Peter Kenyon

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Prior to taking this assignment in 2010, Kenyon spent five years in Cairo covering Middle Eastern and North African countries from Syria to Morocco. He was part of NPR's team recognized with two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University awards for outstanding coverage of post-war Iraq.

In addition to regular stints in Iraq, he has followed stories to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco and other countries in the region.

Arriving at NPR in 1995, Kenyon spent six years in Washington, D.C., working in a variety of positions including as a correspondent covering the US Senate during President Bill Clinton's second term and the beginning of the President George W. Bush's administration.

Kenyon came to NPR from the Alaska Public Radio Network. He began his public radio career in the small fishing community of Petersburg, where he met his wife Nevette, a commercial fisherwoman.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

To Istanbul now, where negotiators for Iran and six world powers say yesterday's talks on Iran's nuclear program represent a constructive beginning. They agreed to meet again next month in Baghdad. U.S. officials note there is still a long way to go before the world can be satisfied with Iran's claims that it's enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes. But both sides say they're willing to try a step-by-step approach to resolving the issue. NPR's Peter Kenyon has more.

Iran's suspect nuclear program will again be in the spotlight this weekend when negotiators from Iran and six international powers meet in Istanbul.

Iran was reluctant to have Turkey host the meeting, reflecting Iran's growing unhappiness with Turkish foreign policy moves, especially its call for regime change in Syria, Iran's key ally in the Arab world.

Analyst and columnist Yavuz Baydar says Turkey has stuck its neck out for Iran in the past, defending what it calls Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program and even voting against U.N. sanctions on Iran two years ago.

After months of relentless shelling and gunfire, activists in Syria reported a quieter daybreak Thursday, as a ceasefire arranged by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan appeared to be largely holding.

Opposition figures said rebel fighters inside Syria would abide by the truce as long as the Syrian military does, while the government says its forces will return fire if attacked. Annan is hoping to progress from the cease-fire to getting humanitarian assistance into the country, and eventually to political negotiations.

In Egypt, next month's presidential election has undergone a wrenching several days.

First, leading Islamist candidates faced possible disqualification on legal grounds, and then, hours before the deadline to register, a leading face from the regime of Hosni Mubarak jumped into the race.

The appearance of 75-year-old Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's former intelligence chief, has sparked fears that the military council running the country is maneuvering to bring back the old regime.

U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian government should be the first to enact a cease-fire, but there was no sign of that on Friday. More violence erupted in several Syrian cities as diplomats prepared for Sunday's meeting of the "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul, Turkey.

The gathering comes at a time of growing disaffection with diplomatic efforts and an increase in attacks by Syrian opposition fighters.

The rising civilian death toll in Syria is accompanied by mounting calls to arm the Syrian opposition. And Turkey, a NATO country that shares a long, rugged border with Syria, is often mentioned as a likely transit point.

Turkey has become increasingly critical of the Syrian regime, but Ankara is thus far reluctant to send significant arms across the border or use its large military to create a humanitarian corridor inside Syria.

The Syrian regime's heavy crackdown on dissent has led to a sharp plunge in relations with neighboring Turkey. But the regime does have its Turkish supporters — mainly members of the Alawite minority, the same Islamic sect Syria's ruling Assad family comes from. And that has resulted in complicated loyalties among some Turks, especially those along the border in southeastern Turkey's Hatay province.

United Nations envoy Kofi Annan continues talks with the Syrian leadership, hoping to find a way to end the violence of the past year. NPR's Peter Kenyon has the latest.

In a nondescript apartment room in Turkey, just across the border from Syria, clouds of cigarette smoke drift toward the ceiling as Syrian opposition activists ponder how to keep people and supplies moving across the border.

Abu Jafaar is the alias of a Syrian smuggler who has been dodging Syrian army patrols for the past several months.

At a cafe in Turkey, near the border with Syria, Dr. Monzer Yazji steps out of his car in the parking lot and encounters a man with a bandaged left hand.

Yazji, a Syrian who now works in the U.S., examines Abu Hamad, a fellow Syrian who has fled the fighting in his homeland.

The doctor, a tall man with glasses and a trim graying beard, is becoming well-known among Syrian activists. Yazji has been periodically leaving his thriving practice in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas to coordinate emergency medical aid for Syria.

Monday was a rough day for the opposition in Syria. Senior officials in the main opposition group announced that they're forming a new organization. The development was the latest sign of the divisions within the Syrian opposition that's trying to oust the government of President Bashar Assad.

At the same time, Assad's government said that nearly 90 percent of voters endorsed constitutional reforms in a referendum a day earlier, even though the Syrian opposition and international critics called the balloting a farce.

The Syrian army has cut off all escape routes from a rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, the city that has seen the most intense fighting in recent days, according to opposition activists.

Syrian tanks were seen moving closer to the Baba Amr neighborhood Thursday, as efforts continued to negotiate a cease-fire to evacuate the wounded, including two Western journalists.

Syrian government troops are continuing to bombard the central city of Homs. The United Nations says more than five thousand people have been killed during the 11-month uprising. Syrian activists say the number is much higher. Yesterday, two foreign journalists were among those killed.

The dispute over Iran's nuclear program has again rocked oil markets. And Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is just 34 miles wide yet serves as the passageway for 20 percent of the world's oil.

This is not a new drama. In fact, it was a recurring issue in the 1980s. Still, there's been relatively little activity among Gulf oil producers to find alternative routes to get their oil to market.

On a frigid January morning, bundled-up travelers step off a ferry and scurry toward the imposing stone walls of the Haydarpasa train station, a 19th century landmark in Istanbul, a city full of history.

The people boarding this morning are nostalgic. They're longtime station employees, taking one of the last train runs to Eskesihir, where the station's first director-general is buried.

They're going, as it were, to give him bad news — that Haydarpasa's 150-year service as a public transportation center may be coming to an end.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, some Muslims in North Africa are looking across the Mediterranean to Turkey as a potential model of a state that can be modern, Islamic and democratic.

But some analysts in the region say that model is flawed, and they are questioning Turkey's human-rights record and its dealings with the press.

An explosion in Tehran Wednesday killed an Iranian nuclear scientist while he was driving his car. It's the fifth such death in five years, and Iranian officials immediately blamed Israel. The attack is the latest manifestation of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad delivered a defiant speech today. He called protesters mongrels misled by foreigners and he vowed to stay in power. Assad also criticized the Arab League, which has an observer mission inside Syria.

NPR's Peter Kenyon has more on the story from Istanbul in neighboring Turkey.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Syrian officials are vowing to respond with an iron fist to a suicide bombing in Damascus today, 25 people were killed. It was the second deadly bomb attack in the Syrian capital in recent weeks. The government and opposition activists traded accusations as to who was responsible. And the bombing raised fears of escalating violence, as the Arab League presses Syria to implement a peace plan.

NPR's Peter Kenyon is monitoring developments in Syria from Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

In the Arab states that have ousted dictators and begun building new political and economic systems, many are looking to Turkey as an example of a modern, moderate Muslim state that works. Perhaps no country has seen its image in the Arab world soar as quickly as Turkey, a secular state that's run by a party with roots in political Islam. As part of our series on the Arab Spring and where it stands today, NPR's Peter Kenyon examines whether the "Turkish model" can be exported.

The year began on a note of cautious optimism on the Iran nuclear front. But talks in Geneva and Istanbul proved inconclusive, and the Arab Spring uprisings soon pushed Iran off center stage. And as 2012 approaches, observers see little reason for optimism regarding a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear dispute.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under attack from other conservative factions at home, continues to find a safe rhetorical haven in defending Iran's nuclear program — and in attacking the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As he prepares for the midday rush, Mustafa Baljan puts the finishing touches on the kebabs, salads and stews that make up many a working Turk's lunch. As the steam carries the scent of lamb and garlic into the street, the 37-year-old restaurant owner considers a popular question: With European economies on the ropes, should Turkey still be seeking to join the European Union?

"Are you kidding? Of course I don't want to join," Baljan says. "Countries are going bankrupt. Why would we want to join a union like that?"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Arab League meets today in Cairo to consider imposing sanctions against Syria after Damascus rejected the League's demand that Syria allow an observer mission into the country. As protests there continue and the death toll mounts, neighboring Turkey says it's ready to join the Arab League in levying punitive measures against the government in Damascus. But as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul, Turkey's deep reluctance to endorse a military option underscores the complex risks surrounding any foreign intervention in Syria.

Some Americans are old enough to remember pulling up to the pump at gas stations advertising fuel in cents per gallon, not dollars. For many Libyans, that's the way it has always been and should continue to be in this sparsely populated oil-producing country.

At a Tripoli gas station on a recent afternoon, popular opinion among local Libyans appears to be that the government would keep the prices low, around 60 cents a gallon, or bring them down even further.

In the new Libya, uncertainty is the one certainty.

Contradictions and conspiracies proliferate faster than street demonstrations now that the iron fist of dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime has been lifted.

Among those searching for answers are relatives of prisoners locked away by various revolutionary military councils. Some of the prisoners are former Gadhafi loyalists with blood on their hands. But family members say others were seized for motives of revenge.

Libya may be months from a new government, but the still-infrequent international flights to Tripoli are packed with businesspeople looking to land contracts with this oil-rich North African state. The Turks and Europeans appear to be moving quickly, while the Americans seem to be several steps behind.

On one recent afternoon, the plush Rixos hotel in Tripoli hosted hastily organized meetings between Libyans and a swarm of Turks representing 150 different companies.

In Libya's Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli, the sight of abandoned villages and idle fighters hanging onto their weapons gives bleak testament to the fact that not everyone in the country is ready for the violence that overthrew former dictator Moammar Gadhafi to end.

In one windswept mountain village outside the city of Zintan, the only sound is the lonely clatter of a door against the gate of an abandoned house. Burned-out cars and a foam mattress soaked from the rain litter the street; most of the houses look as if they've been looted.

Turkish soldiers, artillery and military aircraft are engaged in their biggest military operation in a decade after a raid last week by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, killed 24 soldiers and wounded more than 100. The operation comes as Turkish politicians begin to debate a new constitution that many hope will grant Turkey's Kurdish population long-sought civil rights.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Sunday, collapsing dozens of buildings into piles of twisted steel and chunks of concrete. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

By a strong majority, Israelis support the decision to swap more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier. Still, it has provoked a painful debate, one that played out Monday, as it has several times before when Israel made similar lopsided trades in the past.

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