Erdogan’s Turkey remembers defiant WW1 battles, not defeat

WORLD War I ended with the Ottoman Empire vanquished and facing imminent collapse, its doomed alliance with Imperial Germany costing hundreds of thousands of Ottoman lives and dealing a death blow to the already creaking empire.

But 100 years after the surrender of the Ottomans to the Allied powers at Mudros on October 30, 1918, the Great War is in no way seen as a pointless waste or even a defeat by modern Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Rather than focusing on the four years of devastating conflict that ended in the capitulation and eventual dissolution of the empire, Turkey remembers key individual battles where Ottoman forces, often against huge odds, defied the Allies and helped forge a new Turkish national identity.

Chief among them is the 1915-1916 Battle of Gallipoli, but other episodes like the siege at Kut al-Amara in modern Iraq and the Battle of Sarikamis against the Russians are also marked with increasing emphasis.

Gursel Goncu, the editor-in-chief of the monthly Turkish history magazine #tarih, said the empire’s defeat was not something that existed in the memory of contemporary Turkey.

“We, the Turks, remember and talk about that period through the Gallipoli victory and the triumph of the siege of Kut al-Amara. The devastating defeat of 1918, on the other hand, is still being interpreted as the ‘treason’ of the authorities at the time,” he told AFP.

‘Rising from the ashes’

Erdogan increasingly gives these brief triumphs prominence, tracing a line of continuity through the centuries of great events in Turkish history from the pre-Ottoman era into the modern republic right up to the defeat of an attempted coup against him in 2016.

The president sees these battles as a defiance of the West and defence of territory which was historically in Turkey’s natural sphere of influence.

The Ottoman resistance at Gallipoli prevented the conquest of Constantinople and helped lay the foundations of the modern state that would be formed in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a key commander at Gallipoli.

Erdogan, who refers to the battle as the Canakkale Victory, has urged Turkish soldiers to remember the heroism of their forebears as they prepare for battle.

“The aim is the same, the spirit is the same and the faith is the same,” Erdogan said in March as he sent troops on a cross-border mission into Syria to help seize the Afrin region from Syrian-Kurdish militia.

“At Canakkale, a nation filled with a history of victories awakens from a centuries-old sleep, and rising up from the ashes, embraces the spirit of unity,” he added.

There is no room in this narrative for the fate of the empire’s Armenian citizens, whose leaders and prominent intellectuals began to be rounded up in 1915 just as the Gallipoli campaign started.

Armenians contend they were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century at the hands of Ottoman forces but Turkey rejects this, insisting far smaller numbers perished in a conflict that saw atrocities on both sides.

‘Defeat, agony forgotten’

Every Jan, thousands of Turks brandishing national flags brave freezing temperatures to march through snow in the northern Kars region to mark not a victory but a famous retreat of Ottoman forces in 1915 after a disastrous defeat inflicted by better-prepared Russian forces at Sarikamis.

The retreat is seen as another act of defiance, though Western historians lambast the Ottoman commander Enver Pasha for needlessly sending troops to their deaths. Enver is despised by Armenians, who see him as the instigator of the 1915 massacres.

“For the sake of a higher and more meaningful victory, our army did not give in to the enemy or to nature,” Erdogan said this year, revealing his own grandfather has been “martyred” at Sarikamis.

However the 1916 siege in Kut al-Amara was successful, ending in the surrender of thousands of British and Indian soldiers. It is regarded as one of the most humiliating Allied defeats of the war.

“We try to understand World War I through rare victories such as Gallipoli, epic tragedies or personal heroic stories, without considering the reasons for such failures,” said Tuncay Yilmazer, a WWI researcher and editor of the website Geliboluyuanlamak.com.

“We need to review our understanding of such a great event that led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and transformation into a modern nation state,” he told AFP.

Goncu noted that WWI was part of more than a decade of devastating warfare endured by the Turks that began with the Balkan Wars of 1912 and ended with victory in the War of Independence in 1923.

“We have recalled and commemorated the victorious moments and the heroes of this 10-year long struggle, and we still do,” Goncu said.

“As regards defeat and agony, well, they are to be forgotten!” — AFP

The last days of the Great War

AT the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 bugles across Europe sounded the end of a war that left some 10 million soldiers dead.

Hopes for a ceasefire had been growing for weeks with German troops — under pressure from an unrelenting Allied offensive — withdrawing from Flanders and most of occupied France.

At last, it came: at 11:00 am on Nov 11, 1918, amid the mud and fallen leaves of a grey European winter, World War I was over.

Here is an overview of the final days of the Great War.

Berlin calls for talks

On Oct 3 Germany’s emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, appoints as chancellor Prince Max of Baden who has long advocated a negotiated peace with Britain, France and the United States.

The very next day the new chancellor telegraphs the US president, Woodrow Wilson, to call for talks.

The Allies demand Germany’s unconditional surrender and the kaiser’s abdication.

Pressure builds on Berlin. German forces, their spring offensive long exhausted, are beating a disorderly retreat.

On Nov 3, German ally Austria-Hungary capitulates and signs an armistice.

German negotiators enter France

Tensions mount in Germany as naval forces mutiny at Kiel and a general strike is called on Nov 5.

French officers, meanwhile, receive the order to allow safe passage of top German diplomats into Allied territory.

On Nov 7, at 8:30 pm, a ceasefire is sounded at La Capelle in northern France, near the Belgium border.

It is the first in more than 50 months of war and allows the German delegation, led by minister of state Matthias Erzberger, to cross into an Allied zone.

The diplomats take a train to a secluded forest clearing near Compiegne to meet Allied forces commander General Ferdinand Foch.

Kaiser abdicates

Foch receives the German delegates at 9:00 am on November 8 in a train parked in a railway siding in the forest.

He asks if they are ready for an armistice. An aide reads out a list of terms fixed by the Allies at Versailles four days earlier.

At the request of the delegation, a messenger is sent to German forces commander Marshal Paul von Hindenburg in Belgium for his authorisation to sign an armistice.

By the time the envoy arrives, on Nov 9, the kaiser has abdicated, with the German Revolution under way.

Armistice signed

Night has fallen on the forest clearing when the messenger returns, on November 10, with the commander’s permission.

Negotiations resume. For three more hours the Germans argue, clause by clause.

Eventually there is a final version: by 5:20 am on Nov 11, the armistice ending a war started four years earlier is signed in a train carriage in the woods.

The news reaches the troops quickly, and is received with disbelief. Some commanders decide to continue fighting to the bitter end; others will not risk any further lives.

On the stroke of 11:00 am the ceasefire agreed just hours earlier is sounded by bugles and clarions along the hundreds of kilometres of front line that stretch across Europe.

Soldiers gradually emerge from the trenches, stunned.

War is over

Celebrations erupt in the capitals of the Allied victors.

Civilians pour into the streets, thronging the Place de la Concorde in Paris, Piccadilly Circus in London, New York’s Fifth Avenue, the Piazza Venezia in Rome.

Church bells ring out at full peal and people dance in the streets. In French ports, soldiers from the United States, Australia and other far-away lands parade under their national flags.

The Great War — which had drawn in some 30 nations and their colonies, and mobilised around 70 million soldiers — is over.

The final peace treaty will be signed in Versailles in June 1919.

Nearly 10 million soldiers lie dead, along with another 10 million civilians. Much of Europe is ruins.

German humiliation, blame

In Germany there is relief but also humiliation and anger. The Kiel mutiny spreads and there are deadly revolts across the country.

The generals blame politicians for defeat, saying they were “stabbed in the back” on the home front.

It is a notion taken up by ultra-nationalist parties and is a key refrain of one Adolf Hitler. — AFP

A tribute to Peter Velappan

He saw beyond dreams – Peter Velappan by A. Subramaniam

MANAGEMENT: guru Peter Drucker said leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. He may well have been talking of Datuk Peter Velappan in this regard.

Peter was very much the visionary when it came to Asian football and his performance in building ‘brand Asia’ to what it is today was simply astounding. In the world of Asian and global football, it is no exaggeration that the man who passed away at 83 on Oct 20, walked tall.

Peter Velappan was a household name in Asia, synonymous with the growth of Asian football. Wherever he went in Asia, he was instantly recognised and mobbed by his “fans”. The man even had his own club, The Velappan United Club, formed by ardent admirers.

According to Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. Peter, was such a leader, a visionary.

He took over the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1978, when Asia was considered the minnows in world football. The continent had the least number of places at the World Cup.

At one Executive Board meeting of the world body, Asia’s request for an additional place saw FIFA President Joao Havelange brushing off AFC President Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah with a, ”your game does not belong in the World Cup”, remark.

It may well have been the truth as Asian teams lost by big margins against teams from other continents at the World Cup. But Peter, the estate boy, teacher, coach turned football administrator saw beyond dreams – the title he used for his autobiography published in 2013.

He was looking at ‘brand Asia’ 20 years down the road, understood the realities facing the game in Asia and strategised over what it would take to lift the game to that of the Europeans and Africans.

With a staff of just two secretaries initially in a small office in the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) building on what was formerly Jalan Birch (Jalan Maharajalela) in Kuala Lumpur, he began plotting the rise of Asian football. He was then a part-time administrator, as he still held a job as personnel manager with Lever Brothers in Kuala Lumpur. In reality, he was forced to keep the job, as the AFC could not afford to pay him a salary then!

Met during lunch time when he usually was at the AFC office, Peter in an interview told me, he saw raising the standard of Asia’s competitions as the key to improving the overall standard of the game. Thus, he initiated a competitions department to reorganise and address the flaws in the Asian football structure, with the emphasis on youth competitions and would go on to set up departments for referees and technical personnel among others, early in time, while bringing the national associations in line with his.

Under Peter’s astute management and on his initiative, the AFC Marketing company was set up in 1986 to create commercial revenue for the AFC, whose finances at that time were meagre. As stated by Peter, from a modest start, the company under the charge of Seamus O’ Brien, would grow in stature with the development of the sport across Asia.

The company would later become the World Sports Group with Seamus, as chairman and chief executive.

In 1993, WSG signed the AFC to a US$10 million (RM42 million) sponsorship, In 2009, the deal would grow ten-fold!

Seamus is quoted as saying at the 2009 signing: “In 1993, we made a commitment together with the AFC to take Asian football to the world. Today, in just over a decade and a half, the value of Asian football has grown ten-fold and it has earned its rightful place on the international stage.

“The sport and its governing body is being supported by a group of the most distinguished brands and media companies who have benefited from the sport and this partnership. Its events are being watched and followed throughout the world, not just in Asia, by billions of passionate fans and viewers.”

Peter’s dream for ‘brand Asia’ was finally yielding rich dividends and thus, also began, Asia’s ascent to the top of the game.

From being everybody’s favourite whipping boys at the World Cup, Asia would begin to hold its own in the game, reaching the pinnacle of success at the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup.

It was Asia’s best ever World Cup performance. Asia had four teams in the 2002 FIFA World Cup competition, namely Saudi Arabia, China, Japan and South Korea who made the last four, beating Poland, Italy, Portugal and Spain in the quarter-finals. Japan also shone in making the second round.

For Peter it was a defining moment, for he was the General Coordinator of the 2002 World Cup and it was possibly one of the best organised events in the history of the tournament, even though it was co-organised for the first time. It was, as Peter had predicted, “The Future is Asia.”

It is interesting that Peter may well have been FIFA’s first Asian General Secretary. The offer came from the then FIFA General secretary Sepp Blatter who in 1993/1994 set in motion moves to take on the incumbent Joao Havelange for the Presidency. The fight did not take place and the matter was dropped. It was an offer that was repeated when Blatter took on Lennart Johannson for the FIFA presidency in 1998 and this time, it was for Peter to decline. Such was his calibre.

In 2004, the AFC produced a coffee table book to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The following tribute was paid to Peter in the book: ” Ever the visionary, Dato’ Velappan, with his astute mind and vision, has masterminded Asia’s meteoric rise to an unprecedented height of success. From Lebanon in the west to Japan in the east, Dato’ Velappan is a household name, synonymous with the growth of Asian football. Indeed, since 1978, he has been very much the “face of Asian football.”

With the game enjoying much success in Asia, Peter decided the AFC needed a building of its own to call home. Working with the then President Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah, a piece of land was secured at Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur and AFC House became a reality in 2000. It remains the centre of all AFC activities with a new wing to be inaugurated.

With success came envy and when Mohamad bin Hamman of Qatar took over as AFC President there was a concerted effort to wipe out his legacy. As Peter would reflect in his book, “ I realized that Hamman wanted to erase the history and culture of Asian football from 1954 to 2002 and rewrite it as his own”.

It meant removing all photos of past Presidents, General Secretaries at the gallery on the third floor of AFC house. But the move was clearly also aimed at marginalising Peter who became increasingly disillusioned at the way Hamman was running Asian football. In March 2007, he decided it was time to retire after 30 years at the helm of Asian football. In retirement, he continued to be a voice for Asian football and much sought after by the media for his views on a myriad of issues.

Peter Velappan was born Velappan Palaniappan. It was while undergoing teacher training at the Malayan Teachers Training College, Brinsford Lodge, England in 1955, that one of his lecturers decided to call him first James and then Peter. The name Peter stuck and throughout his teaching career and in football circles, he came to be thereafter known as Peter Velappan.

Much more can be said about Peter Velappan, the man. He himself adequately captured his life and times in football in his autobiography. How would he have liked to have been remembered?

Well, his obituary in the newspaper told it all. It simply said, “I did not dream or choose this life, life chose me and I am eternally grateful to God for this blessed journey”.

In death as in life, he has cast a long shadow over the beautiful game. I would remember Peter as the rock upon which Asian football was founded. Bernama

Doing time in ‘Hell’: Life in Sierra Leone’s rundown prisons

A SHAFT of light penetrates the foul air through a fist-sized vent.

It reveals naked, sweating bodies packed side-by-side like sardines, lying in darkness on a greasy concrete floor.

The stench of urine and excreta from a brimming plastic bucket — just one for a cell containing perhaps 20 people — claws at the throat.

This was the scene at the Bo Correctional Facility in southern Sierra Leone.

It was one of eight prisons that this reporter visited last week to assess the state of penitentiaries that independent voices say are a national scandal.

The tableau that emerged was tropical Dickens — crammed, poorly-lit cells, whose inmates said they were suffering with disease, rotten food, cockroaches and super-sized bedbugs, and a climate of jungle-like violence.

“I was caught with two parcels of marijuana. I have spent three years on remand — it’s like living in Hell,” one inmate said.

“Lack of space is so bad that people have to take turns” to lie down, said another, who like many other inmates asked not to be named, explaining they feared reprisals by guards.

“Blankets and mats are a luxury in our cell. Even some of the food we eat has an offensive smell,” added another prisoner.

A convict with crutches in a jail at Kenema, the West African country’s third largest city, said “violence among inmates for food, water and space is common”.

“This is a jungle — it’s survival of the fittest,” he declared.

In 2016, Sierra Leone’s Human Rights Commission denounced the squalor and lack of rehabilitative or educational programmes in the country’s prisons as “inhumane”.

Walter-Neba Chenwi, a specialist in the rule of law at the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which has a project to improve Sierra Leone’s jails, said the conditions “fall far below international standards of human rights”.

“We treat people in detention as if they don’t exist,” said Ahmed Jalloh, an activist with a local watchdog group, Prison Watch.

Packed

“Out of 4,525 inmates across Sierra Leone jails, we have an excess of 2,659 people in detention, forced into overcrowded cell blocks,” the director of human resources at the Sierra Leone Correctional Services, Dennis Herman, said.

Kenema prison, a stone-walled jail built in 1826 during British colonial rule, has a regulation capacity of 75 inmates, but accommodates around 300, prison director Lamin Sesay said.

At Bo penitentiary, intended for 80 prisoners but housing 300, guard Mohamed Opinto Jimmy said between 15 and 20 people were being packed into cells that, according to regulations, should have a maximum of four.

Disease

Prison workers also point to disease which is rife and poor access to healthcare.

In Bo, there is a single healthcare worker for 300 inmates, many of whom suffer from chronic illnesses such as TB, AIDS and malaria.

“Some inmates are too weak from anaemia to walk around the cell blocks — they wedge themselves into little corners for food, water and space,” the healthcare worker said.

The skin disease scabies is commonplace, but inmates often can only shower once a week because water is rationed.

Prisoners at Bo are tasked with trekking kilometres to polluted streams or hand-dug wells to fill jerricans and haul them back to the jail.

“Given the risk of escape, we usually assign many guards to escort inmates,” said a prison guard, Jimmy.

“But inmates are usually stigmatized by locals seeing detainees walking the streets in prison outfits”.

Reform

Still within this grim picture, chinks of light are starting to emerge.

Sierra Leone’s Department of Justice has just completed a “From Prison to Corrections” programme, supported by UNDP and the United States, to train 30 prisoner officers and promote higher welfare standards.

And UNDP is doing construction and rehabilitation work, mainly in water and sanitation, in eight out of the country’s 19 jails.

But appeals court Judge Nicholas Browne-Marke told AFP that help was also badly needed for Sierra Leone’s under-funded, chronically-clogged judicial system.

More than 85% of prisoners are aged between 15 and 35.

Many of the young inmates are being held for petty crimes, and spend long periods in prison on remand or during their trial, and this causes congestion in jails, he said.

“The majority of the inmates are in jail for loitering, snatching a phone, drugs or quarrels,” Browne-Marke told AFP.

“We are trying to decongest the facilities by expediting trials. A mobile application for pending cases has been developed for all judges and magistrates to encourage a speedy trial and case conclusion”. — AFP

Novel set in Northern Ireland conflict wins Booker Prize

AUTHOR Anna Burns on Tuesday became the first Northern Irish writer, and the first woman since 2013, to win Britain’s renowned Man Booker Prize for her novel “Milkman”.

Judges of the annual award praised the work, an exploration of Northern Ireland’s three decades of sectarian violence known as The Troubles told through the voice of a young woman, as “utterly distinctive”.

“None of us has ever read anything like this before,” said Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the 2018 judges, in announcing the winner.

“Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose”.

The 56-year-old told reporters after the ceremony in London that she was “completely stunned” at receiving the most prestigious English-language literary prize.

“I just wait for characters to come and tell me their stories and I can’t write until they do,” she said.

Burns trumped English debut novelist and British bookmakers’ late favourite Daisy Johnson — at 27, the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker — for her novel “Everything Under”.

She also triumphed over longtime frontrunner Richard Powers, who had been tipped to make it three successive wins for US writers with his tree-themed novel “The Overstory”.

‘Amazing voice’

Burns, who was born in the Northern Irish capital Belfast in 1962 and now lives in southern England, had previously authored two novels — “No Bones” and “Little Constructions” — and was shortlisted for the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Though set in an unnamed city, “Milkman” undoubtedly drew on her experiences growing up in the British province during the so-called Troubles.

The novel chronicles the struggles of a middle sister in a family as she confronts rumour, social pressures and politics amid violent sectarian divisions in her community.

“There are many marvellous things about this book … the texture of the language, it’s written in this amazing voice,” said Appiah. “It’s a very powerful novel”.

Appiah said the five-person judging panel reached a unanimous decision by consensus after a “good discussion”.

He added that although the novel confronts, among many other issues, gender issues raised by the #MeToo movement, gender played no part in their choice.

“This novel will help people to think about #MeToo … but we think it will last and that means it’s not just about something that’s going on in this moment”.

Launched in 1969, the Man Booker Prize was only open to novelists from Commonwealth states until it began permitting authors of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK and Ireland, in 2014.

Burns is the first Briton to win the prize since the change.

This year’s shortlist — whittled down from 13 — pitted four female writers against two men.

It featured three Britons, two Americans, and Canadian writer Esi Edugyan for “Washington Black”, about an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation.

Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s “The Long Take” became the first book written in verse with photographs to be shortlisted.

US author Rachel Kushner was also a finalist for “The Mars Room”, a gritty tale written from the perspective of a former lap-dancer serving two life sentences in a US women’s jail.

The recipient of the Man Booker Prize gets £52,500 (RM287,377), although the bigger reward is seen as the spike in sales which invariably follows.

Purchases of last year’s winner, “Lincoln in the Bardo”, jumped 1,227 percent in the week after author George Saunders claimed the award, with nearly three-quarters of its sales following the win, according to prize organisers. — AFP

Africa’s longest-serving leaders

CAMEROON President Paul Biya, 85, who is seeking a seventh consecutive term on Sunday, is the second longest-serving leader in Africa with nearly 36 years in office.

Only Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea is ahead, by three years.

Here is a rundown of the continent’s leaders in longevity.

More than 30 years

– Obiang, 76, has been the head of tiny, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 39 years.

He came to power in a coup in August 1979 and was elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016.

– Cameroon’s Biya became president in November 1982.

– Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso has spent 34 years in office, but not in one go. He first served from 1979 to 1992 and returned in 1997 at the end of a civil war.

Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in March 2016 and could run again when his current term expires.

– In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 33 years. He took office in January 1986 after winning the war that ousted brutal dictator Idi Amin Dada.

He was elected to a fifth term in February 2016.

– In southern Africa’s tiny eSwatini, the former Swaziland, King Mswati III is the continent’s last absolute monarch. He took the throne in April 1986, more than 32 years ago.

Topping 25 years

– In Sudan, Omar al-Bashir has ruled for 29 years after staging a coup in June 1989.

– Chad’s Idriss Deby took over the northern nation in 1990, giving him nearly 28 years in power. He won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

– The Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki has been in charge since independence in April 1993, making 25 years.

Previous records

Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie holds the record for the longest time in power on the African continent. After reigning for 44 years, he was ousted in 1974.

Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, who ruled with an iron fist for nearly 42 years, was killed in 2011 after a protest movement turned into an armed conflict.

Gabon’s Omar Bongo died in June 2009 after more than 41 years in power.

Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in September 2017, having led his oil-rich country for 38 years.

Gnassingbe Eyadema also ruled the west African country of Togo for 38 years from 1967 to his death in 2005. He was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbe.

Zimbabwe’s “father of independence” Robert Mugabe was forced out in November 2017 after 37 years at the helm. — AFP

France reverses car tyre sea sanctuary, an environmental flop

VALLAURIS, France: What seemed a like a crazy idea turned out to be just that: a 1980s experiment that saw 25,000 car tyres dumped into the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean to create a sanctuary for sealife off the French coast is being cleaned up after it was found to be polluting.

Since the start of last week, divers and a specially equipped boat with lifting gear have been fishing out hundreds of the old loops of rubber about 500m (1,600 feet) from an exclusive coastline between the towns of Cannes and Antibes.

The original vision, backed by local French authorities at the time and fishermen, was that the tyres would become populated by coral and other sea creatures in a conservation area where fishing was off limits.

In France, the idea of a “tyre reef” was tried only here, but a local academic working on the clean-up operation said authorities in other countries, particularly the United States, had tried the same failed idea.

“We hoped (back in the 1980s) that we could restore aquatic life there, but it didn’t work,” the deputy mayor of Antibes, Eric Duplay told AFP. “It turns out that the tyre reef was not a prolific place for biomass.”

Denis Genovese, the head of an association of local fishermen, confirmed that most Mediterranean lifeforms had shunned the idea of living inside mad-made products manufactured out of rubber, resins, oil and other chemicals.

Leaking toxic chemicals

Sedentary creatures such as the local scorpion fish didn’t use them, Genovese said, while “grouper fish, conger eels and sea bream swim around them, but no species really got used to it”.

Worse, a study in 2005 by researchers at the University of Nice showed that the tyres were leaking toxic chemicals into the environment, including heavy metals, which are a threat to human life.

Authorities were also worried that the tyres could degrade further, nearly 40 years after they sank to the seabed, and break up into smaller pieces which would be a risk for nearby seagrass meadows.

In 2015, a first mission to remove 2,500 tyres was undertaken to show that they could be extracted safely, with the work underway at the moment a second and more important phase of the clean-up operation.

Around 10,000 are set to be lifted by the divers and boat crew over the next few weeks, with the remaining 12,500 extracted in the second quarter of 2019.

Regeneration hopes

AFP hopped aboard the vessel last week to watch the progress in action as dozens of a tyres were hauled from the sea, with the luxury holiday villas of the French Riviera visible on the coastline behind.

The Saudi royal family own a huge villa on a small stretch of beach opposite the site, which was the focus of a scandal in 2015 when King Salman tried to privatise the sand for his holiday and caused an uproar among locals.

The fine white sand is a problem for the clean-up team of divers, which struggle with low visibility as they find the tyres and thread them on to wire cables which are then lifted to the surface.

“In the morning, it’s easy, the water’s clear,” crew member Morgan Postic on board the Ocea vessel said. “But as we stir it all up down at the bottom, you can’t see anything and it gets much more complicated.”

The tyres will be sent to the nearby city of Nice and then to recycling centres where they will be broken up into granules that can be used in construction projects.

“After that we’ll leave the seabed to restore itself naturally and we’ll continue to monitor with censors,” said marine scientist Patrice Francour from the University of Nice, who is working on the issue.

Francour said the clean-up would end France’s one and only experiment with a “tyre reef”, but that other countries still had to deal with the legacy of the failed idea, notably the United States.

A million euros (RM4.86 million) has been provided by the French state to finance the French clean-up, while French tyre company Michelin has contributed €200,000. — AFP

Mideast peace hopes at Camp David 40 years ago

PARIS: Four decades ago the leaders of Israel and Egypt reached a deal at an epic summit that led to the first peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation.

The Camp David Accords, thrashed out over days of talks hosted by then US president Jimmy Carter, were signed on Sept 17, 1978.

Here is a look back at that key moment in history.

Series of wars

In 1973, Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel with the aim of forcing it to return territory seized from them in 1967.

Egypt makes a significant advance, even though it is eventually repelled.

Empowered, it agrees to attend a peace conference called in December in Geneva under the auspices of the United States and Soviet Union.

It brings Israelis and Arabs together for direct negotiations for the first time. Syrians and Palestinians do not attend, however, and the meeting adjourns.

First Arab leader in Israel

On Nov 9, 1977 Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat announces — to the general surprise of all — that he is prepared to visit Israel in a bid for peace.

“I am ready to go to the end of the world if this would prevent the wounding, let alone the killing, of a soldier or an officer,” he says.

After receiving a formal invitation from Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Sadat arrives in Jerusalem on Nov 19, making the first visit by an Arab head of state to the Jewish nation.

Sadat shakes hands with his foes in the Israeli leadership and calls for a “just and permanent peace” in the entire region.

But it takes 10 more months of tough diplomatic exchange before further negotiations can take place.

Agreement at Camp David

In August 1978, Carter invites Sadat and Begin to meet in the United States.

Their summit gets underway on Sept 5 at Camp David, the presidential weekend retreat 100km from Washington, in a forested area with about 20 chalets.

For 13 days the three talk, surrounded by their diplomatic and military advisors, cut off from the rest of the world.

They sketch out and discuss 23 versions of an eventual peace accord, making countless revisions.

The negotiations continue into the night and at times the summit teeters on the edge of breakdown. Carter is in a constant back-and-forth between Sadat and Begin.

Eventually, it all comes together.

Warm embrace

Sadat and Begin sign the Camp David Accords on Sept 17, a determined Carter pushing negotiations until the very last minute. The two foes embrace, stunning the world.

There are two documents: the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East”, which outlines the basis of a peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and “Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel”.

Included are “side letters” confirming that Egypt and Israel remain in disagreement on the status of the holy city of Jerusalem and on the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From Nobel to assassination

Other Arab nations are enraged with Egypt, believing that the truce agreed by the military and political heavyweight, also the historical leader of pan-Arabism, has upended the regional balance of power in favour of Israel.

They protest that the deal ignores the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the rights of the Palestinian people.

In November, Sadat and Begin win the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts at Camp David.

In Washington on March 26, 1979, they sign the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty, which sets the terms for Egypt recovering the Sinai from Israel in 1982.

Arab countries slam the treaty as a “separate peace” and a betrayal, and break off relations with Egypt, suspending it from the Arab League.

Sadat, also criticised in his own country, is assassinated in October 1981.

In 1994, Jordan becomes the second Arab nation to normalise ties with Israel. — AFP

Mideast peace hopes at Camp David 40 years ago

PARIS: Four decades ago the leaders of Israel and Egypt reached a deal at an epic summit that led to the first peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation.

The Camp David Accords, thrashed out over days of talks hosted by then US president Jimmy Carter, were signed on Sept 17, 1978.

Here is a look back at that key moment in history.

Series of wars

In 1973, Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel with the aim of forcing it to return territory seized from them in 1967.

Egypt makes a significant advance, even though it is eventually repelled.

Empowered, it agrees to attend a peace conference called in December in Geneva under the auspices of the United States and Soviet Union.

It brings Israelis and Arabs together for direct negotiations for the first time. Syrians and Palestinians do not attend, however, and the meeting adjourns.

First Arab leader in Israel

On Nov 9, 1977 Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat announces — to the general surprise of all — that he is prepared to visit Israel in a bid for peace.

“I am ready to go to the end of the world if this would prevent the wounding, let alone the killing, of a soldier or an officer,” he says.

After receiving a formal invitation from Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Sadat arrives in Jerusalem on Nov 19, making the first visit by an Arab head of state to the Jewish nation.

Sadat shakes hands with his foes in the Israeli leadership and calls for a “just and permanent peace” in the entire region.

But it takes 10 more months of tough diplomatic exchange before further negotiations can take place.

Agreement at Camp David

In August 1978, Carter invites Sadat and Begin to meet in the United States.

Their summit gets underway on Sept 5 at Camp David, the presidential weekend retreat 100km from Washington, in a forested area with about 20 chalets.

For 13 days the three talk, surrounded by their diplomatic and military advisors, cut off from the rest of the world.

They sketch out and discuss 23 versions of an eventual peace accord, making countless revisions.

The negotiations continue into the night and at times the summit teeters on the edge of breakdown. Carter is in a constant back-and-forth between Sadat and Begin.

Eventually, it all comes together.

Warm embrace

Sadat and Begin sign the Camp David Accords on Sept 17, a determined Carter pushing negotiations until the very last minute. The two foes embrace, stunning the world.

There are two documents: the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East”, which outlines the basis of a peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and “Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel”.

Included are “side letters” confirming that Egypt and Israel remain in disagreement on the status of the holy city of Jerusalem and on the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From Nobel to assassination

Other Arab nations are enraged with Egypt, believing that the truce agreed by the military and political heavyweight, also the historical leader of pan-Arabism, has upended the regional balance of power in favour of Israel.

They protest that the deal ignores the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the rights of the Palestinian people.

In November, Sadat and Begin win the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts at Camp David.

In Washington on March 26, 1979, they sign the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty, which sets the terms for Egypt recovering the Sinai from Israel in 1982.

Arab countries slam the treaty as a “separate peace” and a betrayal, and break off relations with Egypt, suspending it from the Arab League.

Sadat, also criticised in his own country, is assassinated in October 1981.

In 1994, Jordan becomes the second Arab nation to normalise ties with Israel. — AFP

Perakian father and son walk 1,400km from Johor to Perlis

AFTER reaching Esplanade, Penang, a father and son have 400 km left to go before reaching Perlis on foot by Malaysia Day, while carrying the Malaysian and Perak state flag.

This was the fifth time R. Ragu, 43, had organised such an event and had planned to make it as a tradition every year to celebrate Malaysia Day.

SMK St. Michael student R. Surya, 13, had joined his father in the walk since 2013, but only managed to go for 20 km. This year, he has accompanied with his father throughout the whole trip.

The father of five said the 28-day walk was inspired by his daughter who had first done the walk with a passion to express her patriotism around Malaysia.

He wished that Malaysia’s independence should be celebrated for a longer period rather than just a single day.

“If festivals such as Hari Raya Adilfitri, Deevapali and Christmas can be celebrated for a month, why can’t Malaysia’s independence do the same? People had sacrificed their lives for our country’s independence and I believe that every Malaysians should acknowledge and appreciate that,” he told the reporters today.

He also welcomed the public, especially youngsters, who wished to join him for his future walks, but would require undergoing physical and mental training.

Meanwhile, when asked about the unique encounters they had throughout the journey, Ragu said that the whole trip was uneventful until they crossed over Perak’s border.

He said that he and his son had gone through ups-and-downs, from drivers throwing rubbish at them from vehicles and been called “stupid and crazy” to being invited to strangers’ home for meals and wedding ceremonies, but their most memorable experience was created on Monday night in Esplanade, Penang.

The father and son were accompanied by members of Penang Mountain Bike Association (PMA) at Esplanade and not only did they receive a lot of donations from passer-bys, but had also sang and cheered as buskers played the national song.

“We do not have any sponsor this year for our trip and our total expense was RM21,000, but what happened last night had been a huge moral support for us. Just a few days ago, when my son was being yelled at by the drivers, he was (mentally) broken and I have to keep comforting him along the journey, but last night (at the Esplanade), he could not sleep even until 1am, telling me how Penang was the best while crying tears of joy,” he said.

The event on Monday night was broadcast live on social media in PMA’s Facebook page and had over 3,000 views within 12 hours. — Bernama