Brussels, Oct 18 (AP/UNB) — European Union leaders gave themselves several more weeks — perhaps until the end of the year — to clinch a friendly divorce with Britain before their separation, after a Brexit summit Wednesday avoided any friction but also produced no tangible results.
British Prime Minister Theresa May provided none of the substantial new proposals that EU Council chief Donald Tusk had urged her to bring to the table, giving the 27 other leaders little more than a plea for goodwill.
"The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides," May told her EU counterparts.
Officials said there were hints that Britain might consider extending a post-Brexit transition period beyond the proposed 21 months to make talks on a future trade relationship easier.
But the meeting that had been painted as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal ended with a whimper.
"Nothing new tonight," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after an evening when not exacerbating divisions with Britain was seen as a victory in itself.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said that "we need much time, much more time, and we continue to work in the next weeks" with his British counterpart.
So uncertain was that prospect that a special EU summit on Brexit that had been penciled in for next month to finalize a deal was taken off the table. Rutte said EU leaders would assess the situation in the coming weeks and "stand ready to meet if necessary." The next official EU summit is scheduled for December.
Despite the lack of progress, the mood music at the summit was positive. May spoke of "working intensively over the next days and weeks" to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc for Britain on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.
Underscoring the newfound sense of non-urgency, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, even spoke of the "coming weeks and months" to get a deal and sought to impose a soothing calm.
"There's no need to dramatize matters. It's always the case with negotiations, that in the end there are challenges," Kurz said.
May addressed other EU leaders before they gathered for a dinner of pan-fried mushrooms and turbot in wheat beer — without her — to assess the state of Brexit talks. The British leader urged her counterparts to redouble efforts to find the way to a deal, but European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said she did offer them concrete new proposals.
"Politically speaking, a will was expressed to move forward and reach agreement but there was nothing substantively new in terms of content," Tajani told reporters.
May spoke a day after Tusk implored her to present new ideas for resolving the tricky problem of how to keep the land border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland friction-free once Britain no longer is an EU member.
Tusk advised May that "creative" thinking from Britain was required to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, the issue that has brought Brexit negotiations to a standstill.
Both sides agree there must be no hard border, but each has rejected the other side's solution.
At present the two sides are proposing that Britain remains inside the EU single market and is still bound by its rules from the time it leaves the bloc in March until December 2020, to give time for new trade relations to be set up.
Many suspect that will not be enough time, which has led the EU to demand a "backstop" to ensure there are no customs posts or other controls along the currently invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
EU leaders have recently suggested that the transition period, currently due to end in December 2020, could be extended by a year to provide more time for a trade deal to be forged that would make the backstop unnecessary.
Britain says it has not asked for an extension — but didn't rule it out Wednesday.
The summit continues Thursday with an agenda limited to some issues both sides firmly agree on, including fighting cybercrime and dealing with an assertive Russia.
Reaching agreement with the bloc is only part of the British leader's problem. She will have to get any deal past her Conservative Party — split between "hard" and "soft" Brexit factions — and past her parliamentary allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, who insist a solution can't include customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
It must also be approved by Britain's Parliament, where May lacks an overall majority.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that 2 ½ years after Britain's Brexit referendum, the country had still not explained clearly how it wants to leave the EU.
"Today, we do not know what they want," she said. "They do not know themselves what they really want. That is the problem."
Istanbul, Oct 18 (AP/UNB) — Turkish crime-scene investigators searched the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul on Wednesday in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, and a pro-government newspaper published a gruesome account of the journalist's alleged slaying.
As Saudi Arabia's green national flag flapped overhead, forensics teams entered the residence, only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the consulate where Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork to get married. It was the second-such extraordinary search of a site considered under international law to be sovereign Saudi territory after investigators spent hours in the consulate earlier this week.
The account published in the Yeni Safak newspaper alleged that Saudi officials cut off Khashoggi's fingers and then decapitated him at the consulate as his fiancée waited outside.
Hours later, The Washington Post published a column by Khashoggi it said it received after he was reported missing, in which he pointed to the muted international response to ongoing abuses against journalists by governments in the Middle East.
"As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate," Khashoggi wrote. He added: "The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power."
The searches and the leaks in Turkish media have ensured the world's attention remains focused on what happened to Khashoggi, who went into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also put further strains on the relationship between the kingdom, the world's largest oil exporter, and its main security guarantor, the United States, as tensions with Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East remain high.
Flying back home after a visit to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained positive about an ongoing Saudi probe into Khashoggi's disappearance, but he stressed that answers are needed.
"Sooner's better than later for everyone," Pompeo said.
The search of the consul's residence came 15 days after Khashoggi's disappearance — and after police apparently thought they would be able to conduct the search on Tuesday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saudi officials had halted the earlier search, claiming that Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi's family was still there.
Crime-scene technicians wore white coveralls, gloves and shoe covers entering the residence. It wasn't immediately clear what they hoped to find there, although surveillance video had showed diplomatic cars moving between the consulate and the residence nearly two hours after Khashoggi walked into the diplomatic post.
Turkey's private DHA news agency, without citing a source, said police wanted to inspect a "water well" in the garden of the residence.
Investigators also re-entered the consulate Wednesday night.
A high-level Turkish official previously told The Associated Press that police found "certain evidence" of Khashoggi's slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The report by the newspaper Yeni Safak cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi's slaying. It described the recording as offering evidence that a Saudi team immediately accosted the 60-year-old journalist after he entered the consulate.
Al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: "Do this outside; you're going to get me in trouble," the newspaper reported.
One of the Saudis reportedly replied: "Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia."
Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi's case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom. President Donald Trump, who initially came out hard on the Saudis over the disappearance but since has backed off, said Wednesday that the U.S. wanted Turkey to turn over any audio or video recording it had of Khashoggi's alleged killing "if it exists."
Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the AP in recent days, including Wednesday. Al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday, Turkish state media reported.
Trump's previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president wants King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran in November.
Pompeo, wrapping up a trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss the crisis over the missing journalist, made a point to stress areas where the kingdom and America cooperate.
"We have lots of important relationships — financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, ... the efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world's largest state sponsor of terror, Iran," he said. "We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that when we approach decisions that the United States government will take when we learn all the facts associated with whatever may have taken place."
However, Pompeo said there were clear lines that America would not stand to see crossed.
"If a country engages in activity that is unlawful it's unacceptable," he said. "No one is going to defend activity of that nature. We just need to simply say what happened."
Prominent U.S. newspapers have reported, citing anonymous sources, that Saudi officials may soon acknowledge Khashoggi's slaying at the consulate but blame it on a botched intelligence operation. That could, like Trump's softening comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi's fate.
However, no major decisions in Saudi Arabia are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom's ruling Al Saud family.
Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Oct 17 (UNB) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud here on Wednesday.
The meeting was held at the Royal Palace in Riyadh in the evening.
During the meeting, they discussed different bilateral issues as well as issues of mutual interests.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister had an audience with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Royal Palace.
Sheikh Hasina arrived here on Tuesday afternoon on a four-day bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Athens, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias resigned Wednesday following a disagreement with the defense minister over the handling of a recent deal which would change Macedonia's name in exchange for Greece dropping its objections to the country joining NATO.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced he had accepted Kotzias' resignation and said he would take over the foreign ministry himself in order "to help with all his powers in the successful completion" of the name change deal, his office said.
Kotzias's move came a day after a cabinet meeting during which he reportedly had a heated argument with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos over the name deal and felt he didn't receive sufficient support from his colleagues and the prime minister in return.
"The PM and a series of ministers made their choices in yesterday's (cabinet) meeting, and then I made mine," Kotzias said in a tweet. His resignation letter was not immediately made public.
Kammenos, who heads the governing coalition's junior party, has long objected to the deal and threatened to leave the coalition if the agreement comes to parliament for ratification.
Greece has long argued that use of the term Macedonia by its northern neighbor harbored territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name. Under the agreement, the country would change its name to North Macedonia in return for NATO membership.
But Kammenos' small right-wing Independent Greeks had vowed to oppose the deal and vote against it in parliament, which would leave the government dependent on the support of opposition parties to see it approved.
Kotzias had been angered by statements made by Kammenos during a recent trip to the United States, where the defense minister had raised the possibility of an alternate plan to the name deal — something which would go counter to current Greek and U.S. policy.
Asked earlier Wednesday during an interview on Alpha TV about reports Kotzias was deeply annoyed with Kammenos, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said: "I can't believe that. Because the government's policy . on (the name deal) is the policy that Mr. Kotzias agrees with. So there is no reason for discontent."
Without directly referring to Kotzias, Tzanakopoulos had previously said that "the government train is carrying on."
"Whoever doesn't want to reach the destination, or feels discontent during the journey, can get off the train," he added.
Tzanakopoulos said Tuesday's cabinet meeting involved "an open political discussion" on Kammenos' disagreement with the name deal.
"Of course we know there is a specific political disagreement that Mr. Kammenos has expressed ten months ago," he added.
Moscow, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — A Russian official said a student attacked a vocational college Wednesday in Crimea, a rampage that killed 17 other students and left more than 40 people wounded, before killing himself.
The comments by Sergei Aksyonov, the regional leader in Crimea, were the latest in a series of shifting explanations by Russian officials as to what exactly happened at Kerch Polytechnic College in the Black Sea city of Kerch.
Russian officials at first reported a gas explosion, then said an explosive device ripped through the college canteen about lunchtime in a suspected terrorist attack. But witnesses, however, reported that at least some of the victims were killed in an attack by a gunman or gunmen.
Aksyonov said on television that the student, a local man acting alone, killed himself after the attack.
The Investigative Committee identified the attacker as Vladislav Roslyakov, 18. It said he was caught on security cameras entering the college with a rifle and firing at students. The committee said all the victims have died of gunshot wounds, contrasting with previous statements by other officials saying they had wounds resulting from an explosion.
After the attack, local officials declared a state of emergency on the Black Sea peninsula that they had annexed from Ukraine in 2014. They also beefed up security at a new 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge that links the peninsula with Russia that opened earlier this year.
Military units were deployed around the college.
Earlier, Russia's Investigative Committee, the nation's top investigative agency, said an explosive device that went off at the college's canteen was rigged with shrapnel. It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker had detonated the explosive device.
Sergei Melikov, a deputy chief of the Russian National Guard, said the explosive device was homemade. Explosives experts were inspecting the college building for other possible bombs, according to Anti-Terrorism Committee spokesman Andrei Przhezdomsky.
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that officials are looking into a possible terrorist attack. He did not elaborate. Peskov said Putin has instructed investigators and intelligence agencies to conduct a thorough probe and offered condolences to the families of the victims.
Witnesses did not speak of an explosion but said one or more armed men attacked the school.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted student Semyon Gavrilov, who said he fell asleep during a lecture and woke up to the sound of shooting. He said he looked out and saw a young man with a rifle shooting at people.
"I locked the door, hoping he wouldn't hear me," the paper quoted Gavrilov as saying.
He said police arrived about 10 minutes later to evacuate people from the college and he saw dead bodies on the floor and charred walls, presumably from some fire or explosion.
Another student, Yuri Kerpek, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the shooting went on for about 15 minutes.
Olga Grebennikova, director of the vocational college, told KerchNet TV that men armed with automatic rifles burst into the college and "killed everyone they saw." Grebennikova, who said she had left the grounds shortly before the attack occurred, said students and staff were among victims.
Russia's Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova headed to the area to help coordinate assistance to the wounded and helicopters carrying emergency medical teams flew to the area.
Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine triggered Western sanctions. Russia has also supported separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has left at least 10,000 people dead since 2014.
Over the past few years, Russian security agencies have arrested several Ukrainians accused of plotting terror attacks in Crimea, but no attacks have occurred.