Turkey, Azerbaijan drone success should worry Europe, says European Council analyst
Turkey, Azerbaijan drone success should worry Europe, says European Council analyst

The success in drone warfare conducted by Turkey and Azerbaijan is a cause of concern for Europe and should force it to consider its options, a senior policy fellow and analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has warned.

In the analysis written by Gustav Gressel, he noted that Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the renewed conflict for the Nagorno-Karabakh region offers “distinct lessons for how well Europe can defend itself”.

During that 44-day conflict, in which Armenia and its militias suffered the loss of thousands of troops and military vehicles, one of the key decisive factors which granted Azerbaijan superiority were the Turkish drones used by the Azeri military.

Those drones, along with the methods of warfare developed through their use in other fronts, enabled Azerbaijan to capture the strategic city of Shusha and force Armenia’s surrender on 9 November, leading to the Russia-brokered ceasefire deal which returned the territory to Baku.

Gressel stated that instead of dismissing that conflict as “a minor war between poor countries,” Europe should make itself aware of the threat posed by the Turkish drone warfare used by Azerbaijan. He even reasoned that most armies of European states “would do as miserably as the Armenian Army”.

‘Mankind’s greatest peace project needs Turkey,’ says Ambassador

Over the past decade, Turkey has dramatically developed its drone technology to overcome the arms embargoes and restrictions imposed on it by countries with a long history in drone warfare such as the US. Those restrictions to drone technology prompted Turkey to build up its own drone-manufacturing industry, which resulted in the likes of the Bayraktar and Anka-S drones.

It was the Bayraktar TB2 drones in particular which had wreaked havoc on Syrian regime forces earlier this year in retaliation for the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers, and which had also been instrumental in helping the Libyan government in defeating Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli and pushing back his forces in the summer.

The drones, which utilise electronic warfare while conducting the usual reconnaissance and surveillance tasks, have also been able to hack into enemy radio and command systems to collect information or to broadcast warnings. They are also capable of jamming the Russian air defence systems used on those fronts.

Turkey’s drone technology and warfare was deemed so effective that the British defence secretary himself hailed it as “game-changing” and a US security expert called it “unprecedented“.

Gressel concluded his analysis by revealing that “No European army has a high-resolution sensor-fusion- or plot-fusion-capable armoured air-defence system to protect its own armour. Only France and Germany have (short range) anti-drone jammers and base-protection assets” which would be able to defend against and counter Turkish drones. “That should make them think – and worry.”

Iran’s mistake in its Nagorno-Karabakh policy sees Turkey reaping the rewards

New COVID-19 infections fall globally for first time since September; WHO chief urges ‘extreme caution’
New COVID-19 infections fall globally for first time since September; WHO chief urges ‘extreme caution’

Updating reporters during his regular briefing from Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the global decline as fragile: brought on by falling cases in Europe, thanks to the difficult but necessary measures countries put in place in recent weeks.

“Gains can easily be lost,” the agency chief said, noting that COVID-19 is still on the rise in most other world regions, with an attendant increase in deaths.

Holidays – no time for complacency

He cautioned against complacency, especially with the holiday season approaching in many cultures and countries. Being with family and friends is not worth placing anyone at risk. “We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with in the decisions we make.”

To be sure, the pandemic will change the way people celebrate, Tedros said. It will be important to follow local and national guidelines. For many, this is a season for staying home, avoiding crowded shopping centres, or ideally, making use of online shopping if possible. “Avoid gatherings with many different households and families coming together,” he said.

If travelling is essential, take precautions, he said: maintain distance from others and wear a mask in airports and train stations, as well as on planes, trains and buses. Cary hand sanitiser or wash hands frequently with soap and water. If feeling unwell, “don’t travel,” he insisted.

Disrupted services, increased risks for people living with HIV

For millions, COVID-19 is only one health they face, he said. People living with HIV also may have an increased risk of severe disease or death from COVID-19, he said.

A record 26 million people are on antiretroviral treatment – but the pace of increase has slowed, leaving 12 million people who are living with HIV without treatment. “12 million is big,” he assured.

A WHO survey of 127 countries earlier this year found that more than one quarter reported partial disruption to antiretroviral treatment.

However, with support from WHO, the number of countries reporting disruptions in HIV services has declined by almost 75 per cent since June. Only nine still report disruptions and only 12 report a critically low stock of antiretroviral medicines.

Such successes are mainly due to countries implementing WHO guidelines, he said, including providing longer antiretroviral prescriptions for 3 to 6 months, so patients can avoid health facilities. WHO also has worked closely with manufacturers and partners to ensure adequate supply of treatment.

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation

Moreover, he said countries also have introduced adaptations and innovations during COVID-19.  In Africa, for example, many have built their testing system for COVID-19 on the existing lab infrastructure for HIV and tuberculosis. In Thailand, the Government has maintained pre-exposure prophylaxis services and tele-health counselling for men who have sex with men. And many countries have introduced more self-testing for HIV to support self-care.

WHO is urging all countries to maintain these innovations as part of the “new normal”, Tedros said, and to help expand testing and treatment.

With Worlds AIDS Day approaching on 1 December, he called for preserving the “incredible” gains made over the past 10 years: New HIV infections have declined by 23 per cent since 2010, and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 39 per cent.

Hope above all

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that in the face of an urgent health threat, the world can come together in new ways to defeat it,” he assured.

The world can defeat the pandemic using existing tools and the vaccines now in the pipeline. “The most important thing is, we need to have hope,” he said. And solidarity to work together.

The EU Prepares For The End Of LIBOR: The Commission Welcomes The Agreement Reached Between The European Parliament And The Council On Financial Benchmarks
The EU Prepares For The End Of LIBOR: The Commission Welcomes The Agreement Reached Between The European Parliament And The Council On Financial Benchmarks

The European Commission today welcomed the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on important amendments to EU rules on financial benchmarks.  The Commission proposed these amendments on 24 July 2020 to ensure that the EU’s financial stability is not harmed when a widely used benchmark is phased out, as will soon be the case with the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Benchmarks are an intrinsic part of financial markets: they are indices used, in particular, to price financial instruments and contracts (including household mortgages) or to measure the performance of an investment fund.

Today’s agreement on the proposed changes is very timely, as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority – the supervisor of LIBOR – has announced in 2017 that it will stop supporting this benchmark at the end of 2021 and expects its cessation shortly thereafter. The agreed amendments to the Benchmark Regulation empower the Commission to designate a replacement benchmark that covers all references to a widely used reference rate that is phased out, such as LIBOR, when this is necessary to avoid disruption of the financial markets in the EU. Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and the Capital Markets Union said, “I welcome today’s swift agreement on financial benchmarks, which means that we will now not be faced with a legal vacuum when LIBOR disappears. This will ensure continuity in our financial system and protect our financial stability. Market participants should nonetheless continue preparations for the end of LIBOR.” Regarding other “-IBOR” rates, it is still in market participants’ best interests to actively prepare for the transition to alternative reference rates, as this offers them the greatest degree of control over the fate of contracts if a reference rate ceases to be published. The European Parliament and the Council also agreed today to postpone the entry into application of the rules on third country benchmarks until 31 December 2023, with the possibility of an extension by the Commission afterwards. This means that EU benchmark users will continue to have access to these benchmarks. The agreed amendments will apply immediately after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

UK archeologist says ‘strong case’ house in Nazareth crypt was home to Jesus
UK archeologist says ‘strong case’ house in Nazareth crypt was home to Jesus
(Photos: Ken Dark)Archaeologists believe they’ve discovered the childhood home of Jesus Christ where he was raised by Mary and Joseph.

A British archaeologist who has spent 14-years studying an excavation site in Nazareth, Israel believes that he has discovered the childhood home of Jesus.

Professor Ken Dark, from the University of Reading spent his years studying the remains of the 1st century dwelling beneath a modern-day convent, Metro News reported.

He said the ruins in the 19th-century were first suggested the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The idea was, however, dismissed by archaeologists in the 1930s, the BBC reported.

The site remained largely forgotten since then until Dark launched a project in 2006 to reinvestigate the site.

“I didn’t go to Nazareth to find the house of Jesus, I was actually doing a study of the city’s history as a Byzantine Christian pilgrimage center,” said Dark. “Nobody could have been more surprised than me.”

He said the ancient dwelling was located beneath a Byzantine-era church, which in turn lies beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent.

Dark explained: “We know from written evidence this church was believed in the Byzantine period to have been built on the site of Jesus’ home and the dwelling preserved in its crypt.

“It’s almost certainly the Church of the Nutrition, which was dedicated to the upbringing of Christ, and mentioned in a 7th Century pilgrim’s account.”

Originally, the nuns of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent carried out excavations up until the 1930s, following the assertion of a famous biblical scholar, Victor Guérin, in 1888 that it was Jesus’ home.

They never found any proof but further work was carried out between 1936 and 1964 by a Jesuit priest.

Prof Dark said his work has identified the house as dating back to the 1st Century and reveals the building was carved into a rocky hillside.

He said whoever built the house had excellent knowledge of stone-working, the sort of thing expected of someone who would have been called a tekton, the ancient word for craftsman that was used to refer to Joseph in the bible.

The archaeologist said while all these factors do not prove it was Jesus’ home, “this is about as close as we will probably ever get to being able to say it was.”

UK-EU trade talks: UK still committed to EU deal as differences remain
UK-EU trade talks: UK still committed to EU deal as differences remain

Iranian nuclear scientist shot 'by remote control'

Iran accuses Israel of a hand in the death of top nuclear expert Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

EU provides €9 million to support East Jerusalem Hospitals  
EU provides €9 million to support East Jerusalem Hospitals  

PNN/ Jerusalem/

The European Union provided today an additional contribution of €9.27 million to support the Palestinian Authority with medical referrals to East Jerusalem Hospitals. This contribution is particularly timely amid the huge challenges facing the Palestinian health sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The East Jerusalem hospitals are fundamental elements in the Palestinian health system, as thousands of Palestinians benefit from their specialized services that are not available elsewhere in the West Bank or Gaza. The contribution by the EU will enable these hospitals to maintain their crucial services while responding to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Together with European Union Member States, the EU has been supporting the Palestinian Authority with regular contributions to cover the costs of referrals to East Jerusalem Hospitals since 2012. Since then, the total support amounts to €140 million.

“We are witnessing an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Palestine. The health care system is overloaded and faces unprecedented challenges. Under these difficult circumstances, it is crucial that East Jerusalem hospitals can continue to provide quality specialised health care to Palestinians from all parts of the Palestinian territory. Through our Team Europe approach, we have managed to mobilize resources from the EU and its Members States to help the Palestinian Authority in facing the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. Our support to the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem demonstrates once again our strong commitment towards the Palestinian people as well as the Palestinian institutions in the city”, said the EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.

The East Jerusalem Hospitals serve as the main centres for specialized care within the Palestinian health system. Patients needing medical services that are not available in the West Bank and Gaza – such as specialist oncology, renal care and cardiac surgeries – are referred for treatment in the East Jerusalem Hospitals by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. There are six health institutions in East Jerusalem: Augusta Victoria Hospital, Makassed Hospital, St Joseph Hospital, St John’s Eye Hospital, Palestinian Red Crescent Maternity Hospital and Princess Basma Rehabilitation Centre.