Archive for the ‘Donald Trump and Turkey’ category

Turkey told U.S. it opposes sanctions on Iran: foreign minister

July 24, 2018

by Reuters Tuesday Jul 24, 2018 The Foreign Desk

Source Link: Turkey told U.S. it opposes sanctions on Iran: foreign minister

{Who you are has a lot to do with who you hang out with. – LS}

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has told American officials it opposes U.S. sanctions on Iran and is not obliged to implement them, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and ordered U.S. sanctions on Tehran, while a senior State Department official said Washington has told allies to cut imports of Iranian oil by November

Turkey has criticized Trump’s move to withdraw from the nuclear pact and has publicly resisted the U.S. call to cut oil imports from Iran.

“We do not have to adhere to the sanctions imposed on a country by another country. We don’t find the sanctions right either,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Azerbaijan.

“We held meetings with the United States in Ankara and told them openly: Turkey gets oil and gas from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Iraq. If I don’t buy from Iran now, where am I supposed to meet that need from?” Cavusoglu said.

Last week U.S. Treasury and State Department officials met Turkish counterparts in Ankara to discuss sanctions on Iran. Ankara said authorities were working to prevent Turkey being hurt by the measures.

Turkey depends on imports for almost all of its energy needs. In the first four months of this year, Turkey bought more than 3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran, almost 55 percent of its total crude supplies, according to data from the Turkish energy watchdog (EPDK).

Ties between Ankara and Washington, NATO allies, have been strained over a host of issues including several legal cases.

A Turkish court last week ruled to keep American pastor Andrew Brunson in jail, in a case that has deepened existing rifts and jeopardized the procurement of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets by Turkey.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying the jets because of Brunson’s imprisonment and Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which are incompatible with NATO systems.

Cavusoglu, however, said there were no issues with the procurement of the jets and the United States could not exclude Turkey from the project.

“The United States needs to understand that it is not possible to get a result from Turkey through sanctions. They will see results if they approach Turkey with dialogue and respect,” he said.

“We will not bow down to such pressures, sanctions or threats. Everyone will get used to the new Turkey.”

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk and Dominic Evans)

 

Turkey urges Islamic world to unite against Israel, calls summit

May 16, 2018

Press TV May 15, 2018

Source Link: Turkey urges Islamic world to unite against Israel, calls summit

{You can bet Trump will weigh in on this one. – LS}

Turkey has urged Islamic countries to review their ties with Israel after dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling party in parliament that Ankara would call an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Islamic countries should without fail review their relations with Israel,” Premier Yildirim said, adding, “The Islamic world should move as one, with one voice, against this massacre.”

Yildirim said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the body, called the OIC summit on Friday.

Yildirim said that after the summit at 3:00 pm a giant rally would be held at the vast Yenikapi meeting area in Istanbul under the slogan of “Stop the Oppression” to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

“This has nothing to do with party politics. This is to show solidarity, brotherhood and togetherness,” he said.

“The Islamic world should move as one, with one voice, against this massacre,” Yildirim added.

Ankara has reacted with fury to the killing Monday of 60 Palestinians in clashes and protests, on the same day as the United States formally moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem al-Quds from Tel Aviv in defiance of international outrage.

Ankara said it was recalling its ambassadors to the United States and Israel for consultations in the wake of the events.

On Tuesday, Israel expelled the Turkish consul in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said the consul had been summoned and was told to return to Turkey “for consultations for a period of time.”

Yildirim earlier accused the US of sharing responsibility with Israel for a “vile massacre” along the Gaza border, during which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on Monday.

The United States took its place without complaint alongside the Israeli regime in “this massacre of civilians and became a party to this crime against humanity,” Yildirim told reporters in Ankara.

“This is … vile massacre and we condemn it strongly,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a visit to London, said that the United States had lost its role as mediator in the Middle East by moving its embassy to the occupied territories.

Turkish President accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ 

President Erdogan later in a speech broadcast on Turkish state television accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as nearly 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist” entity and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US.

“What Israel has done is genocide,” the Turkish president said, adding, “I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.”

He added: “We will continue to stand with Palestinian people with determination.”

Thousands held anti-Israeli rally in Istanbul

Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Istiklal Street to condemn the US’ decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds and the Israeli bloodshed in the Gaza Strip.

The rally organized by several NGOs under the name “Raise Your Voice Against Occupation.”

Demonstrators carried banners that read “Al Quds belongs to Palestinians.”

Speaking at the event, organizers and speakers said that the relocation has reignited an awakening for Muslims and encouraged them to put up a fight against the Israeli occupation.

Turkish protesters wave Palestinian flags as they shout slogans in front of the Israel consulate in Istanbul on May 15, 2018 during a demonstration against US President’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds and Israel’s attack against protesters in Gaza. (Photo by AFP)

They also called for protests to continue throughout Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.

Israeli gunfire killed 59 Palestinians and wounded over 2,700 in the Monday clashes, the highest toll in a single day since a series of protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes began on March 30.

The embassy inauguration also coincides with the climax of a six-week demonstration on the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), May 15, when Israel was created.

The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017 announced US recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and said Washington would move US embassy to the city.

The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

Turkey Threatens Exxon Mobil & The US 6th Fleet Off Cyprus

March 8, 2018

by Tyler Durden Thu, 03/08/2018 – 06:10 Zero Hedge

Source Link: Turkey Threatens Exxon Mobil & The US 6th Fleet Off Cyprus

{With friends like this, who needs enemies? – LS}

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım threatened not only hydrocarbon survey ships of oil giant Exxon Mobile but also the US 6th Fleet is participating in a naval exercise in the area 7-18 March 2018.

As KeepTalkingGreece.com reports, Yildirim said:

“The Republic of Cyprus would not be allowed to get away with selling the energy resources surrounding the island,” Yildirim said on Wednesday. With reference to the turkey-occupied North part of Cyprus, he added “the natural riches surrounding the island of Cyprus is the common wealth of all the people who live on the island.”

And he threatened that:

“This and other provocative activities that create faits accomplis will be responded to in an appropriate fashion.”

It was a clear message even to the US Fleet as some media have linked its presence off  Cyprus to the Exxon survey, saying the Fleet was going to protect the Exxon Mobile survey vessels.

Last month, Turkish war ships threatened to sink drilling ship commissioned by Italy’s ENI and ultimately managed to block the process as the Italian diplomacy did not dare to put the lives of their fellowmen at risk.

A day earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reacting to U.S. Sixth Fleet heading to East Mediterranean, said , “while European states’ boats abandoning refugees to death, we try to rescue every innocent’s life. You can only make it there with your Sixth Fleet, aircraft carrier.”

Yildirim underlined that any underground riches surrounding the island should only be extracted with the permission of both the island’s administrations.

“Any work in which one of these interlocutors is not part of the deal will be evaluated by us as a threat to the sovereign rights of North Cyprus,” he said.

Turkey has been illegally occupying 40% of Cyprus since 1974. It is only Turkey that recognizes “North Cyprus” as ‘state’, while the rest of the world considers as an “illegal” …something with no sovereign rights at all.

Meanwhile, in Cyprus…

One wonders just how far Turkey is willing to push Washington…

 

The US is quietly sidelining a Turkey in decline

January 29, 2018

By Caroline Glick January 26, 2018

Source: The US is quietly sidelining a Turkey in decline

{This turkey may be a bit overcooked. – LS}

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump had a long talk with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The telephone call came in the wake of Erdogan’s most recent demonstration of the fact that under his leadership, the Turkish-American alliance has become an empty shell.

Over his 15 years in power, Erdogan has gutted what had been a substantive, mutually beneficial and strategic alliance between the two countries since the dawn of the Cold War.

Last Saturday, Erdogan sent his forces over Turkey’s southern border to invade the Afrin region of Syria. The U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have controlled the area, northwest of Aleppo, since 2012.

There are no U.S. forces in Afrin. But the area is predominantly populated by non-Arab minorities, including Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds — all of whom are pro-American.

The Turks say their objective in “Operation Olive Branch” is to seize a 20-mile wide buffer zone on the Syrian side of their border. That includes the town of Manbij, located 60 miles east of Afrin, also controlled by the YPG.

Unlike Afrin, there are many U.S. forces in that city. A contingent of U.S. Special Forces charged with training YPG forces are stationed there. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatened those forces. “Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” he said, according to Reuters. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop this.”

Cavusoglu added, “The future of our relations depends on the steps the United States will take next.”

The Turks’ pretext for the Afrin operation is as anti-American as it is anti-Kurdish.

On January 14, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad said that the U.S. is training a Kurdish border patrol force in Syria that will eventually number some 30,000 troops. On January 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. has no timetable for removing its forces from Syria.

In response, Erdogan vowed to “drown” the border protection force “before it is even born.”

Erdogan then threatened the U.S.

“This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.”

The Trump administration’s immediate response to Turkey’s aggression against its Kurdish allies was deferential, to say the least.

Tillerson disavowed Dillon’s statement, saying the plan to train a border force was never approved.

“That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said

A senior White House official told the New York Times that senior White House and National Security Council officials had never seriously considered the 30,000-man border force.

These statements are consistent with the U.S.’s general practice for the past 15 years, as Erdogan has gradually transformed Turkey from a Westernized democracy and a core member of NATO into an Islamist tyranny whose values and goals have brought it into alliance with U.S. foes Iran and Russia and into cahoots with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS. The U.S. has met ever more extreme behavior from Ankara with a combination of denial and obsequiousness.

For example, the U.S. never sanctioned Turkey for its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The U.S. didn’t penalize Turkey for its effective sponsorship of ISIS. For years, the Turks permitted ISIS to use their territory as its logistical base. ISIS’s foreign recruits entered Syria through Turkey. Its terrorists received medical care in Turkey. Turkey was the main purchaser of oil from ISIS- controlled territory and there were repeated allegations that ISIS was receiving arms from Turkey.

And the U.S. turned a blind eye.

While many have expressed alarm over Turkey’s decision to purchase an S-400 surface to air missile system from Moscow, particularly given that Turkey has ordered 100 F-35s, all of which are endangered by the S-400, no U.S. official has taken any steps to expel Turkey from NATO.

The report of Trump’s conversation with Erdogan can be read in several ways. On the one hand, Trump urged Erdogan to “de-escalate” the operation in Afrin. Trump argued that the Turkish operation is harming the broader coalition campaign against ISIS in Syria.

On the other hand, Trump was respectful of Turkey’s claim that the U.S.-supported YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, which Turkey says is a terror group, and which the State Department has listed as a terror group.

The YPG has been the US’s most loyal and effective partner in the battle against ISIS in Syria. The US rejects Turkey’s allegation that the militia is a terror group. Still, Trump reportedly agreed that the PKK is a terror group and the White House’s statement regarding the two men’s conversation said the US seeks “regional stability and combating terrorism in all its forms,” including ISIS, al Qaeda, Iranian-sponsored terrorism and the PKK.

So what was Trump’s message?

Trump’s conversation with Erdogan appeared to be an attempt to bridge the yawning gap between the US’s policy of supporting and working with the Kurds in Syria and its deference for Erdogan and his regime.

But the read-out of their conversation also reflected the distinct possibility that the Trump administration is implementing a sophisticated strategy for contending with Erdogan’s Turkey and its open and growing hostility to the US and its allies.

{I would bet on that possibility. – LS}

To understand that strategy it is first imperative to understand the present state of Turkey’s military.

While it is true that Turkey’s military is second only to the U.S. in size among NATO allies, the state of the Turkish military is atrocious. As former Pentagon official Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute wrote this week in the Washington Examiner, Erdogan has gutted his armed forces in the wake of the failed military coup against his regime in July 2016.

Forty percent of Turkey’s senior officer corps has been purged. A quarter of Turkish pilots are in prison. Turkey has twice as many F-16s as trained pilots.

Turkey’s performance in combat in Syria has been abysmal, from the very earliest stages of the war. Rubin noted that in 2012 Syrian forces downed a Turkish F-4, and Kurds have downed Turkish helicopters.

Syria has been a prime killing ground for Turkish tanks. Kurds, ISIS and Syrian regime forces have all destroyed Turkish tanks. The Kurds have nabbed Turkish intelligence officers. Turkey’s power projection capabilities are weak.

None of this has escaped the Pentagon’s notice.

Last summer, as the U.S. launched its campaign to oust ISIS from its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Erdogan told the Americans that he would deploy his forces to fight alongside U.S. forces in Raqqa if the U.S. agreed to ditch the Kurdish YPG. The U.S. refused. Washington opted to side with the Kurds.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Pentagon has a low opinion of Turkish capabilities. Turkish troops lack “the training, logistics and weaponry to successfully launch the siege of a fortified and well-defended city.”

On the other hand, the Pentagon assessed that the YPG were up to the task of assaulting and destroying ISIS forces in Raqqa. And as the battle of Raqqa demonstrated, they were right.

Rubin wrote that the Kurds in Afrin may well defeat the Turks.

So far, the Turks initial push has been unsuccessful.

While the U.S. has consistently treated Erdogan with respect, it has also sought to diminish U.S. dependence on Turkey.

Consider the issue of the NATO airbase at Incirlik, Turkey.

The Turks view Incirlik as their insurance policy. NATO air operations in Syria are coordinated from Incirlik. Most of the anti-ISIS coalition warplanes are based there. So long as NATO is dependent on Incirlik, so the thinking goes, Turkey can behave as abominably as it wishes.

So it was that following the failed coup in July 2016, Erdogan shut down Incirlik and paralyzed the coalition campaign against ISIS.

Erdogan failed to realize that his actions forced NATO allies to reconsider Turkey’s role in the alliance.

The U.S. responded to Erdogan’s move against Incirlik by expanding its air operations in Romania. And last summer, Germany’s Die Welt reported that the German military had identified eight alternatives to Incirlik, including three sites each in Kuwait and Jordan and two in Cyprus.

So while the stated policy of the U.S. towards Turkey is to continue to treat Turkey as an ally, the unstated U.S. policy is to bypass Turkey and render it irrelevant militarily while diminishing its capacity to harm either the U.S. or its allies.

This unstated policy is evidenced by the way the Pentagon responded to Turkey’s invasion of Afrin. Rather than disavow the plan to build a Kurdish border protection force, the Pentagon doubled down, and simply relabled it a “local security force.”

Pentagon and Central Command spokesmen and commanders also praised the Kurds for their key role in the campaign against ISIS.

“Our [Kurdish] partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region,” Major General James Jarrard, the commander of Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, for his part, has been the most outspoken in his criticism of the Turkish operation. Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the Turkish operation helps ISIS and al Qaeda.

It “distracts from the international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS. This could be exploited by ISIS and Al-Qaeda obviously, that we’re not staying focused on them right now,” Mattis said.

The U.S. has no interest in an open breach with Turkey. Any such breach will only strengthen Erdogan’s position at home and in the wider region. And given Turkey’s military weakness and the Kurds’ military power, America’s best bet is to keep its head down as Turkey insults it, while supporting the Kurds on the ground as they supplant the Turks as America’s partners in the field.

Rather than express dismay as Turkey moves further and further into the Russian-Iranian camp and away from the U.S., the administration can simply shrug its shoulders and let the chips fall. In this context, it makes sense that the administration did not try to prevent Turkey from purchasing the S-400 anti-aircraft system, which endangers the F-35 program.

Rather than trying to convince Erdogan not to walk out of NATO by rendering his weapons systems incompatible with NATO systems, last November, Assistant Undersecretary of Defense for International Affairs Heidi Grant simply let it be known that Turkey’s decision would have consequences for its planned purchase of 100 F-35s.

Speaking to Defense News, Grant said that the Turks “are a sovereign nation. They can choose to go with other partners. But I have made it very clear that it makes it a little more difficult for our partnership as a coalition because we will not be interoperable. As of right now, our current policies are, we would not be interoperable with Russian equipment.”

Turkey’s invasion of Afrin, like so many of its other actions in recent months and years, make it clear that it can no longer be considered a U.S. ally.

And a close examination of the Trump administration’s actions and statements indicate that not only is the U.S. no longer treating Turkey like an ally. It is also taking steps to neutralize the threat Turkey poses to American interests while cultivating a new alliance with the Kurds that will survive Turkey’s current slide into irrelevance and grow stronger in the coming years.