Tag Archive: Anatolia Section


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.

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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/.

October 25, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Germany’s economy minister started a two-day visit to Turkey on Thursday, bringing with him a 30-person business delegation in a bid to boost trade ties between the two countries.

Germany is a top trading partner for Turkey. The visit comes as the NATO allies are trying to mend ties after clashing over numerous issues in recent years, including Turkey’s jailing of German journalists. Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused German officials of acting like Nazis after Turkish politicians were barred from holding election campaign rallies in Germany.

The visit by German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also comes months after Turkey faced financial turmoil with a slump of the Turkish currency.  “Germany has an interest in a stable and dynamic economic relationship with Turkey,” Altmaier said ahead of the trip.

Altmaier and Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Peskan will convene for the first time the Joint Economic and Trade Commission, which seeks to improve trade, industry, tourism and infrastructure projects between the two countries.

Altmaier on Friday is opening the second session of the German-Turkish Energy Forum with Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez.

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.

Link: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-open-paraguay-embassy-after-policy-shift-jerusalem-1863572311.

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.

Link: https://www.middle-east-online.com/en/erdogan-vows-abandon-dollar-trade.

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.”