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It’s not especially easy to praise the Pope. First of all, the fact is that statistically-speaking, most of the world believes he worships a figment of his imagination, the wrong god, or the wrong aspect of the right god. Then you are faced with the inescapable history of the church, including its part in the conquering and occupation of regions of the world which are now – not coincidentally – in the most urgent need

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/Libya’s third illegitimate government

On Monday 10 April, the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tweeted that he had called Libyan politician Fayez al-Sarraj, to congratulate him on his bravery in entering Tripoli. al-Sarraj was in London. In fairness, al-Sarraj, who arrived in the UK on Saturday 8 April on a ‘private visit’ and is not set to attend any ‘official meetings’ may argue he deserves a holiday, after a fraught five months which culminated in a chaotic last three

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The Turkey Deal: Immorality, impossibility and the EU’s lowest moment

On Sunday (3 April) I was asked to take part in a debate on Al Jazeera about whether the ‘closing’ of routes used by refugees to cross from Turkey to Greek islands would lead to a greater number of people entering the EU from Libya. In the event, I couldn’t make it. I was in Liverpool to help launch a writers’ festival (Page to Stage) and the local BBC had no studios free for use

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/istanbul-and-brussels-is-and-us/

On Saturday night, my partner and I were out in Izmir. As Turkey’s third largest city – a bustling port with a deserved reputation for political, artistic and intellectual activity, with three universities and a population of four million people – Izmir is generally a lively night out. But on Saturday, we walked through almost deserted streets, past bars which were largely without customers, and many more which had closed early or not opened at

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/libya-the-international-community-and-the-risk-of-spiralling-chaos/

On Saturday night, the body charged with delivering a new Libyan government announced it had ‘a green light’ for the government to start work, and that it intended to take power in Libya. There were only two problems. First, it made the announcement from Tunisia, where it sits because Libya’s two powerless and illegitimate governments, backed by heavily-armed and ruthless illegal militias, remain in Libya itself. Second, it actually had nothing like a ‘green light’

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/march-into-madness-european-chaos-and-a-tentative-syrian-ceasefire/

February 29 2016 was not the greatest day in European history. Fewer than two months into the new year, and just six months since the last time a European government’s police fired on unarmed men, women and children at its border, desperate people fleeing violence and terror had, once again, cast the world’s richest political bloc into political, legal and practical chaos. In its West, police fired teargas at refugees at the Jungle camp, near

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/not-a-good-time-to-be-turkish-turkey-the-kurds-and-the-syrian-civil-war/

              This is not a good time to be Turkish. Or, for that matter, a Kurd. Perched on the edge of one of the two defining conflicts of the modern age, to be either Turk or Kurd is today not only to be attacked by IS, and threatened by the overspill of other armed participants in the Syrian Civil War, but also to be at war – in effect

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http://www.roryokeeffe.co.uk/the-desert-of-lop-chasing-illusions-in-libya/

 ‘The truth is this. ‘When a man is riding by night through this desert, then he hears spirits talking and will suppose them to be his companions… ‘Sometimes in the night they are conscious of a noise like the clatter of a great cavalcade of riders, away from the road; and believing that these are of their own company, they go where they hear the noise, and when day breaks, find they are victims of

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Lop-Nur-Taklimakan-Desert-3

‘The truth is this. ‘When a man is riding by night through this desert, then he hears spirits talking and will suppose them to be his companions… ‘Sometimes in the night they are conscious of a noise like the clatter of a great cavalcade of riders, away from the road; and believing that these are of their own company, they go where they hear the noise, and when day breaks, find they are victims of

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‘…the anguish of each belongs to us all…’ Primo Levi, The Girl of Pompeii             ‘We need a no-fly zone. We need it to survive… People are thinking about managing the conflict, not ending it.’ Marcelle Shehwaro, Kesh Malek (Aleppo-based NGO) The first week of February 2016 may turn out to have been the most important for Syria since the start of the state’s civil war in March 2011. Sadly,

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