World Wrap

Turkish deputy PM apologizes for police force

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 4, 2013

Turkish deputy PM calls police violence ‘wrong and unfair,’ U.N. believes chemical weapons were used in Syria, and North Korean envoy ignores China’s suggestions. Today is Tuesday, June 4, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A combination photo shows a Turkish riot policeman using tear gas against a woman in a red dress, who has become a symbol of female protesters during days of violent anti-government demonstrations, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul, May 28, 2013.

With Erdogan away, Turkish government changes its tone. As Turkeys’ most violent riots in decades continue to rage, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc takes a softer tone towards the protesters than the prime minister, apologizing for the harsh police crackdown on what started as a nonviolent demonstration:

The comments by Bulent Arinc, who took charge of government after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan left on a visit to North Africa on Monday, contrasted with Erdogan’s defiant dismissal of the protesters as “looters”… The ferocity of the crackdown on the initial protests on Friday, which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park in Taksim Square, shocked even Erdogan loyalists and drew international condemnation.

Arinc stopped short of apologizing to “those who have caused damage in the streets.” Before leaving for North Africa, Erdogan blamed the rallies on secular extremists at odds with his AK Party and denied comparisons between Turkey’s riots and Egypt’s Arab Spring. His response to the days of unrest prompted the U.S. to call for Turkish police, who struck protesters with tear gas and water cannons, to show restraint. Two people were killed as a result of the clashes.

Syria in free-fall. United Nations human rights investigators said in their latest report they had “reasonable grounds” to state that chemical weapons had been used in Syria:

[The investigators] said they had received allegations that Syrian government forces and rebels had used the banned weapons, but most testimony related to their use by state forces. Increasing reports from the battlefield of the use of chemical weapons have sounded alarm bells in the West, lending urgency to a new diplomatic push to end the war. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable. The U.N. commission said it examined four reported toxic attacks in March and April but could not determine which side was behind them.

More than 20 human rights investigators conducted 430 interviews with refugees in neighboring countries and others in Syria via Skype from January 15 to May 15 in preparing the report, but said their results were inconclusive. According to the report, at least 30 massacres were committed during those three months, a stark reminder that most of the 80,000 killed during the 26-month conflict were victims of conventional weapons.

North Korean envoy not so welcome. China told North Korea that it should stop conducting nuclear and missile tests and shifts its focus to economic development in a meeting held last month, according to a source, who said that “(North) Korea had not mellowed”:

[North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] dispatched Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the country’s top military body, to explain North Korea’s recent actions but he got a lukewarm reception from his Chinese hosts, said the source, who has close ties to Beijing and Pyongyang… Experts have said the three-day visit was an attempt by North Korea to mend fences with its only major diplomatic ally, which has been critical of Pyongyang.

Choe said that North Korea would not abandon its nuclear program. North Korea’s nuclear tests in February prompted the U.N. to issue sanctions against it, and sparked a number of bellicose threats by Kim against the U.S. and South Korea. China agreed to the sanctions and has curbed business with North Korean banks, signaling its frustration with the difficult ally.

Nota Bene: Putin backs a ban on abortions by foreign same-sex couples days after a Russian man was allegedly killed for being gay.

Standouts:

Reviving European democracy - Reuters columnist John Lloyd discusses what it will take to keep democracy alive in Europe. (Reuters)

Big yellow duck ban - China’s twitter-like Weibo is banning even veiled references to an iconic image. (The Wall Street Journal)

Baby boxes - Finland gives new mothers boxes for their infants to sleep in, and enjoys one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. (BBC)

Wine winners - A new study shows why France is so good at making wine. (The Atlantic)

Feline felon - Russian officials caught a cat smuggling phones and chargers into prison. (The Associated Press)

From the File:  

  • Hong Kong marks June 4 crackdown as China tightens security
  • German challenger accuses Merkel of ‘one-dimensional’ leadership
  • Egypt sentences 43, including Americans, in NGO case
  • No safe way out as Syrian forces grind down besieged Qusair
  • Czech and Austrian utilities shutter power plants due to floods

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