Greece’s Alexis Tsipras paid a visit to Istanbul’s Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for the first time as prime minister Wednesday.

The 41-year-old leader met with Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based leader of many of the world’s Orthodox Christians at the administration building of the Patriarchate in Istanbul’s historic Fener district.

Speaking to the press after the hour-long meeting Bartholomew I said that the two discussed refugee crisis as well as relations with Greece and interreligious dialogue.

“[Tsipras] had visited us three times. We met also in Athens. We know each other very well. I wish him success on his difficult task,” he said.

Tsipras is in Turkey for a two-day visit to discuss, among other issues, the ongoing refugee crisis.

More than 150,000 people crossed from Turkey to Greece last month, compared with more than 8,500 in October 2014, according to EU’s border agency, Frontex.

The EU leaders have agreed to discuss a 3-billion-euro ($3.23 billion) deal with Turkey for refugee support and to help stem the tide of people fleeing the Syrian conflict.

The Turkish government, according to official figures, has so far spent $8 billion to accommodate around 2.5 million refugees it hosts inside the country.

Tsipras arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday evening and watched, alongside Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, a friendly match between Turkey and Greece in Istanbul, which resulted in a scoreless draw.

Tsipras is expected to meet with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as other political party leaders in Turkey.

fter a contentious debate over policy towards Syria, the European Union agreed Monday to let its embargo on arms shipments to Syrian rebels – and the Syrian government – expire at the end of the month, possibly the best news that the beleaguered forces battling to topple President Bashar Assad have had since their uprising began 26 months ago..

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said there was “no immediate decision to send arms” to the rebels, in a tweet reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Britain and France had been the main backers of an end to the embargo, which expires Thursday, while Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic were among those objecting.

The news upstaged a dramatic show of support for the rebels by U.S. Sen. John McCain, who slipped into Syria earlier Monday from southern Turkey and met with Salim Idriss, the defected Syrian general who is head of the opposition’s Supreme Military Council, the group through which the United States and other nations have agreed to route all military and non-lethal assistance.

Still, it remained to be seen if those morale-boosting developments could overcome the deep disarray that engulfed a conference of leaders of Syria’s political opposition, who completed a fifth day of meetings without agreement on a range of issues, including expanded membership and what to do about a proposed peace conference tentatively set for next month. The meeting has run so far beyond its expected length that the luxury hotel where the Syrian Opposition Coalition has been holding its conference demanded that the delegates vacate their rooms for other guests.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to go over plans for a peace conference on Syria next month in Geneva. Syria announced Sunday that it would send a delegation to the Geneva talks, but spoke of starting a “dialogue” with rebels rather than negotiating a transition to a post-Assad regime, as the U.S. has demanded.

Lavrov told reporters organizing the conference was “a tall order” but said “the chances for success are there.” According to Western diplomats, Russia insists that there be neither agenda nor preconditions for the talks and refuses even to ask the U.N. Security Council to enforce the outcome of the conference.

In his remarks, Kerry said the United States was committed to convening the conference, though there were many details that had yet to be agreed on, among them who should be invited to the conference besides Russia, the United States, the Syrian government and its opposition. Iran has asked that it be invited and Iraq announced on Sunday that it intended to participate. But Kerry indicated that the guest list was still subject to negotiation between the United States and Russia, calling it “an ongoing conversation.”

McCain has publicly advocated arming the Syrian rebels, but he issued no statement after the visit and there was little specific information on where they met, how the senator’s security was assured, or whether the Obama administration had been informed in advance of the visit. Idriss’ headquarters are in the town of Bab al Hawa, just across the border from Reyhanli, Turkey, where two car bombs killed more than 40 people three weeks ago. But it was unknown if that was the location of the meeting. Bab al Hawa has been under the control of rebel groups since last year, but is still the site of occasional Syrian government bombardment, as well as gun battles between rival rebel factions.

A decision by the Syrian opposition on whether to participate in the Geneva talks and under what conditions had been on the agenda of the coalition in its closed door conference that began last Thursday, but that and the formation of a government-in-exile and even the election of new leaders seemed out of reach early Tuesday local time as delegates continued to wrangle over how to expand the coalition’s membership.

Conference participants put the blame on the outside backers of the civil opposition and the military force – Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain and France – for insisting that the 63-member general assembly be expanded by at least 25 members. The Saudis, who have objected in the past that members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood played too strong a role in exile politics, are said to have pushed hardest for enlarging the group, formally known as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

The coalition came under scathing criticism from inside and outside of Syria Monday. “This has been a total failure,” said Radwan Ziadeh, who runs a Washington think-tank on Syria, referring to the lack of accomplishments after five days of meetings.

An activist in Damascus, who uses the pen name Maan al Hammwi, posted a new “group event” on Facebook, the “Let us all be killed in silence” campaign. “I as a Syrian citizen, call upon the Syrian coalition and all of the political powers to suspend their work immediately,” he said, demanding first an international “decision” on Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons and the involvement of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces in the ground war.

“If the Syrian coalition does not suspend its work, then I announce that it does not represent me, and it never shall represent me,” he wrote. “Let us die with honor and in silence, without humiliating ourselves,” he added. As of midday Monday, 278 people had signed up for the “event.”

The coalition did vote in the early hours Monday local time to add eight new members, but one of them, Christian dissident Michel Kilo, the principal proponent of a major expansion, was already in the coalition but hadn’t taken up his seat, and a second, women’s rights activist Farah al Atassi, suspended her participation immediately after the vote, criticizing the highly charged process.

The membership issue took up nearly all of Monday, except for some preliminary discussion about the Geneva talks, and the disarray in the organization extended to its public face, with spokesmen unable to brief reporters on the meeting or on the biographies of the new members.

Having achieved none of its program objectives during five full days of discussion, and forced to vacate the hotel, the coalition came up a familiar solution – another two-day extension and a move to another hotel, this one on the outskirts of Istanbul.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “We wanted to see the latest developments in informatics sector by visiting the Silicon Valley before we hold a bid for FATIH project because we plan to realize a similar project in Istanbul.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Silicon Valley in San Francisco on Saturday.

His initial stop was Microsoft, where he was welcomed by the CEO Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer, who is in charge of Turkish National Education Ministry’s FATIH project; aiming to equalize opportunities in education and improving technology in schools, briefed Erdogan about the project.

Later on, Erdogan moved to Apple and Google, where he had a test drive by the self-driving car.

Erdogan said that a bid related to FATIH project would be held next week, and added, “We wanted to see the latest developments in informatics sector before we launched the FATIH bid by visiting the Silicon Valley because we plan to realize a similar project in Istanbul. Our first aim is to produce 10,600,000 tablets within FATIH project, which will be followed by 2-2.5 million tablet production.”

Erdogan also mentioned that they planned to cover all the classes with smart boards, and said, “We want to grow our young minds, engineers for research and development, for all these production.”

Google’s business development Director Seval Oz, the sister of well known Turkish doctor in the US Mehmet Oz, briefed Erdogan on the self-driving cars and smart eyeglasses.

OZ said that around 100 Turks were working at Google, adding that this was an inadequate number.


Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...