Saturday, November 15, 2014

US Navy deploys laser weapon to Persian Gulf for first-ever combat mission

Published time: November 14, 2014 23:42
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (Reuters / U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman / Handout)
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (Reuters / U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman / Handout)
The US Navy has deployed its first ever combat laser. The futuristic weapon has boosted the arsenal of the Fifth Fleet’s command vessel in the Persian Gulf. The laser is said to be effective against numerous small targets, such as Iran’s gunboats.
A 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System has been equipped on the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship since late August, Navy officials told Bloomberg.
The device is capable of focusing beams from six solid-state commercial welding lasers into a single strong beam, which can be used both as a blinding warning shot and as a weapon capable of setting fire to a drone or small boat.
It took Naval Sea Systems Command technicians seven years and $40 million to develop the technology to the current stage. The tour in the Gulf is more of a trial continuation than regular duty, as the Navy wants to learn more about its new tool.
The technology’s big advantage is its operational efficiency, as firing one shot costs just around $1, the Navy stressed. But lasers have their own peculiarities, with their efficiency depending on weather conditions, the presence of dust and vapors in the air, and other factors. The range of the laser, which is limited by those factors, remains classified.
There is also the issue of power, which the laser weapon requires in abundance – hence its deployment by the Navy on a warship with powerful generators.
Back in April, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, called the deployment of the laser on the USS Ponce “a worthwhile experiment” because “it’ll help us feel out the operational limitations” such as power constraints.
It was crucial to learn how the system would operate in the environment and how much energy it would consume, Kendall added.

The fact that the USS Ponce is stationed in the Persian Gulf “provides a unique platform” to deploy the laser “in an operationally relevant region,” Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Miller told Bloomberg in an email.
The US Navy has been boosting its presence in the area since 2011. The US targeted Iran’s oil industry and financial sector with economic sanctions aimed to put leverage on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
Amid the tensions, Iran threatened to close the Persian Gulf’s bottleneck, the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the global oil trade passes. Washington’s response was that it would use its Navy to prevent such a blockade.
Iran’s supposed plan to stifle the oil trade of its Gulf rival relied on large US warships with swarms of fast, small boats. Incidentally, the Pentagon’s new weapon is designed to destroy small, fast-moving targets.
However, in an interview earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert stressed that the laser does not specifically target Iran.
“I wouldn’t target a country for a weapon, nor would I preclude putting together a weapons system for a country by itself,” Greenert said.

President, PM receive Russian patriarch

BELGRADE -- Russia and Serbia are connected by history and religion, Russian Patriarch Kirill has said during a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.
Patriarch Kirill, who is on a three-day visit to Serbia, said that Russia has always been with the Serbian nation, in joy and in sadness.
"In the most recent times as well - when you were bombed - we were with the Serbian nation with our hearts, and we are now together going through what the Serb population in Kosovo and Metohija is experiencing - we are helping with what we can and however much we can, and we hope that justice and peace will ultimately arrive in Kosovo and Metohija," the patriarch said.

The Serbian president welcomed the guest, noting that the Serbian Orthodox Church has a pillar of support in the Russian Orthodox Church, as does Serbia in the Russian Federation.

Your decision to donate the work on a mosaic for the Church of Saint Sava indicates how connected we are, Nikolić said, and added:

“Serbia always lived as Russia did. When Russia was suffering, Serbia was also suffering. When Russia was progressing, Serbia was also making progress."

He noted that "the Serbian people should always remember what Russia did for them, including in the First World War."

The Russian news agency TASS reported that on Sunday, Patriarch Kirill will attend a ceremony of unveiling a monument to Russian Tsar Nicholas II in front the presidential palace in Belgrade. Under his rule, Russia joined WWI to defend Serbia, said the agency and quoted Nikolić as saying, "The Russian tsar risked the entire state and his people when he entered that war.

Earlier on Friday, the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of Belgrade.

Patriarch Kirill also met with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who thanked him and for the donation, "at the behest of President Vladimir Putin," consisting of the completion of interior decoration works in the Church of Saint Sava, the Serbian government's press office said in a statement.

Vučić received Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church late on Friday.

The prime minister's meeting with the two patriarchs was cordial and friendly, and they discussed ways of improving the cooperation between the two churches and strengthening the ties between the two countries, the statement said.

404 Russian and Serbian troops take part in exercise

NIKINCI -- More than 400 members of Serbian and Russian armed forces on Friday took part in a joint tactical exercise dubbed SREM-2014.
Serbian and Russian flags are carried by paratroopers (Tanjug)
Serbian and Russian flags are carried by paratroopers (Tanjug)
The exercise took place at the Nikinci ranges near the town of Šid, west of Belgrade, and lasted an hour and a half, during which time airborne troops demonstrated a hostage rescue operation and liquidation of a terrorist base, along with evacuation of the wounded.
207 members of the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) and 197 Serbian army soldiers from the Special Brigade of the Military Police and the Air Force took part.

They used transport aircraft Il-76s and An-26s, MiG-29 fighter jets, and Mi-8 and Gazela helicopters, along with armored combat vehicles BMD-2, BTR, BOV, and other weapons and equipment.

Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gašić said the drills were successful, with the Serbian soldiers showing "a high level of operative capabilities."
More photos

He reiterated that Serbia is a militarily neutral country that is determining its international relations in line with "the four strategic pillars - the EU, Russia, the U.S., and China."

He also noted that Serbia has agreements on military technical cooperation with more than 60 countries, at the same time rejecting the claims that there was "a veil of secrecy" attached to Friday's event.

"What secrecy, there's more than 20 cameras here today. You must get used to it that there is a day for the media and you must know that the presence of media crews during the preparations for the exercise would have meant a high degree of risk," he said, adding that "nobody in the world is posing the question of Serbia's neutrality, instead all countries are interested in cooperation with the Serbian military."

Serbian Army chief General Ljubiša Diković said that fighting terrorism "demands quick and energetic action both from the ground and from the air," and that this was the reason for the joint exercise with the Russians.
According to him, Serbia "supports the fight against global terrorism and has an obligation to train its army for these activities because no country can overcome that problem alone."

Commander of the Russian Airborne Troops General Vladimir Shamanov said that both Serbia and Russia faced the problem of terrorism in the previous period and that Russian soldiers came to Serbia to share their experiences in this regard.

The general gave high marks to the performance of the Serbian soldiers, and added that the cooperation will continue next year when a delegation of the Serbian Army will visit the 7th Division in Ryazan, RF.

Shamanov added that ten modern parachutes were presented to the Serbian Army on the orders of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

U.S. prosecutors sent to Balkans "to help fight terrorism"

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. is sending dozens of prosecutors to the Balkans, the Middle East, and northern Africa "to help track down jihadist fighters returning from Syria."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Prosecutors and senior law enforcement advisors were being dispatched to “key regions,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said after meeting with European officials in Washington, AFP reported.
“These personnel will provide critical assistance to our allies in order to help prosecute those who return from the Syrian region bent on committing acts of terrorism," he said, and added that "the cooperation includes information sharing, investigations and prosecutions, and countering violent extremism.”

The French agency quoted a senior U.S. Justice Department official as saying that about 70 prosecutors were working in several countries including "Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia," as well as in North Africa and the Middle East.

“They’re not there to put a U.S. legal system in place. Their goal is to ensure that the country has in place statutes that are consistent with the UN counter-terrorism convention, with the global terrorism forum best practices," said the official.

A regional prosecutor specializing in anti-terrorism will be based in Albania to coordinate work in the Balkans and the director of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law has moved to Malta, AFP reported.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Moscow to seek damages if Mistral ship not delivered by end Nov - source

Published time: November 14, 2014 12:20
Edited time: November 14, 2014 23:43
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)
Moscow will make financial claims to France if the first of two Mistral warships built for Russia are not delivered by the end of November, according to a source. However, France said that its actions will not be “dictated.”
The warning came from a high-ranking source and was published on Friday by RIA Novosti news agency. It comes after France missed a mid-November deadline for handing over the first of the amphibious assault ships to Russia.
"We are preparing for different scenarios. We are waiting until the end of the month [the fulfillment of Mistral deal], then we will make serious claims," the source said on condition of anonymity.
According to the source, experts are currently analyzing possible damage to Russia if the deal is not fulfilled, and the estimated sum will be made public.
"This amount [of compensation] will not be secret," the source added.
The veiled threat prompted reaction from French leadership.
"Today, the conditions to deliver the Mistral aren't there," Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters. "France honors its contracts, but France is a nation that counts, wants peace in Ukraine and that makes sovereign decisions without anybody from outside dictating how it acts."
The minister didn’t specify why he considered the terms of a contract duly signed as a form of dictatorship.
It appears that France is trying to buy more time by neither breaking the contract in non-ambiguous terms nor delivering on it. Another Russian source close to Moscow's international defense cooperation told RIA Novosti that France has not yet withdrawn its invite for the delivery ceremony of the vessel.
”The French are keeping silent. They invited us [to the ceremony], but haven’t withdrawn their invitation yet. [We haven’t received] any official address [from them],” he added.
READ MORE: Mistral ships won’t be delivered to Russia Nov. 14 – French Defense Minister
On Thursday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris hasn’t yet fixed a date for delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia (scheduled for November 14).
"The president of the Republic has said that a definitive decision will come at the right moment, taking into account all the responsibilities that come with this decision, which is not a simple one," he added.

In October, French and Russian officials received invitation letters for the ceremony of the Mistral ship’s delivery. France’s Le Nouvel Observateur magazine wrote on Wednesday that they were sent by DCNS, a French industrial group specializing in naval defense and energy. The group later said that the invitations were issued by mistake.
Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion (US$1.6 billion) deal to build two Mistral helicopter carriers back in June 2011. The contract says that Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October 2014.
However, the delivery of the vessel was postponed due to the conflict in Ukraine and pressure applied by the US and EU on France to cancel the contract.
Western allies have been pushing Paris for months, saying that France has to make sacrifices to meet its commitment to oppose Moscow through sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
According to the sources, the non-delivery of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia could reach $ 3 billion.
The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is expected to be handed over to Russia next year.

Understanding the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia

On March 24, 1999, NATO bombed Yugoslavia in order to stop egregious human rights violations against Kosovo. But this is a very complicated and contentious topic - learn more about what drove NATO to take action in this board.
What is Yugoslavia?
The former Yugoslavia was a territory positioned at the crossroads of East and West. It was made up of seven different modern day nations. 
It was formed in 1945, shortly after World War II and began to break up in 1991 after the fall of the USSR.
The seven modern day nations that made up Yugoslavia are:
  1. Slovenia
  2. Croatia
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. Serbia
  5. Montenegro
  6. Macedonia
  7. Kosovo
There used to be an 8th, Vojvodina, but today it is a part of Serbia.
Yugoslavia is and was a melting pot of ethnicities and religions. As one country, Yugoslavia's rich multiculturalism was a source of contention, culminating in a series of bloody conflicts in the early 1990s. 
See this website for maps and more information about Yugoslavia. 
The Breakup of Yugoslavia
This article details the complicated breakup of Yugoslavia, which began in 1990. A summary of the events: 
  1. Josip Tito ruled & held together Yugoslavia from its formation in 1945 until his death in 1980.  
  2. When Tito died, the constitution took all real power away from the federal govt. of Yugoslavia and passed it down to the eight republics and autonomous provinces that made up Yugoslavia. 
  3. Those eight were the seven modern day countries (see learning above) plus Vojvodina.
  4. Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's president, took advantage of the power vacuum that was happening in the 80s and took over Kosovo, Vojvodina, and Montenegro.
  5. In 1991 the more autonomous republics that had been a part of Yugoslavia began to vote to be their own nations. Much fighting ensued as some people in these nations fought to be independent, and others wanted to remain bound together.
  6. Milosevic forcefully held on to Kosovo, Vojvodina, Montenegro, and Bosnia Herzegovina.
Who is Slobodan Milosevic?
Milosevic was a staunch communist who was seen as carrying on the politics of the former Yugoslavian region after the dissolution of the USSR.
He became the leader of Serbia in 1987. He advocated for his region, Serbia, to continue on as Yugoslavia and retain its seat in the United Nations.
  • Milosovic wanted to keep Yugoslavia as big as possible and prevent the republics that comprised it from breaking apart. 
  • But the republics wanted to break apart, and as they did so Milosevic strove to hold them togehter - by force if necessary. 
  • Between 1988-1990 he took back Kosovo and Vojvodina.  
  • In 1992 after Bosnia voted to succeed from Milosovic's version of Yugoslavia, he invaded and fought for three years.
Explore this synopsis of his briography to learn more about his political career, criminal history and death. 
Kosovo Breaks Away
As this wikipedia page on the Kosovo War describes, in 1998-1999 Kosovo fought to break away from Serbia and from the Yugoslav Republic. This highly disputed territory lies in the south of Serbia, and is slightly larger than Delaware.
The dominate ethnic group is Albanian, making up about 80% of residents in Kosovo. The growth of the Albanian community led to increased demands for greater minority rights by ethnic Albanians, particularly during the 1980s. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic eventually authorized the forceful use of troops to attempt to subdue Kosovo.
He was so brutal that NATO intervened in 1999.
NATO Bombs Yugoslavia (Kosovo)
On March 24, 1999, NATO began air strikes against Yugoslavia by bombing Serbian military positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
NATO mostly used a large-scale air campaign to destroy Yugoslav military infrastructure. After three days of bombing, almost all targets were destroyed. But the Yugoslav army still managed to function and attack Kosovo, committing numerous human rights violations along the way.
Next, strategic economic and society targets, such as bridges, military facilities, official government facilities, and factories, were bombed. This caused much economic and environmental damage.
On June 10th, the bombings finally ended and Milosevic agreed to peace talks.
Legitimacy of NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia
Was NATO justified in bombing Yugoslavia?
This is a very contentious issue and is well summarized with plenty of legitimate references in this Wikipedia article.
Viewpoints for NATO:
  • They stopped gross human rights violations that were happening in Kosovo.
Against NATO:
  • NATO didn’t have permission to use force. Two permanent NATO members (Russia & China) vetoed.
  • NATO bombed civilian targets, such as television stations, water and electricity suppliers, and the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
What do you think?
Kosovo Achieves Independence
In 2008, Kosovo finally declared its independence.
It was overseen by a group of 23 European Union countries for the first few years of its independence from Serbia.
In 2012, it was announced that the supervision of Kosovo by the EU was finished, meaning it was completely independent, however a NATO peace keeping force remains.
Most of the world recognizes Kosovo's independence today with a few exceptions: Russia, Serbia, Georgia, and China.

Greece: tension at Athens universities ahead of anniversary

The bloody November 17th 1973 uprising against the junta


14 November, 11:09(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 - Greek police used stun grenades and tear gas in central Athens on Thursday night to disperse students protesting the decision to close universities in the capital several days ahead of the anniversary of the bloody November 17 uprising against the junta at Athens Polytechnic in 1973.

As Kathimerini online reports, there was tension from the morning when students at Athens University found the doors closed and riot police guarding the institution. An attempt by the riot squad to move protesters who had gathered outside the university away from the building led to two students suffering injuries. Kathimerini reports that university authorities had asked for the main building, as well as the Law School and the Athens University of Economics and Business, to be guarded from Wednesday night amid concern about students holding sit-ins to mark the November 17 anniversary.

The buildings are to remain shut until Monday. Students held several peaceful marches in the city center to protest the closures. However, riot police intervened in the evening when some students attempted to enter the grounds of the Technical University of Athens (the former Polytechnic) to hold a general assembly that had been called by student groups. They used batons and chemicals to force the students away from the building. (ANSAmed).

Commissioner Avramopoulos attends EU–US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial in Washington DC

UE COM PH 045 On November 11, 2014, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos is travelling to Washington DC, where he will attend the EU–US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial on 12-13 November. Commissioner Avramopoulos is also scheduled to have bilateral meetings with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and US Homeland Security Advisor to the President on counter-terrorism Lisa Monaco.
Supporters of Kosovo's capital Pristina called Plisat carry banners, during a protest opposing UEFA's decision, in Pristina, Kosovo, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. UEFA awarded Serbia a 3-0 win over Albania but deducted the three points following the violence that broke out during their European Championship qualifier in Belgrade last week.
Albanian Nationalism Could Make European Energy Security a Pipe Dream
© AP Photo/ Visar Kryeziu
by Andrew Korybko

The aggressive promotion of Albanian nationalism could jeopardize the South Stream gas project by destabilizing Serbia, the pipeline’s hub. This would sink any realistic hopes that the EU has for lessening its dependence on Ukrainian transit routes.
The scandalous flying of an Albanian irredentist flag over a Belgrade football match and the provocative pronouncements of that country’s Prime Minister while in the Serbian capital show that Albanian nationalism is on the move. In what might be the biggest threat to the Balkans in the 21st century, if left unchecked, it could unravel the delicate regional peace that took a decade to construct and kill off Europe’s last chance to free itself from Kiev’s energy blackmail.
Pushing The Limit
The Albanian PM went out of his way to push the envelope during his historic trip to Belgrade earlier this week. It was the first time in 68 years that an Albanian leader came to Serbia, and instead of preaching reconciliation, friendship, and cooperation, Prime Minister Edi Rama exploited the occasion to shove Albanian nationalism down the throats of his Serbian hosts.
In what was a jaw-dropping moment of audacity, Rama boasted that "Independent Kosovo is an undeniable regional and European reality, and it must be respected”, which them prompted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandr Vucic to retort that “According to the constitution Kosovo is Serbia and I am obliged to say that no one can humiliate Serbia”. Rama, unabashed, presses his point by proclaiming that Kosovar ‘independence’ “is the reality that many recognize. The sooner you recognize (that), the sooner we can move ahead.” Even if one was naïve enough not to see that the Albanian PM’s comments were rehearsed in advance, its undeniable that the Albanian nationalist flag flying over Belgrade was a premeditated provocation.
Nationalism Is Literally In the Air
During a tense Albanian and Serbian football match held in Belgrade last month, a nationalist Albanian flag was flown over the stadium by a drone. It was also reported that the Albanian Prime Minister’s brother was controlling the craft, although he vehemently denies this. Shockingly, the flag flown over Belgrade included territory currently in Montenegro, the Serbian province of Kosovo, and Macedonia that is primarily inhabited by ethnic Albanians and was forcibly incorporated into Greater Albania during World War II by the fascists. It was also emblazoned with the word “autochthonous”, which although translating to “indigenous”, is also used as a slur against ethnic Serbs who the Albanian nationalists believe are not native to those territories.
© REUTERS/ Marko Djurica
The Albanian nationalist flag over the pitch in Belgrade, 14 October
A Serbian football player grabbed the flag when the drone buzzed by, but this enraged the Albanian players, who then rushed the field to attack him. Fans in the stands then joined the fracas, which caused the Albanians to retreat and the match to be eventually canceled. The Western media then pounded on the Serbs, accusing them of starting the melee, while paying little if any attention to the enormous racial and nationalist provocation that the Albanian irredentist flag caused in Belgrade.   Pipeline Power Games
So what’s behind Albania’s resurgence of nationalism and how does this affect Europe? More than likely, the US is coaxing its new NATO ally to destabilize Serbia yet again, but this time in the name of a new anti-Russian crusade. Serbia will be the centerpiece of the Russia’s South Stream pipeline, which will strategically pump gas under the Black Sea and through the Balkans en route to Central Europe, undermining Ukraine’s ability to play geo-energy games with the EU and Russia.
South Stream gas pipeline map
The US doesn’t like that idea, since not only does it want to disrupt Russia’s important energy trade ties, but it also wants to sell the EU its costly liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead. America thinks that this will somehow allow the EU to achieve energy independence, but it’s a literal pipe dream. Purchasing unnecessarily expensive energy from overseas during a time of lengthy economic difficulties doesn’t help the EU at all, especially if they can get it cheaper and from a time-tested and proven reliable supplier right next door. In fact, that’s what the US actually does. In the past decade, it’s largely diversified its energy supplies away from the Mideast and back to the Western Hemisphere, with Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela constituting almost half of US oil imports. So why can’t the EU do the same with its gas imports vis-à-vis Russia? It’s because Washington knows that if it can provoke, demonize, and destabilize Serbia, it can endanger the entire South Stream operation and pressure the EU into buying its LNG. The EU will never be fully energy secure until its supply routes bypass pesky Ukraine, and that’s exactly what South Stream does. The US holds the cards in Kiev, so keeping the pipelines running through there also gives it power over the EU’s energy supply, making this a win-win for Washington and extending its neo-colonial reach over the continent. Serbia is the key to fulfilling or upsetting the South Stream project, and the long-term future of the EU’s energy plans are dependent on whether or not Albanian nationalism succeeds in destabilizing the country.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pentagon sends to Greece, hundreds of tanks and military vehicles motorized

The first granted M577A2, M113A2, M901A2 by US Army for Greece

According to exclusive information magazine "Greek Defence & Technology" arrived in Pireas and Thessaloniki Porto, the ship carrying the first batch of licensed Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) M113 and special editions, and trucks HEMTT from US surpluses. Already ongoing preparations in 308 Advance Base Factory for necessary inspection before vehicles promoted in her units.

Reminded that granted a total of 460 M113 family vehicles namely 225 M113A2 APC, 128 command vehicles M577A2, 106 Vehicles Improved TOW (ITV) M901A2 equipped with twin launcher M220 TOW, and one M106 4,2in. This M106 is the latest vehicle type in functional status in the United States and granted the Greek side, which is now the largest user. 

The arrival of the M113A2 will allow the withdrawal of the remaining around 210 BMP-1, which suffer from a lack of spare parts.

Also granted approximately 320 trucks HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) from Oshkosh, types M977 and M985 general transport trucks M978P1, tank transporter and recovery vehicles.
Greece warns Turkey of legal action over warship move

November 13 2014
[linked image]
Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos. AFP Photo

Greece may resort to legal action against Turkey for allegedly violating the international sea law, Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Nov. 12.

Venizelos made the remarks at the Greek Parliament in Athens. He was referring to Turkey’s recent move to send a warship to monitor a Greek Cypriot oil-and-gas exploration mission off the coast of Cyprus.

Turkey and the government of Turkish Cyprus have strongly opposed any unilateral move by the Greek Cypriot administration to explore any hydrocarbon resources around the island, saying its natural resources should be exploited in a fair manner under a united Cyprus. Venizelos said the political reaction from the Greek side might take the form of a legal course of action.

“Our political reaction may have a legal aspect to it,” he said. Venizelos also said Turkey and Greece should continue to maintain contact.

The Greek Cypriot administration suspended talks over the divided island on Oct. 7.

Negotiations between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots resumed after a two-year pause in February 2013. The previous round of talks collapsed partly because of the impact of the Eurozone debt crisis on the government in Nicosia.
European Parliament calls on Turkey to ‘stop provocations’ in Cyprus
November 13 2014
[linked image]
The European Parliament has condemned Turkey’s “maritime survey” activities in a resolution approved on Nov. 13, saying they encroach on Greek Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone and “its sovereign right to explore the natural resources within it.” The text also called on Turkey to stop its “provocative actions” and “threats” against Greek Cyprus.

Turkey’s maritime surveys “must be seen as both illegal and provocative,” the European Parliament motion said, stressing that they constituted a violation of the sovereign rights of Greek Cyprus and of international law. It said Turkey should immediately withdraw its vessels operating in and around Greek Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

“[Turkey’s] actions and threats undermine the continuation of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,” MEPs added, warning that their continuation “could have a negative impact on Turkey’s relations with the EU.”

“Any gas finds would benefit both communities in Cyprus if a lasting, political solution can be found to end the conflict,” notes the text.

However, Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said on Nov. 13 that Ankara will “not accept” the European Parliament’s decision on the resolution.

“It has no validity for us,” said EU Minister Volkan Bozkır, in reference to the draft resolution, during a meeting with Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade in Ankara.

“Although Turkey is respectful of the European Parliament’s decision, this draft resolution is likely to end up like many other resolutions,” he added, implying that it will have little or no consequences.

His statement came soon before the European Parliament’s vote on a resolution on tensions between Turkey and the Greek Cypriot administration, and on oil and gas exploration in the island’s waters. The draft resolution demanded that Turkish vessels operating in waters in and around what the Greek Cypriot administration and the EU deem to be an “exclusive economic zone” be withdrawn immediately.

Negotiations between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots resumed after a two-year pause in February 2013. The previous round of talks had collapsed partly because of the Eurozone debt crisis’s impact on the government in the Greek Cypriot administration’s capital of Nicosia.

The Greek Cypriot administration suspended the most recent talks on Oct. 7 after Turkey sent a ship to monitor an oil and gas exploration mission off the island’s coast.

Turkey and the the Turkish Cypriots have strongly opposed any unilateral move by the Greek Cypriot administration to explore hydrocarbon resources around the island, saying its natural resources should be exploited in a fair manner by a united Cyprus.

Albania hosts social business week

Star Business Report
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama takes a selfie with Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus during the launch of Social Business Week in Tirana, Albania from November 3-8. Photo: Yunus Centre
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama takes a selfie with Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus during the launch of Social Business Week in Tirana, Albania from November 3-8. Photo: Yunus Centre
Albanian capital Tirana organised boot camps, workshops, conferences and field trips as it hosted a social business week recently.
Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama jointly inaugurated the event on November 3.
Two senior ministers and two deputy ministers of the Albanian government were also present at the social business conference, Yunus Centre said in a statement yesterday.
Rama and Prof Yunus made field visits to the social business sites to see their operations.
They visited three new social business ventures, including a coffee house run by disabled people, as well as a senior citizens' home that offers high quality services to promote independence, dignity and quality of life for the elderly in Albania.
The opening of the conference was followed by a high-level consultation session on the future of social business with the participation of bilateral and multilateral organisations.
During the week, the economics and social welfare and youth ministries of Albania, the Austrian Development Agency and a network of Albanian entrepreneurs signed three memoranda of understanding with the Yunus Social Business Albania.
The Yunus Social Business Albania was created in mid-2012 with the aim to promote and support development of social businesses in various sectors.
Till today, the initiative has supported over 150 entrepreneurs, provided seed financing for five companies and has received over 250 business plans for its Accelerator Programme this year, according to the statement.
In addition, Yunus Social Business Albania in partnership with the UNDP, the Austrian Development Agency, the social welfare and youth ministry and other national and international partners launched the second round of the Accelerator Programme, which will be held during November 2014 to February 2015.
The programme will spread awareness on social business, foster discussion and collaboration between involved stakeholders over a few days of meetings, forums and workshops.


U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

Congratulations to the Governments of Albania and Serbia on Historic Visit

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 12, 2014

The United States commends Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on the first official visit by an Albanian prime minister to Belgrade in nearly 70 years. We welcome the mutual commitment these leaders have shown in opening a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between their two countries.

Šešelj reveals he "won't return to Hague voluntarily"

BELGRADE -- The idea of a Greater Serbia remains the guiding idea of the Serb Radicals (SRS), the party's leader Vojislav Šešelj has told a news conference.
The news conference on Thursday (Tanjug)
The news conference on Thursday (Tanjug)
Šešelj addressed reporters a day after he returned to the country after spending nearly 12 years detained at the Hague Tribunal, where he is accused of war crimes.
The court granted him provisional release due to his poor health, and his trial is still ongoing. But speaking on Thursday, Šešelj revealed that he had no plans to return to The Hague voluntarily.

Despite the deteriorated health, he intends to continue the political showdown with his opponents, mobilize the party's members, and hold talks with "patriotic forces."

"It remains to be seen which are the truly patriotic forces. I am calling on all those who left to return to the party, everyone is welcome except those who were taking away SRS mandates and are deeply involved in crime," Šešelj said.

He stressed that the idea of a Greater Serbia would not be abandoned, as it is "the point of the SRS," and added: "Our idea is to implement it using all peaceful means."

Šešelj described the situation in the country as difficult, and Serbia's possible EU membership as "a disaster - because there is no place for us there."

Asked about Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić, assassinated in early 2003, Šešelj replied by saying, "Who still remembers him," and added he felt no remorse because the news of the murder made him happy.

"The Serb people got rid of a mafioso and a traitor. Why would I feel sorry about that now. I was questioned because of my statements about bloodshed, but I was not predicting what happened to Đinđić. I expected more bloodshed and it's good it didn't happen. "

Speaking about his health, Šešelj said he had two metastases on his liver, which he was told can be removed surgically.

"Do you know what I call these two metastases - Aleksandar Vučić and Tomislav Nikolić," the SRS leader said of his former party colleagues, who in 2008 split to form the Serb Progressive Party (SNS) amid political acrimony.

Asked about his statement that he would have his revenge against the pair, Šešelj said:

"I said, 'I'll have my revenge.' If I don't get to do it, it will be passed on to the generations. My vengeful mood was related to Tomislav Nikolić and Aleksandar Vučić, and they knew I was not kidding."

However, he added, this was his position "at the time when guarantees for his release were discussed - but there's no longer the need for that."

"Since my threat succeeded, there's no desire for revenge," Šešelj said.

According to him, the Hague Tribunal came up with "a new argument," i.e., that he should accept guarantees given by Vučić, knowing he would not do it under any circumstances.

"The Hague was sick and tired of holding me there and they made a concession to Vučić by delaying my release until the visit of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was over," Šešelj told reporters.
The Chief of Defence General Kostarakis elected chairman of the EU Military Committee

Great success for Greece to undertake the European Union Military Committee - The term of office will be three years with the inauguration in November 2015.

Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union (Chairman of the European Union Military Committee - EUMC), was elected Thursday afternoon the Greek Chief of Defense Gen. Michael Kostarakis.

This is a great success for Greece, this is probably the first time that Greek official takes the helm of a European institution with increased power.

The vote to elect a new Chairman of the Military Committee completed from in Brussels. Besides the Greek chiefs of staff, candidates were also a Spanish admiral and a Lieutenant Finnland.

General Kostarakis won the majority, as voted for 20 of the total 27 members. The mandate of the current Chief of Staff as the new chairman of the EU Military Committee will be three years with the inauguration in November 2015.

Warm congratulations to the Chief of Staff on his election expressed the Minister of National Defence Nikos Dendias with posting of his personal account at Twitter.

At the same time in a statement Mr. Dendias speaks of "recognition of the high level of our country's armed forces," expressing his confidence that General Kostarakis will work productively and effectively to build a new strategy for the Common Defence and Security of European Union".

Mistral ships won’t be delivered to Russia Nov. 14 – French Defense Minister

Published time: November 13, 2014 09:25
Edited time: November 13, 2014 10:49
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe)
France hasn’t yet fixed a date for delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia (scheduled for November 14), the French defense minister said. If France doesn’t deliver due to US and NATO pressure, it will have to pay a huge forfeit.
"No delivery date can be fixed at this stage," Jean-Yves Le Drian, the country’s defense minister told the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s Parliament.
"The president of the Republic has said that a definitive decision will come at the right moment, taking into account all the responsibilities that come with this decision, which is not a simple one," he added.
READ MORE: France to hand over first Mistral helicopter carrier on Nov 14 – Russia
On Thursday, reports emerged that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin will not attend the ceremony where France hands over the first Mistral ship to Russia at the Saint-Nazaire shipyards. On October 29, he said that Moscow had received an invitation to take delivery.
DCNS, a French industrial group specializing in naval defense and energy, sent the invitations to the ceremony of the ship delivery scheduled November 14, France’s Le Nouvel Observateur magazine wrote on Wednesday. However, the event was canceled.
The outlet managed to take a screenshot of the letter which was sent to a French official.
“When I opened my mail, I fell off my chair," the official told the magazine on condition of anonymity.
The chief of DCNS would not confirm whether this letter, signed by the export manager, was authentic. The official line is that these invitations were issued by mistake and the project manager was subsequently fired.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from
Moscow and Paris signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) deal to build two Mistral helicopter carriers in June 2011. The contract says that Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October 2014.
Delivery, however, has been postponed due to the conflict in Ukraine and pressure applied by the US and EU on France to cancel the contract.
Western allies have been pushing Paris for months, saying that France has to make sacrifices to meet its commitment to oppose Moscow through sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is expected to be handed over to Russia next year.
READ MORE: NATO has no money, capability to buy out Russia-bound Mistral warships – source
At the beginning of November, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg received a letter from eight US lawmakers, urging the Alliance to purchase the Mistral vessels.
“Sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia, we renew our call that NATO purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset,” the letter said.
However, a military source in Brussels told the TASS news agency that "NATO’s budget is too small to not only purchase Russia-ordered Mistral helicopter carriers, but to even compensate France half of the penalties in accordance with the contract.”
NATO’s military and civilian budget for 2014 is $ 1.6 billion, while the penalty for non-delivery of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia could reach $ 3 billion, the source explained.
People in Saint-Nazaire in western France where the ships are being built have repeatedly taken to the streets for demonstrations saying that if France failed to sell the warships, it would harm not only its image, but its economy as well. They also stated that Russia should not be perceived as an enemy.

Russia abstains during vote to extend EUFOR mandate

NEW YORK -- Russia has abstained during a UN Security Council vote to extend the mandate of EU's military mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina for another year.
The remaining four members of the council voted in favor.
Russia's decision to decline to support the peacekeeping force was the first of the kind in 14 years.

The AP reported that Tuesday's vote came after the United States and the EU last week welcomed a German-British proposal to move Bosnia closer to EU membership, something that would "postpone action on the complicated issue of minority rights while Bosnia moves ahead with reforming its economy and strengthening the rule of law."

But Russia's UN Ambassador Churkin "rejected the proposal saying any movement by Bosnia toward the EU cannot be forced from the outside."

High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina Valentin Inzko "spoke bluntly about the need to change the vicious downward cycle of tit-for-tat politics and warned those pushing for secession that the country's borders won't be redrawn," the agency said in its report.

Inzko also said the country "faces a decisive four years ahead after elections in October."

Russia-Serbia military drills "under veil of secrecy"

BELGRADE -- Preparations for military drills by Russian and Serbian soldiers have been taking place during the past week on the Nikinci ranges "under a veil of secrecy."
Russian soldiers and military equipment are seen in Batajnica last week (Image made from RT video)
Russian soldiers and military equipment are seen in Batajnica last week (Image made from RT video)
This is according to the Belgrade-based daily Danas, which is reporting that "certain security structures" in the Serbian Army's General Staff thought that media exposure of the event would not be a good idea.
The reason is that "it could cause negative reactions from western countries, considering the Ukrainian crisis and the current conflict between the EU and Russia."

But, writes the paper, it seems this approach has achieved the opposite effect, "at least in part" - something its sources said "is also clear to the state leadership."

Since there is a longstanding practice of holding military exercises, "not only with the Russians" - had the conflict between the EU and Russia not worsened "this event would be held under normal circumstances, without any attempted to remove the public eye from it," said the daily.

"Military exercises of the Serbian army with certain representatives of (foreign) armed forces are a regular thing. We had two with Americans since the beginning of this year. The one with Russians was agreed on during the term of the former defense minister. However, since the situation is what it is, and Russian President Vladimir Putin visited us recently, someone in the General Staff figured it should be hidden from our media in order not to irritate the West," the paper quoted "well-informed sources close to the General Staff."

Thus the Serbian public learned from the Russian Ministry of Defense that Russian and Serbian special units had held the first joint exercise in Serbia in preparation for the tactical anti-terrorist SREM-2014 drills at Nikinci, north-west of Belgrade.

According a press release, members of the Russian Air Force's special unit carried out a reconnaissance mission on the ground and from the air, using drones. Also, the ministry stated that members of the two armies worked on blocking and destroying terrorist bases.

Through the Russian media, the Serbian public was informed that six Russian transport aircraft Ilyushin-76 had landed at Belgrade's Batajnica military airport, bringing the soldiers and their equipment. The Russian news agency TASS said that Russian and Serbian military units would take part in the tactical anti-terrorism exercise called SREM-2014.

The daily Danas also reported that Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić will on Thursday head straight from the monastery of Hilandar in Greece to Nikinci, to greet the Russian soldiers there. Nikolić has the role of supreme commander of the Serbian armed forces and has been kept informed of the details of the joint military exercises.

According to military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic, who spoke for Radio Free Europe, Russia wants to use the drills to show "more than mere military maneuvers."

"The political message is that Moscow has the power to be present where it is in its interest to be present. That it has enough friends to be able to be engaged together with them. And also, that it has enough military cooperation to engage along their armies in situations when it is carrying out some exercises. And these exercises, as any military display, carry a message of power. And that's about one dimension of it, but in itself , it is not tasked aggressively," said Stojadinović.

"U.S. using Šešelj against government" - minister

BELGRADE -- The Hague Tribunal is controlled by the United States, "who, through the mouth of Vojislav Šešelj, is saying they will bring down the Serbian government."
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
This is according to Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who also sent a message to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić that it was perhaps time to "think about the priorities of Serbia's foreign policy."
"I expected the first political statement of Šešelj to be about the visit of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, that he will say what he thinks about the story of a Greater Albania, or that he will maybe say that it is absolutely unacceptable for Rama to behave like that toward the state of Serbia," said Vulin.

Furthermore, he revealed that he "expected Šešelj to say that it was a big thing that Serbia has a prime minister who treated Rama's provocation in a dignified, yet resolute manner."

"As we see, the president of the SRS did not care too much about that, but he cares a lot about insulting and causing further divisions in the unfortunate Serbian people using the vocabulary should not even be comment on to talk about the government of a country that has given guarantees for him to return home, and always helped when it was needed, because he is a citizen of our country," said Vulin.

According to him, the government does not discriminate when it comes to Serbian citizens, "something, it seems, Šešelj cannot understand - or he does not accept the possibility that someone who is not from his ideology or not with him can be a Serbian patriot and take care of the interests of the country."

However, pointed out Vulin - "it doesn't really matter what Šešelj said, it's important what the one who released him, and who did not release him the last time the government gave guarantees, said to us in this way."

"I really have no reason to be more of a diplomat than our diplomats, and therefore I can say it freely - the Hague Tribunal is controlled by the United States and the United States released him - the previous time the U.S. did not want to let him go - the U.S. is through his mouth now saying that it will bring down our government," said Vulin.

He added that this was his own opinion, and that he spoke "primarily as a coalition partner of the SNS" and someone who is "represented in parliament."

"I want to tell the president of our government and the head of the coalition that it might be time to think about our foreign policy," said Vulin, who is the leader of the Movement Socialists.

"If the only thing Serbia gets for all the effort and hard work to change, modernize, to be more successful ... is Rama, or Šešelj's insults and unimpeded promotion of these insults and threats - that the government will be brought down in this country and all who are trying to change something are labeled as traitors - and if we see it all coming from and supported by some countries, I said the United States - then it may be a good time to reflect on our foreign policy priorities," said Vulin.

"I cannot decide on that, but the prime minister can," concluded Vulin.