ANKARA, June 17 -- The supplies of Russia’s S-400 missile defense systems to Ankara will begin in the first half of July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after returning from the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
"We discussed with Russia the S-400 issue, this is a closed chapter. There haven’t been any problems. I think the supplies will begin in the first half of July," Erdogan said, according to the NTV TV channel. Ankara is not planning to give up its S-400 contract, Erdogan stressed. "We have put our signature, we will fulfill what we have started. As part of the loan, Russia gave us various benefits and granted a loan with such interest rates which do not exist on the international market," he explained. Turkey’s National Defense Ministry is preparing a reply to a letter sent by Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Washington’s decision to suspend Turkey’s participation in a program on training Turkish pilots in the US on the F-35 bombers in the wake of the S-400 deal. "Very soon, maybe even this week the letter will be sent to [the US side]," Erdogan said.
The first reports that Russia and Turkey were in talks on the S-400 supplies emerged in November 2016. Moscow confirmed that the contract had been signed in September 2017. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said back then that the deployment of S-400 systems would begin in October 2019. According to Sergei Chemezov, the director general of Russia’s Rostec state corporation, the contract’s price tag is $2.5 bln. Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy these missile systems from Russia. The US has been vigorously trying to stonewall the S-400 deal. Earlier Washington warned Ankara that should the deal with Russia be implemented, the US would not supply its F-35 fighter-bombers 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.
ANKARA, June 10 -- Turkey criticized Iceland on Monday over "disrespectful" treatment of its national football team at the capital Reykjavik airport.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a diplomatic note to Iceland via the Norwegian embassy to protest the "disrespectful" and "violent" behaviors against Turkish footballers during the passport control and demanded extra security measures for the players. Turkey's national football team arrived in Iceland late Sunday for UEFA EURO 2020 qualifications. The team was kept waiting for around three hours at passport control on Sunday night and their bags were repeatedly searched, reported state-run Anadolu Agency. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in his Twitter the treatment at the Iceland airport was "unacceptable" on diplomatic and humanitarian levels. Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin condemned the incident. Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, also said the treatment was "not in line with diplomatic courtesy or sportsmanlike conduct." Turkey will play Iceland for UEFA EURO 2020 qualifications Group H match on Tuesday.
ANKARA, June 8 -- The Pentagon announced in a letter that it would halt F-35 fighter jet training for Turkish pilots over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.
In a letter to his Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that all Turkish pilots in the program must leave the country by July 31 and the training for new pilots will be suspended. Turkish Defense Ministry also confirmed the letter in a statement on Saturday, saying that the Pentagon expected to address security concerns over the S-400 deal. Shanahan expressed his expectation to find a solution to the existing problems between the two countries in the framework of the strategic partnership and to maintain comprehensive security cooperation, the ministry said.
The U.S. repeatedly warned that it will cut off Ankara's purchase of F-35 fighter jets if the Turkish government goes ahead with plans to buy Russian S-400 air defense system, triggering a heated dispute between the two NATO allies. Washington has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey's receipt of the multi-million-dollar jets. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday reaffirmed his resolve to buy S-400 system despite threatened sanctions from the United States.
ISTANBUL, June 8 -- German footballer Mesut Ozil has tied the knot, with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as his best man.
The Turkish-German midfielder married his fiance, actress and model Amine Gulse, on Friday at a ceremony along the Bosporus in Istanbul that was attended by many statesmen and celebrities. Photos of the wedding showed a smiling Erdogan and his wife Emine standing next to the couple as their marriage was formalised. Ozil and Gulse, who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2014, also made a hefty donation to the Turkish Red Crescent to provide a meal to some 15,000 Syrian refugees.
Ozil announced in March this year that he had asked Erdogan to be his best man. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff was part of a chorus of criticism of the invitation. Helge Braun of Germany's leading party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told Bild newspaper at the time that it "makes one sad" that Ozil would make such a move despite having been sharply criticised by the German public over his first meeting with Erdogan. The footballer whipped up a political storm when he was pictured alongside Erdogan in May 2018. Criticism intensified after Germany crashed out of the first round of the World Cup in Russia.
After the summer defeat, Ozil posted a lengthy statement announcing his resignationfrom the national team and accusing German football officials of racism. Ozil, who now plays for Arsenal, had made 92 appearances for Germany and played a key role in their 2014 World Cup victory. He said he was being blamed for Germany's disappointing World Cup performance. Ozil also said the German Football Association head, Reinhard Grindel, failed to support him when he received hate mail, threatening phone calls, and racist comments on social media after Germany left the World Cup. "I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil said, adding that despite his successful history with the team, the way he was treated made him "no longer want to wear the German national team shirt". Without Ozil, Germany started their UEFA Nations League journey with three consecutive bad results. They drew with France 0-0 at home, were defeated by the Netherlands 3-0 and by France 1-2 in an away match. Germany also lost six of their last 10 matches and were relegated to League B in the UEFA Nations League. Erdogan often attends marriages of Turkish celebrities, whom he particularly seeks out during election campaigns. His presence at Ozil's marriage comes ahead of a mayoral election in Istanbul on June 23, required after the original voting in March was annulled following a narrow victory for the main opposition Republican People's Party.
THE HAGUE, April 2 -- Party of the Unity politician Arnold van Doorn demands that the Dutch government opens a beach area which should be “halal”.
According to Van Doorn the Dutch beach needs to have a non-degenerative area for Muslims where people are not allowed to walk naked, since Muslims feel “unpleasant with scantily clad, ugly people”. Muslims don’t feel at home on most beaches, he says. “Not only Muslims, but also many other residents feel uncomfortable with the appearance of very scantily dressed and often anesthetically designed beachgoers”, he writes to the city council of The Hague.
“In addition, women in particular indicate that they are increasingly confronted with unwanted allusions and advances by people of the opposite sex during beach visits.” He believes that The Hague should therefore consider whether it is possible to designate part of the beach for Muslims. After all, there is also a nudist beach for a small group of enthusiasts, so why not design a part of the beach for the Muslim community, Van Doorn argues. Halal beach resorts already exist in seaside resorts in Turkey and Indonesia, among others. On halal beaches, Muslims could enjoy the sun according to their religious regulations. For example, men and women sunbathe separately on Lombok.
Van Doorn came to the Party for Freedom (Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam party) in 2010 in the city council of The Hague, and in 2013 – after coverting to Islam – he switched to the Islamic Party for Unity. In 2016 he received a work sentence for selling drugs to minors and the possession of a prohibited alarm gun. Halal refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. In the Quran, the word halal is contrasted with haram (forbidden).
ISTANBUL, April 1 -- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development (AK) Party and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) have both said they narrowly won Istanbul's mayoral elections on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, citing his party's data, said he had won by nearly 28,000 votes. Minutes later, the AK Party provicial head in Istanbul said his party's candidate, Binali Yildirim, had won by around 4,000 votes. In Ankara, preliminary results showed that Nation Alliance candidate Mansur Yavas had garnered 50.6 percent, with 92 percent of the votes counted. He was followed by Mehmet Ozhaseki, the People's Alliance nominee in the capital, with 47.2 percent. In the third-largest city, Izmir, the Nation Alliance candidate Mustafa Tunc Soyer was in the lead with 58.1 percent. Nihat Zeybekci, the candidate of Erdogan's bloc, had 38.5 percent. Nationwide, with 91.7 percent of the provincial votes counted, the People's Alliance, which is comprised of the AK Party and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP),had secured 51.7 percent of the votes. It was followed by Nation Alliance, a coalition made up by the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP) and the right-wing Good Party, with 37.6 percent.
Erdogan vows economic reforms
The polls posed a major challenge for Erdogan given a backdrop of high inflation and rising unemployment sparked by a major currency crisis last year. Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Erdogan on Sunday acknowledged that his party had lost control in a number of cities, and pledged that he would focus on carrying out economic reforms. Erdogan, who was elected last year as the country's first executive president, said the next polls would be held in June 2023, adding that Turkey would carefully implement a "strong economic programme" without compromising on free-market rules. Murat Yetkin, a Turkish political analyst, told that if "the Erdogan-led AK Party-MHP alliance loses Istanbul [along with Ankara] as well, that means loss of control over five major cities in Turkey." "Even if Istanbul, with 11 million voters, is won with a few thousand votes, it will be perceived as a major loss," he said. "The results also show that the executive presidential system, which was designed to avoid coalitions, has led to a de facto coalition, since the AK Party cannot maintain majority without its symbiotic partnership with MHP."
Ozgur Dilber, a CHP volunteer, said the results showed that the AK Party's popularity was waning - even if Erdogan's bloc won in Istanbul. "To me, the results are a proof that the number of voters who want change is increasing," he said outside the party's election monitoring office.
DAMASCUS, March 23 -- U.S.-backed forces said they had captured Islamic State's last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz on Saturday, ending the group's self-proclaimed caliphate after years of fighting.
"Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished," Mustafa Bali, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman, wrote on Twitter, declaring the "total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate".
However, a Reuters journalist at Baghouz said there were still some sounds of shooting and mortar fire. The final battle lasted weeks as huge numbers of civilians poured out, and for many Kurdish fighters in the SDF, victory was sweeter as it coincided with their "Now Ruz" new year. Though the defeat of Islamic State in Baghouz ends the group's grip over the jihadist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat. Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria's remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again. The United States believes the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims. Further afield, jihadists in Afghanistan, Nigeria and elsewhere have shown no sign of recanting their allegiance to Islamic State, and intelligence services say its devotees in the West might plot new attacks. Still, the fall of Baghouz is a big milestone in a fight against the jihadist group waged by numerous local and global forces - some of them sworn enemies - over more than four years. It also marks a big moment in Syria's eight-year war, wiping out the territory of one of the main contestants, with the rest split between President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey-backed rebels and the Kurdish-led SDF.
Assad and his Iranian allies have sworn to recapture all Syria, and Turkey has threatened to drive out the SDF, which it sees as a terrorist group, by force. The continued presence of U.S. troops in northeast Syria might avert this. Islamic State originated as an al Qaeda faction in Iraq, but it took advantage of Syria's civil war to seize land there and split from the global jihadist organisation. In 2014, it suddenly grabbed Iraq's Mosul, one of the region's great historic cities, as well as Syria's Raqqa, and swathes of land each side of the border. It declared an end to modern countries and called on supporters to leave their homes and join the jihadist utopia it claimed to be erecting, trumpeting its currency, flag, passports and military parades. Oil production, extortion and stolen antiquities financed its agenda, which included slaughtering some minorities, public slave auctions of captured women, grotesque punishments for minor crimes and the choreographed killing of hostages. Those excesses brought an array of forces against it, forcing it from Mosul and Raqqa in a year of heavy defeats in 2017 and driving it, eventually, down the Euphrates to Baghouz. Over the past two months some 60,000 people poured out of that dwindling enclave, fleeing SDF bombardment and a shortage of food so severe that some said they were reduced to cooking grass. Intense air strikes throughout the campaign have levelled entire districts and rights groups have said they killed many civilians, allegations the coalition has often disputed. A mass grave the SDF discovered last month showed there were other dangers in the enclave, though it has released no details on the identities of the victims or how they died. Civilians made up more than half the people leaving Baghouz, the SDF said, including Islamic State victims such as women from the Iraqi Yazidi sect whom the jihadists had sexually enslaved.
Thousands of the group's unbending supporters also abandoned the enclave while still vowing their allegiance to a ruined caliphate and showing no remorse for its victims. At displacement camps in northeast Syria where they were sent by the SDF, the hardliners, including many foreign women who came to Syria and Iraq to marry jihadists, had to be kept away from other, often traumatized, residents. Their fate has befuddled foreign governments, who see them as a security threat and are loath to accede to SDF entreaties to take them back home.
As the fighting progressed, the convoys of trucks from Baghouz started to include hundreds, and then thousands, of surrendering jihadist fighters, many hobbling from their wounds. The SDF said it captured hundreds more in recent weeks who tried to slip through its cordon and escape into Iraq or across the Euphrates and into the Syrian desert. At the end, they were besieged in a tiny camp full of rusting vehicles and makeshift shelters, pinned against the Euphrates and overlooked by hills held by the SDF. Islamic State released video from inside that squalid, shell-pounded enclave, showing its last fighters still shooting at the SDF as smoke billowed overhead. It was an attempt to shape the narrative of its defeat, portraying it as a heroic last stand against overwhelming odds and a call to arms for future jihadists. But in Baghouz in recent weeks long lines of abject, surrendering fighters sat or squatted in a desolate landscape, their dream of world domination in tatters.
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.