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Опозиціонер переміг на виборах мера Стамбула

У Туреччині опозиційний кандидат Екрем Імамоглу переміг на виборах мера Стамбула. Кандидат від владної Партії справедливості і розвитку Біна Їлдирим привітав свого суперника з перемогою та висловив надію, що новий мер гідно служитиме інтересам жителів Стамбула.

Турецькі ЗМІ повідомили, що Імамоглу набрав 53,6% голосів після обробки 95% бюлетенів. За словами кандидата, який програв, вибори показали, що турецька демократія працює безвідмовно.

Повторні вибори в Стамбулі призначили за рішенням Вищої виборчої комісії Туреччини. Вона підтримала претензії президента Реджепа Тайїпа Ердогана, лідера владної партії і президента країни. Він заявляв про фальсифікації і порушення на виборах у березні, коли також виграв кандидат від опозиції.

Ердоган стверджував, що на виборах було багато порушень і фальсифікацій. У результаті Вища виборча комісія скасувала результати березневих виборів. Рішення зазнало широкої міжнародної критики, на адресу Ердогана лунали звинувачення в авторитаризмі. На повторних виборах мера балотувалися понад 20 кандидатів, серед них і переможець весняних виборів Імамоглу.

Своїх спостерігачів до Туреччини надіслала Рада Європи, найстаріша в Європі міжнародна організація, яка розробила і схвалила Європейську конвенцію про захист прав людини і основних свобод.

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Клімкін: Макрон і Меркель провели «розвідку боєм» щодо поступливості Зеленського в питанні Росії

Лідери Франції та Німеччини Емманюель Макрон та Анґела Меркель під час візитів президента України Володимира Зеленського провели «розвідку боєм» щодо позицій, якими у відносинах у трикутнику Україна – ЄС – Росія готовий поступитися навий український керівник. Про це в інтерв’ю «5 каналу» заявив міністр закордонних справ України Павло Клімкін.

«Було важливо подивитися і для Макрона, і для Меркель, які наміри стратегічні. Насправді складна ситуація для нової команди стане, коли буде велика фракція в новій Раді, буде великий тиск щось робити, не виключено, що буде великий тиск щось робити за наш рахунок, і я бачу певні ознаки цього. Тому до цього потрібно підготуватися, і чіткі меседжі, які прозвучали, є дуже корисними», – вказав Клімкін.

«На жаль, є проблеми навколо повернення Росії до Ради Європи. Оскільки я намагався пояснити всім нашим партнерам, що проблема не в поверненні як такому: від того, що там буде декілька російських депутатів, нам не холодно й не спекотно. Проблема ж зовсім в іншому: хтось хоче використати це повернення як шлях до «нової нормальності» з Росією», – додав український міністр закордонних справ, каденція якого добігає кінця.

Канцлер Німеччини Ангела Меркель заявила 18 червня після зустрічі з президентом України Володимиром Зеленським, що відновлення в правах делегації Росії у Парламентській асамблеї Ради Європи можливе лише за певних умов.

«Але водночас треба знайти якийсь шлях для того, щоби вони (Росія – ред.) виконали зобов’язання», – сказала Меркель.

3 червня регламентний комітет ПАРЄ ухвалив проект резолюції, яка може змінити правила ПАРЄ і ускладнити процедуру застосування санкцій, зокрема щодо Росії.

Росія не бере участі у сесіях асамблеї з січня 2015 року після застосування серйозного обмеження повноважень її делегації.

Українські правозахисники вважають, що повернення російської делегації до Парламентської асамблеї Ради Європи за умов нехтування вимог організації Росією стане «моральною капітуляцією» цієї міждержавної організації. 

17 червня президент Франції Емманюель Макрон заявив, що його країна хоче уникнути повного виходу Росії з Ради Європи. Натомість п​резидент України Володимир Зеленський заявив у Парижі, що у Парламентської асамблеї Ради Європи немає підстав для повернення російської делегації.

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Москальова і Ковальська принесли Україні ще дві нагороди на Європейських іграх

Українські самбістки Катерина Москальова та Галина Ковальська принесли ще дві нагороди до скарбнички збірної на Європейських іграх, що тривають у білоруській столиці Мінську.

У ваговій категорії до 80 кілограмів Ковальська здобула «бронзу», вигравши поєдинок за третє місце у грузинки Ірини Леонідзе – 4:1.

Згодом у фінальному поєдинку поступилася в боротьбі за золоту нагороду Москальова. Катерина стала срібною призеркою Ігор, програвши хорватці Люсії Бабич 0:4.

Медаль Москальової стала для команди України 12-ю на змаганнях у Мінську.

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Trump: ‘Not Looking for War’ With Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is “not looking for war” with Iran and willing to negotiate with its leaders without preconditions, but that under no circumstances can the Islamic Republic be allowed to mass a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press show that if the U.S. went to war with Iran, “It’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

“But,” he added, “I’m not looking to do that.”

The U.S. leader said, “Here it is. Look, you can’t have nuclear weapons. And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time.”

Trump’s comments, taped Friday, were aired after he announced Saturday, without providing any details, that he plans to impose “major” new sanctions on Iran on Monday. He said the sanctions would be dropped as soon as the country becomes “a productive and prosperous nation again.”

Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons! Under the terrible Obama plan, they would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years, and existing verification is not acceptable. We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019

Two other key U.S. officials, national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, issued new warnings to Iran that Trump’s last-minute decision to not militarily retaliate for Tehran’s Thursday shoot-down of an unmanned U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz should not be viewed as a sign of “weakness.”

National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” Bolton said in Jerusalem ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton said of Iran. “Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go.”

Pence told the CNN television network, “Iran must not take restraint for a lack of resolve. This is a president who hopes for the best for the Iranian people…but we will stand up to their provocations.”

Bolton said existing sanctions against Tehran already are having a sharp effect on the Tehran economy.

“Sanctions are biting,” he said. “Iran can never have nuclear weapons — not against the U.S.A. and not against the world.”

Trump spoke with reporters Saturday at the White House before leaving for the presidential retreat at Camp David outside Washington for a meeting with top administration officials, at one point saying as soon as Tehran agreed to renounce nuclear weapons, “I’m going to be their best friend.”

Trump’s tone was much softer on Saturday after a week of intense actions between the U.S. and Iran.

Concern about a potential armed confrontation between the U.S. and Iran has been growing since U.S. officials recently blamed Tehran for mine attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, allegations Tehran denies, and Iran’s downing of the drone.

On Friday, Trump said that he had canceled late Thursday a retaliatory strike against several Iranian targets.

He tweeted that the United States was “cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump tweeted, saying the action would have been disproportionate.

Pence said the U.S. was “not convinced” the downing of the drone “was authorized at the highest level” of the Iranian government. As Trump weighed how to respond last week, he said the shoot-down might have been launched on orders of a “loose and stupid” Iranian officer.

World powers have called for calm after the incidents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged for a political resolution of the crisis. “That is what we are working on,” she told Reuters.

On Sunday, Britain’s Middle East minister, Andrew Murrison, will travel to Tehran for talks with Iranian officials.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Murrison would call for “urgent de-escalation in the region.” He will also discuss Iran’s threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal that the United States pulled out of last year.  

James Phillips, a senior researcher at the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said he believes the immediate risk of a U.S.-Iran conflict has passed.

“It’s probably over as far as the incident goes with the shoot down of the drone. But, I think if there are further provocations, the president will respond in a strong and effective manner,” he said.

Phillips also said he does not expect Tehran to accept U.S. calls for negotiations while Trump continues a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions on Iran. “I doubt that Tehran will be serious until it sees who wins the next presidential election,” he said.

The U.S. announced this week it was authorizing another 1,000 troops — including a Patriot missile battery and additional manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to bolster defenses at U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria.

 

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Ruling Party Candidate Concedes Defeat in Istanbul Re-Vote

The ruling party candidate in the re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election, Binali Yildirim, has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.

Sunday’s vote was held because election authorities controversially annulled Imamoglu’s initial historic election victory in March on a technicality after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disputed the defeat of his candidate.

Electoral authorities rejected Erdogan’s AKP Party’s claims of voting fraud, but ordered a revote on the grounds a number election officials were ineligible. The opposition condemned the decision and claimed the Sunday vote is now more than just about who runs the city.

In a sign of the importance of Sunday’s election, voting was brisk from the moment the Kadikoy district ballot station opened, in a city where people traditionally vote late.  Early heavy voting  was reported across the city.

“The election is very important for Turkey, this will change the face of Turkey,” said retiree Cengiz Demir, one of the first to vote in Kadikoy district. “We have to return to democratic settings. Maybe more than a majority have had enough of one man rule,” he added.

One man rule is a reference to President Erdogan who many of his opponents accuse of undermining democracy and turning Turkey into an authoritarian state.

“In the name of our Turkey, in the name of our Istanbul, we are going through a very important election,” Imamoglu said to hundreds of supporters after voting. “This is not only about the Istanbul metropolitan, municipal election but at the same time a day for the repair the damage of this unlawful process imposed on our nation for the sake of democracy in Turkey.”

Observers say Imamoglu’s strategy of avoiding polarizing politics and pledging inclusivity has been key to turning his CHP party’s fortunes around in the city.

“I have so many hopes for Turkey,” said Ayse, a teacher who only wanted to be identified by her first name, “Imamoglu is the only person who can make the change. Before I was so pessimistic.”

The importance of Sunday’s election has seen hundreds of thousands of people cut short their vacations to vote. The city’s airports and roads were full the night before the polls opened.

“This is so important,” said Deniz Tas speaking after voting, “I have traveled 12 hours on the road to vote and to right this injustice that has been done.”

Istanbul is Erdogan’s home city and has been his power-base for 25 years, since his rise to power started as the city’s mayor. The city accounts for a third of Turkey’s economy and nearly half the taxation, and the mayorship is widely seen as Turkey’s most important political prize after the presidency.

Underscoring the importance of the vote,  Erdogan has again put his political prestige on the line, campaigning heavily for Yildirm in the run-up to the election.  Erdogan too claims democracy is at stake, repeatedly accusing the opposition of voter manipulation. Observers say a second defeat for Erdogan could have significant consequences, damaging his reputation of electoral invincibility empowering opponents both in and outside his party.

In what was a bitter campaign Yildirim appeared conciliatory. “If we’ve ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” he said after casting his vote.

 Some AKP supporters expressed similar sentiments. “Re-vote happens in other countries, too, the voting can be repeated,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named.  “It is very normal that we have a repeat as well. The candidate who deserves it should win. The person with experience will win. Also, for us, Binali Yildirim has the experience to run Istanbul.”

 Both the leading candidates mobilizing thousands of lawyers and monitors to scrutinize the vote, claiming to defend democracy, Istanbul is bracing itself for a tense election.

 

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India Dismisses US Religious Freedom Report

India says it is proud of its secular credentials as it rejected a U.S. report that said that religious freedom in the country has come under attack in recent years.

The latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom released Friday said that right wing Hindu-groups claiming to protect cows that Hindus consider holy had used “violence, intimidation, and harassment” against Muslims and low-castes. It also noted that Christians have been targeted for proselytizing.

In a statement, the Indian Foreign Ministry said that no foreign government had the right to criticize its record. “We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.” It said that India is proud of “its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

New Delhi’s sharply worded statement comes ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India starting Tuesday. His talks in New Delhi are expected to lay the ground for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also rejected the U.S. report on religious freedom saying that the presumption that “there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false.”

In a statement, party media head Anil Baluni said that Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders have strongly deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections of the society.

The U.S. report had said that senior BJP officials had last year made “inflammatory speeches” against religious minorities and that despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem.

 

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Mekong Region Grows More Important to China-US Relations

Amid increasingly tense China-U.S. relations, a U.S. official alluded to China but did not specifically name China regarding “risks” and “challenges” imposed by approaches to dam building and cross-border riverine practices in the Mekong region.

At a workshop in Phnom Penh by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Michael Newbill, said the actions of “a single nation” in the Mekong region are “worrisome” to both the riverine countries and the U.S.

“In the last two years, shifting geopolitical dynamics have begun to pose major new challenges,” Newbill said.

“We have seen the growth of debt dependency; disproportionate control over dozens of upstream dams by a single nation; plans to blast and dredge riverbeds,” he added in remarks later posted to the U.S. Embassy website.

FILE – A Chinese construction worker stands at the Colombo Port City in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 2, 2018. President Maithripala Sirisena’s government had criticized the previous administration for leading the country into a Chinese debt trap.

The notion of debt dependency, or debt-trap, emerged in 2017. It refers to China’s practice of offering funding for projects that enable Beijing’s access to local resources rather than helping a local economy. Instead, the countries become “vulnerable to China’s influence.”

A senior embassy official, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, confirmed that Newbill was referring to China when he referenced “a single nation” last week.

The U.S. diplomat went on to say the “risks” of having one country dominate planning for the Mekong region include the erosion of existing governance, the presence of extraterritorial river patrols, trans-boundary crimes, and trafficking of drugs, wildlife and humans.

“All these trends pose risks to the autonomy, economic independence, and water, energy and food security across the Mekong region,” Newbill said.

The Mekong River runs more than 4,300 kilometers through six countries, vital to large populations for farming, fishing, drinking water, industry and power generation.

He added that the region, which includes China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, is “strategically important” to the U.S. given that Washington treaty ally Thailand and increasingly important strategic partner Vietnam are in the region.

The same senior embassy official, who was one of the staffers involved in the preparation of Newbill’s speech, added that the chargé d’affaires also meant China is responsible for all of the risks he mentioned.

‘Potential area of power competition’

Separately, Sek Sophal, a researcher at Japan’s Ritsumeikan Center for Asia Pacific Studies, told VOA Khmer in an email, “Even though he [Newbill] did not name any specific country, it is obvious that China meets all of the points he raised.

“Personally, I believe he was talking about China,” Sophal continued.

The Cambodian scholar added that the Mekong region is a strategic gateway for the U.S. in confronting China, environmental sustainability and the rule of law.

The remarks by the American envoy suggest the Mekong region may become a new area for U.S.-China competition.

The world’s two biggest economies are already involved in a trade war and in security confrontations from the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea.

The Mekong region “is certainly a potential area of power competition in Southeast Asia apart from the South China Sea,” said Pongphisoot Busbarat, a lecturer on the political science faculty at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University.

China is seeking to use this “backyard” region to project its international leadership through “foreign policy activism.” This is evidenced by investments in infrastructure and dams in the framework of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and its Belt and Road Initiative — drawing suspicion and skepticism from many countries, including the U.S., Busbarat wrote in an email exchange with VOA Khmer.

“Even though China has reiterated its sincerity, and we cannot deny that China’s role contributes and benefits the region in many ways, this policy activism inevitably receives criticisms and suspicion of the real intention,” he added.

The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to request for comments.

China’s Mekong dam project generates growing controversy.

Development concerns

Pou Sothirak, who runs the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), said “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” developments of dams are to blame for higher frequency of drought and floods along the Mekong River.

“These ill-conceived schemes of developments have the potential to cause destructive damages if suitable resolutions are not found satisfactorily,” Pou Sothirak said in a speech last week at the CICP workshop.

From headwaters in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, the Mekong River flows 4,300 kilometers across mainland Southeast Asia before draining into the South China Sea. In Chinese, the river is known as the Lancang.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) was formed in 1995. All Mekong countries except for China and Myanmar are members with a common goal of better regulating what happens on and to the river.

According the MRC, the river is rich in its biodiversity, providing many of the necessities for the “natural resource-based rural livelihoods of a population of 60 million people living in the Lower Mekong Basin.”

As MRC outsiders, China and Myanmar could evade the commission’s jurisdiction requiring member states to present bids for dam building for studies and negotiation.

Since its creation, the MRC has been criticized for failing to stop dam building along the river.

Mekong River Project, Xayaburi Dam

According to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, by 2030, there will be as many as 31 hydropower dams built along the Mekong mainstream, many of them in China or funded by Chinese investments.

The Switzerland-based World Wildlife Fund has warned that damming the Mekong River would have diverse environmental implications on the fish stocks, wildlife habitats, farmlands, and natural ecosystem of the river, important to food security and traditional livelihoods of the people relying on the river.

Countries in the Mekong Region have been engaged in other international initiatives, including the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation with China and the Lower Mekong Initiative with the U.S.

Sim Vireak, an adviser with the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said Mekong countries aim to find synergies from cooperation with external partners to benefit the river developments.

“The Mekong countries are mindful that the Mekong platform should not be politicized or become an arena for anti-China, anti-U.S., anti-Japan, anti-Korea, anti-India polarizations,” Sim Vireak said.

Turning the Mekong region into another place where China and the U.S. face off would have “geopolitical consequences reminiscent of the recent past,” he added in reference to Indochina wars of the last century.

Though the U.S. appears to be unwilling to outspend China’s multibillion-dollar injections into the region, the rivalry is here to stay, Sek Sophal said.

“The worst-case scenario is that small states are forced to take sides to survive,” he said in an online conversation with VOA Khmer. “No matter which side they will take, they have to pay the prices.”

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Kim Jong Un Praises ‘Excellent’ Letter from Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has received a personal letter from U.S. President Donald Trump and is contemplating its contents, North Korean state media reported Sunday.

The official Korean Central News Agency posted a picture of a pensive Kim holding a letter, apparently with White House letterhead. The report quoted Kim as praising its “excellent content.”

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” KCNA reported.

The report did not say anything else about the content of the letter.

Exchanging letters, photos

Trump said earlier this month he received a “beautiful,” “very personal” and “very warm” letter from the North Korean leader.

Though nuclear talks between U.S. and North Korean officials are stalled, Kim and Trump have been exchanging letters and pictures for the past year, and both men say their relationship remains warm.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019.

Working-level talks broke down after a February summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended in no deal. Kim was unhappy with the pace of U.S. sanctions relief, while Trump was upset Kim would not commit to completely giving up his nuclear program.

Since then, North Korea has tested several short-range ballistic missiles and other weapons. Kim has said he will give Washington until the end of the year to become more flexible in the talks.

U.S. officials have shrugged off North Korea’s weapons tests and end-of-the-year ultimatum. Trump has said he is willing to hold a third summit with Kim if the conditions are right.

G-20 and beyond

Next week, Trump will visit South Korea following his meetings in Japan at the Group of 20 summit.

There has been speculation, though no evidence, that Trump could try to hold another high-profile summit at that time.

South Korean officials have also said they are working to hold a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea before Trump’s visit.

The letter comes a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to North Korea, where he promised to play an active role in the nuclear talks. 

“After months of an impasse in the negotiations and little contact between the U. S. and North Korea, it appears there is some diplomatic maneuvering underway,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[It is] unclear yet whether Xi’s visit to Pyongyang played a role, or whether other factors are at play,” she added.