Powerful Quake Kills at Least 20, Injures More Than 1,000 in Eastern Turkey

ELAZIG, TURKEY — A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors Saturday.At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake Friday night, which had its epicenter in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig.“It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside,” 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.“We stand by our people,” Erdogan said on Twitter.Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Jan. 24, 2020.Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures.Sports centers, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.Sivrice, a town with a population of about 4,000 people, is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake, one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris River.The lake is home to a sunken city with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighboring cities had mobilized rescue teams for the quake area.Ramazan Emek surveys the damage in Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, where the quake struck just before 9 p.m. Friday local time. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)“Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary,” said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.“It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds,” added Ferda, 39. “I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside.”Greece offers aidThe U.S. Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.“My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.In Athens, the Greek premier’s office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.“The Turkish president … said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning,” his office added.A calf stands next to its mother, which has a broken leg, in the village of Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, Elazig, Turkey, Jan. 25, 2020. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)Quake-prone TurkeyIn 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country’s largest city Istanbul.Last September, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings.Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

NPR Reporter: Pompeo Lashed Out at Her After Testy Interview

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cursed at a National Public Radio reporter and repeatedly “used the F-word” in a shouted diatribe after she questioned him about Ukraine and the ousted American ambassador to Kiev in an interview on Friday, the reporter said.Mary Louise Kelly conducted a testy interview lasting about nine minutes with Pompeo for NPR’s “All Things Considered” program, asking him about Iran and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by President Donald Trump last May. Yovanovitch’s removal was a key event in the actions that prompted Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives last month.“Afterwards, Pompeo proceeded to shout his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine. He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly,” NPR said in a statement.“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence and many others,” Kelly said in an interview of her own with NPR later Friday.The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Kelly said Pompeo shouted at her “for about the same amount of time as the interview itself.” Pompeo then had aides bring a blank map of the world and asked Kelly to show Ukraine.“People will hear about this,” Pompeo said after Kelly pointed at Ukraine on the map, she said.Questions on UkraineWhen Kelly turned her questioning to Ukraine in the latter part of the interview with Pompeo, he said he had agreed to discuss only Iran.Kelly said she had informed Pompeo’s aides that she would ask also about Ukraine, and posed several questions, including whether Pompeo owed an apology to Yovanovitch, who testified last year in the House impeachment inquiry about her ouster. The incident also has figured in Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.“I have defended every State Department official. … I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo replied.In November, Pompeo declined to defend Yovanovitch after Trump attacked her on Twitter.Yovanovitch was removed by Trump following a negative campaign against her by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others. Giuliani at the time was pushing to have Ukraine investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.

Erdogan Looks to Diplomacy Amid Concerns About Military Deployment in Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accusing Libyan militia leader General Khalifa Haftar of violating a cease-fire agreement. Despite deploying Turkish forces to back the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), though, Erdogan seems to be increasingly looking to diplomacy rather than force. “He [Haftar] says he agreed to a cease-fire, but two days subsequent, he bombed the [Tripoli] airport. So how can we trust him?” Erdogan said Friday in Istanbul with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Haftar’s forces control most of Libya in their war against the U.N.-recognized GNA. Merkel on Sunday hosted an international summit in Berlin aimed at resolving the Libyan civil war. A 55-article road map to end the conflict was drawn up at the meeting, which Erdogan attended. Erdogan challenged Merkel at the news conference, however, to confirm whether Haftar had signed the Berlin agreement. A visibly uncomfortable Merkel confirmed he only orally agreed to it, noting that officials were still waiting for his signature. FILE – Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leaves after an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 29, 2018.Support for SarrajDespite the Berlin agreement’s reaffirmation of the Libyan international arms embargo, the Turkish president said he would continue supporting the GNA’s prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj. “We sent them a [military] delegation and continue to do so. We won’t abandon Sarraj. We will give the support we can,” Erdogan said. “Our soldiers are there to assist in the training [of GNA forces]. We have a history of 500 years, and we have an invitation [from the GNA] that gives us our right,” he added. But Erdogan, several times during the news conference, said the forces were purely for training. Earlier this week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aktar also stressed the training purpose of the Libyan deployment. The Turkish force reportedly still only numbers in the dozens. The downplaying of the military deployment contrasts with Erdogan’s recent sharp rhetoric. Last week, the Turkish president, while announcing to Parliament soldiers’ deployment, said Ankara would not hesitate about “teaching a lesson” to Haftar if his forces continued attacking. Fears of wider warSuch language reportedly has set off alarm bells in the region over fears that Turkish forces in Libya could end up triggering a wider regional conflict with Haftar’s military backers, including Egypt. Given that Libya is 2,000 kilometers from Turkey, though, a military expert questioned whether Ankara was capable of sustaining a hot conflict. “The logistic challenge is enormous, and these challenges, as they look now, are insurmountable. It’s far away. It’s not like Syria is just across the border,” said former Turkish General Haldun Solmazturk, a veteran of cross-border military operations. “If fighting gets tough, casualties would be inevitable. Returning dead persons and wounded would also be a major challenge. Apart from the fuel, the ammunition, spare parts, there are thousands of items needed to be provided in such an environment,” added Solmazturk, who heads the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Ankara-based research organization. FILE – Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives at an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 29, 2018.Turkish forces are already stretched, being deployed in Iraq and Syria, while analysts point out Haftar is in a strong military position. “At the moment the situation seems to be working on the side of Haftar. He has better weapons. He has jet fighters. He has superiority of the air and in the field,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. Further complicating Ankara’s situation is its international isolation over Libya’s military deployment. Erdogan’s shuttle diplomacy this month drew a blank, failing to win backing from Libya’s neighbors, Algeria and Tunisia. Erdogan also reportedly failed at the Berlin summit to secure backing for an international peacekeeping force, including the Turkish military, to be deployed to enforce a cease-fire in Libya. Military challenges for TurkeyAnalysts suggest Ankara’s isolation only compounds the military challenges it faces in Libya. “The Mediterranean, in terms of naval transportation, is controlled by not too friendly forces. And neighboring countries Tunisia, Algeria and Italy are less than willing to help or to provide any logistic bases or any other logistic support. They seem determined to stay out of this,” said Solmazturk. FILE – Turkish lawmakers vote on a bill that allows troop deployment to Libya, at the Parliament in Ankara, Jan. 2, 2020.”Libya threatens to be another Syria, where countless lives and many treasures will be wasted to defend a very ill-defined ‘national objective,’ ” warned analyst Atilla Yesilada of GlobalSource Partners, an economic and security research group based in New York. Erdogan appears increasingly to be looking to diplomacy in a bid to isolate Haftar. In a speech Thursday in the presence of Merkel, the Turkish president called for “pressure” to put on Haftar. Erdogan challenged the international community over its courting of Haftar, despite the general’s failure so far to sign on to a cease-fire. “It doesn’t make sense such support is continued,” he said at Friday’s news conference with Merkel, “if such a person is constantly so spoiled.” Migrant issueThe Turkish president also is seeking to play the migrant card against Europe, warning of “chaos” if Haftar remains unchecked. Some analysts are warning, however, that Ankara needs to face the reality that the region has little appetite for a Turkish role in Libya. “The region wants neither Turkey nor Russia seeking to extend its hegemony to Libya and the wider region. This is the reality,” said Bagci. But for now, Ankara is likely figuring on having a limited military presence in Libya while continuing to push for international deliberations on a resolution to Libya’s civil war and its future. 

Amid Impeachment Drama, Balkan Dispute Gets High-Level US Attention

While Washington obsesses about tensions with Iran and the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, a pair of high-ranking administration officials has been crisscrossing Europe and the Western Balkans in pursuit of a solution to a dispute that most Americans have barely noticed. The high-level focus on the quarrel between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo has left some analysts struggling to explain how the issue fits into a Trump administration foreign policy driven by crises in North Korea and Iran and defined by the slogan “America First.”Trump himself has demonstrated a personal interest in the issue, tweeting approvingly on the eve of the impeachment trial’s opening about the establishment of direct flights between the two countries:Everyone said it couldn’t be done. But for the first time in a generation, there will be direct flights between Serbia and Kosovo. Another win. Thanks to FILE – U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell is pictured in Berlin, Germany, May 8, 2018.“The tariffs must be dropped. That is unacceptable, and I also bring the same request here, which is the de-recognition campaign must stop,” he said in Belgrade, after a meeting Friday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. “What we’ll do is continue moving in this direction of concentrating on the economy, concentrating on growing jobs.” Neither the White House nor State Department responded to requests for comment on the thinking behind the high-level engagement. Ripe for resolutionAnalysts contacted by VOA see little strategic value for the United States in throwing so much diplomatic muscle at the issue. But they suggest the problem is ripe for a resolution and could provide the administration with an easy foreign policy success. “So far as I can tell, the administration is beating the bushes for a success somewhere in the world. There is no real strategic interest,” said Daniel Serwer of Johns Hopkins University in an email exchange with VOA’s Albanian service. Damon Wilson, a vice president at the Atlantic Council, a global affairs research group in Washington, offered VOA’s Serbian service a similar analysis, noting the frustrating lack of progress on some of the administration’s biggest foreign policy concerns, including Iran and North Korea. “You don’t get easy wins in the Western Balkans, either, and yet in the Western Balkans we are dealing with democratic states that want to be part of the strategic West, that have a shared vision of the future of the region as a prosperous part of Europe,” he said. “This gives us something to work with, and while it might look hard, it actually looks relatively easy when you compare it to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela.” FILE – People protest after Kosovo’s decision to raise tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods, in the village of Rudare near Mitrovica, Kosovo, Nov. 23, 2018.Wilson added that the issue gives the United States a chance to show that “we are going to be engaged, we are not leaving a vacuum in the Western Balkans, we’ve got a role to play, we want to play that role and we are going to do it.” James Hooper, a former U.S. diplomat and executive director of the Washington-based Balkan Action Council, said a breakthrough on the issue would allow Trump to show he is not distracted by the impeachment drama and give him an achievement to highlight as he seeks re-election in November. But Wilson warned against attaching too much significance to the initiative as an election boon, saying, “It’s not exactly a vote-getter out there in Iowa,” where Republicans and Democrats will cast the first votes to select their presidential candidates early next month. Chance for progressRegardless of the motive, Hooper sees an opportunity to make real progress on a dispute that has held back progress in both countries. “This is a real opportunity because Washington is paying attention and Grenell is a serious person and he has a lot of influence in the White House,” he said. Alon Ben-Meir, a professor at New York University, said both Kosovo and Serbia would be wise to take advantage of that opportunity. “They are neighbors. They have to deal with one another. There is interdispersement of population. Many Serbs live in Kosovo. It is time for them to recognize certain facts on the ground that they cannot change,” he said. So far, however, there is little indication they will do so. Serbia immediately rejected Grenell’s proposals while Pristina has yet to deliver a clear response. “I don’t accept to draw an equality mark between the tariffs and the revoking of the campaign against recognition,” said Vucic, the Serbian president.  “America and Pristina … want Kosovo’s independence recognized. We do not. So it is logical that we have differing positions.” Ivana Konstantinovic from VOA’s Serbian service contributed to this report. 

Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake Hits Turkey

Turkey’s emergency management agency says an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 has shaken the country’s east.The earthquake struck Friday at 1755 GMT, 8:55 p.m. local time, near the town of Sivrice in eastern Elazig province, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said there were no reports deaths in Sivrice or other affected areas. However, 4-5 buildings collapsed in Sivrice, where two people were hurt, he said. Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters that there were no reports of any casualties in Sivrice but said the quake may have caused casualties in rural areas outside the town. He said troops were on standby to help is they are needed.
The Kandilli seismology center in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5.
The U.S. Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7, with the quake affecting not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia.
Turkish media said the earthquake sent people running outdoors for safety. 

Normalcy Returns to Guatemala-Mexico Border After Caravan

From the roadside stand where his family sells mole, barbecue and chicken stew, Miguel Ángel Vázquez has seen all the caravans of Central American migrants and asylum seekers stream past his front door in recent years, throngs of people driven to flee poverty and violence in hopes of a better life in the United States.After watching armored National Guard troops and immigration agents break up the latest one right on his doorstep, loading men, women and wailing children onto buses and hauling them off to a detention center in the nearby city of Tapachula, he’s sure of one thing.Mexican National Guards block a highway in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico after a group of Central American migrants crossed the nearby border from Guatemala to Mexico, Jan. 23, 2020.“I can see that these caravans are no longer going to pass,” said Vásquez, 56.On Friday morning, life was back to normal at the river border between Ciudad Hidalgo and Tecun Uman, Guatemala.Carmelino Sánchez Cumes, 54, left his home in Champerico Guatemala at 4 a.m. to come buy medicine for two elderly aunts that’s not available back home.The partial closure of river crossings “was tough” on people accustomed to doing so as part of daily life, he said.The international bridge reopened at 5 a.m. and cars and motorcycles were crossing freely.National guard troops stood watch in groups of about a half dozen, visibly fewer than before, and said privately that the tension of recent days had vanished.One said it’s easy to distinguish local Guatemalans who cross for ordinary workaday reasons for their manner of speaking, and they’re welcome “because they’re neighbors.”Where the first caravans were allowed to pass through Mexican territory and even given humanitarian aid or transportation by many communities and some officials, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration changed that beginning last year in response to steep trade tariffs threatened by Washington.The result was on display Thursday on a rural highway in the far-southern Mexican city of Frontera Hidalgo, just across the river border between Mexico and Guatemala that the hundreds of migrants, mostly Hondurans, crossed before dawn.The migrants walked for hours before stopping at the crossroads where Vázquez’s stand lies, taking advantage of the copious shade on a road otherwise largely exposed to the beating tropical sun. They bought all the food the family and refreshments the family had and behaved respectfully, according to Karen Daniela Vázquez Robledo, his daughter.Then hundreds of national guard troops advanced their lines to within 100 yards (meters) of the migrants. A brief negotiation stalled, and the migrants knelt to the ground in prayer and began to chant “we want to pass.”National guardsmen advanced banging their plastic shields with batons and engaged the migrants. There was shoving and pepper spray as migrants were rounded up.Many of the people allowed themselves to be escorted to the buses without resistance. Women cradling small children or holding kids’ hands wept as they walked toward the buses. In all, 800 migrants were detained, according to a statement from Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.Others resisted and were subdued. One man dragged by three guardsmen and a migration agent shouted “they killed my brother, I don’t want to die,” presumably in reference to the possibility of being returned to his country.A paramedic attended to an injured woman lying on the highway shoulder.The road was left littered with water bottles, plastic bags and clothing. An irate man in a blue shirt yelled at the agents “this is a war against the Hondurans.”On Friday, López Obrador said he had been briefed about the operation and commended military commanders for not resorting to force, without explaining what he considered to be force.“I have information that the National Guard has acted well,” said López Obrador, who said he was briefed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. “He told us there had not been injured, had not been wounded, that the problem has been resolved well.”López Obrador went on, as he has before, to describe the migrants as being “tricked” by unscrupulous organizers in Honduras who lead them to believe they will pass without problems. He added that his political adversaries, “the conservatives,” had hoped it would go badly for the Mexican government.“Clearly there is a need,” López Obrador said. “But there’s a management, we’ll say political. Fortunately, human rights have been respected.”Thursday’s confrontation was a sudden climax after the day had seemed to be winding down.Central American migrants cross the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, to Mexico, Jan. 23, 2020.The migrant caravan had been diminishing since its last concerted attempt to cross the border Monday was turned back by Mexican National Guardsmen posted along the Suchiate River, which forms the border here.The national guardsmen intercepted the caravan on the edge of the community of Frontera Hidalgo, near Ciudad Hidalgo where the migrants crossed the river at dawn.In previous caravans, Mexican authorities have allowed caravans to walk for awhile, seemingly to tire them out, and then closed their path.Mexico and Guatemala have returned hundreds of migrants from the caravan to their home countries since the caravan set out last week, mostly to Honduras.Back at the roadside food stall in the southern state of Chiapas, Karen Vázquez, 26, was dismayed by what she saw unfold — the pepper spray, children running and crying.“It was something very unpleasant, seeing how the people are taken away, and us hiding as well so they don’t take us away,” she said. “It makes us sad because they don’t take them in the right way. In truth, they take them very badly.”

EU Seeks More Time in Effort to Resolve Iran Nuclear Dispute

The European Union’s top diplomat said Friday that more time is required to unravel a dispute between countries involved in the Iran nuclear agreement, as the Europeans struggle to keep alive a deal hampered by U.S. sanctions.On Jan. 15, Britain, France and Germany reluctantly triggered the accord’s dispute resolution mechanism to force Iran into discussions on possible violations of the deal. That started a process that could result in the resumption of U.N. and EU sanctions on Iran if no solution is found.But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is coordinating the effort to resolve the standoff, said the three European powers involved in the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for economic incentives agree “that more time is needed due to the complexity of the issues involved.”“The timeline is therefore extended,” Borrell said in a statement. The dispute mechanism provides for a period of about one month, which can be prolonged if all parties agree, to resolve any disagreement. But Borrell has declined to confirm that the one-month clock has actually started ticking.Borrell also underlined that during his consultations in recent days all parties that continue to adhere to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, “reconfirmed their determination to preserve the agreement which is in the interest of all.”The accord, which Iran signed with the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia, has been unraveling since President Donald Trump pulled Washington out in 2018 and reinstated sanctions designed to cripple the Islamic Republic under what the U.S. called a “maximum pressure” campaign.Borrell said the so-called joint commission on the deal will meet again in February , without providing a precise date. He noted that beyond the dispute over Iran’s alleged violations, participants are also trying to address “the wider impacts of the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and its re-imposition of sanctions.”Iran announced early this month what it said was its fifth and final step in violating the deal, saying it would no longer abide by any limitation to its enrichment activities following the U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.But the International Atomic Energy Agency, which officially monitors whether Tehran is respecting the deal, has not signaled any new violations since then.

Death Toll from Storm in Spain Reaches 12, More Missing

Authorities in Spain say the death toll from a storm that devastated the eastern part of the country this week has risen to at least 12 with rescuers searching for several missing persons.
    
Emergencies services for the northeastern Catalonia region said late Thursday that a fourth death caused by storm Gloria in the region had been confirmed. That took the national count to at least 12.
    
Rescuers were still searching Friday for three missing people in the Balearic Islands and for a fishing boat with six on board that has gone missing off Spain’s southern coast.
    
A British man and a Spaniard are feared to have been swept away by high waves on the island of Ibiza, authorities said. Another Spaniard is missing on the nearby island of Mallorca.
    
Government official Lucrecio Fernandez said an overnight search by Spanish rescuers for the missing fishing boat is continuing with the assistance of a Moroccan frigate.
    
The storm has lasted for six days, accompanied by heavy winds, snow and hail. Weather authorities said the worst of it had passed on Wednesday, although some areas of southern Spain are under a weather warning for rain and winds.
    
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is meeting with his Cabinet on Friday to discuss aid for the hardest-hit regions.

London Police to Use Face Scan Tech, Stoking Privacy Fears

London police say they will start using live facial recognition cameras in operational deployments, in a major advance for the controversial technology.The Metropolitan Police Service said Friday it will use the cameras to automatically scan the faces of people passing through small targeted areas where intelligence suggests serious offenders will be found.Real-time crowd surveillance by police in the British capital is among the more aggressive uses of facial recognition in modern democracies and raises questions about how the technology will enter people’s daily lives. Rights groups said the London police deployment threatens civil liberties such as the right to privacy and represents an expansion of surveillance.London police said the facial recognition system, which runs on technology from Japan’s NEC, looks for faces in crowds to see if they match any on “watchlists” of people wanted for serious and violent offences, including gun and knife crimes and child sexual exploitation.