Posts Tagged ‘Mevlut Cavusoglu’

Turkey Will Secure Its Energy Supply, No Matter The Cost

September 7, 2018

Economic problems resulting from US sanctions and the decline in the value of the Turkish lira will increase the already record high trade deficit, currently half of which is related to energy imports. In 2017 it amounted to 77 billion USD, more than twice the amount of 2016. Erdoğan is determined to create a politically dominant state. To this end he needs to ensure energy independence, which can be done through the occupation of the oil fields in Kirkuk, and the acquisition of the gas fields of Cyprus.

No automatic alt text available.

Last year Turkey consumed more than 1 million barrels of oil a day. Energy spending increased from 27.16 billion USD in 2016 to 37.19 billion USD in 2017, which made up 50% of the trade deficit.

The increase in oil prices will affect the trade deficit even more, while 75% of its value will be energy imports. The average annual barrel price in 2017 was 54 USD, and this year the average cost is about 70 USD, and the price will continue to rise. All of this is a drag on Turkish economy. To counteract the negative balance sheet, Recep Erdoğan will take more determined steps to ensure energy independence. This, however, will lead to turmoil in the region.

1. Kirkuk, one of the oldest and largest oil fields in the Middle East, is located in the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan took control of them in 20113) and decided to connect Kirkuk with the existing pipeline to Ceyhan to bypass Baghdad and sell Iraqi oil on the international market without the consent of the Iraqi authorities. After the Iraqi part of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline had been taken over by ISIS and partly destroyed, the Kurdish authorities created a pipeline transmission network, and so were able to export 300,000 barrels a day to Anatolia.In October 2017, the region was retaken by the Iraqi army. The government in Baghdad has committed itself to building a new transmission line from Kirkuk to the Turkish border (around 350 km), where it will merge with the existing oil infrastructure leading to Ceyhan.4) Both the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities want Turkey to be perceived as the most important oil importer from the Kirkuk fields (other countries adjacent to Iraq are self-sufficient in terms of oil), Erdoğan has a different strategy for this area.. Kurdish oil fields can produce up to 1 million barrels a day, which equals Turkish demand. In 2016 Erdoğan declared “If the gentlemen desire so, let them read the Misak-i Milli (National Oath) and understand what the place means to us,” The Turkish president referred to an Ottoman Parliament-sealed 1920 pact that designates Kirkuk and Mosul as parts of Turkey.

Ankara wants to regain these regions lost in 1926 as a result of the Treaty of Ankara regulating the border with Iraq, which was then a British colony. The agreement signed in 1926 stipulates that although the areas do not belong to Turkey, Ankara has the right to initiate military action in case of destabilization in the region. Thus, the agreement between Turkey, United Kingdom and Iraq is Erdoğan’s pretext for increasing Turkey’s military presence in Kurdistan.

In August 2018 Erdoğan said Turkey was taking steps to save Iraq’s Qandil (and possibly Sinjar) area from being a “nest of terror”. It took the form of the Tiger Shield operation, whose aim was to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with its headquarters and training bases in Northern Iraq.

8)Both Ankara and Baghdad treat it as a terrorist organization threatening both countries. As a result Turkey has created 11 military bases in the Kurdistan area and doubled the number of soldiers stationed there. The Iraqi authorities, however, are afraid of the growing involvement of Turkey on Iraqi soil.

[The map of Turkey according to the Ottoman Parliament-sealed, 1920 National Oath that designates today’s Kurdistan Region, Mosul, Syrian Kurdistan, Aleppo, parts of the Balkans and Caucasus as Turkish soil.]

While an outright takeover of Kirkuk is not imminent, Ankara realises that the incorporation of Kirkuk into its economic sphere or creation of a Turkmen vassal-state will solve a large part of its energy problems. However, Erdoğan, being a statesman, will take his time in reaching his goal. The leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) said last month in support of Turkey: “An attack on Turkey is an attack on all of the region’s Turkmen,” he added “The situation of the region’s Turkmen — in both Iraq and Syria — is all connected,” he said: “As Turkmen, a strong Turkish lira is good for us.”

2. Turkey under the pretext that some areas of the coastal sea zone in Cyprus (like Block 3, which Gefira team analyzed in February) fall under the jurisdiction of Ankara-dependent Turkish Cypriot government (Northern Cyprus) intends to extract gas from the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). At the beginning of this year the Turkish navy prevented the Italian Eni group vessel from operating in the Cypriot economic zone. Erdoğan already made a statement addressed to the authorities in Nicosia and Athens:

“„We warn those who overstep the mark in Cyprus and the Aegean. (…) They are standing up to us until they see our army, ships and planes”.

The statement of the President of Turkey confirms the greater military involvement in this part of the Mediterranean and the intensification of the exercises. At the beginning of the month Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey could start drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean this autumn as the country had already purchased a platform. A conflict in this area is inevitable.

President Erdoğan warned Cyprus and international gas exploration companies that the violation of Turkish interests would have bad consequences. We expect that if Ankara takes over Cypriot gas blocks, Israel will be on the side of Cyprus, which has its own interests in this area and whose troops are stationed there. In September, Greece, Israel and Cyprus will hold a summit about gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish plans to drill in the region. Ankara is not invited.

3. Maintaining good relations with Qatar is essential for Turkey. Both Turkey and Qatar are supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and it is said that Qatar’s row with the Gulf countries is about its assistance to the brotherhood.22) Turkey is still a staunch supporter of Morsi, the abolished Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt. Ankara and Doha are strategic partners on political, economic and military levels. Qatar supplied Turkey with 1.5 billion tonnes of LNG.23) Ankara is Qatar’s important and natural security ally.As part of the 2014 military cooperation agreement, Turkey created a military base in Qatar, and in the aftermath of the 2017 Gulf Crisis decided to increase its contingent there.24) Ankara’s presence in Qatar is a better security guarantor than the US, which sacrificed their staunch ally Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Turkey also provided Qatar with food by plane when the other countries of the Gulf blocked the latter’s supply lines.25)Doha repays Ankara by promising to help to the amount of USD 15 billion in the form of support for “many economic projects, investments and deposits” and a currency swap.26) In return for further military presence and support for Qatar through Turkey, Doha may repay further investments and financial measures aimed at stopping the decline of the Turkish lira.

Military forces have changed governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya but failed to do so in Syria. The goal is the same as with the actions against Venezuela, Iran and Turkey. Before the election the Gefira team predicted that the financial attack on Turkey would stop after the election, but we were wrong. We also said that Erdoğan would not give in, and we were right. Erdoğan’s plan for Turkey is the restoration of the Ottoman power and its role in the region and in the world. To accomplish that, he has to shrink its trade deficit and secure his energy supply.


The Myth of Erdogan’s Power

August 30, 2018

Far from a sultan, the Turkish president is hemmed in by the nationalists who back him—and they don’t want him to get too close to Russia.

A supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves a flag against an electronic billboard during a rally in Ankara on July 18, 2016.(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

A supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves a flag against an electronic billboard during a rally in Ankara on July 18, 2016.(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

This month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intimated that his country might consider leaving NATO. Meanwhile, on a visit to Moscow last week, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu referred to Russia as a “strategic partner”—a first. This talk is empty. Erdogan may well be angry at Washington, but ultimately, Ankara is going to have to do whatever it takes to restore its ties with the West. Doing so might not be enough to pull the country out of its economic crisis, but Erdogan has few other options if he wants to avoid a potentially worse political meltdown: He depends too deeply on forces in the Turkish state that will have difficulty stomaching a permanent shift away from the United States and toward Russia.

In mid-August, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Turkey has been a “problem for a long time.” And that is true. But, at least in part, that’s because the United States has also been a problem for Turkey. Washington’s current list of grievances against Ankara include its detention of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, its opposition to U.S. attempts to empower the Kurds in Syria, and its deepening relationship with Russia, from which Turkey has agreed to purchase four batteries of S-400 air defense missiles by 2019. Yet from Turkey’s perspective, all of these actions seem reasonable.

Consider the case of Brunson, who was arrested in December 2016 after an attempted coup against Erdogan. Brunson was accused of having ties to the religious and political movement led by the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen that is thought to have been behind the coup. He’s also been linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Whatever the validity of those charges, Brunson is a valuable political bargaining chip; Ankara hopes to exchange him for Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former deputy general manager of the Turkish state-owned Halkbank who has been sentenced to prison in the United States for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Turkey may eventually return the pastor, but it believes that it would be unwise to do so without getting something in return.

When it comes to the Kurds in Syria, meanwhile, U.S. and Turkish strategic priorities in the Middle East have been drifting for a long time.

When it comes to the Kurds in Syria, meanwhile, U.S. and Turkish strategic priorities in the Middle East have been drifting for a long time.

Ankara was first rattled by U.S. support for the Kurds in northern Iraq during the 1990s. Today, it fears what will follow the de facto establishment in Syria of an autonomous Kurdish region, Rojava, controlled by affiliates of the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against Ankara since 1984. The United States, meanwhile, has opted to back the Kurds over Turkish objections, because the Kurdish militia was an ally against the Islamic State and remains a loyal U.S. asset in Syria after the defeat of that group.Despite the two countries’ diverging interests, as late as 2012, then-U.S. President Barack Obama still named Erdogan as one of his most trusted friends among the world leaders, and there’s no reason to doubt that Erdogan hoped to enjoy a privileged relationship with future U.S. presidents as well. Like other right-wing Turkish leaders before him, Erdogan often deferred to American power. For instance, he knew that Turkey could only achieve its ambitions in Syria—including helping the Muslim Brotherhood come to power—through cooperation with the United States, which is why the two countries at first worked together to try to oust Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

The third sore spot in the relationship between Ankara and Washington—Turkey’s recent turn to Russia—can thus be understood as act of desperation. The United States’ pro-Kurdish policies in Syria are felt as such an existential threat to Turkey that the country sees no alternative but to seek the cooperation of Russia and Iran (and their protege, the Syrian regime) to thwart Kurdish ambitions. To understand how awkward this alliance is, remember that in 2015, Turkey actually shot down a Russian aircraft that crossed into Turkish airspace while presumably on a mission to target rebel forces. More fundamentally, though, aligning with Russia simply goes against the grain of the Turkish state.

Key figures among Ankara’s elite, on whom Erdogan depends to exercise power, represent a political tradition that is deeply hostile to Moscow. These right-wing Turkish nationalists see Russia as the archenemy of the Ottoman Empire and the enslaver of the Turkic peoples. Historically, they have been firmly pro-American. They would have remained so had it not been for the United States’ support for the Kurds. Their ranks include Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which for several years has been allied with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.

Bahceli’s support has been crucial for Erdogan. For one, the president would have lost his re-election campaign in June had Bahceli not instructed his supporters to vote for Erdogan. But just as crucial is the fact that the MHP supporters are deeply entrenched in the Turkish state. Indeed, the MHP has chosen not to enter the government openly, but it wields vast power indirectly, occupying thousands of positions in the bureaucracy.

Indeed, the MHP has chosen not to enter the government openly, but it wields vast power indirectly, occupying thousands of positions in the bureaucracy.

With the Gulenists having been purged from the bureaucracy after the failed coup two years ago, the MHP and its sympathizers are now on top. And Erdogan is not a new sultan lording over these people; he is in fact beholden to Bahceli and MHP loyalists.Consider, for example, the appointment of Hulusi Akar, a former chief of the general staff, who is known to be a Turkish nationalist in the MHP mold. Nationalist circles buzzed with talk that it was at Bahceli’s request that Erdogan named Akar as minister of defense after the June elections. Akar does not trust the United States, nor does he like Russia. In his first statement as defense minister, he stressed the importance of mobilizing “national resources” to ensure the independence and security of Turkey.

This isn’t the first time MHP has wielded power behind the scenes in its self-appointed mission to protect the Turkish state. During the 1970s, MHP cadres were mobilized to crush the democratic left that was then on the rise. With the support of the bureaucracy and military, MHP militants laid siege on the social democratic government, killed thousands of leftists, and paved the way for a right-wing military coup in 1980.

Now, the MHP has assumed the mission of restoring the authority of the state and of consolidating power in order to ensure that factions within it—be they Gulenists or some other as yet unknown formation—will not usurp power in the future. To that end, it was Bahceli who, in the wake of the failed coup in 2016, called for the introduction of the presidential system that is now in place. His motive was not to cater to Erdogan’s personal hunger for power. Rather, from the vantage point of the MHP, the presidential system has the benefit of limiting the space in which factions can thrive and grow, because power is so concentrated.

However, the institutional redesign notwithstanding, a sense of security still eludes the Turkish state. And that will continue as long as Washington continues to side with the Kurdish militants in Syria and appears unsympathetic to Ankara’s concerns about the Gulenists. Washington’s refusal to extradite Gulen—combined with the fact that the Obama administration issued no statements of solidarity or condemnation of the coup as it unfolded—amounts in Turkey’s eyes to complicity. The coup attempt left the state scrambling for security wherever it could be found, including through buying Russian air defense missiles, which will be used to protect key government installations, including the presidential palace, if necessary.

At the same time, close ties with Russia can’t last forever, given the right-wing nationalists’ distaste for such an alliance. Further, faced with a prospect of a deep economic crisis—something with which Russia, itself in economic trouble, is ill-suited to help—the Turkish state elite have realized that tensions with the United States cannot be allowed to linger.

To be sure, Erdogan and Bahceli will not try too hard to get back on the good side of the United States as long as the threat of a U.S.-backed Kurdish state in northern Syria remains. And at that price, Washington may conclude that the alliance with Turkey is not worth saving. But that would amount to saying that it does not matter for the United States if Turkey, a NATO ally, remains friendly toward Russia or collapses all together. Ultimately, the United States is going to have to make a choice: between Rojava and Turkey, between a socialist-radical experiment and a right-wing authoritarian state.


See also:

How Turkey Dumbed Itself Down


Erdoğan hosts Iranian FM Zarif in Ankara for talks on Syria

August 30, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the capital Ankara, according to the Presidency’s official website.

The two leaders met for nearly an hour of talks at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) headquarters.

Also present at the meeting was Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) welcomes Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) headquarters in Ankara on Aug. 29, 2018. (IHA Photo)

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, Çavuşoğlu said bilateral issues and Syria would be discussed in the meeting.

Later, he said in a tweet: “We discussed topics on our bilateral and regional agenda, including developments in #Syria with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of #Iran.”

Turkey and Iran, along with Russia, are guarantor countries of a cease-fire in Syria in the Astana peace process.

The meeting comes as the Assad regime prepares an assault against Syrian opposition forces in northwestern Idlib province, which has been designated as a de-escalation zone by the three guarantor countries.

German FM Maas to visit Turkey next month ahead of Erdoğan-Merkel meeting

August 24, 2018

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will head to Turkey in early September ahead of a major Berlin visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the end of the month, sources told dpa Friday.

During his two-day visit on Sept. 5-6, Heiko Maas will meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and other senior officials in capital Ankara.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, July 18, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

Later the two top diplomats will travel to Istanbul for a celebration at the city’s German School marking its 150th anniversary.

The foreign minister’s visit to Istanbul, the first since he took office, is one of a string of planned visits by senior government figures in the run-up to Erdoğan’s Berlin trip on September 28 and 29.

The president is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The German Foreign Ministry declined to confirm Maas’ trip, saying they could not give out information about the foreign minister’s travel plans in advance.

Over the past two years political relations between Ankara and Berlin have suffered setbacks, but in recent months both sides have taken steps towards improving ties.

EU heavyweight Germany remains Turkey’s main economic and trade partner, despite political disagreements between the governments on a number of issues.

Turkey Shifts Closer to Russia

August 15, 2018

Foreign ministers slam Western sanctions, as Erdogan plans boycott of U.S. electronic goods

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow in April.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, discussed the Syrian crisis with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Moscow in April.PHOTO: SERGEI CHIRIKOV/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

ISTANBUL—President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey stepped up his attacks on the U.S. on Tuesday, calling for a boycott of Apple Inc.’s iPhones and other U.S. electronic goods, while his foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart in criticizing Western sanctions.

Turkey, a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, has been caught between the West and Russia. This week, officials in Ankara were leaning decidedly toward Moscow.

In recent weeks, Turkey and Russia have been the targets of U.S. sanctions while their currencies, the lira and the ruble, have dropped against the dollar. Mr. Erdogan’s boycott is part of a wider campaign Turkey has launched to retaliate against the U.S. measures.

The lira, already hit by investor concerns over Turkey’s financial stability, has hit a series of record lows since Aug. 1, when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey for not freeing a U.S. pastor facing terrorism charges.

On Tuesday, the lira rose slightly against the dollar, to 6.37, but remains vastly lower against the U.S. currency this year.

New tariffs the U.S. introduced on some Turkish imports on Monday have raised concerns of a full-blown trade war.

Attending a conference with Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, in Ankara on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey lashed out against Western sanctions.

“This era when we are being bullied must end,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.

Mr. Lavrov echoed those sentiments: “They are using methods of sanctions, threats, blackmail and diktat.”

Promising tighter cooperation with Turkey, Mr. Lavrov said Russia may shun the dollar in bilateral trade in the future, as it has done with countries such as China and Iran.

A Relationship in Crisis: Turkey Drifts Away From the U.S. and Towards Russia

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and pursuit of a nationalist agenda has put his country at odds with its U.S and NATO allies. Meanwhile, he’s found a friend in Vladimir Putin. Photo: Getty Images

Closer ties to Russia could help Mr. Erdogan make his nation less-reliant on Washington and change the face of post-World War II Europe, on which its military force has been guarding NATO’s southeastern flank.

“We are looking for new allies,” Mr. Erdogan told supporters on Sunday.

There are limits, however, to how much help Moscow can provide for Turkey’s economy. On Tuesday, Mr. Lavrov provided no concrete pledges of assistance.

The budding trade and military partnership between Russia and Turkey is a remarkable turn of events. Two years ago, tensions rose after Turkey downed a Russian jet fighter and Russia’s ambassador was shot and killed by an off-duty Turkish police officer.

Recently, however, Moscow has signed contracts to supply its southern neighbor with more natural gas, a nuclear power plant and an advanced antimissile shield.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 26.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 26. PHOTO: VLADIMIR ASTAPKOVICH/KREMLIN/SPUTNIK/REUTERS

In contrast, relations between Turkey and the U.S. have soured.

Mr. Erdogan has accused Washington of waging an economic war against Turkey. Over the weekend, he lamented the lack of action on his demand that the U.S. deport a cleric he has said was behind a failed coup in 2016. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has denied the accusation.

Manifestations of anti-U.S. sentiment have multiplied on social networks, where some people posted videos of themselves burning dollar bills and breaking U.S. electronic devices.

Hit hard by the drop in the lira, Ruhi Tas said he had tailored his own boycott.

Angry to see a $12,000 debt he contracted in dollars was ballooning in liras, the 43-year-old barber said he had decided to stop offering the “Amerikan” at his salon in the Black Sea town of Unye.

Although the male cut—short on the side and longer on the top—is very popular among youth in the region, the boycott has spread to other hairdressers, he said.

“I will resume doing the Amerikan when the dollar goes down,” he said, adding he had support from clients. “Tell the U.S. not to mess with Turkey.”

Despite using inflammatory language against the U.S., Mr. Erdogan has avoided direct attacks on President Trump, Turkish officials said, signaling that a compromise on the issue of the pastor, Andrew Brunson, was still possible. On Tuesday, the pastor’s lawyer said he had filed a new motion to Turkish courts, asking his client be released from house arrest and given back his passport.

Some analysts, meanwhile, said they expect Mr. Erdogan to forge closer ties with the European Union, which relies on Turkey’s help to contain migrant flows, and remain committed to NATO.

The U.S.-Turkey spat “is a bilateral issue and will remain so,” said Unal Cevikoz, a retired ambassador who served in Russia. “Mr. Erdogan will not dare leave NATO.”

In Turkey and the U.S., the business community warned about possible catastrophic consequences and urged the two sides to avoid stoking tensions.

“Actions that heighten these tensions risk spreading today’s financial challenges to other emerging markets, to European banks, and, ultimately, to the U.S. economy,” said Myron Brilliant, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting of the foreign ministers in Ankara concerned the war in Syria.

In the spring, Russia, one of the main sponsors of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, permitted Turkey to occupy a town in northwestern Syria to repel Kurdish militants whom the U.S. considers allies but Ankara regards as a terrorist threat.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Mr. Cavusoglu urged Mr. Lavrov to help contain the regime’s rush to retake the town of Idlib, around which Ankara has positioned military observers.

“It would be a massacre to bomb the whole of Idlib just because there are some terrorists inside,” he said.

Write to David Gauthier-Villars at

Appeared in the August 15, 2018, print edition as ‘Turkey Shifts Closer to Russia.’

Andrew Brunson row: Turkey ‘agrees to resolve issues’ over US pastor

August 3, 2018

The United States and Turkey have agreed to deal with the row over detained US pastor Andrew Brunson diplomatically. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Turkey of serious consequences if the pastor is not released.

Pompeo meets Cavusoglu (picture-alliance/AA/F. Aktas)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, held talks in Singapore on Friday on the sidelines of a regional summit and agreed to continue to try to resolve bilateral issues between the two countries.

Washington imposed sanctions on two of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ministers over the trial of Andrew Brunson, a US pastor who Turkish authorities accuse of espionage and backing terror groups. Washington has maintained that there is no credible evidence to support the charges.

50-year-old Brunson was arrested in December 2016 following a botched military coup against Erdogan on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and espionage. Now subject to house arrest, he faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years if he is convicted on both counts at the end of his ongoing trial.

The evangelical pastor, who is originally from North Carolina, has lived in Turkey for 23 years and ran the Izmir Resurrection Church.

Read more: Turkey’s Erdogan defiant in face of US sanctions threat over pastor

Türkei | US-Pastor Brunson in Hausarrest entlassen
(picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/E. Tazegul)Brunson is charged with supporting a group Turkey blames for orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016

Hard talk

Pompeo told reporters travelling with him to Singapore the US had put Turkey on notice “that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned.”

“I hope they’ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we’re very serious,” Pompeo said of the sanctions. “We consider this one of the many issues that we have with the Turks.”

“Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government. Pretty straightforward. They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people,” he added.

But Cavusoglu insisted that US’ threats and sanctions would not be effective.

“We have said from the start that the other side’s threatening language and sanctions will not get any result. We repeated this today,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Singapore after his meeting with Pompeo.

Read more: Cavusoglu: Europe shows ‘double standards’ over democracy

US, Turkey at odds

On Wednesday, the White House announced it was imposing sanctions on Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu for their role in Brunson’s detention.

“We believe he (Brunson) is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey,” US Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

President Erdogan has said that he will not be swayed by sanctions.

However, he has indicated that he would swap Brunson for Fetullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim cleric accused of plotting the 2016 coup against Erdogan.

Ilhan Uzgel, an Ankara-based political scientist, says that Turkey needs to take the Brunson row seriously.

“The US is sending a message to Turkey that it is losing confidence in President Erdogan’s government. The diplomatic row escalated because of Turkey’s miscalculation. Ankara wanted to use Brunson as a bargaining chip with Washington, but the plan backfired,” Uzgel told DW.

“But on the other hand, the US and Turkey are engaged in a dialogue. These discussions must continue,” Uzgel added.

The US uses bases in Turkey for its military operations across the Middle East, but the two countries have sparred over numerous issues, including Washington’s support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, whom Ankara sees as a threat to its political stability.

shs/rt  (Reuters, AFP)

Turkey dismisses US ‘threats, sanctions’ over detained pastor — Before Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mike Pompeo talks set to start

August 3, 2018

Turkey and the US failed to resolve the diplomatic standoff over a detained pastor on Friday, with Ankara’s foreign minister warning that sanctions and threats would not work.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said ahead of talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that Washington was “very serious” in demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Mevlut Cavusoglu — FILE photo

“The Turks were on notice that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they?ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we’re very serious,” Pompeo said in Singapore.

“Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government,” he added. “They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people.”

Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was moved to house arrest last week following nearly two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups.

Image result for Mike Pompeo, photos

The US has hit two top Turkish officials with sanctions over his detention, prompting Ankara to threaten reciprocal measures.

“We have said from the start that the other side’s threatening language and sanctions will not get any result. We repeated this today,” Cavusoglu said in televised remarks from Singapore where he and Pompeo are attending a regional security summit.

Brunson, whose trial began in the spring, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey. Brunson, who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges was released and will be put under house arrest as his trial continues. The White House is announcing that the Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul) 

Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup.

The State Department has said it continues to favour a diplomatic approach, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters earlier this week that the pastor’s detention “has gone on for too long”.

On Friday Nauert said Pompeo and Cavusoglu had a “constructive conversation” and “agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries”.

Cavusoglu also said the talks were “extremely constructive” but warned in comments to Turkish media that all the issues would not be solved “after one meeting”.

– Bitter diplomatic feud –

Pompeo and Cavusoglu spoke by phone on Wednesday as the US announced sanctions on Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. The US claims both men played a major role in the arrest and detention of the pastor.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo have made Brunson’s release a priority.

His detention has fuelled a bitter diplomatic feud between Turkey and the US, whose relations have already deteriorated in recent months over the Syria conflict.

The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between the two NATO allies in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Brunson was initially detained in October 2016 during Turkey’s crackdown following an attempted putsch.

He stands accused of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey considers terror groups.

Image result for Fethullah Gulen, photos

Fethullah Gulen

One is led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind the failed coup, while the other is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The pastor denies the charges and his defence team argues the case is built on questionable witness statements. His next hearing is set for October 12.



Turkey won’t step back in face of US sanctions threat: Erdogan


Turkey, U.S. Try To Iron Out Differences on Pastor Held in Turkey

July 29, 2018

Amid high-running tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over jailed U.S pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his U.S. counterpart Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone call Saturday.

The U.S. Department of State released a statement following the phone call, saying Pompeo and Çavuşoğlu are “committed to continued discussions to resolve the matter and address other issues of common concern.”

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The call is the second conversation held between Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo on the matter.

In the first call, the Turkish minister had reiterated that Turkey will not yield to anybody’s threats, underlining that the rule of law applies everyone in Turkey without an exception.

Brunson, who denies charges of links to the Gülenist terror Group (FETÖ) – the group behind the failed 2016 coup – was moved to house arrest on Wednesday, prompting the Trump administration to threaten sanctions against NATO-ally Turkey. Turkey’s response was harsh and dismissive, calling Trump’s words “unacceptable” and a “cheap threat.”

Tension between the two NATO allies increased once again when President Donald Trump and V.P. Pence threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if pastor Andrew Craig Brunson — who faces terrorism-related charges — is not released.

Ankara has balked strongly at Trump threatening Turkey with sanctions if it does not release Brunson, who is charged with spying for FETÖ and the PKK — a designated terrorist group in the U.S. and Turkey.


Turkey’s anti-terror bill sends the wrong message for the economy and diplomacy

July 25, 2018

t has been a month since the June 24 elections and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has almost established the most essential parts of his new administration, although more needs to be done in the coming period.

Erdoğan announced his vice president and 16 ministers on July 9 and issued a number of presidential decrees to build his administration, including nine agencies and four offices, a process that is being accompanied with a major change in the state’s key bureaucracy.

Image may contain: 1 person

The last two weeks have shown economy will be the key priority of Erdoğan’s government under the control of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak who has been appointed as the Treasury and Finance Minister.

Albayrak has already proven to be a very active minister who is promising to put things back on track in regards to macroeconomic balances with the participation of all relevant stakeholders. He, at the same time, has been conveying strong messages to ease the concerns of international economic circles and financial institutions over the independence of the Central Bank.

Image result for Berat Albayrak, photos


The second priority of Erdoğan’s government is security. That is why a 29-article legislation that grants excessive powers to governors and other state bodies has been rushed to parliament immediately after the termination of emergency rule. In his address to parliament on July 24, Erdoğan made it clear he would not give an ear to criticisms voiced by other countries and opposition parties.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) describe this law as the graver version of the state of emergency, which violates the Turkish constitution. Opposition spokespeople underlined many articles of this law were in contradiction with universal rights and fundamental freedoms while the government argues that this legal move is no different from measures taken by France in late 2017 after the removal of a two-year long state of emergency.

The third priority is about foreign policy. Ties with the Netherlands and Germany as well as Austria are seemingly improving in bilateral terms as a result of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s efforts. In a meeting with some journalists on July 23, Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s intention to develop better ties with all countries, particularly in the European continent, hinting new trilateral and four-way mechanisms with prominent partners, including France and Germany.

Çavuşoğlu underlined Turkey’s readiness to reconcile with the European Union as well as the fact that Turkey does not have the luxury to turn its back on the world’s wealthiest international organization. Upgrading the Customs Union and introducing a visa waiver for the Turkish nationals could be areas on which Turkey and the EU can develop their cooperation, according to the minister.

However, these three priorities contradict one another because of the probable negative impact of the anti-terror law on achieving economic and diplomatic targets. There are serious concerns that this new law will institutionalize emergency rule for another three years at the expense of further deteriorating the state of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

This situation is obviously not ideal for attracting foreign investment, which looks for stability, predictability, and a well-functioning rule of law. It also conveys the message that Turkey is still far from the normalization process.

As for foreign policy, this law will definitely put another hurdle before any attempt to engage with the European Union, if, of course, the government has such an objective. Plus, it will also further complicate Turkey’s demands for upgrading the Customs Union and visa exemption for Turkish nationals.

It is symbolically important that the first legislative activity of the Turkish Parliament under the new presidential system is the one that de facto extends the state of emergency for another three years. Clearly, this bill does not send the right message to the outer world about the government’s future policies.

By Serkan Demirtas

Syria, Islamic State (IS) using civilians as ‘pawns’: UN rights chief

June 29, 2018

Civilians fleeing attacks on rebel-held towns in southern Syria are being used as “pawns”, the UN rights chief said, lamenting reported demands for payment at government checkpoints and jihadist’s blocking movement.

With Russia’s help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army has battered Daraa province for over a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs.

In this Thursday, April 5, 2018 photo, rubble of buildings line a street that was damaged during fighting between US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighters and Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria.(AP/Hussein Malla)

Syria: Rubble of buildings line a street that was damaged during fighting between US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighters and Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria. (AP/Hussein Malla)

The bombardment has already forced more than 66,000 to flee their homes in search of safety, according to the UN, while others huddle in their basements to wait out the raids.

UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned in a statement of the “grave risk that the intensified fighting will see many civilians trapped”.

He said many risked being caught between pro-government forces on one side and armed opposition groups and the Islamic State jihadists on the other.

The rights chief condemned how “civilians in Syria continue to be used as pawns by the various parties”.

Zeid said his office had received reports that “in the last few days, civilians at some government checkpoints in the southern-eastern and western parts of Daraa have only been allowed through to government-held areas in Daraa City and As Suwayda governorate for a fee.”

“To add to the bleak situation facing civilians, there are also reports that ISIL fighters in control of the Yarmuk Basin area in the western part of Daraa governorate are not allowing civilians to leave the areas under their control”, he said.

© AFP | With Russia’s help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army has battered Daraa province for over a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs

Zeid stressed that international law requires all sides to “do their utmost to protect civilians” and urged the parties to the conflict “to provide safe passage to those wishing to flee.”

“Those wishing to stay must be protected at all times,” he added.

Zeid said his office had documented at least 46 civilian deaths in the region since the escalation began on June 19. But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the toll at more than double that, at 96.

The UN has warned that more than 750,000 lives are at risk in the south, which is meant to be protected by a ceasefire put in place last year by Russia, Jordan, and the United States.

The onslaught has sparked fears of a re-run of the offensives last year against the rebel enclaves of Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, including deadly bombardments followed by a retaking of territory and an accord to evacuate rebels from the areas.

“I have spoken of the cruel irony of Eastern Ghouta being a de-escalation zone, and how the conduct of the war has been utterly shameful from the outset and a stain on us all,” Zeid said Friday.

“Now another supposed ‘de-escalation’ zone risks becoming the scene of large-scale civilian casualties,” he said.

“This madness must end.”