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EU summit: Turkish sanctions on agenda as Erdogan shrugs threats | Europe

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European leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss possible action against Ankara over the eastern Mediterranean crisis, coronavirus, Brexit and budget.

Concerned that their credibility is at stake, European Union leaders are set to consider on Thursday expanding sanctions against Turkey over its exploration of gas reserves in Mediterranean waters claimed by EU members Greece and Cyprus.

At their last summit in October, the leaders offered “a positive political EU-Turkey agenda” to Ankara, including trade and customs benefits and the prospect of more funds to help Turkey manage Syrian refugees on its territory if it halts its “illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean.

But EU foreign ministers unanimously agreed this week that Turkey’s behaviour has not improved. After chairing their videoconference on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “in several aspects, the situation has worsened”.

“The stakes are very precise, very clear: the credibility of the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters. He recalled that the leaders said in October that there would be consequences if Turkey “continued its delinquent behaviour”.

“So now, it will be seen whether, as Europe, we are really credible in what we ourselves have agreed to,” Mitsotakis said.

The 27 EU countries are split over how best to handle Turkey. France and Cyprus have pushed for tougher measures like economic sanctions, but other countries are concerned about further undermining the country’s already ravaged economy and destabilising the region.

“France will keep a clear position,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of the summit. “We must be coherent with the decisions and our demands to Turkey from last October, draw the consequences and we must defend sovereignty and stability of EU states, in particular in the eastern Mediterranean but also the whole region.”

Still, EU diplomats fear the bloc’s “credibility, values and interests” are on the line.

“We can’t say there’s a problem in October and do nothing in December when things have got worse,” one said before the summit, according to The Associated Press news agency. He was not permitted to speak on the record as the deliberations were continuing.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brushed off the threat of sanctions and accused the EU, which Turkey is a candidate to join although its membership talks are blocked, of acting “dishonestly” and failing to keep its promises.

“Any decision to impose sanctions against Turkey won’t be of great concern to Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters.

About a year ago, the EU set up a system for imposing travel bans and asset freezes on people, companies or organisations linked to drilling activities “which have not been authorized by the Republic of Cyprus, within its territorial sea or in its exclusive economic zone or on its continental shelf”.

Two officials are currently on the list: the vice president of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and the deputy director of its exploration department. The idea would be to add more people or some organisations to the list, the diplomats confirmed.

It is unclear anyway whether more sanctions would slow Turkey down. Steps were taken in the past — the slashing of funds meant to prepare Turkey for EU membership and the virtual freezing of its accession talks — yet Ankara has only become more vocal.

On top of that, Erdogan has shown his willingness to encourage refugees from Syria to cross the border into Greece and on into Europe to ensure that his demands are well understood.

Turkey also plays a military role in Libya, a main point in Africa for refugees and migrants hoping to reach Europe.

The EU leaders in Brussels will also be discussing the coronavirus pandemic, issues relating to the budget, and Brexit.



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US House delivers Trump impeachment article to Senate | Politics News

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The US House of Representatives has presented its article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, a step that formally sets in motion the Senate trial against the former United States president.

Walking from one side of the US Capitol to the other, nine House managers appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi hand-delivered the impeachment document to the Senate on Monday evening.

The article charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the deadly storming on January 6 of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC by a mob of his supporters.

The House impeached Trump on January 13 on the same charge – making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Monday’s formal step kickstarts the trial phase of the impeachment process, in which all 100 senators will sit as jurors to hear evidence and legal arguments from House managers, who act as prosecutors in the case, and the former president’s defence team.

To be convicted, the Senate must secure a two-thirds majority on the impeachment charge.

If that happens, a subsequent vote could bar Trump from running for public office again in the future.

Trial to start in February

Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a timeline for the trial, which is expected to begin during the week of February 8.

“Both the House managers and the former president’s counsel will have a period of time to draft their legal briefs, just as they did in previous trials,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks to the chamber on Monday.

“Once the briefs are drafted, presentations by the parties will commence the week of February 8th,” he said.

Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday and a summons will be sent by the Senate to the former president, requiring him to answer the article of impeachment.

Trump has been initially defiant amid accusations he incited the Capitol mob in a speech he gave before the breach and in repeated false claims that the presidential election had been stolen from him.

Before the House vote to impeach him, Trump had said his speech to the January 6 rally of his supporters was “totally appropriate”.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat who holds the title of president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tem takes an additional oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement.

“It is an oath I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said.

Republicans divided

Republicans are divided over the impeachment, with some senators saying Trump should be held accountable for the Capitol riot and others fearing a conviction of the former Republican president could be damaging for the party.

Some Republican legislators have argued that holding an impeachment trial after Trump has left office is unconstitutional – a claim that has been rejected by Democrats and some US experts.

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said on Monday that some Republicans have also said the trial could further divide the country.

“Democrats, to counter that, have said that in order to get to unity, as everyone is calling for, first there must be accountability,” Zhou-Castro said.

“And they’re saying that if Trump were to indeed be guilty of inciting insurrection and simply leave office and not be held accountable, then that would set a dangerous precedent.”

Democrats will need to get more than a dozen Republicans to vote in favour of impeachment to get a conviction, as Democrats only have a slim majority in the chamber.

Trial timeline, procedure

House managers and Trump’s defence team will exchange legal briefs in the days leading up to the start of the trial.

The nine House managers will be led in the trial by Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and leading advocate in the House for charging Trump with insurrection after the January 6 attacks.

The House managers have retained lawyers Barry Berke and Joshua Matz to help support their prosecution of the case.

Both Berke and Matz participated in the first Senate impeachment trial against Trump in 2020, which involved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice for his attempts to pressure the government of Ukraine.

Pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

For his part, Trump has retained Butch Bowers of South Carolina, an experienced trial lawyer who has previously represented politicians.

House managers will have until February 2 to file their pre-trial brief laying out the case for conviction. Trump’s defence counsel will have the same deadline to respond to the charge, the Reuters news agency reported.

February 8 is the next deadline for Trump’s legal team to file a response to the House brief, and for the House managers to file a response to the president’s answer to the article of impeachment.



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