes the balance of power," he said.
Earlier this month, Russia moved nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles into Kaliningrad leading to protests from Lithuania and Poland.
Visso (Italy) (AFP) - Two strong earthquakes rocked central Italy on Wednesday, toppling buildings and injuring dozens of people according to initial reports, two months after a devastating tremor killed nearly 300 in the same region.
The first 5.5 magnitude quake sent people running out of their houses, likely saving lives when the second, more destructive, 6.1 magnitude one struck two hours later.
But rescuers working through the night and in the rain were struggling to assess the full extent of the disaster.
"Many houses have collapsed. Our town is finished," Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the mountain town of Ussita, told Sky Italy television by telephone.
"The second quake was a long, terrible one," he said.
"I've felt a lot of earthquakes but that was the strongest I've ever felt. Fortunately everyone had already left their homes after the first quake so I don't think anyone was hurt."
Several dozen people were treated for light injuries or shock, civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio told a late night press conference, but no serious injuries had been reported.
"Ultimately, the situation is not as catastrophic as might have been expected" given the strength of the tremors, he said.
The quakes were felt in the capital Rome, sending residents running out of their houses and into the streets. The second was felt as far away as Venice in the far north, and Naples, south of the capital.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) registered a first 5.5-magnitude quake at 1710 GMT, with the second two hours later. In both cases the epicentre was near the village of Visso in the central Marche region.
In August, a 6.0-6.2 magnitude quake flattened the mountain town of Amatrice -- 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Visso -- killing 297 people and injuring hundreds of others.
The area is also not far from L'Aquila where a powerful earthquake killed more than 300 in 2009.
After the second quake, Italian television channels broadcast images of collapsed buildings and people standing dazed in front of their toppled houses.
"It is not very easy to make assessments in the dark and the weather is bad in the whole region. We will have to see more precisely in the light of day," said Curcio.
For people who are unable to return home immediately, civil protection has arranged accommodation in gyms and prepared to reopen some of the tent camps which were set up after the August earthquake. Many residents prepared to spend the night in their cars.
"I want to thank those working in the rain in the earthquake zones. All of Italy is wrapping its arms around the communities that have been hit once again," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted.
In Rome, the quakes rattled windows and doors. The imposing foreign ministry headquarters was temporarily evacuated.
A Serie A football match between Pescara and Atalanta was halted for several minutes when the first tremor hit.
- 'Like bombs falling' -
The mayor of Serravalle del Chienti, Gabriele Santamarianova, said the quake felt "like bombs were falling".
"We saw a cloud of dust, we don't yet know what has fallen down. We'll see once the sun comes up."
Castel Sant'Angelo's mayor Mauro Falcucci told Sky: "There is no electricity. There are bound to be house collapses. On top of this there are torrential rains."
The little town of some 300 people is near Arquata del Tronto, one of the areas worst hit in the August 24 earthquake.
In Ascoli, another town hit hard in August, the mayor said spooked residents were fleeing by car.
Schools here and around the affected region will not open Thursday to allow officials to carry out safety checks.
Italy's national geophysics institute said the latest quakes were linked to the August one, which was followed by thousands of aftershocks, some of them very strong.
"Aftershocks can last for a long time, sometimes for months," geologist Mario Tozzi said.
Visso's mayor Giuliano Pazzaglini said telephone links in his town had been restored. But television images showed rubble piled outside a local church.
August's disaster caused an estimated four billion euros ($4.5 billion) of damage, with 1,400 people still living in temporary accommodation.
Around two-thirds of the deaths occurred in Amatrice, a beauty spot and popular tourist destination packed with holiday-makers when the quake struck at the height of the summer season.
Geneva (AFP) - At least 3,800 migrants and refugees have perished this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, the highest ever toll ever on the perilous route, the UN said Wednesday.
"We can confirm that at least 3,800 people have been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, making the death toll in 2016 the highest ever recorded," UN refugee agency spokesman William Spindler told AFP in an email, as the figures passed last year's mark of 3,771.
The sombre milestone was reached despite a significant decline in migrant crossing this year compared to 2015.
Last year, more than a million people reached Europe via the Mediterranean, but crossings so far this year remain below 330,000.
Numbers began dropping dramatically following a March deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the migrant tide on the Greek islands.
The most dangerous route has been between Libya and Italy, where the United Nations has recorded one death for every 47 arrivals this year.
For the much shorter Turkey to Greece route, the likelihood of perishing was one in 88, UNHCR said.
The agency explained that death rates have spiked despite nearly a two-thirds drop in total migration because smugglers are "often using lower quality vessels -- flimsy inflatable rafts that do not last the journey."
Smugglers also appear to be packing increasing numbers of people on boats, possibly to drive up profits, UNHCR further said.
Shipwrecks involving more people have reduced rescue rates, the agency added, also noting that several disasters this year have been linked to bad weather.
Police reports say a mosque and congress centre has been been attacked by bomb , no one has claimed responsibility yet as of the time this report was made but police sources on Tuesday said they suspect a xenophobic and nationalistic motive.
The attack took place in the eastern German city of Dresden.
No-one was injured in the blasts late Monday in a city which has become a hotspot for far-right protests amid Germany’s huge migrant influx.
“Although no-one has claimed the attack, we assume a xenophobic motive,” said Dresden police chief Horst Kretzschmar.
“We also suspect a connection with celebrations next weekend for the Day of German Unity” on Monday, October 3.
The home-made bombs went off around 2000 GMT and damaged the door of the mosque while the imam and his family were inside, forcing the partial evacuation of the hotel at the city’s international congress centre.
Dresden in Germany’s ex-communist east is the birthplace of the PEGIDA street movement, short for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident.
Its members have angrily protested against the influx of refugees and migrants that last year brought one million asylum seekers to Europe’s biggest economy.
Dresden next Monday hosts national celebrations to mark 26 years since the reunification of East and West Germany, to be attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck.
In an annual report outlining progress since reunification, the government warned last week that growing xenophobia and right-wing extremism could threaten peace in eastern Germany.
At least 1,237 Nigerians were stopped from entering Germany between January and November 2016, according to official documents cited by a German newspaper.
The Nigerians were among 19,720 migrants stopped from entering Germany during the period, the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung (NOZ) reported, citing numbers from the German Federal Police.
Scores of Nigerians travel out of the country daily illegally seeking greener pastures in Europe, U.S. and Asia.
A source had reported how 83 Nigerians crossed illegally from Nigeria to Europe, daily, via the Mediterranean in the first nine months of 2016, according to data by the European Union shows.
The daily figure was extrapolated from the 22,500 illegal Nigerian migrants that the EU said crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe between January and September this year.
This figure in the first 9 months of 2016 is against the 23,000 who crossed in the whole of 2015.
Nigerians were, however, not the highest number turned back by German authorities in 2016.
Afghan asylum seekers were turned back most often, with 3,695 people affected in 2016 so far. In addition, 2,142 Syrians, and 1,794 Iraqis have been stopped from entering Germany so far this year.
Statistics for December are yet to be compiled, the newspaper said.
The 2016 number turned back by German authorities marked a more than 100 per cent increase in comparison to 2015, when 8,913 migrants were stopped from entering the country over the course of the whole year.
Despite the overall increase, the newspaper reported that the number of people turned away by police has been going down in recent months.
This is partly due to the fact that Germany’s border controls now only take place at the border to Austria, NOZ said.
Despite being part of the control-free Schengen area, Germany decided in November to extend border controls at the Germany-Austria border until February.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that Germany had to take the step until the European Union was able to sufficiently control its external borders.
STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Sweden intends to expel up to 80,000 migrants who arrived in 2015 and whose application for asylum has been rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Wednesday.
"We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000," the minister was quoted as saying by Swedish media, adding that the government had asked the police and authorities in charge of migrants to organise their expulsion, likely spread over several years.