Tag Archive: Anatolia Section


August 27, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — In a show of burgeoning security ties between Russia and Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the opening of an annual Russian air show as a guest of President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and expressed interest in purchasing the latest Russian fighter jets.

NATO member Turkey started taking deliveries last month of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. The United States had pushed Erdogan’s government to scrap the deal, arguing that its purchase would aid Russian intelligence and compromise a U.S.-led fighter jet program.

Erdogan has refused to budge despite the Trump administration kicking Turkey out of the multinational program to produce the high-tech F-35 fighter. Turkish officials have dangled the idea of buying Russian Su-35 fighter jets instead.

While visiting the MAKS air show outside Moscow together, the Turkish leader and Putin called each other “dear friend” and watched Russia’s latest jets perform. Erdogan peeked inside the cockpit of the country’s top-of-the-line fighter, the Su-57, and asked if the plane was available for sale to foreign customers.

“Yes, you can buy it,” Putin responded with a smile. The Russian president noted that another batch of equipment under the S-400 contract with Turkey, estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, was delivered Tuesday. He said Russia was ready to supply its latest fighter jets to Turkey as well and open to joint production of some weapons systems.

“We are ready for that and will actively discuss it with our partners,” Putin said. Erdogan said that the Turkish military was being trained to use the surface-to-air S-400 missile systems. “We want our solidarity to continue in several areas of the defense industry,” he added. “This can be passenger or war planes. What is important is the spirit of cooperation.”

While both leaders supported close economic cooperation between their countries, their discussion about joint efforts to end Syria’s civil war revealed differences in their approaches to the situation in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

Russia and Iran have staunchly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government throughout the eight-year war, helping his army to recapture most of the country’s territory, while Turkey has backed the opposition.

Moscow and Ankara nevertheless struck a deal in September to de-escalate tensions in Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold. Tensions have heightened amid a recent offensive by Russia-backed Syrian troops to capture the rebel-held areas in Idlib.

Turkey protested the offensive, which has included seizing the town of Khan Sheikhoun and pushing further north. Erdogan on Tuesday described it as a violation of the de-escalation deal Russia and Turkey reached in Sochi. He said that more than 500 civilians have been killed and over 1,200 others have been wounded.

“It is unacceptable for the regime to rain death on civilians from the air and from the ground under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” Erdogan said. “We can bring about our responsibilities concerning the Sochi agreement only if the regime halts its attacks.”

Putin insisted the offensive was necessary to uproot militants who used the area as a base to launch attacks on Syrian government troops and Russia’s military base. “The de-escalation zone can’t serve as a refuge for militants and a platform for launching new attacks,” he said.

But despite their differences, both presidents emphasized their shared interest in stabilizing northern Syria and pledged to respect mutual security interests. “We understand Turkey’s concern about the security of its southern border and view it as Turkey’s legitimate interest,” Putin said.

Erdogan said after the talks that he and Putin have “reached an understanding what and how we can do to solve those issues in Syria.”

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

June 28, 2019

The US Senate has nominated a new Ambassador to Turkey, the embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara announced today. “We have exciting news!” Tweeted the embassy. “Last night, the US Senate confirmed Ambassador David Satterfield to be the next US Ambassador to Turkey. We look forward to welcoming him in the near future. Stay tuned!”

Satterfield, a senior diplomat across two decades, has served in a variety of posts in the Middle East and was picked for his extensive experience in the region, as well as the fact that besides English he speaks four other languages: Arabic, French, Italian and Hebrew.

He has been Coordinator for Iraq and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State from 2006 to 2009; Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Libya in 2014; and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs since 2017. In addition to those posts, Satterfield has also held top positions at US missions in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.

The post of Ambassador to Turkey has been vacant for almost two years since the previous Ambassador, John Bass, left his position due to a visa crisis between Washington and Ankara. He now serves as US envoy to Afghanistan.

The new appointment comes at a time when US-Turkish relations have been tense and in decline, with a clash of national interests over regional and foreign policy issues. The US has recently been threatening Turkey with sanctions due primarily to the latter’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, which Washington claims will compromise the security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and is technologically incompatible with its F-35 fighter jets.

Another issue has been Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Cyprus. A new pipeline is to be built after a $9 billion agreement was struck between southern Cyprus, Greece and Israel in early June.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190628-washington-appoints-new-ambassador-to-turkey-after-2-years/.

by Ed Adamczyk

Washington DC (UPI)

Jun 20, 2019

The United States is considering economic and military sanctions against Turkey if it proceeds with buying a Russian air defense system, officials said.

At issue is a plan by Turkey, a NATO member, to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. On Friday the Pentagon announced it would remove Turkey from participation in manufacturing elements of the F-35 Lightning II fighter plane by moving industrial operations to other countries. Turkey is one of nine countries in which parts of the plane are made. Turkish companies currently manufacture 937 of the plane’s parts, largely in the landing gear and the main body.

Receipt of the Russian defense system would also mean that no new F-35s would enter service in the Turkish military, and Turkish pilots would no longer have access to training. U.S. officials fear that the S-400 system, which is not compatible with NATO systems, will allow Russia to gather closely guarded data on the F-35.

“As we have very clearly communicated at all levels, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400 system. Thus, we need to begin unwinding Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program,” Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said Friday. She added that Turkish involvement would end by 2020 in a “very disciplined and graceful wind-down. We want to have a process that is not disruptive to the program and allows the Turks to wind down their activities, as well. We do not want to have the F-35 in close proximity to the S-400 over a period of time because of the ability to understand the profile of the F-35.”

The White House is considering hindering the Turkish economy through sanctions, unnamed officials familiar with the matter said. Representatives of the National Security Council, the State Department and the Treasury Department are currently involved in discussions.

Several Turkish defense companies could be targeted with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which penalizes entities involved in business with Russia. The sanctions would have the effect of removing those companies from the U.S. financial system by severely reducing their ability to buy U.S. components or sell their products in the United States.

The already-battered Turkish lira was trading 0.6 percent weaker against the U.S. dollar in Istanbul at noon on Wednesday, after falling as much 1.5 percent. The currency lost 30 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in 2018, and another 11 percent thus far in 2019. Bonds and stocks fell on Wednesday, with the yield on 10-year government debt jumping 38 basis points to 18 percent. The benchmark Borsa Istanbul 100 Index was headed for it first downturn in four days.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_considers_sanctions_on_Turkey_over_plans_to_buy_Russian_air_defense_system_999.html.

By Allen Cone

APRIL 2, 2019

April 2 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin was awarded a $151.3 million contract to sell 15 F-35 Lightning II aircraft to Australia and six to Norway.

The contract for the 21 planes comes in the wake of the United States halting delivery of equipment related to the F-35 jet to Turkey because of the nation’s decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile system. As a NATO partner in the development of the fighter jet, Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays and was expecting the first of the $90 million jets to arrive in November.

The sale to Australia and Norway, which was a modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition, was announced Monday by the Defense Department.

Work is expected to be completed in December 2022 in U.S. and foreign plants. Thirty-percent will be performed in the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas; 25 percent in El Segundo, Calif.; 20 percent in Warton, United Kingdom; 10 percent in Orlando, Fla.; and 5 percent each on Nashua, N.H.; Nagoya, Japan, and Baltimore, Maryland.

Australia will pay $108.2 million and Norway $43.1 million under a cooperative agreement. The international partner funds in the full amount will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Australia received its first F-35s last December, and Norway received them in November 2017.

Australia and Norway are among six NATO countries that have received the planes, including the United States, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands. Two other nations that also participated in the aircraft’s development — Canada, Denmark and Turkey — are scheduled to receive the F-35.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2019/04/02/F-35s-for-Turkey-on-hold-as-US-approves-sales-for-Australia-Norway/3891554217447/.

March 21, 2019

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday tensions between his country and Turkey had eased after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said comments by the Turkish leader that sparked the row had been taken out of context.

A diplomatic dispute flared over Erdogan’s comments in the wake of Friday’s gun massacre in which 50 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, attacks for which an Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder.

Speaking while campaigning for local elections, Erdogan warned Australians and New Zealanders going to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would return home in coffins, like their ancestors who fought at Gallipoli in World War I.

Morrison slammed the comments as “highly offensive,” and on Wednesday summoned Turkish Ambassador to Australia, Korhan Karakoc, to explain the remarks. Australia also placed under review its travel advisory for its citizens visiting Turkey, which was already set at “exercise a high degree of caution” due to the threat of terrorism.

But on Thursday, Morrison said progress had been made on mending bilateral ties after a spokesman for Erdogan said the president’s words were “taken out of context.” Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for the Turkish presidency, said Erdogan was in fact responding to the manifesto posted online by the man arrested in the mosque attacks.

Altun also said Erdogan had made his remarks in a historical context relating to attacks past and present against Turkey, a move partly inspired, he said, by the fact the president was speaking near commemorative sites near the Gallipoli battlefields.

“President Erdogan’s words were unfortunately taken out of context,” Altun said on Twitter. “He was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) visitors.

“The terrorist’s manifesto not only targeted Erdogan himself but also the Turkish people and the Turkish state. “As he was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present.”

Morrison on Thursday welcomed what he called a “moderation” of Erdogan’s views, which followed a series of high-level bilateral diplomatic communications on the matter. “Overnight, progress has been made on this issue and overnight we’ve already seen a moderation of the president’s views,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

“It’s my intention to break any cycle of recklessness, to work through these issues practically, to register in the strongest and clearest of terms the offense that was taken — I believe rightly — by those comments yesterday, but now to work constructively,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

“Australia and Turkey, the peoples of both countries, have a tremendous relationship, built up over generations.” Thursday’s developments came as New Zealand Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was en route to Turkey to meet with Erdogan and seek clarification over his comments.

The 1915 Gallipoli campaign, marked by heavy casualties on both sides, was a disastrous defeat for the allies against the then Ottoman Empire. Although the battle later helped cement friendship among the three countries, it remains a highly sensitive subject in Australia and New Zealand.

Erdogan has also sparked outrage abroad by showing video excerpts at his campaign rallies of the footage broadcast by the Christchurch gunman, to denounce what he has called rising hatred and prejudice against Islam. Three Turkish citizens were among the dozens wounded in the attack.

It is not the first time Erdogan has sparked outrage abroad by making controversial statements about foreign countries, particularly during pre-election periods to stir up nationalist sentiment and consolidate his support base. He has sought to patch up relations after the elections.

Local elections are set to be held in Turkey on March 31. With the economy struggling, Erdogan’s party risks losing the capital, Ankara, to the opposition. Such an outcome would be a severe blow to the president, whose ruling Justice and Development Party and its predecessor have run the city for the past quarter century.

January 28, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — A U.N. human rights expert has arrived in Turkey for a weeklong visit over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard and her team of experts on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said they are also expected to meet Turkey’s justice minister and the Istanbul prosecutor heading the investigation. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His remains have still not been found.

Turkish officials have called for an international investigation and complained of a lack of cooperation by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in the killing and is seeking the death penalty against five of them.

January 08, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The trial has opened of 28 people accused of involvement in the 2016 killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, including U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup the same year.

An off-duty police officer fatally shot Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. The officer was later shot dead at the scene by police. Turkish prosecutors say Gulen’s network was behind the killing, which they say aimed to derail warming ties between Turkey and Russia. Nine people were arrested. Others, including Gulen, are on trial in absentia on Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking life prison sentences for some of the defendants and maximum 15-year terms for others. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and in Karlov’s killing.

December 29, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers met in Moscow on Saturday to discuss northern Syria as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw and Turkey threatens to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces controlling nearly a third of the country.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said before the talks began that they would focus on the situation in and around Idlib, as well as “what can and should be done” when the U.S. withdraws from Syria.

After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that much of the discussion focused on the pending U.S. withdrawal, and that Russia and Turkey managed to agree on coordinating their steps in Syria “to ultimately eradicate the terrorist threat.”

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said the meeting lasted an hour and a half. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said only that “we will continue our close cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and regional issues.”

The Syrian military said it entered the Kurdish stronghold of Manbij on Friday as part of an apparent agreement between the two sides. The Kurds are looking for new allies to protect against a threatened Turkish offensive as U.S. forces prepare to leave.

With President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw troops earlier this month, Turkey announced it will pause a threatened offensive against Kurdish militants. It has, however, continued amassing troops at the border as it monitors the situation.

The movements follow days of equipment transfers across the border into a Turkish-held area of northern Syria near Manbij. Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters said they have started moving along with Turkish troops to front-line positions near the town as a show of readiness.

A statement released by the rebels said they are ready to “begin military operations to liberate the city in response to calls by our people in the city of Manbij.” Turkish news agency IHA showed video of at least 50 tanks arriving at a command post in Sanliurfa province early Saturday. The province borders Kurdish-held areas east of the Euphrates river in Syria.

The Russian side was represented in Saturday’s talks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Shoigu, and Kremlin foreign affairs aide Yuri Ushakov. The Turkish delegation includes Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Saturday that, in addition to the foreign and defense ministers of each country, the meeting was attended by intelligence chiefs from both sides.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan did not attend the meeting. Peskov said the two would later schedule a separate meeting.

Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut.

October 12, 2018

ALIAGA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor on terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave the country, a move that’s likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison for allegedly helping terror groups. But since the evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention, Turkish law allowed him to remain free with time served.

The earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped. Brunson, a native of North Carolina whose detention had sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two NATO allies, had rejected the espionage and terror-related charges and strongly maintained his innocence.

The 50-year-old native of North Carolina had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges. With tears in his eyes, he hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the decision Friday. Lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said Brunson was expected to leave Turkey for the U.S., but it was not clear when. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet for monitoring was removed. Brunson was seen going back to his home in Izmir from the court.

President Donald J. Trump tweeted he was praying for Brunson and announced his release, saying “WILL BE HOME SOON!” Washington had repeatedly called for Brunson’s release and in August had slapped sanctions on Turkey.

But a top Turkish official criticized Trump’s tweet and American pressures for the pastor’s release. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun repeated the president’s message that Turkey would not bow to threats of sanctions and said the court’s ruling proved the judiciary’s independence.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was one of thousands caught up in a widespread government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the Turkish government in July 2016.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups and of alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

“I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” Brunson told the court Friday, speaking in Turkish. Earlier, the court called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at a previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan’s accusations. Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church. He was imprisoned for nearly two years – detained in October 2016 and formally arrested in December that year – before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

Tony Perkins, the commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said he welcomed the court’s decision Friday along with “the millions of Americans who have been praying for Pastor Brunson’s release.”

Washington imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports in August. Those moves, coupled with concerns over the government’s economic management, helped trigger a Turkish currency crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had resisted U.S. demands for Brunson’s release, insisting that Turkish courts are independent. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson for the Pennsylvania resident Fethullah Gulen – the cleric that Erdogan has accused of being behind the coup attempt.

Gulen has denied the claim. Turkey has demanded his extradition but so far U.S. officials say Turkey has not provided sufficient reason for U.S. officials to extradite the cleric, a former ally of Erdogan who had a falling out with the powerful leader.

Brunson’s trial came as another major diplomatic case is developing in Turkey involving Saudi writer and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish officials claim the writer may have been killed inside the Saudi diplomatic mission and Turkish newspapers have released pictures of alleged Saudi agents flown in to allegedly handle the killing. Saudi officials reject the claim as “baseless.”

Associated Press journalists Mehmet Guzel contributed from Aliaga and Suzan Fraser from Ankara, Turkey.

OCT. 12, 2018

By Nicholas Sakelaris

Oct. 12 (UPI) — Longtime Turkish captive Andrew Brunson was released from house arrest Friday, allowing the pastor to return to the United States after two years in captivity.

Brunson has been in Turkish custody since October 2016 when he was arrested on charges that he spied on the government and aided in a military coup attempt. Diplomatic relations between Washington, D.C., and Ankara have strained during the drawn-out ordeal.

Sources in the White House familiar with the negotiations say the Trump administration struck a deal with Turkey that included easing sanctions on the country.

At a court hearing Friday, Brunson was first sentenced to more than three years in prison but the judge then lifted all judicial controls — including a travel ban — based on Brunson’s good behavior and time already served.

President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey after Ankara refused to release Brunson in August.

On Friday, he celebrated the pastor’s release on Twitter.

This followed an earlier tweet where Trump said, “Working very hard on Pastor Brunson.”

Sources confirmed Trump was working on a deal with Ankara, though no details have been released.

“This administration has been actively engaged in seeking Pastor Brunson’s release for months, along with NASA scientist Serkan Golge and the employees of the U.S. mission in Turkey,” a senior administration official said. “A positive development in the cases of Pastor Brunson, Serkan Golge, and local employees of the U.S. mission in Turkey would do much to improve confidence and to restore the bilateral relationship.”

Turkey is holding 20 Turkish-Americans and three Turks who work for the American consular mission to use as leverage for disputes with the United States. Turkey wants Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen to be extradited from the United States. Gulen is accused of running the terrorist group behind the 2016 coup attempt.

Brunson has been under house arrest since July because of health problems. A security detail took him from the home to the courthouse in Aliaga for the trial on Friday.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/10/12/Turkey-releases-US-pastor-Andrew-Brunson-after-2-years-in-captivity/4421539347136/.