Tag Archives: dispute

Canada ready to mediate dispute between Turkey and Greece, says Champagne

Canada is ready to be “an honest broker” in an escalating dispute between Turkey and Greece over offshore exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, says Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Champagne is in Greece for the first leg of his week-long tour of European capitals to discuss with allies the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the war between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and the situation in Belarus.

“We have been dealing with the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean since day one,” Champagne said in an interview with Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini published today.

“I am in contact with the secretary general of NATO to explore what possibilities there are for Canada to play a role as an honest broker.”

Canada’s top diplomat met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his counterpart Nikos Dendias today — the first such visit by a Canadian foreign affairs minister in about 30 years.


A statement by the Greek prime minister’s office said the two sides discussed the “possibilities of political, economic and defence cooperation between Greece and Canada.”

The office said Mitsotakis also raised the issue of Turkish activities in the Eastern Mediterranean which Athens says violate Greek and Cypriot sovereignty.

“We had a very fruitful exchange on our intention to give our bilateral relations new momentum,” Champagne tweeted following the meeting with Dendias.


The meetings in Athens happened as Turkey faces growing international criticism for sending a research vessel, Oruc Reis, to carry seismic testing in a disputed area off the coasts of Turkey, Cyprus and Greece.

The U.S. State Department said today it “deplores” Turkey’s Oct. 11 announcement of renewed Turkish survey activity in areas over which Greece asserts jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Turkey’s announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey.

“Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Ortagus said. “We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece.”

A ‘direct threat to peace’ in the Med

On Monday, Greece’s foreign ministry described the new voyage by the Oruc Reis as a “major escalation” and a “direct threat to peace in the region.” Turkey accused Athens of fuelling tensions.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Greece had no right to oppose its operations, which were taking place 15 km from Turkey and 425 km from the Greek mainland.

The objection to Turkish exploration activities in the area is based on the “maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims of Greece,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar promised to “provide the necessary escort and protection” to Turkish vessels as needed.

Turkey’s policy in the Eastern Mediterranean is not the only area of concern for its NATO allies.


Rescuers carry a body after an eruption of shelling by Armenian artillery during fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Ganja, Azerbaijan, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (Aziz Karimov/The Associated Press)

Speaking to Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday, Champagne also urged Turkey to “stay away” from the war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces in the breakaway region.

The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began Sept. 27 and marked the largest escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a Russian-backed ceasefire in 1994.

Armenian authorities have accused Turkey of sending arms — including F-16 fighter jets and combat drones, military advisers and Syrian jihadist mercenaries — to Azerbaijan to fight against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey denies these claims.

Russia brokered a ceasefire on Oct. 9 to allow Armenian and Azerbaijani forces to collect their dead, exchange prisoners and begin substantive negotiations on resolving the decades-long conflict.


A house burns after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh late Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. (The Associated Press)

The ceasefire never took hold, however; both parties have accused each other of violating it by shelling civilian areas, among other things. On Oct. 11, Armenia again accused Turkey of using half a dozen F-16 fighter jets to provide air cover for Turkish- and Israeli-made drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Two weeks ago, Champagne suspended the export of sophisticated Canadian drone technology to Turkey in response to allegations that it is being used by the Azerbaijani military against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Champagne’s next stop of his European tour is Vienna, where he has a series of meetings planned at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), headquartered in the Austrian capital. The OSCE plays an important role in the search for a negotiated solution to the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through its Minsk Group mechanism.

Then, Champagne will fly to Brussels for a series of meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. While there, Champagne will meet with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Champagne is also planning to meet Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes before moving on to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where he will hold a “mini-summit” with his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

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NYC mayor slams white woman who called police on black man over dog leash dispute

A verbal dispute between a white woman walking her dog and a black man birdwatching in New York’s Central Park might normally have gone unnoticed in a city preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic.

That changed when birdwatcher Christian Cooper pulled out his phone and captured Amy Cooper calling police to report she was being threatened by “an African American man.”

The widely watched video — posted on Facebook by Christian Cooper and on Twitter by his sister Melody — has sparked accusations of racism, including from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The video out of Central Park is racism, plain and simple,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why.”

The confrontation began early Monday morning when Christian Cooper said he noticed Amy Cooper had broken park rules by letting her dog off its leash in the Ramble, a secluded section of Central Park popular with birdwatchers.

GRAPHIC WARNING | Christian Cooper’s video of the incident:

In a Facebook post, he claimed the dog was “tearing through the plantings” and said he told her she should go to another part of the park. When she refused, Christian Cooper pulled out dog treats, causing her to scream at him to not come near her dog.

Amy Cooper also warned him she would summon police unless he stopped recording.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video as she pulls down her face mask and struggles to control her dog.

“Please call the cops,” Christian Cooper says.


During the call, she can be heard saying, “There’s an African American man, I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog. Please send the cops immediately!”

Police say by the time they responded, they were both gone.

“I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things,” Christian Cooper told CNN. “Unfortunately, we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets. This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”

Amy Cooper told CNN that she wanted to “publicly apologize to everyone,” adding, “I am not a racist.”

“I think I was just scared,” Amy Cooper said. “When you’re alone in the Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.”

Social media firestorm

The video has been widely shared and commented upon on social media.

Sen. Kamala Harris said on Twitter that the incident was a “sad reality” that has “gone on for generations to Black Americans.”


Some Twitter users managed to figure out that Amy Cooper worked at investment firm Franklin Templeton, which announced on Tuesday it has fired her.

“We do not tolerate racism of any kind,” the company tweeted.


The organization Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue said in a Facebook post that Amy Cooper “voluntarily surrendered the dog” after the public reached out to them about the incident. Many Twitter users said that she appeared to be inadvertently choking the dog during the dispute.

“The dog is now in our rescue’s care and he is safe and in good health,” Abandoned Angels said.

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U.S. House embroiled in dispute on how to conduct government business in a pandemic

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday will vote on a measure temporarily allowing members to vote from outside the Capitol so they can work while practising physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, the chamber’s Democratic leadership said.

Congress has argued for weeks over whether and how to allow members to cast ballots from outside Washington to reduce the risks of travelling and gathering during a public health crisis that has killed more than 82,000 Americans and caused economic turmoil.

The Supreme Court has already adapted, breaking with precedent to begin hearing arguments on high-profile cases by telephone. Meanwhile, the House has not met in regular session since March, although large numbers of House lawmakers have gathered in the Capitol twice to vote on coronavirus relief bills.

In April, the House postponed a vote to set up remote proxy voting and virtual committee work after Republicans protested. Instead, a bipartisan panel was set up to study the matter.

The committee failed to agree, and Democrats, who have the majority in the House, have decided to push ahead anyway, saying they accommodated some Republican concerns.

“Further delay is not an option,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and other Democrats said in a statement Wednesday.

Republicans denounced the planned voting changes as a “power grab.”

The resolution would allow members to vote from outside the Capitol by asking another member to vote for them. Committees could do their work virtually, but the online platforms they use must be approved by the House’s chief administrative officer.

House contains multitudes

Republicans said the changes being debated on Friday run counter to precedent and the U.S. Constitution.

“Any change to centuries-old rules of the House should only be done in a bipartisan way that achieves consensus,” top House Republican Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement. “This proposal fails that critical test and would forever alter our democratic institution for the worse.”


In this file photo from Jan. 3, 2019, the House of Representatives chamber is seen on the first day of the 116th Congress. The House contains 435 voting members, more than a third of whom are seniors and at heightened risk if they contract COVID-19, according to health experts. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

The Senate, with 100 members, returned to session last week and has been practising physical distancing measures during votes. It has also held partly virtual hearings in which witnesses and some members appear remotely, such as Tuesday’s appearance by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health-care experts before the chamber’s health committee.

While many senators attending in person wore masks, such as Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia, it wasn’t a unanimous practice.


A small number of congressional members have contracted the virus so far, with concerns also in the White House after Vice-President Mike Pence’s press secretary and a valet who has been in the Oval Office tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

The House is more than four times larger than the Senate in terms of the number of members. The average age in the House is 58, but more than 150 members were born in 1955 or earlier, with 13 members celebrating a birthday above 80 years old this year.

Those over the age of 65 are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the respiratory ailment caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control.

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Autoworkers in U.S. strike against GM in contract dispute

More than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked off General Motors factory floors or set up picket lines early Monday as contract talks with the company deteriorated into a strike.

Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.

It wasn’t clear how long the walkout would last, with the union saying GM has budged little in months of talks while GM said it made substantial offers including higher wages and factory investments.

It’s the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007 that had little impact on the company.

Night shift workers at an aluminum castings factory in Bedford, Ind., that makes transmission casings and other parts shut off their machines and headed for the exits, said Dave Green, a worker who transferred from the now-shuttered GM small-car factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

Green, a former local union president, said he agrees with the strike over wages, plant closures and other issues.

“If we don’t fight now, when are we going to fight?” he asked. “This is not about us. It’s about the future.”

UAW Vice-President Terry Dittes, the union’s top GM negotiator, said a strike is the union’s last resort but is needed because both sides are far apart in negotiating a new four-year contract. The union, he said Saturday, does not take a strike lightly.

“We clearly understand the hardship that it may cause,” he said. “We are standing up for fair wages, we are standing up for affordable quality health care, we are standing up for our share of the profits.”

GM, however, said it offered pay raises and $ 7 billion worth of U.S. factory investments resulting in 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The company also said it offered higher profit sharing, “nationally leading” health benefits and an $ 8,000 payment to each worker upon ratification.

Talks to resume in morning

Because public statements from both sides conflict, it’s hard to tell how long the strike will last, said Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of labour and industry at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank. The length “depends on how far apart they really are and where the lines in the sand are drawn,” she said.

Talks were scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. ET on Monday.

The union’s contract with GM expired Saturday night, but pacts with the company’s crosstown rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, were extended indefinitely. The union has picked GM as its target company this year, and any deal it negotiates will be used as a template for the others. GM was picked because it’s the most profitable of the three, and because its plans to close four U.S. factories have angered union members.


Terry Dittes, director of the UAW General Motors department, said that the fight is about wages, health care and profit-sharing. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Associated Press)

On Sunday, about 200 plant-level leaders voted unanimously to strike against GM if no deal could be reached by Sunday night. Although talks were halted over the weekend, UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said there was still dialogue.

It’s unclear how many workers the two plants would employ. The closures, especially of the Ohio plant, have become issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has consistently criticized the company and demanded that Lordstown be reopened.

Rothenberg said UAW was striking for fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers.

GM has factories in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and Kansas.

A strike would bring to a halt GM’s U.S. vehicle and parts production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.


General Motors employees work on the chassis line as they build the frame, power train and suspension onto the truck’s body last June at the Flint Assembly Plant in Flint, Mich. (Jake May/The Flint Journal/The Associated Press)

Analysts at Cox Automotive said GM has enough vehicles on dealer lots to last about 77 days at the current sales pace. That’s well above the industry average of 61. But supplies of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs, which generate big money for the company, are well below the industry average.

The talks this year have been overshadowed by a growing federal corruption probe that snared a top union official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It’s the same region that UAW President Gary Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year. Jones himself has been touched by the investigation, leading some union members to call for him to step down, but he hasn’t been charged.

Here are the main areas of disagreement:

— GM is making big money, $ 8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don’t want higher fixed costs.

— The union also wants new products for the four factories slated to close. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity, especially to build slower-selling cars.

— The companies want to close the labour cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM pays $ 63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $ 50 at the foreign-owned factories. GM’s gap is the largest at $ 13 per hour, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research.

— Union members have great health insurance plans and workers pay about 4 per cent of the cost. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34 per cent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Automakers would like to cut costs.

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Euthanasia dispute in Belgium: When do doctors cross a line?

A disputed case of euthanasia in Belgium, involving the death of a dementia patient who never formally asked to die, has again raised concerns about weak oversight in a country with some of the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws.

The case is described in a letter provided to The Associated Press, written by a doctor who resigned from Belgium’s euthanasia commission in protest over the group’s actions on this and other cases.

Some experts say the case as documented in the letter amounts to murder; the patient lacked the mental capacity to ask for euthanasia and the request for the bedridden patient to be killed came from family members. The co-chairs of the commission say the doctor mistakenly reported the death as euthanasia.

Although euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 and has overwhelming public support, critics have raised concerns in recent months about certain practices, including how quickly some doctors approve requests to die from psychiatric patients.

Petition for tighter controls

The AP revealed a rift last year between Dr. Willem Distelmans, co-chair of the euthanasia commission, and Dr. Lieve Thienpont, an advocate of euthanasia for the mentally ill. Distelmans suggested some of Thienpont’s patients might have been killed without meeting all the legal requirements. Prompted by the AP’s reporting, more than 360 doctors, academics and others have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.

Euthanasia — when doctors kill patients at their request — can be granted in Belgium to people with both physical and mental health illnesses. The condition does not need to be fatal, but suffering must be “unbearable and untreatable.” It can only be performed if specific criteria are fulfilled, including a “voluntary, well-considered and repeated” request from the person.

But Belgium’s euthanasia commission routinely violates the law, according to a September letter of resignation written by Dr. Ludo Vanopdenbosch, a neurologist, to senior party leaders in the Belgian Parliament who appoint members of the group.

The most striking example took place at a meeting in early September, Vanopdenbosch writes, when the group discussed the case of a patient with severe dementia, who also had Parkinson’s disease. To demonstrate the patient’s lack of competence, a video was played showing what Vanopdenbosch characterized as “a deeply demented patient.”

Euthanized at family’s request

The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, was euthanized at the family’s request, according to Vanopdenbosch’s letter. There was no record of any prior request for euthanasia from the patient.

After hours of debate, the commission declined to refer the case to the public prosecutor to investigate if criminal charges were warranted.

Vanopdenbosch confirmed the letter was genuine but would not comment further about the specific case details.

The two co-chairs of the euthanasia commission, Distelmans and Gilles Genicot, a lawyer, said the doctor treating the patient mistakenly called the procedure euthanasia, and that he should have called it palliative sedation instead. Palliative sedation is the process of drugging patients near the end of life to relieve symptoms, but it is not meant to end life.

“This was not a case of illegal euthanasia but rather a case of legitimate end-of-life decision improperly considered by the physician as euthanasia,” Genicot and Distelmans said in an email.

Vanopdenbosch, who is also a palliative care specialist, wrote that the doctor’s intention was “to kill the patient” and that “the means of alleviating the patient’s suffering was disproportionate.”

‘I don’t know another word other than murder to describe this,’– Dr. An HaekensAlexianen Psychiatric Hospital

Though no one outside the commission has access to the case’s medical records — the group is not allowed by law to release that information — some critics were stunned by the details in Vanopdenbosch’s letter.

“It’s not euthanasia because the patient didn’t ask, so it’s the voluntary taking of a life,” said Dr. An Haekens, psychiatric director at the Alexianen Psychiatric Hospital in Tienen, Belgium. “I don’t know another word other than murder to describe this.”

Kristof Van Assche, a professor of health law at the University of Antwerp, wrote in an email the commission itself wasn’t breaking the law because the group is not required to refer a case unless two-thirds of the group agree — even if the case “blatantly disregards” criteria for euthanasia.

Belgium Euthanasia Controversy

Protestors stand in front of a banner which reads ‘Euthanasia Stop’ during an anti-euthanasia demonstration in Brussels in this Feb. 2, 2014, file photo. Belgium has some of the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws. (Virginia Mayo/Associated Press)

But without a request from the patient, the case “would normally constitute manslaughter or murder,” he wrote. “The main question is why this case was not deemed sufficiently problematic” to prompt the commission to refer the case to prosecutors.

Commission acts with ‘impunity,’ critic says

Vanopdenbosch, who in the letter called himself a “big believer” in euthanasia, cited other problems with the commission. He said that when he expressed concerns about potentially problematic cases, he was immediately “silenced” by others. And he added that because many of the doctors on the commission are leading euthanasia practitioners, they can protect each other from scrutiny, and act with “impunity.”

Vanopdenbosch wrote that when cases of euthanasia are identified that don’t meet the legal criteria, they are not forwarded to the public prosecutor’s office as is required by law, but that the commission itself acts as the court.

In the 15 years since euthanasia was legalized in Belgium, more than 10,000 people have been euthanized, and just one of those cases has been referred to prosecutors.

Genicot and Distelmans said the group thoroughly assesses every euthanasia case to be sure all legal conditions have been met.

“It can obviously occur that some debate emerges among members but our role is to make sure that the law is observed and certainly not to trespass it,” they said. They said it was “absolutely false” that Vanopdenbosch had been muzzled and said they regretted his resignation.

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