Category: Anatolia Section


September 23, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Turkish parliament on Saturday renewed a bill allowing the military to intervene in Iraq and Syria if faced with national security threats — a move seen as a final warning to Iraqi Kurds to call off their Monday independence referendum.

The decree allows Turkey to send troops over its southern border if developments in Iraq or Syria are seen as national security threats. Turkish officials have repeatedly warned the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to abandon its plans for independence.

Kurds are dispersed across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran and lack a nation state. Turkey itself has a large ethnic Kurdish population and is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its own territory that it calls separatist.

The bill read in parliament Saturday listed combating Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq and the Islamic State group as national security requirements for Turkey. It also emphasized the importance of Iraq and Syria’s territorial integrity and said “separatism based on ethnicity” poses a threat to both Turkey and regional stability.

Speaking in parliament, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli likened Monday’s vote in northern Iraq to a brick that — if pulled out — could collapse an entire “structure built on sensitive and fragile balances.” The resulting conflict could be global, he warned.

Osman Baydemir, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP — the third biggest group in parliament — called the bill “a war mandate” and “a proclamation of enmity towards 40 million Kurds.” A dozen parliamentarians from the party are behind bars for alleged links to terror groups.

The HDP voted against the mandate Saturday. All other parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party, voted for it. Earlier Saturday, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the referendum “a mistake, an adventure.” He said Turkey would take diplomatic, political and economic measures according to “developments on the ground.” He added a cross-border military operation was also an option.

The renewed mandate is a combination of two previous bills that are based on a constitutional article on the “declaration of state of war and authorization to deploy the armed forces.” The Iraq Bill was passed in 2007 to combat outlawed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq to prevent attacks in Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has its headquarters in Iraq’s Qandil mountains. Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider it a terror organization.

The Syria Bill of 2012 was in response to mortar attacks by Syrian government forces on a Turkish border town. The combined bill was passed in 2014 as IS waged a deadly campaign in Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town on the Turkish border. IS failed to take over the town and the victory strengthened Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, who are now a key U.S. ally against IS in Syria. Turkey, however, considers them a terror group.

The mandate has allowed Turkey to launch a cross-border military operation into northern Syria with Syrian opposition forces in August 2016 to clear its border of IS and YPG. Turkey’s air force has also been bombing targets in northern Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish military, meanwhile, said additional units joined this week’s previously unannounced exercises near the Iraqi border. The chief of staff also met his Iraqi counterpart in Ankara to discuss the Kurdish referendum and border security.

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September 23, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish officials are pressing Iraqi Kurdish leaders to call off an upcoming independence referendum as Turkey’s parliament convenes to renew a mandate for the country’s military to intervene in Iraq and Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Saturday called the Monday referendum to create a Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq “a mistake, an adventure.” Yildirim says Turkey would take diplomatic, political and economic measures according to “developments on the ground.” He added that a cross-border operation also was an option.

The prime minister has said Saturday’s vote would allow the military to get involved in “all kinds of developments” that threatened Turkey’s security. Meanwhile, the Turkish military said additional units joined exercises near the Iraqi border as the chief of staff welcomed his Iraqi counterpart to the country.

October 06, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is meeting his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks on bilateral relations and international issues. Maduro’s visit on Friday comes amid stringent U.S. sanctions on the South American nation and a deepening political crisis in Venezuela, as the country struggles with triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages.

The foreign ministers of both countries will also participate in the second meeting of their joint “partnership commissions” aimed at forging cooperation between the two countries, according to the Turkish president’s office.

Maduro’s visit follows a tour to Russia and to Belarus, where he discussed expanding military ties with the ex-Soviet nation. In February 2016, Erdogan visited Chile, Peru and Ecuador to boost trade ties between Turkey and South America.

September 28, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is traveling to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on developments in Iraq and Syria, and Turkey’s decision to purchase a Russian-made missile defense system.

Putin’s visit on Thursday comes as Turkey and Russia are deepening ties in a turnaround for the two nations, which have backed opposing sides in Syria and nearly came to blows over Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane in 2015.

Russia and Turkey, together with Iran, are now working on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria that have helped reduce fighting. On Iraq, Turkey has strongly opposed an Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence which Russia neither supported nor condemned.

Some of Turkey’s NATO allies have expressed concern over Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

September 12, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities have issued detention warrants for 63 people, mostly ex-intelligence agency workers, for alleged ties to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused of masterminding last year’s failed coup attempt.

Anadolu Agency reported that warrants were issued Tuesday for 45 former employees of the National Intelligence Agency, MIT, and 18 others suspected of being operatives of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Anadolu said that nine of the suspects have been detained in the capital, Ankara.

Turkey has launched a large-scale crackdown against Gulen’s movement after the July 2016 coup attempt, dismissing more than 110,000 people from government jobs and arresting more than 50,000 people for alleged links to terror groups.

Gulen denies involvement in the coup attempt.

September 10, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday urged Muslim countries to “use every means available” to stop the “cruelty” perpetrated against Myanmar’s Rohingya.

“We want to work with the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to prevent the humanitarian plight in the region,” he told the opening session of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Erdogan said Turkey had offered aid and said he expected that Bangladesh authorities admit and help Rohingya Muslims fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

“International organisations, and we as Muslim countries in particular, should fight together by using every means available to stop that cruelty,” he said. Erdogan had previously promised to raise the Rohingya issue at the annual meeting of UN General Assembly later this month.

A final statement was agreed on at Sunday’s OIC summit – the first such summit on Science and Technology. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it was thanks to the efforts of the Turkish delegation that such a statement was prepared.

OIC statement

Erdogan called on “the brothers around the table” to follow and implement the decisions.

“The meeting called upon the government of Myanmar to accept the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into all alleged violations of international human rights law and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said the statement.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Last October, following attacks on border posts in Rakhine’s Maungdaw district, Myanmar security forces launched a five-month crackdown in which, according to Rohingya groups, around 400 people were killed.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings – including infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said the human rights violations constituted crimes against humanity.Fresh violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state nearly two weeks ago when security forces launched an operation against the Rohingya community.

Bangladesh, which already hosted around 400,000 Rohingya refugees, has faced a fresh influx of refugees since the security operation was launched. On Saturday, the UN said at least 290,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh.

Erdogan arrived in the Kazakh capital on Saturday for a two-day visit, and has pledged to raise the issue of Rohingya’s at the UN.

Following the summit, the Turkish president also had a closed-door meeting with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid as well as with other leaders.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170910-erdogan-urges-muslim-countries-to-help-rohingya/.

2017-09-08

ANKARA – A Turkish court on Friday ordered the release of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s former spokesman Ayhan Bilgen after his arrest in January, a party official said.

“Today a decision was made to release our (former) party spokesman. This is what was necessary,” current HDP spokesman Osman Baydemir told reporters in Ankara.

Bilgen, also a lawmaker, was formally charged on January 31 with “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and “incitement to crime”, a HDP official said.

He has been released pending trial but faces up to 25 years in prison, the official added.

The accusations are linked to a series of deadly protests in October 2014 by pro-Kurdish activists in support of Syrian Kurds threatened by the Islamic State group.

Officials hold the HDP responsible for the street protests led by demonstrators against Turkey’s policy on Syria. Clashes between police and protesters claimed at least 31 lives.

Eight MPs including co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas as well as former party co-leader Figen Yuksekdag, who was stripped of MP status, are currently in detention in Turkey.

Baydemir hit back at the detentions, saying lawmakers’ “one and only place” was in parliament rather than prison.

They are accused of belonging to or giving their support to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organisation proscribed as a “terrorist” group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

The HDP has always denied being a political front for the PKK.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84753.

2017-09-05

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned escalating human rights violations targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority during a phone call with Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Turkish presidential sources said.

The United Nations said 123,600 had crossed into Bangladesh in the past 11 days following an uptick in fighting between militants and Myanmar’s military in strife-torn western Rakhine state, which raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.

The latest violence, which began last October when a small Rohingya militant group ambushed border posts, is the worst Rakhine has witnessed in years, with Erdogan last week accusing Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Erdogan has stepped up diplomacy and spoke on the phone with Muslim leaders during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, seeking ways to solve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. He also spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Bangladesh on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

In the phone call with Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar’s junta, Erdogan said growing human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims “deeply concerned” the entire world, sources from his office said.

Suu Kyi has come under fire over her perceived unwillingness to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military.

Erdogan said Turkey “condemns terror and operations against innocent civilians”, adding that the developments in Myanmar had turned into a “serious humanitarian crisis which caused worry and resentment.”

The Turkish leader had previously said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

Guterres on Friday said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Myanmar and called for “restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84689.

2017-08-25

ISTANBUL – Turkey dismissed hundreds civil servants and boosted President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers over the MIT national intelligence agency in two decrees published on Friday, the latest under emergency rule imposed after last year’s attempted coup.

Turkey has sacked or suspended more than 150,000 officials in purges since the failed putsch, while sending to jail pending trial some 50,000 people including soldiers, police, civil servants.

The crackdown has targeted people whom authorities say they suspect of links to the network of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for the coup.

Under the latest decrees, published in the government’s Official Gazette, more than 900 civil servants from ministries, public institutions and the military were dismissed. Those sacked included more than 100 academic personnel.

According to the decrees, the president’s permission will be required for the head of the MIT national intelligence agency to be investigated or to act as a witness. The president will also chair the national intelligence coordination board.

The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office will have the authority to investigate members of parliament for alleged crimes committed before or after an election, according to one of the measures.

One of the decrees also ordered the closure of the pro-Kurdish news agency Dihaber and two newspapers, all based in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. Since the coup, some 130 media outlets have been closed and around 150 journalists jailed.

Such measures have alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups, who say Erdogan has used the attempted coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent.

Some 250 people were killed in last year’s coup attempt, and the government has said the security measures are necessary because of the gravity of the threats facing Turkey. Gulen has condemned the coup attempt and denied involvement.

Under the decrees, Turkey will also recruit 32,000 staff for the police, along with 4,000 judges and prosecutors.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=84538.

August 10, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities have detained a Russian national and suspected Islamic State group militant for allegedly planning a drone attack on U.S. aircraft at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, police said Thursday.

Renad Bakiev was detained in the southern city of Adana over suspicions that he plotted to crash an American aircraft or attack the Incirlik air base using a drone, Adana police said in a statement. Turkish private news agency Dogan said a court later ordered him formally arrested pending a trial.

Bakiev also intended to attack the local Alevi community in Adana city, the statement said. It said he was affiliated with IS and had previously traveled to Syria. The Alevi religious minority is an offshoot of Shia Islam and is the largest religious group in Turkey after Sunnis. IS regards Alevis as heretics.

Bakiev appealed for 2,800 Turkish Lira (nearly $800) from other militants on the Telegram messaging application, which IS sympathizers use widely, to buy a drone, police said. The private Dogan news agency said during his questioning that he allegedly defended the need to kill Alevis and considered them “enemies of Allah,” the statement said.

During police interrogations, Bakiev admitted to reconnoitering the air base for his strike, the police statement said. A previous attempt he made to attack Americans was unsuccessful. Bakiev’s plans came to light in testimony from suspected IS members detained in a counterterror raid in June, according to Dogan news agency. That operation captured the alleged commander of an Adana-based IS cell, 32-year old Abdulkerim Cakar, and 10 others.

The U.S. Air Force has used Incirlik air base, near Adana, as a staging post for the air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq since 2015. IS militants have used armed drones to deadly effect in Iraq and Syria, converting commercial drones to carry small explosives.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.