Sliding in the Polls, Erdogan Kicks Up a New Storm Over the Bosporus

ISTANBUL — The unpredictable roller coaster that has become Turkish politics was on full display this past week after 104 retired admirals publicly challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an open letter — and 10 of them ended up in jail, accused of plotting a coup.

It was no accident that the episode came as Mr. Erdogan finds himself in the midst one of the most intense political passages of his career, as the worsening pandemic and economy have left the president sliding in the opinion polls even as he amasses more powers.

To inspire the party faithful, Mr. Erdogan has returned again to herald one of his favorite grand ideas: to carve a canal, through Istanbul, from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea to open a new shipping route parallel to the narrow Bosporus.

For now, the use of those natural waterwaysis governed by the Montreux Convention, an international treaty forged in 1936, between the two World Wars, in an attempt to eliminate volatile tensions over one of the world’s most vital maritime choke points.

blog, the Yetkinreport, “shifts the current agenda from the pandemic and the economy to fields that the A.K.P. likes.”

The pandemic’s toll is now worse than ever in Turkey, with more than 50,000 new cases recorded daily. An increasingly sharp economic crunch looms, too, as the government’s pandemic support for businesses is scheduled to end and inflation and unemployment remain alarmingly high.

In the midst of the troubles, Mr. Erdogan’s party has slipped to below 30 percent in a recent opinion poll, and his political ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, has fallen as low as 6 percent, making his re-election to the presidency in 2023 seem increasingly difficult.

Even his own supporters recognize that a bruising fight lies ahead. “We have entered the long two-year election process leading to the 2023 elections,” Burhanettin Duran, the director of SETA, a pro-government research organization, wrote in a column in the Daily Sabah newspaper this past week.

“Due to the recent declaration,” he said, referring to the admirals’ letter, “now there is a possibility that the process will be painful.” He predicted a combined domestic and international campaign against Mr. Erdogan’s government.

Mr. Erdogan has promised that his multibillion-dollar canal plan would create a construction and real estate boom and bring in revenue from an increase in shipping traffic.

Investigative journalists have exposed real estate deals in which prospectors from the Middle East have bought up much of the land along where the canal will be built.

Yet Mr. Erdogan said at a regional party congress in Istanbul in February that the project would go ahead, despite opposition.

“They don’t like it, do they? They are trying to prevent it, aren’t they?” he said in his keynote speech. “Despite them, we will build the Istanbul Canal.’’

The admirals are far from the only opponents of the canal. Others include the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, along with environmentalists, ecologists and urban planners.

But the admirals raised particular ire from Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists by including in their letter criticism of a currently serving admiral who was caught on video attending prayers with a religious sect.

The retired admirals made a point of reaffirming their adherence to the secular ideals of the Turkish republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The government machinery pounced swiftly.

Ten of the signatories were detained on Monday, and another four were ordered to report to the police but were not jailed in view of their advanced years. Mr. Erdogan accused them of plotting a coup, a toxic allegation after four years of thousands of detentions and purges since the last failed coup. Some saw that as a warning to serving officers who might have similar thoughts.

Mr. Erdogan had “got his groove back” Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, wrote in an analysis.

The admirals’ letter did not come out of the blue. A year earlier, 126 retired Turkish diplomats had penned an open letter warning against withdrawing from the convention. The debate reveals the deep divisions between secularists and Islamists that have been tearing Turkey apart since Mr. Erdogan’s rise to power in 2002.

Caught up in their own dislike of the secular republic that replaced the Ottoman Empire, the Islamists distrust the Montreux Convention, said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. That was an erroneous reading of history, she added, but Mr. Erdogan feels that the convention needs “to be modernized to meet Turkey’s new coveted role as a regional heavyweight.”

Secularists, as well as most Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts, see the Montreux Convention as a win for Turkey and fundamental to Turkish independence and to stability in the region.

Russia would have most to lose from a change in the treaty, said Serhat Guvenc, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, although any alteration or break up of the convention seems inconceivable, since it would demand consensus from the multiple signatories.

“Russia would resent it and be provoked,” he said. The United States and China would gain, since neither currently is allowed to move large warships or aircraft carriers into the Black Sea.

Most analysts said that Mr. Erdogan and his advisers knew the impossibility of changing the Montreux Convention, but that the veteran politician is using the issue to kick up a storm.

“It is the government’s way of lobbying for the canal,” Ms. Aydintasbas said. “Erdogan is adamant about building a channel parallel to the Bosporus, and one of the government’s arguments will likely be that this new strait allows Turkey to have full sovereignty — as opposed to the free passage of Montreux.”

That interpretation is both inaccurate and dangerous, she said. “Inaccurate because as long as Montreux is there, no vessel is obliged to use the new canal. Dangerous because it could aggravate the Russians and the international community.”

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Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s President, Has Little Sway Over Its Future

KABUL, Afghanistan — He attends international conferences, meets with diplomats, recently inaugurated a dam and delivers patriotic speeches vowing to defend his country against the Taliban.

But how much control President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has over his imperiled country’s future and his own has become a matter of debate among politicians, analysts and citizens. Or rather, the question has been largely resolved: not much.

From most vantage points, Mr. Ghani — well qualified for his job and deeply credentialed, with Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, Columbia, the World Bank and the United Nations in his background — is thoroughly isolated. A serious author with a first-class intellect, he is dependent on the counsel of a handful, unwilling to even watch television news, those who know him say, and losing allies fast.

That spells trouble for a country where a hard-line Islamist insurgency has the upper hand militarily, where nearly half the population faces hunger at crisis levels, according to the United Nations, where the overwhelming balance of government money comes from abroad and where weak governance and widespread corruption are endemic.

recent letter to him from Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was so harsh that even Afghans critical of Mr. Ghani found it insulting.

In language more likely to be used with an unruly schoolboy than a head of state, the letter repeated the phrase “I urge you” three times. “I must also make clear to you, Mr. President,” Mr. Blinken continued, “that as our policy process continues in Washington, the United States has not ruled out any option.” The unspoken subtext was clear: Your influence is minimal.

“As an Afghan, a sense of humiliation comes over you,” said Hekmat Khalil Karzai, the head of an Afghan think tank and a cousin of the former president, Hamid Karzai. “But I also feel Ghani deserves it,” Mr. Karzai said. “He’s dealing with the kiss of death from his own closest partner.”

The Biden administration is banking on multinational talks, tentatively set for later this month in Istanbul, to establish a plan for moving forward. At the heart of the U.S. proposal is a temporary government to hold power until elections can be held.

In this interim body, the Taliban and the current government would share power, according to a leaked draft. Such a setup could require Mr. Ghani to step down, a move he has repeatedly refused to consider.

Mr. Ghani has come up with a counterproposal that he plans to release soon, which calls for a cease-fire, a temporary “government of peace” whose potential makeup remains unclear, and then early elections in which he promises not to run.

Both the American plan and Mr. Ghani’s could be non-starters, as the Taliban have never said they would agree to elections, nor have they indicated that they would go along with any sort of government plan or be content with power-sharing.

“From what we’re seeing, they want absolute power, and they are waiting to take power by force,” Mr. Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, said in an interview.

While Mr. Ghani is steadily losing political capital in Kabul and with international partners, the country’s military position is deteriorating. Each day brings news of security force members blown up or gunned down.

“They can’t keep doing that,” said a senior Western diplomat in Kabul, commenting on the steady attrition. “The toll on the government, and the credibility and legitimacy it has, it’s not sustainable.”

Visions of September 1996, when the Taliban rolled into Kabul virtually unopposed and proceeded to establish their harsh regime, haunt the capital.

Deep inside the presidential palace compound, an 83-acre parklike campus protected by seven layers of security, Mr. Ghani’s inner circle of close aides is small and shrinking. He fired his respected interior minister, an army general, after a military helicopter was shot down by one of the country’s numerous militias last month. His attorney general, who had a rare reputation for integrity, stepped down. He pushed out his short-tenured finance minister.

One senior former official argued that he was cut off from reality and what is going on on the ground.

Mr. Mohib, however, pushed back on this assessment. “This criticism comes from a political elite which thinks it has been marginalized,” he said.

Some former officials characterized Mr. Ghani as being compelled to micromanage, including involving himself in the details of military matters and personnel decisions even down to the local police chief level. “He likes that, because he feels he’s the only one,” said Mr. Karzai, meaning the only one competent to make serious decisions.

Mr. Mohib called the micromanagement accusation “a huge exaggeration,” saying that the president had not attended a security meeting “in weeks,” adding that “he is aware of the strategic picture.”

Mr. Ghani’s communications office did not agree to a request for an interview with the president. A senior aide did not respond to an interview request.

The consequences of Mr. Ghani’s isolation appear to be unfolding in real time. The president has a potent vision for the country, but selling it and making it work politically is not his strong suit, and it shows up in the nation’s divisions, said the senior Western diplomat in Kabul. That’s not good for Afghan unity, the diplomat argued.

These divisions echo out from Kabul into the country’s fractious regions, where independent militias and other longstanding power-brokers have either rearmed themselves or are preparing to do so.

In the center of the country, a low-intensity fight between government forces and the militia of a minority Shiite warlord has been smoldering for months, fueled by the downing of an Afghan forces helicopter in March. Mr. Ghani and his aides have taken an active role in managing the conflict, to the dismay of the Afghan military.

“This is what we wanted to avoid. We are already stretched,” said a senior Afghan security official. “And here, you want to start another war?”

The upcoming talks in Turkey could well end up like the recent ones in Moscow and Dushanbe, Tajikistan — with bland communiqués deploring violence and hoping for peace. The American idea — to substitute new talks in a new locale for the old talks in Qatar that have gone nowhere — is not necessarily a winning bet. Indeed, the early signs are not promising, with Mr. Ghani once again rejecting preliminary American proposals, and the Taliban aggressively noncommittal about the ideas currently on the table.

“If the U.S. pulls out, and there is no political agreement, then we are in deep trouble,” said the senior Afghan security official.

“Militarily, we don’t have much hope,” he said. “If we don’t get something, the Taliban are going to march. It’s going to be a severe battle.”

Fahim Abed contributed reporting.

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Turkey Fights for Return of a Work It Says Was Looted

The marble idol was carved as many as 6,000 years ago, a 9-inch-tall female figure with a sleek, abstract form, its head tilted slightly upward as if staring into the firmament.

By the 1960s the idol had been transported to the United States, where it was in the possession of the court tennis star and art collector Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife, Edith, and known as “The Guennol Stargazer.”

Christie’s listed the stargazer for sale in 2017, drawing the attention of the Turkish government, which asked for the auction to be halted.

The Turkish government then sued Christie’s, saying the idol had been looted. The government asked the court to find that it is the rightful owner of the idol and cited the 1906 Ottoman Decree, which asserts broad ownership of antiquities found in Turkey. But the auction proceeded and the idol fetched a price of $14.4 million, before the unidentified buyer backed away.

agreed to return a collection known as the Lydian Hoard, which included more than 200 gold, silver and bronze objects from the reign of King Croesus of Lydia, a kingdom in western Asia Minor that flourished in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.

And in 2012, the government of Turkey asked museums in Los Angeles, New York and Washington to turn over dozens of artifacts it said were looted from the country’s archaeological sites.

It is generally accepted that the item at issue in the lawsuit originated in Kulaksizlar, the home of the only workshop known to have produced the stargazers. The figures were so-called because of the angle at which a large head rests on a thin neck, Christie’s said in an online description, creating “the whimsical impression of the figure staring up at the heavens.”

When the Guennol Stargazer was first listed for auction, Christie’s said it was “considered to be one of the most impressive of its type known to exist,” adding that it had been on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at various periods from 1966 to 2007.

The Turkish government said that one of its witnesses, Neil Brodie, a senior research fellow in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, would provide “comprehensive scientific evidence” for his conclusion that the idol was almost certainly found in Turkey.

for part of the Lydian Hoard. (The museum’s former director, Thomas Hoving, once referred to Klejman as among his “favorite dealer-smugglers.”)

Christie’s and Steinhardt have maintained that the Turkish government cannot prove ownership of the idol under the 1906 decree because it has “no direct evidence of where or when the Stargazer Idol was found, excavated or exported: it has no witnesses to the excavation or export and no photographs.”

The defendants also have said that Turkey knew about the presence of the idol in New York as early as 1992 but did not act on that knowledge.

“Turkey’s 25-year delay in making its claim baited the trap for dealers, collectors and auction houses,” defense lawyers said in court papers. “And set them up for huge losses when Turkey claimed the Idol only after it came up for sale at a major auction house.”

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Latest Updates: Prince Philip’s Funeral Will Be Scaled Back Due to Covid

The death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, at 99 on Friday came at the end of a year marked by mourning, with 150,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in Britain.

Buckingham Palace said that Prince Philip had died peacefully, and he was vaccinated against the coronavirus early this year, along with the queen.

Yet his death is likely to take on a new meaning in the middle of a pandemic, and to raise many questions: What will the funeral look like at a time of social distancing measures? With global travel restrictions in place, when will his grandson Prince Harry be able return from the United States with his wife, Meghan?

And with families across Britain unable to hold typical funerals for loved ones lost to Covid-19, how will the country’s most famous family mourn one of their own?

The palace said that a full outline would soon be released, and details began to emerge on Friday. The ceremony will not be a state funeral and will not be preceded by a lying-in-state, according to a statement from the College of Arms, which has created and maintained official registers of coats of arms and pedigrees since 1484.

“His Royal Highness’s body will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral in St. George’s Chapel,” the statement said.

“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added, “and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral.”

Philip had been hospitalized in February for a heart problem and was discharged last month. Buckingham Palace said that his hospitalization was not related to the coronavirus.

But the privileges of royalty did not grant the family immunity from the virus.

Prince Charles — Prince Philip’s and Queen Elizabeth’s elder son and the heir to the throne — tested positive for the virus last year, as did Prince William, their grandson.

The queen has encouraged people in the country to be vaccinated. “Once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected,” she said in a public call with health officials.

Britain is slowly emerging from a stringent national lockdown of recent months, with outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants scheduled to reopen on Monday, as well as nonessential shops, gyms and hair salons. But many bereaved families of those lost to Covid-19 have said that as the country moves to brighter days, the staggering deaths of 150,000 people should not be forgotten.

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‘An Ethic of Service’: Boris Johnson Remembers Prince Philip

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eulogized Prince Philip, detailing his long life and how he served the British people.

Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world. He was the longest-serving consort in history, one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War at Cape Matapan, where he was mentioned in dispatches for bravery, and in the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking. And from that conflict, he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the post-war era. Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy. So that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

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On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eulogized Prince Philip, detailing his long life and how he served the British people.CreditCredit…Leon Neal/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain led tributes to Prince Philip on Friday, praising his lifelong support for Queen Elizabeth II and adding that he had “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”

“He was the longest-serving consort in history and one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement read in somber tones.

Referring to the prince’s hobby of driving horse-drawn carriages, Mr. Johnson added that “like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, echoed those sentiments, saying that Britain had “lost an extraordinary public servant.”

“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh,” Mr. Starmer added in a statement. “However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the queen.”

Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she was saddened by the news of Philip’s death and that she was sending her deepest condolences to the royal family.

Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, said that he was grateful for the contributions Philip had made to the city, including his charity work, and that his legacy would positively impact the city for many years to come.

Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, also paid tribute, saying, “His was a long life that saw so much dedication to duty.”

In prerecorded remarks broadcast on ITV News, Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, reflected on Philip’s supporting role: “It must be quite difficult for a male consort. They have to recognize their life is the monarch or head of state. But throughout his life, Prince Philip provided that strength, that rock, that reliable support and played an immensely important role,” she said.

Outside Buckingham Palace in London on Friday.
Credit…Alastair Grant/Associated Press

With Queen Elizabeth in residence at Windsor Castle outside London, mourning the death of her husband, Prince Philip, on Friday, crowds gathered outside the gates of the world’s largest and oldest inhabited castle to pay their respects.

They came to leave flowers, take pictures and note the death of a member of an institution that — despite periods of deep turmoil — still commands respect and fascination.

Outside Buckingham Palace in central London, crowds also formed soon after the news of his death emerged.

A small girl unfurled a British flag on the pavement before the flowers laid at the gate of the magisterial royal home.

“I just have so much respect for Prince Philip and all he’s done,” said Britta Bia, 53. “I have so much respect for the royal family. I think they’ve done so much for charitable causes, and I think they’ve been upstanding citizens of the commonwealth.”

Lottie Smith, 18, said it was a moment to reflect on what really matters in life.

Ms. Smith and two friends who live in Greenwich heard of his death while they were on the train in to London, and decided to take a detour to the palace.

Catherine Vellacott, 19, said she hoped his death would “maybe unite the nation more.”

Peter Appleby, 22, flowers in hand, said that it was one more loss in a year marked by death.

“He’s had a hard year like everybody, and it doesn’t cost much to come and show a bit of respect,” he said.

Elizabeth and Prince Philip, center, on their wedding day.
Credit…Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II, already Britain’s longest-serving monarch, passed a new milestone in 2017 when she and Prince Philip became the longest-married couple of the country’s royal family.

Where and when they first met remains unclear. He was invited to dine on the royal yacht when Elizabeth was 13 or 14. He was also invited to stay at Windsor Castle around that time while on leave from the Navy, and there were reports that he visited the royal family at Balmoral, its country estate in Scotland.

After that weekend, Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that the naval officer was “the only man I could ever love.” Her father at first cautioned her to be patient.

Whisked off on a royal tour to South Africa, Elizabeth was said to have written to Philip three times a week. By the time she returned to England, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had renounced his foreign titles and become Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a British subject.

The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947. That year, on the eve of the wedding, Lieutenant Mountbatten was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron of Greenwich, and given the title His Royal Highness.

The prince, 26, married the young crown princess, who was 21, on Nov. 20, 1947, in a ceremony complete with horse-drawn coaches and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

The birth of their first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, on Nov. 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace, was followed by Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew, in 1960, after Elizabeth became queen; and Prince Edward, in 1964.

In addition to the queen and their children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

After his marriage, Prince Philip took command of the frigate Magpie in Malta. But King George VI had lung cancer, and when his condition worsened, it was announced that Philip would take no more naval appointments.

In 1952, the young couple were in Kenya, their first stop on a commonwealth tour, when word arrived on Feb. 6 that the king was dead. Philip broke the news to his wife.

The same year, the new queen ordained that Philip should be “first gentleman in the land,” giving him “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.”

Philip occupied a peculiar place on the world stage as the husband of a queen whose powers were largely ceremonial. He was essentially a second-fiddle figurehead, accompanying her on royal visits and sometimes standing in for her.

By royal warrant, the queen gave Philip the title Prince of the United Kingdom, bringing her husband’s name into the royal line.

While at times there were rumors of trouble in the marriage, their children’s marital difficulties overshadowed any discord between the parents.

From left, Princess Fedora of Greece, Romania’s King Michael, his mother Princess Helene, Princess Irene of Greece, Princess Marguerite of Greece, Prince Philip of Greece and Prince Paul of Greece, at Mamaia, Romania.
Credit…Associated Press

Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who was the brother of King Constantine of Greece. His mother was the former Princess Alice, the oldest daughter of the former Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first Marquess of Milford Haven, who changed the family name to Mountbatten during World War I.

Philip’s family was not Greek but rather descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece at the end of the 19th century. Philip, who never learned the Greek language, was sixth in line to the Greek throne.

Through his mother, Philip was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, just as Elizabeth is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. Both were great-great-great-grandchildren of George III, who presided over Britain’s loss of the American colonies.

A year after Philip was born, the army of King Constantine was overwhelmed by the Turks in Asia Minor. Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, who had commanded an army corps in the routed Greek forces, was banished by a revolutionary Greek junta.

In “Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II” (2011), the British writer Philip Eade reported that as an infant Philip was smuggled out of Greece in a fruit crate as his father, eluding execution, found refuge for his family in Paris, where they lived in straitened circumstances.

Philip’s father was said to have been an Anglophile. The boy’s first language was English, taught to him by a British nanny. He grew to 6-foot-1, his blue eyes and blond hair reflecting his Nordic ancestry.

When his parents separated, Philip was sent to live with his mother’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He spent four years at the Cheam School in England, an institution bent on toughening privileged children, and then went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was even more austere, promoting a regimen of hard work, cold showers and hard beds. In five years, he said, no one from his family came to visit him.

Even so, Philip sent his son Charles to both schools, to have him follow in his footsteps.

At Gordonstoun, Philip developed a love of the sea, learning seamanship and boatbuilding as a volunteer coast guardsman at the school. He seemed destined to follow his Mountbatten uncles into the British Navy.

Prince Philip, center, in Edinburgh in 2017. He once asked a driving instructor in Scotland, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”
Credit…Pool photo by Jane Barlow

Brusque, avuncular and with a reputation for being overly plain-speaking, Prince Philip over the years produced a collection of offensive, tone deaf and, on occasion, outrageous one-liners that were recorded by generations of British journalists.

His propensity to embarrass Buckingham Palace waxed and waned over the years, but never entirely faded even after decades of dinners, ceremonies and other engagements alongside Queen Elizabeth II. Some examples:

On a trip to Canada in 1969: “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.”

On another tour of Canada in 1976: “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

During a recession in Britain in 1981: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.”

When accepting a figurine from a woman during a visit to Kenya in 1984: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”

Speaking to British students in China during a 1986 state visit: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

To a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, in 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

Suggesting to a British student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that people there were still cannibals: “You managed not to get eaten, then?”

Visiting a factory in Edinburgh in 1999, pointing to an old-fashioned fuse box: “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.”

Speaking to young deaf people in Cardiff, Wales, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band: “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.”

Meeting the president of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional robes: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”

To a group of female Labour Party lawmakers at a party at Buckingham Palace in 2000: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

Prince Edward, center right, and his father, Prince Philip, right, in 2012.
Credit…Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As British leaders offered tributes and condolences, members of the royal family also offered personal recollections about Prince Philip.

His youngest son, Prince Edward, said in comments pre-recorded for ITV News that his parents had been “such a fantastic support to each other during all those years and all those events and all those tours and events overseas.”

“To have someone that you confide in and smile about things that you perhaps could not in public,” Edward said, “to be able to share that is immensely important.”

As for Philip’s occasionally abrasive interactions with the news media over the decades, Edward said that his father “used to give them as good as he got, and always in a very entertaining way.”

Edward, 57, added: “Anyone who had the privilege to hear him speak said it was his humor which always came through and the twinkle in his eye.”

Prince Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, said that her father’s decision to give up his naval career demonstrated his level of commitment to Queen Elizabeth.

“It shows a real understanding of the pressure the queen was going through, and that the best way he could support her was on giving up on his career,” added Anne, 70.

“Without him,” she said, “life will be completely different.”

Members of the news media reporting outside Buckingham Palace on Friday.
Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Leaders from around the world offered tributes to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday, recalling his decades of service, his career in the Royal Navy and his role in Britain’s royal family.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said in a statement that the prince had “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said Philip “had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said the prince would be “remembered as a decorated naval officer, a dedicated philanthropist and a constant in the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”

“A man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others, Prince Philip contributed so much to the social fabric of our country — and the world,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called Philip “the consummate public servant” and said he would be “much missed in Israel and across the world.”

Others to offer condolences included Prime Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand; Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission; Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader; and Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister.

The White House had not responded as of Friday morning, but other former American officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence and President George W. Bush, offered their condolences.

“He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign,” President Bush said in a statement. He added that he and his wife, Laura Bush, were “fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.”

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Slovakia Claims a Bait-and-Switch With the Russian Vaccines it Ordered

The European Union’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has so far declined to approve the Russian vaccine for use and only two members of the bloc, Hungary and Slovakia, have placed orders for Sputnik V. Serbia, which is not a member of the bloc, has also ordered Sputnik V and begun using it in a mass inoculation program that has been far more successful than the stumbling efforts of most European Union states.

Even Germany, a stickler for procedure, has expressed growing interest in Sputnik V. Health Minister Jens Spahn told the public broadcaster WDR on Thursday that he would like to start bilateral talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the vaccine, which would go through only if it is approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The previous day, Markus Söder, the governor of Bavaria, said his government had signed a preliminary agreement to buy 2.5 million doses of the vaccine, which are to be produced at a Russian-owned plant in the southern state. That deal, too, is contingent on E.M.A. approval.

Sputnik V is manufactured at seven locations in Russia, and also at plants in India and South Korea. A number of other countries have signed manufacturing contracts, including Brazil, Turkey and Serbia. Russia has consistently delivered fewer doses of the vaccine than initially promised, suggesting glitches in manufacturing. Producing vaccines at scale is a difficult process and ramping up production has presented problems for Western vaccines, too.

Noting that about 40 countries are using or scheduled to use the Russian vaccine, the Slovak regulatory agency asserted that “these vaccines are only associated by the name.” That raised questions about deviations from the formula reviewed in The Lancet.

“The comparability and consistency of different batches produced at different locations has not been demonstrated,” the Slovak regulator said. “In several cases, they appear to be vaccines with different properties (lyophilisate versus solution, single-dose ampoules versus multi-dose vials, different storage conditions, composition and method of manufacture).”

The Slovak statement could damage Russia’s efforts to establish Sputnik V as a reliable brand. It could also exacerbate lingering doubts left by the vaccine’s highly politicized rollout in Russia, where President Vladimir V. Putin announced that the drug was ready for use in August, before clinical trials had finished.

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Two Presidents Visited Turkey. Only the Man Was Offered a Chair.

Either way, it came a “terrible time,” said Nigar Goksel, the top Turkey expert at the International Crisis Group, especially because of the recent withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

According to data gathered by U.N. Women, the United Nations agency for women’s rights, 38 percent of Turkish women experience violence from their partner at least once in their lifetime, and more than one in 10 was subjected to domestic violence in the last 12 months. In the 2021 Global Gender Gap report, an annual review by the World Economic Forum that covers economics, politics, education and health, Turkey ranked 133 among 156 countries.

The protocol fail in Tuesday’s meeting comes at a crucial time in Turkey’s relations with the European Union.

In recent months, Turkey has emphasized a desire to improve relations with the bloc and to revive its process for joining. The meeting was intended to build momentum in a relationship that has been fraught with disagreements in recent years on issues like migration, maritime borders and customs arrangements.

“Whatever the realities on the protocol side, the incident clearly underscores the fact that Turkey was blind to the optics of how this would appear,” said Mr. Lesser of the German Marshall Fund. Those optics, he added, “will only underscore the sense that Europe is not on the same page when it comes to values, when it comes to diversity, inclusion and gender equality.”

That point was not lost on the offended party.

Ms. von der Leyen “seized the opportunity to insist on the issues related to women’s rights in general and to the Istanbul Convention in particular,” Mr. Mamer, her spokesman, said. “It would have been discussed certainly in any case, but obviously this sharpened her focus on the issue.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels, and Carlotta Gall from Istanbul. Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels.

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Syrian Refugees in Rebel Controlled Idlib Are Stuck in Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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In a Syrian Rebel Bastion, Millions Are Trapped in Murky, Violent Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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U.S. Looks to Build on Secret Portions of Taliban Deal to Reduce Violence

DOHA, Qatar — U.S. diplomats are trying to build on parts of the peace deal made with the Taliban last year, specifically the classified portions that outlined what military actions — on both sides — were supposed to be prohibited under the signed agreement, according to American, Afghan and Taliban officials.

The negotiations, which have been quietly underway for months, have morphed into the Biden administration’s last-ditch diplomatic effort to achieve a reduction in violence, which could enable the United States to still exit the country should broader peace talks fail to yield progress in the coming weeks.

If these discussions, and the separate talks between the Afghan government and Taliban falter, the United States will likely find itself with thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond May 1. That’s the deadline by which all American military forces are meant to withdraw from the country under the 2020 agreement with the Taliban and would come at a time when the insurgent group likely will have begun its spring offensive against the beleaguered Afghan security forces.

Both of these conditions would almost certainly set back any progress made in the past months toward a political settlement, despite both the Trump and the Biden administrations’ fervent attempts to end the United States’ longest-running war.

two annexes of the 2020 deal, which were deemed classified by the Trump administration, is intended to stave off an insurgent victory on the battlefield during the peace talks by limiting Taliban military operations against Afghan forces, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the negotiations. In return, the United States would push for the release of all Taliban prisoners still imprisoned by the Afghan government and the lifting of United Nations sanctions against the Taliban — two goals outlined in the original deal.

These new negotiations, which exclude representatives from the Afghan government, are being carried out amid a contentious logjam between the Taliban and the Afghans, despite pressure from international and regional actors on both sides to commit to some form of a path forward.

first reported by Tolo News, with requests that were not fully accepted by the U.S. negotiators and included severe restrictions on U.S. air power.

Many of the delays in securing a new deal to reduce violence stem from the original February 2020 agreement.

That deal loosely called for the Taliban to stop suicide attacks and large-scale offensives in exchange for the Americans forces scaling back drone strikes and raids, among other types of military assaults. But both sides interpreted those terms differently, officials said, and both have accused one another of violating the deal. The Taliban is also supposed to cut ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but the U.S. intelligence community has seen little movement toward that goal.

Under the current arrangement, U.S. forces can defend their Afghan allies if they are being attacked, but the Taliban said U.S. airstrikes have been carried out against their fighters who were not attacking Afghan forces.

Digital spreadsheets maintained by the Taliban and viewed by The Times detail hundreds of purported U.S. violations. They record in detail the group’s wounded and killed, along with civilian casualties and property damage. However, the Taliban often do not distinguish between offensive operations carried out by Afghan security forces from those by U.S. forces, and several of the events The Times was able to independently verify from June 2020 did not involve American troops.

The new terms for a reduction in violence have been a serious point of contention during the past several months, during meetings frequently held at the Sharq Village and Spa, a luxurious resort in Doha, Qatar.

Meetings between American officials and the Taliban in Doha — including with high-level officials like then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, in December — attempted to scale back Taliban attacks and stop the bloody assassination campaign wreaking havoc across the country, but made little headway.

With time running out, the Biden administration is hoping for more success, though these discussions continue to hit roadblocks.

Negotiations between the Afghans and the Taliban, which began in September, have practically come to a halt as the insurgent group has remained reluctant to discuss any future government or power-sharing deal while the United States remains noncommittal about whether it will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1.

The Biden administration’s recent push for talks in Turkey could be promising, officials and experts said, but the Taliban have yet to agree to attend.

The insurgent group thinks Mr. Biden’s negotiators are manipulating the proposed agreement to reduce violence by asking for “extreme” measures, such as halting the use of roadside bombs and pausing attacks on checkpoints, according to people close to the negotiations.

Taliban negotiators say they believe the American requests equate to a cease-fire, while U.S. military officials say that if certain parameters are not clearly outlined, then the Taliban will shift their tactics to exploit any loopholes they can find — like they have done in the past.

Some of the more striking episodes happened in the past week when C.I.A.-backed militia forces were accused of killing more than a dozen civilians in a Taliban-controlled village in Khost Province in southeastern Afghanistan.

In retaliation, the Taliban authorized their fighters to attack the American military and C.I.A. base there and publicly took responsibility for the rocket attack that followed: a first for the insurgent group since it has mostly stopped, or refused to acknowledge, attacks against U.S. bases and troops, per the terms of the 2020 deal.

Some Taliban officials believe the C.I.A.-backed forces should be disbanded and their operations stopped if the insurgent group agrees to any further reduction in violence, according to people close to the negotiations, but it is unclear if the insurgent group has raised those concerns directly. Regardless, any such request is likely to fall on deaf ears as the U.S. military and intelligence community views these forces as some of the Afghans’ most effective, despite the litany of human rights abuses leveled against them.

The Khost incident highlights the difficulty of reaching an understanding when it comes to decreasing the intensity of the war, and the need for an international third-party monitoring body, such as the United Nations, in any future cease-fires or agreements to reduce violence, experts said.

It is unlikely the United States and Taliban will reach a new deal before May 1, analysts say, unless U.S. officials are willing to make serious concessions to prevent a violent offensive this spring, one that seems to already have started given the series of large attacks and assassinations by the Taliban in recent days.

Some experts have criticized the United States’ narrow focus on a short-term reduction of violence as a distraction from the larger effort of reaching a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“I am hard pressed to see what payoff there’s been for the amount of effort that has been put into trying to get limited violence reduction front-loaded in the peace process,” said Laurel E. Miller, a former top State Department official who worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan diplomacy under the previous two administrations. “It might be helpful for political optics in covering for an American withdrawal. But what’s going to make this stick afterward if there isn’t a real settlement? Nothing.”

Farooq Jan Mangal contributed reporting from Khost Province.

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