ANKARA, March 8 -- The process of deploying Russian advanced S-400 air defense missile systems in Turkey will begin in October, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said at a meeting with editors of the Peet Journal on Friday.
"The deployment of S-400s will begin in October and the Air Force is studying, in which regions it is better to deploy them," the defense minister said. Turkey’s defense chief reiterated that the acquisition of precisely Russian air defense systems was not "Turkey’s preference but was a forced measure." As Akar stressed, the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems are needed "to protect the country’s population." The Turkish defense minister also said that Ankara and Washington "are continuing their negotiations on the delivery of US Patriot air defense missile systems to the republic." S-400 missile systems for TurkeyIt was reported in November 2016 that Turkey was in talks with Russia on purchasing S-400 air defense missile systems. The contract’s signing was confirmed by the Russian side on September 12, 2017 and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced at the time that Turkey had already made an advance payment under the contract.
In mid-June 2018, a source in military and diplomatic circles told TASS that Russian defense enterprises had been assigned the task of completing the production of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in May 2019 for their delivery to Turkey. The S-400 Triumf is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
WASHINGTON, March 5 -- At President Donald Trump's direction, the United States intends to scrap the preferential trade status granted to India and Turkey, the US trade chief's office has said.
Washington "intends to terminate India's and Turkey's designations as beneficiary developing countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme because they no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria," the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a statement on Monday. India has failed to provide assurances that it would allow required market access, while Turkey is "sufficiently economically developed" that it no longer qualifies, the statement said. Under the GSP programme, "certain products" can enter the US duty-free if countries meet eligibility criteria including "providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access".
India, however, "has implemented a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on United States commerce," the statement said. It said Turkey, after being designated a GSP beneficiary in 1975, has meanwhile demonstrated a "higher level of economic development," meaning that it can be "graduated" from the programme.
The changes cannot take effect for at least 60 days following the notification of the US Congress as well as the countries affected - a process Trump began on Monday with letters to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate. The change for India came after "intensive engagement" between New Delhi and Washington, Trump wrote in one letter, the text of which was released by the White House.
"I will continue to assess whether the government of India is providing equitable and reasonable access to its markets, in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria," the US president wrote. In his letter on Turkey, Trump said the country's economy "has grown and diversified," and noted that Istanbul has already "graduated from other developed countries' GSP programmes".
ANKARA, February 18 -- The US may continue to have a military presence in Syria after the withdrawal of troops, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News circulated on Monday.
"Where will they pull out to, will someone else replace them, who will they leave the arms, will their presence continue? When they pull out, their presence will most probably not end, it will continue in some way," Peskov said. "All these questions are on the agenda, the presidents are talking about them. The general attitude is the same, there is no reason for optimism, and uncertainty is troubling. And this situation is not helping the crisis in Syria and hope for a solution at all," the spokesman emphasized.
On December 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that the United States had defeated ISIS (Islamic State, a terrorist organization banned in Russia) in Syria, which was the only reason for the US troops being there, so all US troops would be pulled out of Syria. According to US officials, the US would withdraw its entire force of 2,000 service members from Syria within 60 to 100 days.
BERLIN, February 7 -- An article based on BAMF statistics, there has been a great increase in the number of Turkish citizens who applied for asylum in Germany since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
According to the statistics, the number of Turks in the applications from Turkey has increased fivefold, surpassing the number of Kurds. The education level of asylum seekers has increased significantly as well, with one out of two applicants having university education. 48% of the asylum seekers in the first half of 2018 hold bachelor's degrees. Interior Ministry's data shows that Turks came in sixth in asylum seekers to Germany in 2018, with 10.655 applicants. This number was 8.483 in 2017. The increase is credited to the political situation in Turkey. The same article says 4.383 Kurds with Turkish citizenship appealed in 2016, when the number of Turks was at 1.197. In 2018, 4.067 Kurds and 5.776 Turks sought asylum in Germany. Another significant point is the rate of approval for asylum claims: %71 of appeals by Turks have been accepted, while the rate remained at 12% for Kurds.
ROTTERDAM, February 4 -- 2019 kicked off with lots of tornadic activity across southern Europe and the Mediterranean. A total of 61 reports are available in the European Severe Weather Database.
Southern Europe, particularly the coastal areas and in general most of the Mediterranean region is typically prolific with tornadoes in January. The surface temperatures of the Mediterranean remain comparatively warm, producing steep lapse rates, particularly during intrusions of cold, polar airmass from the north. Both mesocyclonic and non-mesocyclonic tornadoes are frequently observed, although non-mesocyclonic are more common. By far the most important events were the tornadoes in Antalya province, SW Turkey first on January 24 and then again on January 26. In total at least 7 tornadoes hit Antalya and its vicinity, with 2 reported to have hit the city center and one hit the airport. Several fatalities and widespread damage were reported. Several additional events were reported in the vicinity of Rhodes Island, Greece.
HILDESHEIM, February 3 -- About 150 participants covered about 16 kilometers on the first day of the long march on the route between Hildesheim and Sarstedt.
In the German city of Hildesheim, a three-day march for the freedom of PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan started on Saturday. The participants covered about 16 kilometers on the first day. The traditional three-day march started on Saturday in the Hildesheim city of Lower Saxony state under the motto "Freedom for Öcalan, status for Kurdistan". About 150 participants covered about 16 kilometers on the first day of the long march on the route between Hildesheim and Sarstedt.
A minute's silence was observed for the martyrs of the Kurdish liberation movement before the march kicked off in front of Hildesheim train station. Unfurling a banner in German, which read "Freedom for Öcalan, status for Kurdistan", the activists started the march with posters of Leyla Güven in their hands, accompanied by music and slogans. Provocations by Turkish nationalists were hardly noticed and drowned in slogans. The mood of the activists was very good on the first day of the march. On its second day, the march kicked off at 11 clock from Sarstedt and will continue until Laatzen before the demonstration moves on to the state capital Hannover on Monday. As part of the demonstration, a rally will be held in front of the Lower Saxony State Parliament in Hannover and a file will be submitted to the parliament.
ANKARA, January 28 -- Turkey is aiming to form safe zones in northern Syria so that Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey could return to their home country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Speaking in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan also said nearly 300,000 Syrians had already returned to areas controlled by Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria, adding that he expected millions of Syrian nationals to return to the proposed safe zones. Turkey hosts about four million Syrian refugees.
US President Donald Trump announced in December the withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria and Erdogan subsequently said they had discussed setting up a 32km-deep safe zone in Syria along the border with Turkey. On Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey expected the safe zone to be set up within a few months, otherwise, it would establish a buffer zone without the help of other nations.
He added that the zone will aim to protect Turkey from "terrorists", referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia that controls areas in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border.
Ankara wants the zone to contain the fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which the United States has armed and trained to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). The YPG is seen as an effective ground force by the US in the fight against ISIL, but Turkey says it is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara and Washington list as a terrorist group.
Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday that Turkey has the capacity to create a safe zone in Syria on its own, but will not exclude the US, Russia, or others if they want to cooperate. "Turkey has not forced refugees to go back to Turkey for years. However, around 300,000 refugees returned to areas held by Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria, such as Jarablus and Al-Bab," Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javid, reporting from Gaziantep on Turkey-Syria border, said. "And more refugee returns are only possible, according to Erdogan, if Turkey can have some sort of control from the west side of the Euphrates River until the Iraqi border."
STRASBOURG, January 27 -- The Kurdish youth in Europe are preparing to stage a Long March from Luxembourg to Strasbourg.
The march, to take place between 10-16 February will be held under the motto “The time has come. Rise up, smash the conspiracy and free Leader Apo”. The kick-off event for the march will be held in the German city of Saarbürcken on the 10th of February. The march will continue till Strasbourg where a mass demonstration will take place this year once again on February 16th in protest at the international conspiracy against Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan. Calling attention to the critical conditions of Kurdish hunger strikers demanding freedom for Öcalan, the preparation committee called for strong participation in the march.
BEIRUT, January 23 -- Kurdish-led fighters overran the last village held by the Islamic State group in Syria on Wednesday, confining its once vast cross-border “caliphate” to two small hamlets.
It is the culmination of a broad offensive launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces last September with U.S.-led coalition support in which they have reduced the jihadis’ last enclave on the north bank of the Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border to a tiny rump. The capture of the village of Baghouz leaves the few remaining diehard IS fighters holed up in scattered farmhouses among the irrigated fields and orchards on the north bank of the Euphrates River.
“Search operations are continuing in Baghouz to find any IS fighters who are still hiding,” the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. “The SDF will now have to push on into the farmland around Baghouz.” The Observatory said late on Tuesday that around 4,900 people, mostly women and children but including 470 IS fighters, had fled the jihadis’ fast dwindling enclave in two days. Of those 3,500 surrendered to the advancing SDF on Tuesday alone.
They were evacuated on dozens of trucks chartered by the SDF. The fall of Baghouz follows the SDF’s capture of the enclave’s sole town of Hajin and the villages of Al-Shaafa and Sousa in recent weeks.
The new wave of departures means that nearly 27,000 people have left former IS areas since early December, including almost 1,800 jihadis who have surrendered, the Observatory said.
The whereabouts of the ultra-elusive IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has made just one public appearance — in Iraq’s then IS-held second city Mosul in 2014 — are unknown. The U.S.-led coalition declined to be drawn on when it expected its SDF allies to overrun the final sliver of territory still under IS control. It stressed the operation’s bigger goal was to minimize the continuing threat the jihadis could pose from underground. “It is difficult to say how much longer, despite the progress,” coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said. “We try to stay away from timelines as it is more about degrading the enemy’s capabilities. “We are seeing a lot of enemy fighters fleeing. The Syrian forces are less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Iraqi border but still fighting against a resistance of diehard fighters.”
The remaining jihadis are well within artillery range of Iraqi forces stationed along the border, who are determined to prevent fugitive IS fighters from slipping across. On Saturday, Iraqi shelling and airstrikes on IS positions in an around Baghouz killed at least 20 jihadis, according to the Observatory.
The coalition has stepped up its own airstrikes against IS since the jihadis killed four Americans and 15 other people in a suicide bombing on a restaurant in the flash point northern town of Manbij on Jan. 16.
The U.S. losses were the biggest since Washington deployed troops in Syria in 2014 in support of the SDF. Previously it had reported just two combat losses in separate incidents. The Manbij bombing rekindled controversy triggered by President Donald Trump last month with his surprise announcement of a full withdrawal from Syria. The U.S. president justified the order with the assertion that the jihadis had now been “largely defeated” in Syria, a claim that the attack threw into renewed question. It is a far cry from the jihadis’ peak in 2014, when they overran large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq, and IS proclaimed a “caliphate” in areas under their control. The gains have come at the cost of heavy losses for the mainly Kurdish fighters of the SDF and despite their sense of betrayal by their U.S. ally after Trump’s withdrawal announcement.
Neighboring Turkey has threatened repeatedly to launch a cross-border operation to crush the Kurdish fighters of the SDF and the autonomous region they have set up in areas of northern and northeastern Syria under their control. Turkish troops had been held at bay by the intervention of U.S. troops who set up observation posts along the border and mounted joint patrols with Kurdish fighters. But with those troops gone, the Kurds fear they will be exposed to the full might of the Turkish military.
January 21 -- Kurdish communities in Europe send out a message and recalled that the Leyla Guven’s hunger strike is on the 75th day.
The Kurdish groups noted that Leyla Guven’s life is at grave risk, her demands should immediately be met. The co-chair of the DTK and MP for HDP, Leyla Guven, political prisoners in North Kurdistan, Kurdish activists in South Kurdistan, Europe and Canada are on a hunger strike campaign to protest the strict isolation imposed on the Kurdish People’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan and demand his freedom.
Kurdish youth community in Europe has also initiated a social media campaign, and continue to express their solidarity with Leyla Guven. The youths emphasized that Leyla Guven’s life is at risk, and they strongly criticized the silence of the international organizations.