ALEXANDRIA, December 17 -- A one-time business partner of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been arrested and charged with illegally lobbying to have a Turkish exile returned from the U.S.
Bijan Rafiekian, who also goes by the name Bijan Kian, made an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He is indicted on charges including failing to register as a foreign agent. According to the indictment, Rafiekian was vice chairman of Flynn’s business group, the Flynn Intel Group. The two worked throughout 2016 to seek ways to have cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the U.S. to Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of directing a failed coup. Flynn is referred to in the indictment only as “Person A.”
OTTAWA, December 17 -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said for the first time that his Liberal government is looking for a way out of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in a TV interview that aired on Sunday, the comments represented a notable hardening in tone from Trudeau, who previously said there would be huge penalties for scrapping the $13bn agreement for armoured vehicles made by the Canadian unit of General Dynamics Corp. "We are engaged with the export permits to try and see if there is a way of no longer exporting these vehicles to Saudi Arabia," Trudeau told CTV. He did not give further details. Political opponents, citing the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia's involvement in the Yemen war, insist Trudeau should end the General Dynamics deal, which was negotiated by the previous Conservative government. In October Trudeau maintained that he was reluctant to cancel the controversial contract with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Khashoggi case as it would cost Canada C$1bn ($747m).
Trudeau said that the "difficult" contract was made in a way that "makes it very difficult to suspend or leave the contract". "I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion-dollar bill because we're trying to move forward on doing the right thing," Trudeau said in October. "So we're navigating this very carefully." Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh have been tense since a diplomatic dispute over human rights earlier this year. Ottawa says it has been consulting allies on what steps to take after Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "The murder of a journalist is absolutely unacceptable and that's why Canada from the very beginning had been demanding answers and solutions on that," said Trudeau.
Human rights groups have been issuing letters to Trudeau since 2016, asking him to cancel the controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia. "To provide such a large supply of lethal weapons to a regime with such an appalling record of human rights abuses is immoral and unethical. The spirit and letter of both domestic export controls and international law support this view," said the letter signed by representatives of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.
"We believe the regime's integrity has been utterly compromised with the government's decision to proceed with the largest arms sale in Canadian history to one of the world's worst human rights violators." There is a "reasonable risk" that Canadian-made military hardware is being used against civilians, the letter noted, considering Saudi Arabia's "abysmal and worsening human rights record, both within Saudi Arabia and in neighbouring Yemen".
ISTANBUL, December 14 -- After being dismissed in October, Phillip Cocu has reached an agreement with Fenerbahce over the termination of his contract.
Phillip Cocu said he "fell in love with Istanbul" in a farewell message to Fenerbahce supporters after the club announced a "mutual agreement" had been struck regarding his October dismissal for plunging the Turkish giants into a relegation battle.
Cocu was relieved of his duties as first-team coach at the end of October following a 3-1 home defeat by Ankaragucu, just four months after being hired. The former PSV coach won just three of his 15 competitive matches in charge, and things have barely improved since under his assistant Erwin Koeman, with Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Akhisarspor leaving Fener second from bottom in the Super Lig.
Despite being dismissed in October, the club and Cocu only recently came to an agreement over the termination of his contract, which was officially announced on Thursday.
ANKARA, December 14 -- Three state railway employees were detained following the train crash in Turkey's capital that killed nine people and injured 86, the Ankara public prosecutor's office has confirmed.
The high-speed train from the Turkish capital crashed into a locomotive on the same track on Thursday morning, Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said. The accident took place at 6:36 am shortly after the train left Ankara's central station and collided head-on with the locomotive, which was returning from checking tracks, in the district of Yenimahalle on the outskirts.
Three train drivers - two from the express train and one in the locomotive - were among the dead, Turhan said. A fourth driver was injured. The other six fatalities were passengers, the prosecutor's office said. The German Foreign Office said a German man was among those killed. The train was on its way to Konya, in central Turkey, about 260 km south of Ankara. There were 206 people on board, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Broadcast footage showed rescue workers at the scene amid piles of rubble and mangled carriages. Sniffer dogs were also at the crash site, but the transport minister said there was no one left under the rubble.
ANKARA, December 13 -- A Turkish high speed train collided with another locomotive and crashed into an overpass at a train station in Ankara on Thursday, killing four people and injuring 43, the local governor said.
Video footage showed emergency workers at the scene, working to rescue people from carriages trapped beneath the mangled metal wreckage of an overpass at the Marsandiz train station, to the west of Ankara.
The accident occurred around 6:30 a.m. (0330 GMT) as the train was travelling between Ankara and the central Turkish province of Konya, the broadcaster said. The Marsandiz station is around 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the main Ankara train station.
Governor Vasip Sahin told reporters the crash was caused by the high speed train hitting a locomotive which carries out track inspections. It was not clear at what speed the trains were travelling when the crash occurred, but it occurred at a station where the Ankara-Konya train does not stop. An official from the Ankara governor's office initially said the high speed train had collided with a suburban train.
ANKARA, December 12 -- Turkey on Wednesday warned it will launch a new operation in Syria within days against US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, risking renewed tensions with NATO ally the United States.
Addressing a defense industry meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the target of the operation would be the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG - which Turkey views as a terrorist group linked to the insurgency within its borders. Washington's relationship with the YPG, seen as a key partner spearheading the fight against terrorists in Syria, is a major bone of contention between the US and Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly lambasted Washington for providing military support to the militia and threatened to attack areas held by the YPG. Erdogan announced the plans for a new offensive a day after the Pentagon said observation posts were in place on the Syria-Turkey border to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and the militia.
"We will start an operation to free the east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organization in the next few days," Erdogan said, referring to territory held by the YPG. Turkey says the YPG is a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
"The target is never American soldiers but terrorist organization members active in the region," Erdogan told the audience at a defense industry summit.
The Pentagon on Tuesday announced the posts' establishment on the northeast Syria border region despite calls from Ankara not to go ahead with the move. Erdogan claimed Turkey was not being protected from terrorists but "terrorists were being protected" from possible action by Turkey. In October, Turkey shelled YPG positions east of the Euphrates in the Kobane region. Youssef Hammoud, spokesman for a coalition of pro-Ankara rebels, said the aim of a new operation would be to remove the YPG from an area spanning Manbij to Tal Abyad. American forces have worked closely with the YPG under the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance against the ISIS terrorist group. US forces have joined the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, west of the river. In a bid to avoid any clash, the NATO allies agreed a "roadmap" for Manbij in June. In November, Turkish and American troops launched joint patrols in the northern city. Part of the agreement was that the YPG would leave Manbij and that the NATO allies would work together to establish a local security structure and decide who will govern.
But Erdogan on Wednesday said Turkey "still not got the result it wanted" in Manbij. "There has been a delaying tactic undeniably used in Manbij, and right now it is still being used," he said, adding that the threat from ISIS no longer existed in Syria.
During it, we discussed the steps needed to be taken to resolve the issue," the Turkish leader said. "I think it would be right to hold another summit," Erdogan offered. He also offered to discuss the format of the summit.
On October 27, leaders of Russia, Germany, Turkey and France discussed the ways to activate Syrian regulation in Istanbul. During the three-hour summit, held in this format for the first time, the parties confirmed their support of a diplomatic solution of the issue. The leaders also vowed to increase humanitarian aid to Syria, including the recovery of damaged infrastructure of the country.
On September 17, 2018, Russian and Turkish presidents agreed to create a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib along the line of contact between the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition.
KIEV, November 29 -- Ukraine will ask the Turkish authorities to close the Bosphorus for Russian ships through Russia's aggression in the Black and Azov Seas.
This was announced at a conference on maritime security by the commander of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces, Igor Voronchenko, reports Ukrinform. In particular, according to UNIAN, Voronchenko will demand recognition of Russian aggression against Ukraine at the international level.
"In this regard, and the Montreux Convention norms, namely the 19th paragraph, we will try to ask for the closure of the Bosphorus Strait in the Republic of Turkey so that the Russians know how to violate the norms of international law," said the Navy. “Ukraine now protects not only itself, but also the Western world. The Russian Federation is trying to establish and spread its dominance in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic, the Middle and Far East,” Voronchenko added.
According to him, the establishment of control on the seas next to Ukraine is "critically important" because it will prevent Russia's ambitions.
ASTANA, November 29 -- Turkey has moved its heavy weapons to Syria’s provinces.
It's conducting a policy of Turkization of the local population, which is tantamount to outright aggression, the Syrian government’s chief delegate to the Astana talks, representative at the UN Bashar Jaafari said on Thursday.
"Instead of sending a lightly armed agreed police mission Turkey has moved helicopters, troops and heavy military equipment to cities in northern Syria," he said. "Turkish flags are being hoisted in the cities. We regard Turkey’s actions as outright aggression," Jaafari said.
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