Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Iran releases captured U.S. Navy crew members

Washington Post
By Fred Barbash, Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff January 13 at 11:56 AM  

After 16 hours, Iran frees U.S. sailors
Play Video1:44

Iran has freed 10 U.S. sailors after detaining them on Jan. 12 and accusing the crew of having crossed into their territorial waters. Here is what you need to know about what led up to the sailors' detention. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
Iran on Wednesday freed 10 American sailors from two small Navy vessels that Tehran claimed strayed into Iranian waters, prompting their overnight detention as Washington opened direct contacts with Iran seeking their release.

A senior defense official, speaking in Washington, said the sailors were not harmed but would undergo medical evaluation and a debriefing in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Meanwhile, their vessels were taken by another American crew to Bahrain, their original destination and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The release appeared to end a potential flash point as Iran and world powers move toward the possible next steps in a landmark nuclear deal that limits Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions.

Iran released video on Wednesday, Jan. 13, of 10 U.S. sailors who were detained by Iran overnight aboard their two U.S. Navy patrol boats in the Persian Gulf. (Reuters)
The detention also added to tensions in the Persian Gulf region amid the worst diplomatic unraveling in decades between Shiite power Iran and Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies. The feud — opened by Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric earlier this month — has put Washington in the middle as it seeks to implement the nuclear deal while also backing its key regional partner, Saudi Arabia.

“Ten U.S. Navy Sailors safely returned to U.S. custody today, after departing Iran,” said a statement from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “There are no indications that the Sailors were harmed during their brief detention.”

According to the Navy’s statement, the sailors departed Farsi Island, where they were held, at 8:43 a.m. GMT (3:43 a.m. EST) on board the same boats that were intercepted. They were picked up by Navy aircraft and transferred ashore, eventually ending up in Qatar, while other sailors took charge of the vessels, called riverine command boats, and continued to Bahrain.

Kerry thanks Iran for 'quick and appropriate' release of U.S. sailors

Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "pleased" by the safe release of U.S. sailors from Iranian custody Jan. 13. Kerry also said the sailors appeared to have been "well taken care of" by Iranian authorities. (Reuters)
The sailors will receive support to reintegrate with their unit, said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet. He declined to provide details on the identities of the 10 sailors, reportedly including one woman. Stephens said the Navy’s priority now is “determining … how exactly these sailors found themselves in Iran. And that’s something we’re going to be looking at.”

Iranian and U.S. ships often come within hailing distance in the Persian Gulf during patrols and maneuvers. The gulf is also the route for more than one-fifth of the world’s oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Western-ally Oman.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in a statement, expressed his “gratitude to Iranian authorities for their cooperation in quickly resolving this matter…. That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong.”

The incident, meanwhile, offered a test of new high-level channels opened during the nuclear talks between the two nations. Diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran soured after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, and they were formally severed in April 1980, five months after militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage.

For hours — even as President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address — messages passed directly between Iran and Washington instead of the intermediary nations used for decades. The exchanges included Kerry reaching out to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was Iran’s point man during the nuclear talks, said a senior U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry “made the case very strongly” to Zarif that the incident had stemmed from a mechanical problem aboard one of the boats and that they appeared to have drifted into Iranian territorial waters, the official said.

Zarif asked for more information about the incident, which the State Department later communicated to Iran. Zarif, the official said, “came back and said they were all safe and sound, that nobody was hurt,” and that Iran would “return them promptly.”

Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted a statement from the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps saying the sailors were released after “investigations showed that they had gone astray during their voyage in the Persian Gulf.” In its statement, the Guard added that the “illegal entry into Iranian water was not the result of a purposeful act.”

The quick moves by the Revolutionary Guard also suggested that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sought to keep the detention from overshadowing regional affairs, including the nuclear deal.

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Video of the seizure, however, indicated tense moments. The U.S. crew is shown kneeling on the deck with their hands behind their heads. Other images, broadcast by Iranian state television, included the sailors sitting on the floor in a carpeted room, and an apparent Iranian official examining their American passports.

“After it became clear that the U.S. combat vessels’ illegal entry into the Islamic Republic of Iran’s waters was the result of an unintentional action and a mistake and after they extended an apology, the decision was made to release them,” the Revolutionary Guard’s statement said.

“The Americans have undertaken not to repeat such mistakes,” it added. “The captured marines were released in international waters under the supervision of the IRGC Navy.”

But State Department spokesman John Kirby said there was “zero truth” to reports of a formal U.S. apology, citing only Kerry’s expression of thanks to Iranian officials.

“Nothing to apologize for,” Kirby wrote in a tweet.

The exact circumstances surrounding the incident remained unclear.

The two small boats, used largely on coastal waters and on rivers, had been en route from Kuwait to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf when they disappeared from the Navy’s scopes. Senior administration officials said the vessels appeared to have experienced mechanical trouble or ran out of fuel, but Fars said the sailors had been “snooping.”

Albania Pays Dearly for Cherie Blair’s Legal Advice

Albania’s government has approved an increased payment of 645,000 euros for legal advice given by Cherie Blair’s law firm Omnia Strategy in an arbitrage case.
Besar Likmeta

Cherie Blair during a visit to Tirana on March 12, 2015 | Photo by : Gnet Shkullaku/LSA.
The Albanian government has raised the compensation for legal advice offered by Omnia Strategy in the dispute with US company by 150,000 euros, bringing the payment to a total of 645,000 euros.
No reason was given for the increased payment in the government decision, which was taken on December 28 but published in the official gazette on Tuesday.
The law firm of the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who currently works as an advisor to Albanian premier Edi Rama, was originally hired by the Albanian government in early 2015 to represent Tirana in a trade dispute with a consortium made up of US company Rapiscan Systems and local firm S2 Albania.
Rapiscan and S2 Albania had won a concessionary contract from the former centre-right government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha for a security system that scanned containers at Albania’s border posts in 2013.
The deal was approved by parliament only one month before the June 2013 parliamentary elections, which Berisha lost in a landslide to Rama’s Socialists.
Based on business complaints over Rapsican’s tariffs, the new government tried to renegotiate the contract.
But in the absence of an agreement, the US company sued for illegal breach of contract to the tune of $350 million in the arbitrage court in Paris in September 2014.
In the beginning, the government seemed determined to fight Rapsican in court and hired Omnia Strategy in early 2015 for 495,000 euros in order to represent it in the looming legal battle.
However, it quickly changed its mind and based on Cherie Blair’s advice, decided to settle the case amicably in April 2015.
Treasury transactions published by the ministry of finance show that Omnia Strategy was paid 495,000 euros on November 10 based on two invoices the law firm issued in early February 2015, which suggest that Cherie Blair’s work for Albania’s government was brief.  
Cherie Blair’s work in Tirana comes to the heels of a similar contract in Kazakhstan, where her husband also worked as an advisor to the country’s autocratic ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev.
According the London-based Sunday Telegraph, Omnia Strategy, was paid almost £400,000 for six months’ work in Kazakhstan for reviewing its “bilateral investment treaties”, with Cherie Blair billing £975 an hour.
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Sergei Lavrov meets with John Kerry in GenevaRussia, US Top Diplomats to Meet Next Week on Broad Discussion Agenda

Sergei Lavrov meets with John Kerry in Geneva
Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry will meet next week to continue discussion of a wide range of bilateral and global issues.

GENEVA (Sputnik) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet next week to continue discussion of a wide range of bilateral and global issues, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Wednesday.
"The meeting will take place next week," Gatilov told reporters.
Gatilov stressed that the Russian and US top diplomats "always discuss all issues when they meet," including the Syrian crisis settlement.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

President Pavlopoulos to meet President Putin in Moscow

The Greek President was invited to the Russian capital to be awarded with an honorary doctorate in January

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
President Pavlopoulos to meet President Putin in Moscow
The President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos will visit Moscow on the 14th and 15th of January, at the invitation of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), which will award him with an honorary doctorate.
During his two-day stay in the Russian capital, the Greek President has arranged to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the 15th of January.

If Croatia drops plans to buy weapons, so will Serbia - PM

Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday Serbia will give up on buying defensive weapons "the minute Croatia says they will give up on buying offensive ones."
Source: Tanjug
The prime minister was touring the Belgrade Waterfront project site when reporters asked "why it was announced Serbia would be buying Russian S-300 missiles rather than investing in the economy."
Vucic said Serbia was "investing its money in the economy, while it will invest nothing, or not much, in weapons if Croatia decides not to arm itself with missiles."

Vucic said that this policy will continue "for as long as he serves as prime minister."

Asked how much money Serbia would pay for the S-300s, he said he did not wish to comment on that, adding that the country "can solve its problems favorably - but our aim is to care for the region and peace in the region, both with the Croatians and with others."

Vucic was also asked about two Serbian nationals kidnapped in Libya in November to say they were alive, and that "citizens can expect, as soon as tomorrow, good news about the case."

A driver and a clerk of the Serbian embassy in Libya, Jovica Stepic and Sladjana Stankovic, were kidnapped by terrorists when a convoy of vehicles they were traveling in was ambushed.

Serbians "increasingly pro-Russian; would rather live in EU


The latest opinion polls show that Serbian citizens are increasingly supportive of Russia, but would rather live in EU countries.
Source: B92
72% of respondents said they view Russia positively (Image made from video)
72% of respondents said they view Russia positively (Image made from video)
Public opinion research companies say the fact that Serbians are "torn between Russia and the EU" is "nothing new."
Ipsos Strategic Marketing conducted a poll in December that included 1,031 respondents, 72 percent of whom said they viewed Russia positively - compared to 25 and 7 percent who have the same opinion of the EU and NATO, respectively.

At the same time, 46 percent of those polled would "vote" in favor of joining the EU, while 38 percent said they were against.

When asked "where they would rather live", 60 percent of those who said they supported the SPS party stated they would choose the EU, while 35 percent said Russia. 72 percent of SNS party supporters would prefer the EU, while 21 percent favor Russia; 85 percent of supporters of the DS would live in the EU, and 15 percent in Russia.

"It seems to me that beside those traditional emotions, our citizens are now perceiving a new form of partnership with Russia, in the wake of their desire to sell us weapons. The EU is seen as somebody making conditions, Kosovo is appearing as an important factor..." Marko Uljarevic of Ipsos noted.

Political parties are as divided as citizens. Recently, the "patriotic bloc" of the DSS and the Dveri Movement was made official.

"Russia never bombed us or took away a part of our territory. Last year, thanks to Russia, Kosovo was prevented from joining UNESCO, we have a great trade agreement, one that is a huge development opportunity," DSS leader Sanda Raskovic-Ivic said.

The SDS party, however, believes that "love and business" should be kept separate.

"The fact is that more than 60 percent of exports go to the EU, while not even five percent go to Russia. Over three billions in donations came from the EU during the past 15 years, while several million euros came from Russia," said SDS MP Aleksandar Senic.

But what is "the important factor" for the state? Foreign Minister and First Deputy PM Ivica Dacic says Serbia's strategic goal is to join the EU - "but it wants to have military-technical cooperation with Russia."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Seagalovic Now? Hollywood Star Steven Seagal Scores Serbian Citizenship

Steven Seagal

© RIA Novosti. Sayid Tsarnaev

Tips for foreigners on how to obtain Serbian citizenship: first, be a famous American actor and claim you feel like a Serb; second, offer to build a martial arts school in the capital city; third, be best pals with state officials. Welcome to Steven Seagal’s new identity!

According to a statement issued by the official paper of the Serbian government on Saturday, the 63-year-old actor and film producer has been granted Serbian citizenship following numerous visits to Belgrade, in which he extolled the state leadership and claimed that he feels a close connection with the country.
A father of seven, Seagal was received twice by President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in December 2015. At the time, he stated that he would do "everything possible to promote Serbia" around the world. He also underscored his wish to set up an Aikido school in Belgrade, officials stated.
The famous aikido master, who has an "Aikido 7th Dan," was invited to train Serbian police forces in Aikido. Seagal has practiced the Japanese martial art since he was seven years old, and used his abilities many times in movies. He is known for the films: "Machete," "Half Past Dead," "Submerged," and "Today You Die."
During his December visit, Segal was honored with a "Karic Brothers Fund" award for humanitarian activities. The actor said he was proud to accept an award which was also given to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Seagal is respected in Russia not only for his professional aikido and film careers, but also for his political support for Moscow in light of current tensions between Russia and the West. The actor, invited to Russia to demonstrate his aikido skills in early December 2015, told journalists he had Russian roots and loved the country.
Serbia is facing an imposing set of regulations from the EU, including that it improve its relations with Kosovo, to attain membership in the bloc. Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008.

Ethics Complaint Says Big Clinton Donors Got State Dept Access

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton violated federal ethics statutes by giving “preferential treatment” to wealthy political campaign donors and financial supporters of the Clinton Foundation, according to a formal complaint filed Friday by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.
The non-profit government watchdog group filed the complaint with the Office of Government Ethics, asking it to conduct a “full investigation” into Clinton’s “apparent breach of ethics rules.” A copy of the complaint was exclusively obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The organization charged Clinton gave “preferential treatment to individuals with which she had financial ties” and “regularly granted access” to rich donors, celebrities, and even powerful foreign nationals.
The FACT complaint follows the State Department’s latest release of thousands of Clinton emails that she turned over to the government more than two years after leaving the office in 2013. She used a private email address and a home-brew server in her private New York residence to conduct official government business throughout her tenure.
The emails reveal rich details about how Clinton mixed government work with the worldwide network of wealthy and politically influential donors she and her husband have cultivated for decades. The emails were first publicly reported in March, 2015, by The New York Times. They are being released now in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, another non-profit government watchdog.
Clinton granted access to such people as billionaire George Soros, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, designer Diane von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller, retired Citigroup Chairman Sanford Weill, real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, former Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz and media mogul Haim Saban, according to appendices attached to the complaint.
Clinton met twice as Secretary of State with Soros and appointed his personal candidate as the U.S. Government’s special envoy to Albania during a period of political unrest in that country. Soros has given at least $2 million to super PACs supporting Clinton, according to the Washington Post.
“Georg Soros is anxious to see you before he leaves for Europe next Tuesday,” an aide wrote to Clinton in one of the emails. “Could I fit him in for tomorrow,” the aide asked. “Yes,” Clinton replied.
Melanne Verveer, a top aide who followed Clinton from the White House to the State Department, transmitted to her the views of Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who married the daughter of former Ukrainian Communist president Leonid Kuchma.
The Clintons met Pinchuk, attending his 2014 annual conference at Livadia Palace, the last Russian czar’s summer retreat on the Black Sea. He has given at least $13 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to The New York Times.
Civic reform groups widely criticized Kuchma’s presidency as riddled with corruption and nepotism. The former communist leader was tainted with allegations by a Ukrainian prosecutor that he was tied to the grisly murder of a prominent anti-government journalist, whose headless and mutilated body was found in 2000.
FACT founder and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker charged in an interview with TheDCNF that Clinton “allowed insider access and pay-to-play politics” where donors to the Clinton Foundation and to her political campaigns received “regular access” to her office.
“There’s a growing narrative surrounding her in the way in which she does business,” he said. “Essentially if someone wants to have access to her, they need to be a significant donor to her political campaigns or to her philanthropic endeavors.”
Ironically, Title 5 was signed into law by President Clinton. The regulation became effective on Feb. 3, 1993, and was codified in 5 CFR, part 2635, the provision invoked by FACT in its complaint. The law directs OGE to establish a clear set of executive branch standards for ethical conduct and refer any violations to the Department of Justice.
Subpart B of the law cited by the organization prohibits employees “from soliciting or accepting gifts from prohibited sources or gifts given because of their official position,” according to the OGE’s website.
“The term ‘prohibited source’ includes anyone seeking business with or official action by an employee’s agency and anyone substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s duties,” according to OGE.
“When ethics officials find evidence that an employee has violated an ethics criminal statute or regulation, they must refer the that evidence to the appropriate authority for action,” according to the law.
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Mitsotakis wins New Democracy leadership, pledges to take on coalition


TAGS: Politics
Former administrative reform minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has caused an upset by winning the New Democracy leadership in a fairly tight vote on Sunday.

With 70 percent of the votes counted, Mitsotakis was on around 51 percent, against 49 percent for former interim leader Evangelos Meimarakis. However, the final outcome, which is not due until Monday, is expected to show a wider margin of victory for Mitsotakis, who was expected to dominate in the greater Athens region.

Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzicostas, one of four candidates in the first round of voting in December, tweeted congratulations to Mitsotakis at around 9 p.m., with only around 50 percent of the votes counted. Meimarakis called Mitsotakis at around 10 p.m. to congratulate him on his victory.

“The mandate is clear: Creative renewal and expansion so we can provide an alternative governing solution for the country,” said Mitsotakis in a brief statement shortly before midnight.

"We have a common purpose: To express all those forces that are opposed to the populism of an incompetent government,” added the 47-year-old.

Mitsotakis is due to take over officially as New Democracy president from caretaker leader Yiannis Plakiotakis at noon on Monday.

It was estimated that around 320,000 people, or around 80 percent of those who voted in the first round last month, devoted part of their Sunday to have a say in who will lead the main opposition party.

Joint Mistakes, NATO Expansion to Blame for Russia-West Tensions - Putin

President Vladimir Putin attends expanded meeting of Defence Ministry Board

© AFP 2015/ Savo Prelevic

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a number of "mistakes" committed by the US, Russia and NATO following the break-up of the Soviet Union has led to the current deterioration of relations between Moscow and the West, with NATO's expansion into eastern Europe one of the major damaging factors.

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Putin said a number of factors in the early 90s have directly led to the current strain in relations between Russia and the West.
"We have done everything wrong," Putin said.
"From the beginning, we failed to overcome Europe's division. Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, but invisible walls were moved to the east of Europe. This has led to mutual misunderstandings and assignments of guilt. They are the cause of all crises ever since."
While NATO pursued its "expansion to the east" agenda by allowing eastern European and former Soviet Baltic states like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to join the military alliance, Putin says major players should have "redefine[d] a zone in Central Europe that would not be accessible to NATO with its military structures."
He said that instead of promoting more cooperation in central and eastern Europe, Washington's desire for a "complete victory over the Soviet Union" witnessed through NATO expansion, was a significant factor in the ratcheting up of tensions between Russia and the West. In reference to Washington's plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe, something Russia sees as highly provocative, Putin said:
"They [the US] wanted to sit on the throne in Europe alone… You can also see this striving for an absolute triumph in the American missile defense plans."
NATO Presence Beyond the Cold War
The continued and growing presence of NATO is an issue of longstanding tension between Moscow and the West, with some critics calling for the military alliance to be scrapped.
NATO was formed in 1949 amid concerns from the US and some Western European countries over the rise of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The alliance established rules that if one member state was attacked, others would automatically be able to intervene with military action on their behalf — a rule that still exists today. As a reaction to the threat posed by western nations, the Soviet Union helped form the Warsaw Treaty Organization in 1955, which included many eastern and central European states like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and East Germany.
While the Warsaw Pact disbanded, following the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO continued to operate, and allowed former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union states to join, leaving Moscow isolated in Europe.
How Will New NATO Command Posts Affect European Security?
How Will New NATO Command Posts Affect European Security?
As NATO continues to build-up its military forces in eastern Europe — witnessed through increased efforts in Ukraine — many critics have called for the organization to be scrapped or be more inclusive of Russia, to ensure a reduction of tensions and greater dialogue across Europe.
Russia Too Late in Presenting National Interests
Despite criticizing the US and NATO for some of their actions in the post-Soviet Union era, Putin said Russia too had made its own mistakes following the end of the Cold War.
NATO exercises and deployments near Russia since 2014
NATO exercises and deployments near Russia since 2014
"We were too late," he said. "If we had presented our national interests more clearly from the beginning, the world would still be in balance today.
"After the demise of the Soviet Union, we had many problems of our own for which no one was responsible but ourselves: the economic downfall, the collapse of the welfare system, the separatism, and of course the terror attacks that shook our country. In this respect, we do not have to look for guilty parties abroad," Putin added. 
Despite being ostracized by the West through the implementation of economic sanctions over the past two years, Russia has been sought out by the international community in recent times to help come to a solution over the war in Syria. While western sanctions on Russia have been reinstated, there has been pressure to move in the opposite direction, with French President Francois Hollande among those calling for the relaxation of economic embargoes.

Top 10 things about Albania


Today is Republic Day in Albania, marking the day in 1946 when Enver Hoxha declared the People’s Republic of Albania with himself as head of state.

Flag of Albania
GETTY Albania celebrate republic day today
1. In 1976 the official name was changed to People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.
2. In 1992, after the fall of communism, the name changed again to simply Republic of Albania.
3. In 1967 Albania became the world’s first officially atheist state.
4. The Albanians call Albania Shqiperia, which means “land of the eagle”.
5. During the communist era private cars were illegal in Albania.
Alexander the Great
GETTY Albania's currency is named after Alexander the Great
6. After Lord Voldemort was first overthrown in the Harry Potter books he is said to have hidden in the forests of Albania.
7. Albania is the name of at least three towns in Colombia.
8. The oldest known name of the main island of Britain was Albion. Around the 11th century writings in Latin referred to it as Albania.
9. Albania competed at the Olympics in 1972 and at every one since 1992 but has yet to win a medal.
10. The Albanian currency, the lek, was named after Alexander the Great, whose name was often shortened to Leka in Albanian.

Serbian president wonders why Croatia is arming

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said on Monday he was surprised by Croatia's announced acquisition of a missile system from Norway.
Source: Beta
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Nikolic made the comment during his meeting in Belgrade with Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The president said he found Croatia's plans curious, "considering there will be no armed conflict in the region."

"We will certainly not go to war against Croatia, and a war of Serbia against NATO would be especially meaningless," the Beta agency quoted him as saying, and adding: "Serbia will not invest huge amounts of money in missiles that would be used to shoot at Croatia."

He also said Serbia was grateful to Russia "for caring about her security."

A statement issued by Nikolic's office said the two officials concluded that the excellent political and economic cooperation between Serbia and Russia had contributed to improved military-technical cooperation.

"Serbia will not ask for concessions, although it is right to expect a lot from Russia," Nikolic said.

Speaking about "the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and Euro-integrations," the president said his country is dedicated to dialogue, "but Pristina, on the one hand talks, and works on implementing independence on the other."

"This is a very tricky game, to which we must be ready. It means a plan prepared in advance, and acting on it. I am in favor of first seeing what awaits in chapter 35 (of EU accession negotiations, dedicated to Kosovo) and what the 'biding' agreement with Pristina will look like. It's better to know where we stand right away, than to negotiate chapters for years, only to, in the end, come to something that we cannot accept," Nikolic said.

Rogozin told him that he planned to carry out in the shortest timeframe the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin "to examine in detail, and suggest what Serbia needs."

Rogozin also conveyed Putin's message that he "values highly the results of Nikolic's visit to Russia," describing relations between the two countries as "sincere and brotherly."

"We must make additional efforts to improve significantly our military-technical relations," the Russian official said, offering his assurances that 1999 - when Russia was unable to help Serbia - "will never repeat."

"We are monitoring the situation in the region carefully. We feel much more confident than before, and that is because our military strength has increased. I think Serbia, too, needs military strength... As for Kosovo, justice and Russia are on the side of Serbia," Rogozin said, adding:

"One must arm oneself with patience and not recognize (Kosovo), something that Russia also will never do."

Putin: If Kosovo could do it, so could Crimea

"It is not borders and state territories that matter, but people’s fortunes," Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.
Source: Tanjug
(Getty Images, file)
(Getty Images, file)
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In an interview for Germany's Bild newspaper, he reiterated his position that Russia respected international law in the case of the annexation of Crimea.
"We have not gone to war, we have not fired, not a single person was killed. Our soldiers have merely prevented the Ukrainian troops on Crimea from impeding the freedom of expression of the people. In the referendum - which was still decided to take place by the Crimea’s old parliament - the majority of citizens voted for belonging to Russia. This is democracy, the people’s will," he said.

When asked "what about international law," Putin responded: "Of course one always has to follow international law. This was also the case in Crimea. According to the Charter of the United Nations, every people has the right to self-determination. Just take Kosovo: back then, UN bodies decided that Kosovo should become independent of Serbia and that the interests of Serbia’s central government had to be subordinated. You can read that in all the records, also in the German ones."

"Kosovo declared independence and the whole world accepted it, but what was the cause for that? It was a decision of (Kosovo's) parliament. They didn't even hold a referendum," Putin has been quoted as saying.

When the interviewer said that "prior to that, the Serbian central government waged war against the Kosovo Albanians and drove thousands of them away," Putin replied:

"The fact is that there was a long war in which Serbia and its capital Belgrade were bombarded and attacked with missiles. It was a military intervention of the West and NATO against the then rump Yugoslavia. Now I’m asking you: if the Kosovars have the right to self-determination, why should people on Crimea not have it? I would say: everyone should comply with uniform international rules and not want to change them any time one feels like it."

He reiterated that the reunification of Crimea with Russia was "just."

Speaking about sanctions against his country, Putin said: "The West’s sanctions are not aimed at helping Ukraine, but at geo-politically pushing Russia back. They are foolish and are merely harming both sides."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Τα Τίρανα αρπάζουν τη γη των Ελλήνων στη Χειμάρρα!

Με πρόσχημα την ανάπτυξη στην «Αλβανική Ριβιέρα», ο Εντι Ράμα αρπάζει τα χωράφια από τους φυσικούς ιδιοκτήτες τους και τα δίνει σε φίλους του. Εκχερσώνουν και υπεραιωνόβιους ελαιώνες

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Νίκο Σταυρουλάκη

Ο Ελληνισμός της Χειμάρρας δέχεται επίθεση! Με πρόσχημα την τουριστική ανάπτυξη της προνομιακής, λόγω φυσικής ομορφιάς, περιοχής, η κυβέρνηση του «σοσιαλιστή» πρωθυπουργού Εντι Ράμα διεκπεραιώνει μεθοδικά τα τελευταία χρόνια σχέδιο εθνοκάθαρσης των Ελλήνων και εκδίωξης από τις πατρογονικές εστίες τους. Το σχέδιο έχει ως πρώτο στάδιο την άτυπη αλλαγή χαρακτηρισμού της γης (από αγροτική σε τουριστική), την απόσπασή της από τους Ελληνες φυσικούς ιδιοκτήτες της, την απόδοσή της ακόμα και με πλαστογραφίες τίτλων σε φιλοκυβερνητικούς «επιχειρηματίες» και, σε τελική φάση, τη μετακίνηση και την εγκατάσταση πληθυσμών από άλλες περιοχές της Αλβανίας για να εξαφανιστεί το ελληνικό στοιχείο!

Για το πέρασμα στη νέα πραγματικότητα τα πάντα είναι έτοιμα. Υπάρχουν τα πρόσωπα (επιχειρηματίες με ενδιαφέρον στην περιοχή, πρωτοπαλίκαρα του εκάστοτε κυβερνήτη, βουλευτές της αλβανικής Βουλής, ακόμα και νονοί του οργανωμένου εγκλήματος), οι νόμοι (ν. 7501/19.7.1991, απόδοσης των περιουσιών στους τοπικούς πληθυσμούς μετά το καθεστώς Χότζα, με πολλές ασάφειες που περιπλέκουν το ιδιοκτησιακό καθεστώς γης), η αναπτυξιακή δικαιολογία, που στην περίπτωση της Χειμάρρας είναι η τουριστική μετάλλαξη, και τα σχέδια επί του εδάφους.

Η «κυριακάτικη δημοκρατία» εξασφάλισε τα μυστικά σχέδια της παραλιακής ανάπλασης του θαλάσσιου μετώπου της Χειμάρρας και παρουσιάζει ένα από αυτά, στην περιοχή Κυπαρό. Εκεί η αλβανική χωροταξική υπηρεσία (πολεοδομία) έχει ήδη ξεκινήσει την εκχέρσωση ελαιώνων με χιλιάδες υπεραιωνόβια ελαιόδεντρα. Στη θέση τους προβάλλει τη δημιουργία ξενοδοχειακών μονάδων, χώρων στάθμευσης, πεζοδρόμων και οργανωμένων παραλιών στην παρθένα σήμερα τοποθεσία, που έχει χαρακτηριστεί «Αλβανική Ριβιέρα».

Προ ημερών οι μπουλντόζες του Εντι Ράμα άρχισαν το ξερίζωμα ελαιώνων από κτήματα Ελλήνων της Χειμάρρας χωρίς αποζημίωση (!) στους ιδιοκτήτες τους, ούτε καν προειδοποίηση, σε μία επιχείρηση με στοιχεία ψυχολογικού πολέμου. Στόχος, οι επιδρομικές αυτές ενέργειες να κάμψουν την όποια αντίσταση των ελληνικών οργανώσεων. Οι «ψυχολογικές επιχειρήσεις» ξεκίνησαν με την κατεδάφιση τον περασμένο Αύγουστο του προσκηνηταρίου του Αγ. Αθανασίου στο χωριό Δρυμάδες, σε μια επίδειξη δύναμης του καθεστώτος.

Τις πραγματικές προθέσεις των Αρχών παραδέχτηκαν ανοιχτά σε δηλώσεις τους στην αλβανική Βουλή οι ηγέτες των δύο ισχυρότερων αλβανικών κομμάτων, με τους Εντι Ράμα και Σαλί Μπερίσα να αλληλοκατηγορούνται δημοσίως για το ποιος έχει επιφέρει τη μεγαλύτερη «καταστροφή». Οπως αναφέρθηκε στα αλβανικά ΜΜΕ, η κόντρα ξέσπασε στα μέσα Δεκεμβρίου, με αφορμή δηλώσεις του Ράμα στους Αγίους Σαράντα για την «αρπαγή» παραθαλάσσιου κτήματος του Μοναστηριού του Αγίου Γεωργίου από πρόσωπο βορειοαλβανικής προέλευσης.

Ο Ράμα παραδέχτηκε ανοιχτά ότι 50.000 στρέμματα γης έχουν «κλαπεί» σε Αγ. Σαράντα και Χειμάρρα. «Εχουν πάρει τα κτήματα των Χειμαρραίων με πλαστογραφίες και διαφθορά, άτομα που δεν έχουν καμία σχέση ή καταγωγή από την περιοχή. Ατομα που έφερε από τις Αλπεις ο Μπερίσα και τους έκανε ιδιοκτήτες στο Ιόνιο» είπε χαρακτηριστικά ο Αλβανός πρωθυπουργός, ρίχνοντας τις ευθύνες στην προηγούμενη κυβέρνηση.
Αντί άλλης απάντησης, ο Μπερίσα παραδέχτηκε δικό του σχέδιο αλλοίωσης των ελληνικών πληθυσμών! «Εχω δουλέψει προγραμματισμένα και στους Αγίους Σαράντα έχω κατεβάσει μόνο Λάμπηδες» ανέφερε. Ο Μπερίσα ήξερε τι έλεγε. «Λάμπηδες» είναι μουσουλμάνοι κάτοικοι της Λαμπουριάς (Laberia), περιοχής ανατολικά της Χειμάρρας (πίσω από τα Ακροκεραύνια Ορη), με αισθήματα ανάλογα με τους Τσάμηδες. Συχνά γιορτάζουν τις «ιστορικές επιτυχίες» του οθωμανικού στρατού, που κατέπνιξε την επανάσταση του 1878, κατακαίοντας τα ελληνικά χωριά στη Β. Ηπειρο.

Αντιστρόφως, ο Μπερίσα κατηγόρησε τον Εντι Ράμα ότι προωθεί τους δικούς του «γενίτσαρους» στην περιοχή. Αναφέρθηκε στο ότι ο Εντι Ράμα έχει παραχωρήσει τη νομή της παραθαλάσσιας περιοχής στον βουλευτή του Σοσιαλιστικού Κόμματος, σύμβουλό του και διαπλεκόμενο επιχειρηματία (με ελληνικές ρίζες), Κότσο (Κωνσταντίνο) Κοκδήμα, με το αιτιολογικό ότι «οι Κοκδημαίοι πρόγονοι του νυν βουλευτή από τη Χειμάρρα στήριξαν τα παλιότερα χρόνια την κυβέρνηση της Αυτόνομης Βορ. Ηπείρου του Γεωργίου Ζωγράφου»!

Στην ουσία, πίσω από τις αλληλοκατηγορίες και τα κροκοδείλια δάκρυα του Εντι Ράμα για την απώλεια «των στρεμμάτων των Χειμαρραίων» κρύβεται το ίδιο σχέδιο συστηματικής και προγραμματισμένης αλλοίωσης του ελληνικού πληθυσμού, καθώς ο Κότσος Κοκδήμας βρίσκεται πίσω από την «τουριστική ανάπλαση» της παραθαλάσσιας ζώνης της Χειμάρρας. Είναι γνωστό ότι όλες οι αλβανικές κυβερνήσεις έχουν επιχειρήσει να αλλοιώσουν τον ελληνικό πληθυσμό, αλλά είναι η πρώτη φορά που οι Αλβανοί ηγέτες το παραδέχτηκαν δημοσίως.
Γενίτσαροι για βρώμικη δουλειά
Ο επιχειρηματίας Κότσος Κοκδήμας (του Θοδωρή και της Ιφιγένειας) είναι «κολλητός» μυστικοσύμβουλος του πρωθυπουργού Ράμα. Κατάγεται από τη Χειμάρρα και δραστηριοποιείται σε οικοδομικές και επιχειρήσεις ξυλείας και παράλληλα στον χώρο των media, διαθέτοντας εφημερίδα («shekulli»), ραδιοσταθμό («+2») και περιοδικό («spector»). Τα προηγούμενα χρόνια αναδείχθηκε στον υπ' αριθμόν ένα επικριτή του πρώην δημάρχου Χειμάρρας και επί σειρά ετών διακεκριμένου εκπροσώπου της Εθνικής Ελληνικής Μειονότητας (ΕΕΜ) Βασίλη Μπολάνου γιατί δεν έπαιρνε τις «δουλειές» που ήθελε. Παρά την ελληνική καταγωγή του, φέρεται ότι τρέφει έντονα ανθελληνικά αισθήματα. Χειμαρριώτες ανέφεραν στην «κυριακάτικη δημοκρατία» ότι σε πλήρη ευθυγράμμιση με τον νυν δήμαρχο Γ. Γκόρο (επίσης ελληνικής καταγωγής, που δήλωνε πριν από τις δημοτικές εκλογές ότι «οι Ελληνες της Χειμμάρας είναι μετανάστες από την Ελλάδα») διακηρύσσει ότι θα κάνει όλη τη Χειμάρρα μουσουλμανική, ενώ, όταν κάποιοι του υπενθύμιζαν ότι λόγω μειονότητας θα πρέπει να ληφθεί υπόψη η Αθήνα, απαντούσε: «Η Αθήνα είμαστε εμείς!»

Οι αλβανικές κυβερνήσεις εκμεταλλεύονται διαχρονικά τις ασάφειες του νόμου 7501 που συντάχθηκε μετά την πτώση του κομμουνιστικού καθεστώτος Χότζα, για την απόδοση της γης στους κατοίκους ανά περιοχή. Ο βασικότερος νόμος μεταβίβασης ακίνητης περιουσίας από το κράτος στους πολίτες είναι ο ν. 7501/1991, που έλαβε εξειδικεύσεις ανά τόπο (ταπί).
Με τα «αλβανικά» πρότυπα ο νόμος έδινε ιδιοκτησία αλλά όχι τίτλο. Τα προβλήματα στην εφαρμογή του ήταν πολλά, λόγω παρατυπιών, λόγω μεταβολών της γεωμορφολογίας, αλλά και επειδή η εφαρμογή του νόμου ανατέθηκε σε τοπικές επιτροπές στις οποίες συμμετείχαν άνθρωποι χωρίς ειδικές γνώσεις. Στο σαθρό αυτό καθεστώς πατούν οι αλβανικές κυβερνήσεις για να ερμηνεύουν κατά το συμφέρον τους τη χρήση γης και το ποιος την κατέχει.

Επίσης, πολλοί από τους Ελληνες της μειονότητας, ακαθοδήγητοι από το εθνικό κέντρο, αποκόπηκαν από τις περιουσίες τους και δεν γνωρίζουν πού έχουν τα χωράφια τους. Ολες αυτές οι λεπτομέρειες κάνουν την κυβέρνηση να επεμβαίνει στις περιουσίες χωρίς αντίσταση.
Το σχέδιο του «στραγγαλισμού»

Τα τελευταία 25 χρόνια η πολιτική που εφαρμόζουν οι Αλβανοί είναι απλή: υφαρπάζουν τις περιουσίες από τους Βορειοηπειρώτες, προκαλώντας τους οικονομικές δυσκολίες, και τους υποχρεώνουν να αφήσουν τις πατρογονικές εστίες τους. Η περιουσία τους καταλήγει σε Αλβανούς, οι οποίοι με τη σειρά τους θα μετακομίσουν στη νέα περιουσία τους, αλλάζοντας έτσι την πληθυσμιακή σύνθεση της εκάστοτε περιοχής. Πρόκειται για αποδοτική εθνοκάθαρση μέσω οικονομικού στραγγαλισμού. Οταν ο σχεδιασμός ολοκληρωθεί, οι Ελληνες θα βρεθούν αποξενωμένοι από τον ισχυρότερο δεσμό γης. Το σλβανικό βαθύ κράτος θα έχει έτσι οριστικά απαλλαγεί από τον βραχνά της ελληνικής παρουσίας στην περιοχή για πρώτη φορά από την αρχαιότητα! Θα έχει συντελεστεί με τον τρόπο αυτόν ακόμα μία καταστροφή, με το ελληνικό κράτος απλώς να παρατηρεί και εκ των υστέρων να μοιρολογεί.