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Equatorial Guinea: Coup attempt leaves many questions

In late December, Teodoro Obiang's government reported a border crossing by foreign mercenaries. A UN special envoy has now visited the country and pledged support. "We are leaving here comforted by the assurances we have received from the President of the Republic, and I can say that the United Nations will continue to support Equatorial Guinea in its stabilization efforts," said UN special envoy, Francois Lounceny Fall, on a visit to Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is a country that rarely features on international news. On December 27, however, when 40 armed fighters from Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic crossed the border, the small West African country hit the headlines. The arrest of the fighters was followed by the arrest of perceived dissidents across the country. The government blocked access to social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp. On January 3, the country's defense minister relayed the following message from President Teodore Obiang Nguema (pictured above): Foreign mercenaries recruited from "radical opposition parties" within Equatorial Guinea had allegedly tried to attack the president. The coup attempt had, however, been successfully quashed. Not the first coup attempt Little else has emerged in the way of concrete information, which may also be down to the restrictive press freedom in the country. What is, however, clear is that this is not the first time that mercenaries have tried to overthrow the world's longest serving president, Teodore Obiang Nguema, who has been in power since 1979. In 2004, South African mercenaries conspired to replace Obiang with a more business-friendly figure. The group, however, was stopped while in Zimbabwe. The so-called "Wonga coup” caught international attention due to its backing by a prominent British financier, Mark Thatcher, son of Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The latest alleged coup attempt has once again sparked discussion. On social media, some users speculated about a regional conspiracy against the Obiang regime. Others believe the coup attempt could have been staged by the regime itself. The truth of the matter is probably far more complex, says Alex Vines, who heads the Africa program of the London think-tank Chatham House. On the one hand, he doesn't believe that a regime change would be in the interests of neighboring states. "Cameroon, Chad and Gabon all have governance [issues] and other problems that are not so dissimilar to those that we see in Equatorial Guinea, so it wouldn't be a state-in-state interest to support a coup for the removal of Mr. Obiang," Vines told DW. "I think this is more about individuals who may be residents in those countries." According to Vines, however, there are real reasons to suspect a possible coup attempt. "Before this alleged coup attempt, there had been a tightening of any democratic space for debate and discussion in Equatorial Guinea,” he said. The country's economic problems, exacerbated by low oil prices, had also increased the tension. "So I was not completely surprised by reports of an alleged coup at the end of 2017," Vines said. Whether the incident was, in fact, a coup or not, did not stop the government from using it to gain political mileage. "This is a pattern that we do see in Equatorial Guinea over many decades now, which is that real coups and alleged coups are also used as a way of cracking down on opposition," Vines added. Economic woes add to the tension Thanks to its oil reserves and its low population, Equatorial Guinea maintains the highest GDP per capita income in sub-Sahara Africa, which stands at US$8,747 (€7,377). Yet the bulk of the population lives below the poverty line. The main culprit for this division is corruption. In October, a French courtsentenced Obiang's son to three years in jail for the embezzlement of funds. The judge said that there was enough evidence to prove that he had used state money to finance his €107 million property in Paris. Apart from this most recent court case, western governments seem to have done very little to curb the corruption or stop human rights abuses. "Honestly, I think it's about indifference," says Vines. "[Equatorial Guinea] is an oil producer, but it is not a significant oil producer. There are international oil and gas companies there, the biggest being Exxon, the American international oil and gas company. But the country tends to be forgotten; it's small, it's very closed and there are no robust bilateral relations with western countries," he added. One matter that has ruffled feathers in the country is that Obiang has chosen his son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang, as his possible successor. In 2016, he named him vice president. December's attempted coup could, therefore, be a first sign of opposition to this move.

In late December, Teodoro Obiang’s government reported a border crossing by foreign mercenaries. A UN special envoy has now visited the country and pledged support. “We are leaving here comforted by the assurances we have received from the President of the Republic, and I can say that the United Nations will continue to support Equatorial Guinea in its stabilization efforts,” ... Read More »

Oprah for president? How the idea anchored within a day

It was jokingly suggested during Golden Globes night, then came an electrifying speech by the talk show queen: Within 24 hours, "Oprah Winfrey for president" turned into an actual possibility. Here's how. In a way, "Saturday Night Live" host Seth Meyers pushed Donald Trump to run for president. To compensate, he might have launched Oprah Winfrey's candidacy as well. Hired as a comedian for the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, Meyers slammed billionaire reality TV star Trump, also present at the event, jokingly implying that he was as qualified to become president as an old rusty bird cage. The merciless jokes at Trump's expense allegedly contributed to his decision to run for president. Hosting the Golden Globes Awards 2018 ceremony on Sunday, Meyers referred to his prescient humor: "Some have said that night convinced him to run. So, if that's true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes. And Hanks! Where's Hanks? You will never be vice president. You are too mean and unrelatable. Now we just wait and see." That night, receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award honorary Golden Globe Award for her lifetime achievement, Oprah Winfrey's powerful speech demonstrated that she had the eloquence it takes to move the public. Even Ivanka Trump was touched by Oprah's "empowering & inspiring speech." The tweet by the president's daughter, however, drew a lot criticism from other Twitter users. A new day on the horizon In any case, Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes call, "a new day is on the horizon," was readily turned into a campaign slogan. A tweet posted by the NBC network posted a picture of Oprah, stating, "Nothing but respect for OUR future president." The tweet was a reference to a meme that developed following Twitter user Makenna's cleaning of Donald Trump's star: Not everyone found it funny; NBC deleted the controversial tweet after it had already been retweeted and liked by thousands. Meryl Streep also contributed to the hype by telling the Washington Post, "She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president. I don't think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn't have a choice." Other celebrities, including pop superstar Lady Gaga, contributed to the social media wave. Fame, the only way to a US presidency? If some political observers smirk at the prospect that yet another TV megastar is suddenly seen as the only hope for the US, Winfrey's name is meanwhile spreading in serious political circles as well. Brad Anderson, the Iowa state director for President Barack Obama's re-election, tweeted that Oprah should give him a call: Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama and CNN contributor wrote that the "Oprah thing isn't that crazy." Pfeiffer added in another tweet that "he didn't know if Oprah would be a good President, but she would definitely be a better President than Trump." Trump's first choice Although Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey share TV stardom, unlike Trump, hers is an actual rags-to-riches story. As a self-made billionaire, Oprah has always used her own story of overcoming abuse to inspire others to seek a better life. As such, she is perceived as an upgrade to the current president, despite her lack of experience in politics. Ironically, in 1999, Donald Trump had suggested himself that he would see Oprah as his first choice for vice president if he were to run for president: "Americans respect and admire Oprah for her intelligence and caring. She has provided inspiration for millions of women to improve their lives, go back to school, learn to read, and take responsibility for themselves," Trump wrote in his book, as pointed out CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski. Although Oprah had always previously denied that a presidential run was an option, "two close friends" told CNN that she was "actively thinking" about it now.

It was jokingly suggested during Golden Globes night, then came an electrifying speech by the talk show queen: Within 24 hours, “Oprah Winfrey for president” turned into an actual possibility. Here’s how. In a way, “Saturday Night Live” host Seth Meyers pushed Donald Trump to run for president. To compensate, he might have launched Oprah Winfrey’s candidacy as well. Hired ... Read More »

Singapore charges 11 men over Shell oil heist

Singapore police have arrested a group of people suspected of involvement in the theft of oil from a large Shell refinery in the region. Officers also seized millions of dollars and an oil tanker during investigations. Eleven men were charged in a Singapore court Tuesday over their part in an alleged oil theft at Shell's biggest refinery, court documents showed. Royal Dutch Shell, which first reported the heist to authorities last August, said in a news release that the 17 arrests included "a limited number of Shell employees" from the Bukom facility. While nine Singaporeans were charged over the theft of oil, two Vietnamese nationals were charged with receiving stolen goods. Police said six people who had not been charged so far were still under investigation. Officers also seized millions of dollars in cash and a small tanker in connection with the case. Crucial oil trade Bukom is the largest wholly owned Shell refinery in the world in terms of crude distillation capacity. Shipping and oil refining have contributed significantly to Singapore's rising wealth over the past decades. The Southeast Asia city-state is one of the world's most important trading hubs, with most of the Middle East's crude oil passing through Singapore before being delivered to consumers in China, Japan and South Korea.

Singapore police have arrested a group of people suspected of involvement in the theft of oil from a large Shell refinery in the region. Officers also seized millions of dollars and an oil tanker during investigations. Eleven men were charged in a Singapore court Tuesday over their part in an alleged oil theft at Shell’s biggest refinery, court documents showed. ... Read More »

Tunisia anti-austerity protests turn deadly

Protests have broken out across Tunisia after anti-austerity measures came into effect on January 1. The country's main opposition party has said it will keep protests going until the government drops its 2018 budget. Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Tuesday promised to crack down on rioters after two days of anti-austerity rallies in the country. "What some Tunisian areas saw overnight could not be considered a way of protest, but acts of theft, looting and attacks on Tunisians' properties," Chahed said. "The only solution for confronting those involved in looting and attacks on Tunisians and their properties is applying the law." The details Protests broke out in more than 10 towns against price and tax increases put in place by the government in an attempt to stabilize Tunisia's economic crisis. About 300 people demonstrated in the streets of the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, the center of the country's Arab Spring revolution. A 43-year old male protester died in unclear circumstances in the town of Tebourba, 40 kilometers west of the capital Tunis. The Interior Ministry denied that the protester was killed due to police violence, but an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death National Security chief Walid Ben Hkima said 11 officers were wounded in the clashes, some after being hit by stones and Molotov cocktails. Khelifa Chibani, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 44 people had been arrested for carrying weapons such as knives,´setting government buildings on fire and looting shops. Read more: Seven years after Arab Spring, Tunisia's future uncertain Austere beginnings Tunisians have become increasingly frustrated since the government said it would increase the price of gasoil, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items from January 1, as part of austerity measures agreed upon with its foreign lenders. Read more: Tunisia one year after: the beginning of change "What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes ... Yesterday protesters burned down two police stations, they looted shops, banks and damaged property in many cities," Interior Ministry spokesman Chibani said. The leader of Tunisia's main opposition party Popular Front, Hamma Hammami, said they would increase protests until the government dropped the "unjust" 2018 budget. Read more: Terror and tourism in Tunisia "Today we have a meeting with the opposition parties to coordinate our movements, but we will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law will be dropped," Hammami told reporters. Roots in the Arab Spring Tunisia's economy has been in crisis since the 2011 uprising unseated the government and two major militant attacks in 2015 damaged the country's tourism industry, which accounted for eight percent of gross domestic product. Read more: Tunisia declares state of emergency after massacre The January protests are much smaller compared to the previous turmoil seen in Tunisia since the overthrow of autocrat ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, but past confrontations between government, labour unions, Islamists and secular forces have also started small before escalating.

Protests have broken out across Tunisia after anti-austerity measures came into effect on January 1. The country’s main opposition party has said it will keep protests going until the government drops its 2018 budget. Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Tuesday promised to crack down on rioters after two days of anti-austerity rallies in the country. “What some Tunisian areas ... Read More »

Deportations illegal if torture likely, rules Germany’s top court

Germany's top court has ruled that a person cannot be deported to their country of origin if at risk of torture. A German-born Turkish Salafist had appealed his return, saying he would be tortured in his home country. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on Tuesday ruled that a convicted terrorist may not be deported to their country of origin if they are in danger of being tortured following arrival. The court said that authorities needed "appropriate assurances" from the country of origin that "effectively excludes torture and inhumane treatment" of the person in question in order to follow through with a deportation. Read more: Preventing terrorism: What powers do German security forces have? From Berlin to Karlsruhe The ruling stems from an appeal from a German-born Turkish national: In 2015, a Berlin court sentenced a German-born Salafist to three and a half years in prison for supporting a Syrian terrorist organization.\ Germany's immigration office in 2016 threatened the 30-year-old convict with deportation. However, the Turkish man took the threat of deportation to court, saying that Turkish authorities have initiated a criminal case against him on terrorism charges. The convict argued that he would be tortured – like other terror suspects – if he were deported, and backed his argument with a letter detailing such claims from Amnesty International. Is Turkey likely to torture detainees: In the wake of a failed coup in 2016, Turkey launched a major crackdown, arresting journalists, teachers and judges. That year, Amnesty International said it gathered "credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape." Read more: What is the status of German deportations to Afghanistan? What happens next: German authorities will have a tougher time carrying out deportations now. They will be expected to receive assurances from a person's country of origin that the returnee will not be subjected to torture by authorities after arrival.

Germany’s top court has ruled that a person cannot be deported to their country of origin if at risk of torture. A German-born Turkish Salafist had appealed his return, saying he would be tortured in his home country. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on Tuesday ruled that a convicted terrorist may not be deported to their country of origin ... Read More »

German exports boosted by eurozone upswing

German shipments abroad have picked up considerably, fresh figures from the National Statistics Office have shown. Companies profited from an uptick in economic activity in the eurozone and elsewhere. Not enough pallets "Full order books and a high level of business confidence point to favorable cyclical developments in the months ahead," the German Economics Ministry said in a statement. A large number of companies are already in the process of enlarging their production capacities. "Four out of 10 industrial firms are putting more money aside for new machinery," said Sophia Krietenbrink from the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. Recent reports in the German media have highlighted the current shortage of pallets for the transport of goods nationally and across borders as a sign of a booming economy. The reports stated that many companies had had to delay the shipment of their goods due to the shortfall. Statistics agency Destatis reported Tuesday that German exports in November increased by 4.1 percent month on month, by far exceeding analysts' expectations. "It was the strongest surge in three years," the office said in a statement. All in all, German companies exported goods worth €116.5 billion ($139 billion). Shipments to fellow eurozone countries experienced the biggest increase (+9.1 percent), with exports to the larger European Union rising by 8 percent and those to the rest of the world up 8.4 percent in November. Not enough pallets "Full order books and a high level of business confidence point to favorable cyclical developments in the months ahead," the German Economics Ministry said in a statement. A large number of companies are already in the process of enlarging their production capacities. "Four out of 10 industrial firms are putting more money aside for new machinery," said Sophia Krietenbrink from the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. Recent reports in the German media have highlighted the current shortage of pallets for the transport of goods nationally and across borders as a sign of a booming economy. The reports stated that many companies had had to delay the shipment of their goods due to the shortfall.

German shipments abroad have picked up considerably, fresh figures from the National Statistics Office have shown. Companies profited from an uptick in economic activity in the eurozone and elsewhere. Not enough pallets “Full order books and a high level of business confidence point to favorable cyclical developments in the months ahead,” the German Economics Ministry said in a statement. A ... Read More »

German military recruits record number of minors

The German military has been recruiting more and more minors, the Defense Ministry has admitted. Critics have accused the government of hypocrisy over opposition to the use of child soldiers. The German government has admitted that the Bundeswehr is recruiting more minors than ever before as it continues its complex transition from a conscription-based to a volunteer military. In an answer to an official information request from the German Left party, the Defense Ministry said that some 2,128 under-18s had been recruited as volunteers into the military in 2017, including 448 young women. Ninety of the 2,128 recruits were still underage at the end of their six-month trial period. That represented a continuing increase, with the number of underage recruits more than tripling since 2011, when the Bundeswehr recruited 689 underage people, and when Germany ended conscription. Left party Bundestag member Evrim Sommer, who submitted the information request, used the opportunity to condemn the trend. "Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen clearly has no scruples about bringing recruitment forward more and more," she said in a statement. "Young people should not be used as cannon fodder in the Bundeswehr as soon as they come of age. As long as Germany recruits minors for military purposes, it cannot credibly criticize other countries. The German government is endangering its own efforts towards an international ban on the use of child soldiers." Recruiting minors Wolf-Christian Ramm, spokesman for the children's rights group Terre des Hommes International Federation, called the new figures "not surprising but disquieting." "Of course the Bundeswehr is looking for trainees and personnel—and we've got nothing against that," he told DW. "But we're strictly against 17-year-olds being recruited and trained. They are underage and don't belong in an army." The United Nations has previously voiced concern about the Bundeswehr's use of people under 18 even though minors are not allowed weapons training, and cannot be deployed to foreign missions. This is strictly in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2002. However, in a 2014 report on Germany, the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) noted that, "Some advertising campaigns for the armed forces specifically target children, and representatives of the armed forces are sometimes present within the school context, speaking with pupils and organizing activities." The UN also called on Germany to change that. The Bundeswehr is not allowed to advertise recruitment drives directly to minors, though that does not stop military officers giving talks in high schools, something else that is criticized by peace campaigners. "The Bundeswehr does all it can to make itself attractive to young people," said Ramm. "They have videos on YouTube and ads that talk about all the fun of joining the military, and compare it to playing an adventure game. That's a part of the problem too. That hides the fact that military service is dangerous and can be deadly." In its answer to the Left party, the Defense Ministry was also keen to underline that "all underage soldiers have the possibility of revoking their period of service at any time within the first six months without giving a reason." Struggling to find recruits The socialist Left party, which opposes all Bundeswehr missions abroad, also supports the "Straight 18" principle adopted by NGOs that campaign against the recruitment of child soldiers. This forbids the recruitment of anyone under 18 for any military purposes whatsoever, including training and education. "Countries like North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran also do not adhere to the Straight 18 principle, and it doesn't look good for Germany if it's in the same group as them," said Ramm. The German military has struggled to find new volunteers to join the army ever since the Defense Ministry ended its conscription-based system in 2011. Figures released in November last year showed that 10,105 people had been recruited between January and August 2017 for the 23-month voluntary service—a 15-percent drop on the same period the year before. More than a quarter of all new recruits drop out before the end of the six-month trial period. However, the Bundeswehr has had more success recruiting people for roles in the military with a minimum two-year contract: some 33,400 signed up in the first eight months of 2017. Such contracts are said to have more employment prospects in the future. The German military has also faced a number of sexual abuse and bullying scandals in recent months, as well as uncovering a "false-flag" terrorist plot by neo-Nazis in its ranks.

The German military has been recruiting more and more minors, the Defense Ministry has admitted. Critics have accused the government of hypocrisy over opposition to the use of child soldiers. The German government has admitted that the Bundeswehr is recruiting more minors than ever before as it continues its complex transition from a conscription-based to a volunteer military. In an ... Read More »

Mafia raids in Germany, Italy: Police make over 170 arrests

German and Italian police have detained scores of people with alleged ties to the 'Ndrangheta mafia. The suspects formed part of a transnational network involving bakeries, funeral services and vineyards, police said. Authorities in Germany and Italy busted a 'Ndrangheta mafia clan on Tuesday, detaining scores of suspects and seizing millions of euros in property. In Germany, 11 men between the ages of 36 and 41 were detained in the states of Bavaria, Hesse, North-Rhine Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said in a statement. Read more: German authorities struggle to curb Russian mafia care home exploitation International crackdown German authorities said the men were suspected of blackmail and money laundering, and that the detentions were carried out at the request of Italian authorities. The BKA added that anti-mafia police in Italy detained another 160 people in the joint operation. Italian authorities said they also seized some €50 million ($60 million) worth of property. The list of charges facing the suspects in Italy ranges from attempted murder to illegal possession of firearms to illegal waste transportation. Read more: Italian, German police seize millions, bust Sicilian mafia ring Funerals in Italy, wine in Germany The Farao-Marincola clan, the 'Ndrangheta crime network that was targeted in Tuesday's raids, is believed to have infiltrated local businesses in the town of Ciro, located in the southern region of Calabria, Italy. Around Ciro, the suspects were involved in local bakeries, fishing, funeral services and waste recycling. In Germany, they controlled the supply of pizza ingredients and wine to local Italian restaurants. "They controlled all the economic activity in entire towns," said Italian prosecutor Nicola Gratteri. "It concerned all commercial activity and obviously political power as well." From Frankfurt to Stuttgart Outside of Italy, the clan had bases in the German cities of Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Munich and Stuttgart, the anti-mafia prosecutors' office said in a statement. Read more: German police 'forced to choose' between mafia and terror Italian prosecutors specifically accused the suspects of driving out all the baking competition in Ciro so that locals were forced to buy bread from the remaining mob-controlled bakery. Furthermore, the clan also controlled cooperatives that were involved in migrant reception centers. Politicians targeted The Italy-based ANSA news agency reported that around 10 local politicians were among those arrested. The 'Ndrangheta is considered to be one of the world's most powerful and dangerous Mafia organizations, with the FBI estimating it has 6,000 members spread between some 160 clans. The mafia network has also spread to Germany, the United States, Canada and Australia. Read more: Mafia boss connected to Duisburg murders captured The BKA recognized the 'Ndrangheta as Germany's most dominant crime syndicate in 2015.

German and Italian police have detained scores of people with alleged ties to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. The suspects formed part of a transnational network involving bakeries, funeral services and vineyards, police said. Authorities in Germany and Italy busted a ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan on Tuesday, detaining scores of suspects and seizing millions of euros in property. In Germany, 11 men between ... Read More »

Do Korea talks put initiative back with Seoul and Pyongyang?

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could already be considered a successful step in relations. Now that the meeting is over, what outcomes did it bring? Patrick Köllner: First off, it was agreed at Tuesday's talks that North Korea will participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This also guarantees that the games will be peaceful and quiet. This is of the utmost importance for the South Korean government. It is also expected that family reunions between the North and South will resume after being suspended for several years. Trust-building measures could also emerge in the form of talks between the two countries' militaries. Read more: North, South Korea agree to discuss military following Olympics talks Those are the tangible results - but what in your opinion is the most important message that can be read between the lines after the meeting in Panmunjom? One important message is that North and South Korea, the most important actors in the middle of this conflict, have actually managed to begin talking again. The initiative is once again with Seoul and Pyongyang. The last year was characterized overall by North Korea's armament efforts and the resulting reaction from the United States and the international community. It is crucial that the two Korean governments communicate because this conflict primarily affects 50 million Koreans. Do you think anything surprising happened during the meeting, or did the talks go as expected? The talks went positively in the sense that North Korea, after everything that we know, did not insist that planned military exercises between the US and South Korea be called off. The exercises, which were planned directly after the games, were postponed, but not cancelled. Requiring they be called off would most likely have led to the talks collapsing. Read more: What to expect from North and South Korea meeting ahead of Winter Olympics US wants North Korea to give up nuclear weapons as pre-condition of talks What were the goals and background agenda for each side during the talks? North Korea, of course, continues to follow the strategic aim of putting a wedge in the alliance between Washington and Seoul. But South Korea certainly knows this, and this alone doesn't exclude the possibility of reintroducing increased economic cooperation between the two Koreas. The drive to increase economic cooperation has been put on ice for the past few years because of North Korea's nuclear weapons testing. Even deliveries of humanitarian aid from South Korea were reduced. North Korea has an interest in once again promoting economic cooperation. South Korea has an interest in not letting important discussions about developments on the Korean Peninsula bypass Seoul. The positions of both sides seem incompatible. The North wants to keep its nuclear program and the South wants a nuclear weapon-free peninsula. How much maneuvering room do negotiators on each side have? Negotiations are complicated by the fact that possibilities for compromise are limited by the international sanctions regime hung on North Korea. Of course, South Korea cannot come out with its own measures that violate these sanctions. US interests in the background also complicate matters, and there is always the need to coordinate with Washington in addition to Seoul and Pyongyang. But trust-building measures could be possible, especially with the military. South Korean humanitarian aid could also be increased. These small steps could be the basis of talks on larger issues, which could also include the US and the question of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. Read more: North Korea reopens hotline to South to talk Olympics Interceptions cut off another source of North Korean fuel After today's talks, is it too early to hope for an overall relaxation of tensions? We need to keep in mind that the discussions did not change the fundamental constellation of issues. North Korea's weapons program continues and Kim Jong Un promised in his New Year's address to increase weapons production. Big challenges remain. But there are also positive takeaways – especially the fact that diplomacy is once again playing a role. We have spent the past year considering the possibility of military action. It is really a positive development to see examples of diplomacy. Professor Patrick Köllner is director of the GIGA Institute of Asian Studies in Hamburg. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could ... Read More »

Deniz Naki: A political footballer in fear of his life

Deniz Naki has gone from one of Germany's most promising footballers to hiding in a safe house after an attempt on his life. Naki's political views have long had a big impact on his career. But how did it come to this? A little less than a decade ago, Deniz Naki was part of a German success story, named in the "team of the tournament" as the country picked up a seventh European Under-19 Championship. Naki lifted the trophy with the likes of Sven Bender, Lars Bender, Ömer Toprak and plenty of others still playing at the top level. But at the start of 2018, Naki is now at the center of a story of a very different kind. The 28-year-old with German-Kurdish roots was shot at while driving down the A4 motorway near his home town of Düren, in the west of Germany, on Monday. He is reportedly now in a "safe place" receiving police protection following the apparent assasination attempt, which is being investigated as attempted murder. He told German media how he ducked before pulling over to the hard shoulder and surviving unharmed before claiming that the attack was of a political nature. "I think that this is about a political issue," Naki told Spiegel magazine's online platform Bento. "I am a continual target in Turkey because I make pro-Kurdish statements." While it was initially reported by numerous sources that Naki was suggesting the Turkish secret service were involved in the shooting, his lawyer told DW's Gezal Acer on Tuesday that this was false and the footballer "thought an ultra-nationalist Turkish group in Germany could be behind it." Even before the latest incident, controversy has never been far from the surface of the forward's career, particularly in recent years. The former St. Pauli player has been a vocal critic of the Turkish government's treatment of the country's Kurdish ethnic group and a supporter of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) - who stand for Kurdish nationalism but are considered a terrorist organization by the European Union. Just last year, after initially being found not guilty less than a year earlier, he was handed an 18 month suspended jail sentence for promoting "terror propaganda" for the PKK on social media channels. Naki tweeted his opinion about a Turkish military offensive against the PKK and a curfew was imposed in seven cities in southeast Anatolia, in the west of Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's treatment of dissidents has been condemned in many quarters but DW's Acer says Naki's case is unique. "Until now it had often been journalists or academics or writers who felt threatened, but we haven't heard of this happening with any other athletes," she said. "So we can't say concretely that athletes or sports figures are feeling under threat or in danger." Whether the threat is from government agencies or otherwise, Naki's political beliefs, and the consequences of those beliefs, have had a significant impact on his career. A tally of eight goals in 12 games this season shows at least some of the ability that shone so brightly as a teenager remains, despite the lowly level at which he now plays. After that European Championship win and a couple of caps for the German under-21 side alongside the likes of Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, Naki left Bayer Leverkusen for St. Pauli, a famously left wing club based in Hamburg. He was, and remains, a popular figure at the club but his stint is probably best remembered for his throat-slitting gesture during St Pauli's 2-0 win over Hansa Rostock in 2009. Clashes between the two had long been dangerously charged, with the right wing elements of Rostock's fan base opposed to the ideology espoused by St. Pauli, and the gesture was considered to incite violence. Naki received a three match ban for that, nine matches less than he'd eventually get for his social media support of the PKK, and, after a brief spell at Paderborn, he moved to Turkey, the country to which he'd pledged his national team allegiance after a pair of caps for Germany's under-21s — though he's yet to win a cap. Soon after his move to Genclerbirligi, Naki was the victim of an attack, the reason for which was thought to be his Kurdish ethnicity. "They were swearing and asking: 'Are you that dirty Kurd?'" Naki told the BBC after the 2014 attack. "Then they said: 'Damn your Kobane, damn your Sinjar'. I tried to calm them down. But suddenly one of them punched me in the eye. Trying to defend myself, I punched one of them back and started running away." He left the country a few days after, citing the possibility of further attacks as the reason for his departure. "There is no tolerance. I would only go back because I love my country, I love my hometown. That's it. I will carry on with my career in Germany," he said at the time. But it was a stone's throw from his hometown of Düren that his car windscreen was struck by a bullet. “I always knew that something like this could happen, but I would never have thought it could happen in Germany,” he told German newspaper Die Welt on Monday. Less than 48 hours after a gunman made him fear for his life, Naki's future — both sporting and otherwise — is unclear, much like his assailant. What has become increasingly obvious is that he is a sportsman doesn't seem prepared to separate his sport and his politics. The cost of that could have been, and still might be, enormous.

Deniz Naki has gone from one of Germany’s most promising footballers to hiding in a safe house after an attempt on his life. Naki’s political views have long had a big impact on his career. But how did it come to this? A little less than a decade ago, Deniz Naki was part of a German success story, named in ... Read More »

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