Archive for October 20, 2018

October 03, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister says the country is working with the Netherlands to end diplomatic tensions and that the days when Ankara described Dutch policies as “Nazi remnants” are behind them.

Turkey and the Netherlands reinstated ambassadors last month following a dispute triggered by a Dutch decision to bar Turkish officials from campaigning on Dutch soil for a 2017 referendum on increasing the powers of the president. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the term “Nazi remnants” to criticize the Netherlands.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said at a joint news conference on Wednesday with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu: “Today is a positive day in relations.” Cavusoglu insisted that Turkey never accused the Dutch people of being “Nazis.”

He added: “As we agreed, we left those days behind.”

Friday 7 September 2018

Turkey will open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, the South American country said on Thursday, a day after President Mario Abdo reversed the previous administration’s decision to move its diplomatic mission in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Turkey’s ambassador to Paraguay has been operating out of Buenos Aires. Turkey has a consulate in Asuncion and another in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

By opening the embassy, Turkey is expressing support for Paraguay’s stance on Israel, Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni told reporters.

Paraguay and Guatemala relocated their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as the country’s capital in December, in a move denounced by most of the international community.

In a phone call on Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Abdo to stick to his predecessor’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the White House said in a statement.

“The vice president strongly encouraged President Abdo Benitez to follow through with Paraguay’s previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States,” the statement said.

Hours after Paraguay’s new government announced it would move its embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, Israel responded by ordering the closure of its embassy in Paraguay.

The Palestinian Authority hailed Paraguay’s “honorable” decision on Wednesday, announcing that it will “immediately” open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital.

Most countries do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, arguing that peace talks should determine the city’s final status. Paraguay cited this as one reason to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv.

Castiglioni said he expected to meet his Turkish counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month.

Paraguay considers Israel’s decision to close its embassy hasty and disproportionate, and hopes Israeli authorities will reconsider, Castiglioni said.

Source: Middle East Eye.


Sunday 02/09/2018

BISHKEK – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed Ankara would pursue non-dollar transactions in trade with Russia and other countries, accusing the US of behaving like “wild wolves.”

Both Turkey and Russia are reeling from punitive economic measures imposed by Washington.

“America behaves like wild wolves. Don’t believe them,” Erdogan told a business forum during a visit to Kyrgyzstan, in comments translated into Kyrgyz.

He said his country was in negotiations with Russia over non-dollar trade.

“Using the dollar only damages us. We will not give up. We will be victorious,” Erdogan told the meeting, attended by Kyrgyz and Turkish businessmen as well as government officials.

Ties between NATO members Washington and Ankara hit a new low last month as US President Donald Trump announced steep new tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium in response to the detention of an American pastor in Turkey.

The Turkish lira shed a quarter of its value last month as the trade war with the US ratcheted up.

Russia meanwhile saw its ruble tumble to two-year lows in August after the US announced fresh sanctions in connection with a nerve agent poisoning incident in the British city of Salisbury.

Erdogan has also used the visit to ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan to demand the Central Asian country of six million people relinquish all ties to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric and educator Ankara accuses of fomenting a coup in 2016.

Speaking Sunday, Erdogan said Turkish businesses should invest in Kyrgyzstan but “may face barriers from FETO,” the term Ankara uses to describe the network of people and institutions linked to Gulen.

The refusal of the United States to extradite 77-year-old Gulen to face trial in Turkey is one of several sore points that have plagued a once-strong bilateral relationship.

Gulen, whose Hizmet movement has led to the creation of schools in dozens of countries including Kyrgyzstan has always denied any links to the 2016 coup attempt.

Since July 2016, over 55,000 people have been arrested over coup links in Turkey, while more than 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended.

Source: Middle East Online.


August 30, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey blamed military officers loyal to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and declared a state of emergency five days later to clampdown on a vast network of alleged Gulen supporters in the military and other state institutions. The state of emergency led to mass arrests and purges.

Opponents say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government used its emergency powers to crackdown on all dissent — not just Gulen’s movement. The cleric denies involvement in the coup. The two-year-old state of emergency expired in July, after Erdogan kept to an electoral campaign promise not to extend it, but new anti-terror laws enacted since then allow authorities to press ahead with mass purges of public employees.

Here’s a look at Turkey’s post-coup crackdown:

ARRESTS: Some 160,000 people were detained for questioning, of which over 77,000 were formally arrested for alleged links to terror organizations, including Gulen’s network and outlawed Kurdish rebels. Those arrested include military personnel, police, journalists, lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.

According to Justice Ministry figures, close to 35,000 people put on trial for links to Gulen’s network have been convicted so far. Around 14,000 others were acquitted.

PURGES: More than 130,000 people have been purged from the public service through emergency government decrees. Those dismissed include tens of thousands of teachers and close to 6,000 academics. Around 1,300 people were re-instated to jobs by a commission that was set up to review cases but 18,000 other appeals were rejected.

MILITARY: Some 170 generals and around 7,000 other senior military officers were arrested as part of the crackdown. At least 58 generals and 629 senior officers have been convicted to life terms in prison so far in trials against military officers, according to Justice Ministry figures. Eight generals were acquitted.

MEDIA: At least 143 journalists or media workers are currently behind bars, most accused of links to Gulen or Kurdish rebels, according to the Turkish Journalists Syndicate. Using emergency decrees, the government closed down around 200 media organizations, including newspapers, periodicals, radio stations and television channels.

POLITICIANS: Ten legislators from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political party, including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, are in prison on terror charges for alleged links to Kurdish militants. Enis Berberoglu, a legislator from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, is in prison convicted of espionage for giving an opposition newspaper images allegedly showing Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria.

ACTIVISTS: Human rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala is in jail pending trial, accused of seeking to overthrow the government and having alleged links to Gulen. Eleven prominent activists were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while on training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups. Among them was Taner Kilic, Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, who was released earlier this month.

August 23, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — Tourists have returned in droves to Turkey, helped this summer by the sharp fall in the value of the Turkish lira following economic uncertainty and a rift with the United States. The evidence is abundant. A British firm, for example, managed to book 200 people — up from 15 last year — for a swim between Turkey’s European and Asian shores. And many Turks have traveled to hometowns and resorts this week, an Islamic holiday.

Turkey’s plunging currency and the dispute with the United States have, for sure, fed fears of economic hardship. The tourism sector, though, battered by mass casualties in bombings and an attempted coup in 2016, is again a bright spot — and source of vital foreign currency — for the troubled economy.

Nearly 19 million people — 16 million of them foreigners and the rest Turks living abroad — visited Turkey in the first six months of this year, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2017, according to the government. Tourism revenue rose by a similar percentage to more than $11 billion.

This week, Turkey’s culture and tourism minister tweeted photos of his visit to coastal Antalya. “We had the chance to chat with foreign visitors who have chosen our heavenly country,” said the minister, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.

There was always a lot to seduce the tourist in Turkey: sun and sand, archaeological treasures, cuisine, shopping. Now violence and political turmoil have ebbed, and the lira, which hit record lows against the U.S. dollar, is giving foreigners more value for their money.

SwimTrek, has signed up its maximum of 200 swimmers for the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) Hellespont race in Turkey’s Dardanelles strait on Aug. 30. Hundreds of others are expected to participate. Swimmers view the race as a “bucket list” event and currency considerations aren’t “necessarily” at the top of their thoughts, said Georgie Oliver, marketing manager at SwimTrek.

A calmer security backdrop is enticing the tourists back and it’s a boon for Turkey. Summer is the high tourist season, and many hotels on the Aegean and Mediterranean seas are reporting full occupancy, thanks partly to Turks vacationing during Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice.”

Even if Turks are unnerved by their currency crisis, many bookings were paid long ago, when the lira was stronger. Some chose to take a local holiday rather than spend more abroad. Zaytung, a satirical website in Turkey, posted a piece lampooning the masses of city-dwellers who flock to the coastal resort town of Bodrum at this time of year.

It quipped that people seeking to shed urban stress in Bodrum will only end up bumping into each other in the street “as they are used to,” wait for at least one hour for a table at restaurants, fight for sunbeds and pretend to have fun while taking selfies before returning to the city in droves at the weekend.

And Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, posted photos of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, on a pleasure boat in the Bodrum area. Another prominent visitor to Turkey was Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who took time out during an official trip in July to tour Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, once home to Ottoman sultans.

All this positive news coming from the tourism sector contrasts sharply with the state of the wider economy. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says the economy is under attack, a reference to U.S. economic penalties, including tariffs, imposed during a dispute over an American pastor facing terror-related charges in Turkey. Many economists attribute Turkey’s problems to excessive reliance on loans for fast growth, and say interest rates should be increased to get inflation under control.

The Turkish government has introduced charter flight subsidies and credit guarantee funds to help tourism, and is starting to tap into the Chinese market. Mideast residents are also visiting; some rushed to luxury goods stores for bargains after the lira freefall this month.

The biggest number of foreigners have come from Russia, reflecting better ties since Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft near the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015. Germans are also arriving in bigger numbers after tension over human rights in Turkey, where Erdogan has amassed more power as president.

Turkey’s tourism sector would be wise not to get too complacent though. Security remains a concern. Shots were fired from a moving car at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the capital, on Monday. There were no casualties and two men with criminal records were arrested.

In a June advisory, the U.S. State Department said American citizens should “reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions.” Some hoteliers are relieved that tourism is picking up, but still wary about the possible impact of the war in neighboring Syria, a conflict in Turkey with Kurdish rebels and a continuing government crackdown following the attempted coup.

“We just don’t know what will happen,” said one hotelier who didn’t want to be named because of concerns about government scrutiny. Still, in one big boost for Turkish tourism, Colombian singer Shakira gave a concert in Istanbul in July, her first in the city in more than a decade. Several thousand foreigners flew to Turkey for the event, according to tourism officials.

“It’s been too long,” Shakira told the cheering audience. “It’s nice to be back.”

August 09, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s government says it will outline a “new economic model” on Friday as the national currency hit another record low amid concerns about the president’s policies and an ongoing dispute with the U.S.

The lira, which has fallen about 30 percent since the start of the year, dropped to another low of 5.47 against the dollar on Thursday. The slide followed news that high level meetings in Washington between U.S. and Turkish officials over a detained American pastor concluded without an apparent resolution. The pastor’s detention led to Washington imposing punitive sanctions on two Turkish Cabinet ministers and warning of possible additional measures.

That added to existing concerns about the independence of the central bank. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants the bank to keep rates low to support economic growth, but independent economists say it should be free to raise rates to rein in inflation.

Turkey finances a lot of its economic growth with foreign investment, making it particularly vulnerable to a slide in the currency. A weaker currency weakens returns for those foreign investors, who could pull their money out — reinforcing the currency drop and potentially leading to financial instability.

In such a case, Turkey could either seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund or decide to put limits on money outflows from the country. Because IMF help comes with policies prescriptions, analysts say that Erdogan could be more inclined to try to control money flows.

Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, will present the outlines of a new economic model on Friday, his ministry said Thursday. The ministry said it expects inflation, currently nearly 16 percent, to return to single digits and that the current account deficit would be lowered from the current 5.5 percent of GDP to 4 percent. It did not explain how it would achieve that.

Wednesday’s talks between Turkish and U.S. officials addressed the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson as well as the sanctions, aiming to end the sharp rift between the NATO allies. Brunson is on trial on espionage and terror-related charges related to a failed 2016 coup attempt, which he and the U.S. government adamantly deny. Washington has repeatedly demanded Brunson’s release.

Erdogan has previously linked Brunson’s return to the U.S. to the extradition of the cleric Turkey’s government holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup. The cleric denies orchestrating the coup attempt.

July 22, 2018

Turkey is continuing its strong economic growth trend and the foundations of its economy are strong, new Finance Minister Berat Albayrak was quoted as saying by state media on Sunday.

Concerns about the central bank’s independence intensified after President Tayyip Erdogan appointed his son-in-law Albayrak as treasury and finance minister, boosting expectations that the president – a self-described “enemy of interest rates” – will look to exercise greater influence over monetary policy.

The Turkish lira has been hammered this year, losing a fifth of its value against the US dollar, on concerns about the central bank’s ability to rein in double-digit inflation, while Erdogan has repeatedly called for lower interest rates.

Albayrak, who is in Argentina for a G20 meeting, was quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu as saying the government’s recent policies were aimed at maintaining prudent fiscal policies, seeing healthy credit growth, carrying out structural reforms and strengthening Turkey’s monetary policy framework.

“Turkey’s economy continues its strong growth momentum. Our economic foundations are going to be strong and our outlook is promising,” Albayrak said.

With Erdogan having merged the Treasury and the Finance Ministry, Albayrak’s appointment effectively saw him replace both Mehmet Simsek and Naci Agbal in a cabinet that now has no obvious investor-friendly ministers.

Albayrak’s comments, therefore, are closely watched by investors for clues on whether he will seek to calm financial markets by adopting a more orthodox approach to monetary policy or reiterate Erdogan’s views that high interest rates stoke inflation.

Following his appointment, Albayrak said the central bank is independent and will do whatever economic realities and market conditions necessitate.

The central bank’s monetary policy committee, which has raised rates by 500 basis points since April in an effort to put a floor under the currency, will meet on July 24.

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Albayrak said on Twitter that he had met with his US, Chinese, German, Brazilian, South Korean, French and Indonesian counterparts.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


17 July 2018 Tuesday

The Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has showcased a mock-up of the Hurjet jet trainer/light attack aircraft for the first time at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018 on 16 July.

According to the TAI’s representative. the new Hurjet is an advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft. It is designed with the goal of 5th-generation training aircraft, will be equipped with an advanced mission computer in its modern cockpit.

The Hurjet is approximately 13,4 m in length, has an 11 m wingspan.

In the project, Hurjet’s maximum altitude is set at 45,000 ft, along with its 3,000-kilogram payload and a maximum speed of Mach 1.2.

The Turkish military is planning to use the Hurjet for replacing its aging fleet of T-38 trainers and for close-air support missions with the country’s F-16 fighters.

Source: World Bulletin.


16 July 2018 Monday

Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami

Western liberals blame Turkey vehemently for sliding toward Islamism, while Marxists and Leftists level charges against Turkey invariably serving the US-NATO interests in the region and autocrats in the Middle East cussed Turkey for being too democratic and too liberal.

The attacks from the left, the right and the center forced me to ponder over the reasons as to why they are all so scared of Turkey. It was observed that the ongoing tirade of multidimensional propaganda, narrative building and media warfare against Turkey have their roots in the established powers’ fear and their apprehension — the fear of the possibilities of an emerging new block under Turkey’s present self-reliant leadership, whose constructive role in humanitarian assistance and active diplomacy is now well-known to the world, though with envy from some established powers.

In the last few years, we have witnessed many sea-saws in Turkey’s relations with the US, Germany, France and Russia and also with their regional partners Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran on various issues ranging from civil wars in Syria and Iraq, Israeli atrocities in Palestine, Cyprus reunification, the Qatar embargo and the Russian occupation of Crimea. Turkey has been employing an independent foreign policy in all these disputes.

The established power centers in both the West and east know that there is a huge vacuum of upright leadership both in the Muslim world and in the developing world, which has long been exploited variously by these powers for many of these last decades. These powers also know that modern Turkey is the only country which has the legacy, capacity and the vision to bring together the countries of the Muslim Middle East and also other developing non-Muslim countries.

The US and some European countries hold a deep grudge against Turkey because today’s Turkey refuses to be part of their regional design. They are hell-bent on further dividing the Middle East into mini-states where Turkey stands strong as the most assertive regional power that understands their design and is set to thwart their divisive schemes. They have not been able to digest Turkey’s approach both as a soft power and its recent hard power projection.

Turkish overseas military bases in Qatar and Somalia, its military presence in parts of Syria and Iraq and a recent deal with Sudan on Suakin Island in the Red Sea do not bode well for world powers and their partners in the region. All-out US support for the PKK’s Syrian wing, the YPG, in Arab land grabbing in Syria, sheltering Fetullah Gulen- the mastermind of the July 2016 defeated coup, tacitly backing the independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdish region has culminated into a diplomatic crisis. Today’s Turkey no longer appears a partner with the US’ Middle East imperial agenda, pursuing its own diplomacy with a wide range of players and sending a clear message to US-backed regimes in the region.

On the other hand, the Soviet-style Russian propaganda against Turkey after the jet crisis in November 2016 is one such example. The maliciously false stories about Turkey supporting DAESH in the media outnumbered the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the outside powers in Syria and Iraq. It was not only the media campaign but also the personal attacks by Western and the Russian leaders, too, who appallingly blamed Turkey for supporting DAESH. The former US Vice President, Joe Biden, made a similar kind of statement, though he was quickly countered and forced by the Turkish President to withdraw his statement and apologize for the same. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, in various international events, reiterated his distorted opinion on Turkey’s support of DAESH, which forced his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to challenge him to come up with proof and he would quit politics.

The counterrevolution led by the Saudi Arabia-UAE axis soured Turkey’s relation with the Kingdom and is still fluctuating after a bloody counterrevolution in Egypt and the misadventure of the Qatar embargo. Simultaneously Turkey’s relations with Iran have witnessed many ups and downs due to major disagreements on regional issues – from a high following a joint Turkey-Brazil agreement for a nuclear deal to a new low after the Arab Spring events. Iran’s sectarian policies, firstly at home, and later in Iraq and Syria, have limited its role to a regional Shia power; it has lost all credentials and legitimacy to lead the broader Muslim world.

Turkey is the only regional power which equally and vociferously opposes the brutalities of the Assad regime and the US-led Western and Israeli design of partitioning civil war-ravaged Syria. Turkey is actually at odds with both the Americans and the Russians in Syria, the former supports the PKK-YPG terrorist organization and the latter backs the brutal Assad regime in Damascus.

In the last few years, Turkey has emerged as the World’s second largest donor country after the US, and by far the largest donor in the world in terms of its GNP percentage. Turkey has spearheaded numerous massive humanitarian assistance programs within and outside its borders. Turkey is hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees and nearly a million more from other nationalities. Turks have created a benchmark of how to turn a failed state into a thriving country–in Somalia, through their devout and professional humanitarian assistance program in war-ravaged Somalia. Turkish humanitarian aid has reached millions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Myanmar all the way to Magnolia. Turkey, once considered as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ is now an assertive power with aspirations to create its own place in world affairs.

Due to all these factors, the powers who want to maintain the status quo in the region opposed Turkish military operations in Northern Syria. The US, France, Russia, Iran, and Egypt are deeply annoyed with the Turkish military operations in Northern Syria. The France, Iran, and Egypt have openly criticized Turkey while Saudi Arabia and the UAE remain officially silent but displeased, and the Americans are officially ambiguous but extremely apprehensive. Even though the Russians withdrew their forces from Afrin before the Turkish military operation, they later demanded the return of Afrin to the Syrian regime and withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria.

It is very difficult for many Western powers to digest the fact that the new Turkey has 239 overseas diplomatic missions placing it at the fifth position, well above the countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, India, and Brazil. In the last few years, Turkey has emerged as a major player in Africa with new embassies and frequent flights by state-owned Turkish Airlines where western powers have been exploiting the resource-rich yet poor continent even after many decades of the culmination of their colonial rule.

A new confident Turkey is more open to its minorities, giving back the lands and foundations once confiscated by the State in the Kemalist era. The ethnic and religious minorities like the Kurds, Christians, Alevis, and Caferis (Turkish Shias) enjoy the most tolerant country in the region relishing the patronage of the State. Turkey is not only building and renovating mosques around the world but equally and enthusiastically rebuilding and renovating Christian churches and other places of worship. Recently President Erdogan and the Bulgarian PM jointly inaugurated the renovated Bulgarian Church in Istanbul, jointly funded by both countries. Today’s Turkey is by far the most tolerant country for all religious and ethnic minority groups in the region, yet the foreign powers level unsubstantiated charges to tarnish the image of Turkey, the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world.

Today’s Turkey is in such a pivotal position that neither the Russia-led Astana process nor the US-led Geneva dialogue can achieve anything meaningful to solve the Syrian crisis without the active participation of Turkey. The same can also be said in the disputes over Cyprus, Northern Iraq, and Qatar etc. All these positive attributes make Turkey an eyesore for the established powers who want the world to be run according to certain parameters and benchmarks set by them. Turkey is challenging the previous rules and conventions in world politics. Suffice it to say, the severe denigration of Turkey by the established power centers emanates from their fear of the challenge to their decades-long hegemony in the emerging global order.

Source: World Bulletin.


July 13, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opened his Cabinet’s first meeting since taking office in a new term with sweeping powers, renewing a promise to make Turkey one of the world’s top economies.

Turkey this week formally switched to an executive presidential system, which critics say concentrates too many powers in the hands of the president. Erdogan maintains the new system will improve governance and bring security and stability to the country.

He has appointed a 16-member Cabinet including his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, as treasury and finance minister, raising concerns in financial circles over Turkey’s fragile economy. In a ceremony marking the new Cabinet’s first meeting Friday, Erdogan repeated his determination to ensure Turkey joins the world’s top 10 economies by 2023 when Turkey marks the centenary of the republic.