Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Iraqi troops advance on Kurds-controlled oil fields in Kirkuk

October 16, 2017

Iraqi forces have moved towards oil fields and a military base held by Kurdish forces near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The US, which backs both sides, urged their allies to deescalate the explosive situation

Irak Armee startet Operation in Kirkuk (Getty Images/AFP/A. Al-Rubaye)

Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militia clashed with Kurdish peshmerga forces early Monday south of Kirkuk, an oil-rich area at the heart of disputes between the two sides.

Tensions between the two sides have escalated since the Kurds overwhelmingly voted last month for an independent state in a non-binding referendum, which controversially included disputed territories such as Kirkuk.

Baghdad began advancing to take control of oil fields and a strategically-important military base in Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk, the Kurds said.

“Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization are now advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a major operation; their intention is to enter the city and take over (the) K1 base and oil fields,” said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Security Council.

Popular Mobilizations Units (PMU) are Iran-backed Shiite militia allied with the Iraqi government.

Footage today shows Iranian-backed PMF deployed near Maktab Khalid, SW of Kirkuk, using US equipment for attack on Kirkuk.

STATEMENT: Iraqi forces/PMF attacked Peshmerga forces in South Kirkuk in operation using US equipment, incl. Abrams tanks.

View image on Twitter

Columns of Iraqi troops and PMU could be seen heading north from the town of Taza Khurmatu, which is located south of the city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi state TV reported that Iraqi forces had taken control of “vast areas” in Kirkuk province without opposition from Kurdish peshmerga.  Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered security forces “to impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with the population of the city and the peshmerga.” It added that it had instructed the PMU to stay out of the city.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said its forces had taken control of several roads, an industrial zone southwest of Kirkuk, an oil facility, power station and police station.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council claimed peshmerga had destroyed several US-supplied Humvees belonging to the PMU.

The US Defense Department, which has supplied and trained both the peshmerga and Iraqi army, urged its two allies in the war against the “Islamic State” (IS) “to avoid additional escalatory actions.” It added that it opposed destabilising actions that distract from the battle against IS militants.

The Iraqi troops and the Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been engaged in a standoff since Saturday, when they took positions on opposite banks of a river on the southern outskirts of the city of Kirkuk.

The Kurdish forces were given a deadline of 2 a.m. local time Sunday (2300 UTC Saturday) to surrender their positions and return to their pre-June 2014 positions.

Kirkuk in Kurdish hands since 2014

Read moreWhat is the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum?

Abadi has demanded that Kurdish leaders disavow the September 25 referendum but the Kurds have rejected the demand.

Baghdad called the referendum “anti-constitutional.” Turkey, Iran and the United States were all against the vote.

After the referendum, the Iraqi parliament asked Abadi to use armed force to retake control of Kirkuk, which is inhabited by Kurds and Sunni and Shiite Turkmen and Arabs.

The Kurdish peshmerga have controlled Kirkuk since 2014 when it prevented the province’s oil fields from falling into the hands of IS after the Iraqi army collapsed. With Baghdad weak, the Kurds moved to expand territory under its control outside the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdistan region.

The Kurds and Baghdad have long been in dispute over oil resources and revenue sharing.

‘Declaration of war’

Baghdad said on Sunday fighters from Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were present in Kirkuk among Kurdish peshmerga forces, in what it said amounted to a “declaration of war.”

“It is impossible to remain silent” faced with “a declaration of war towards Iraqis and government forces,” the National Security Council headed by the Iraqi prime minister said in a statement.

The PKK affiliated ANF News Agency said its fighters had been called to mobilize and form a “defensive line to protect the people.”

The PKK has close ties with some Iraqi Kurdish parties, particularly the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

A PKK presence in Kirkuk would draw the ire of Turkey, which supports its ethnic cousins the Turkmen in the province.

ap/rc (Reuters, AFP)


Kurds ‘reject’ Baghdad’s demand to nullify referendum results

October 15, 2017

Leaders of Iraq’s Kurdistan region have renewed their negotiation offer to Baghdad but said they would not cancel the outcome of an independence vote. Kurdish officials also snubbed “military threats” over Kirkuk.

Massud Barzani and Fuad Massum (Getty Images/AFP/S. Mohammed)

A meeting between Iraqi President Fuad Masum and his Kurdish counterpart Masud Barzani was held in Sulaymaniyah after a deadline set by the Iraqi government for peshmerga fighters to surrender expired on Sunday, Iraqi media reported.

After meeting with Iraqi officials on Sunday, Barzani said his government had rejected Baghdad’s demand to cancel outcome of independence vote and pledged to defend the autonomous region in case of an attack.

Kurdish leaders, however, renewed their offer to resolve the crisis peacefully with Baghdad, Barzani’s aide Hemin Hawrami said on Twitter.

“There will not be any unilateral negotiation with Baghdad by either PUK or KDP. If there be any negotiation with Baghdad it will be a joint delegation representing all Kurdistan parties. KDP/PUK reject any demands to nullify the referendum results. Refuse preconditions,” Hawrami said.

There will not be any unilateral negotiation with Baghdad by either PUK or KDP. If there be any negotiation with Baghdad it will be a joint delegation representing all Kurdistan parties. KDP/PUK reject any demands to nullify the referendum results. Refuse preconditions

Iran’s mediation efforts

According to a Kurdish official, Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, also arrived in Iraq’s Kurdistan region to defuse tensions between Kurdish authorities and Baghdad following the Kurdish independence referendum.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency, without quoting a source, said Sunday that Iran closed its border gates with northern Iraq “considering the development in Iraq’s Kurdistan.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later denied reports about the border closure.

“As we announced earlier, we blocked our airspace to the Kurdish region on a request from the central government of Iraq, and as far as I know, nothing new has happened in this area,” the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying.

Peshmerga forces in Iraq (Reuters/M. Bosch)Kurdish fighters have reportedly rejected the Iraqi warning to withdraw from Kirkuk

Escalating crisis

The Kurdish forces were given a deadline of 2 a.m. local time Sunday (2300 GMT Saturday) to surrender their positions and return to their pre-June 2014 positions. Unconfirmed local media reports say the deadline has been extended for another 24 hours.

At the scene, a photographer with Agence France-Presse reported seeing armored vehicles bearing the Iraqi national flag on the banks of a river on the southern outskirts of the city of Kirkuk.

“Our forces are not moving and are now waiting for orders from the general staff,” an Iraqi army officer told AFP.

Facing the Iraqi forces on the opposite bank of the river were Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

On Friday, Kurdish authorities said they had sent thousands more troops to Kirkuk to confront Iraqi “threats.”

Reuters news agency said Sunday Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had rejected the Iraqi warning to withdraw from a strategic junction south of Kirkuk.

Tensions soar after ‘illegal’ referendum

Tensions between the two allies in the war against the “Islamic State” (IS) have been escalating since a Kurdish independence referendum last month that Baghdad has called “anti-constitutional.”

The Kurds overwhelmingly voted for an independent state in the September 25 referendum.

Read moreOpinion: Kurds find few friends in independence referendum

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) is pictured in Mosul, Iraq, July 9, 2017 Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERSAbadi has repeatedly denied any plans to attack the Kurds

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded that Kurdish leaders annul the referendum vote and called for a dialogue within the framework of the constitution.

After the referendum, the Iraqi parliament asked the prime minister to use armed force to retake control of oil-rich Kirkuk, claimed by both Iraqi Kurdistan and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

The Kurdish peshmerga prevented the province’s oil fields from falling into the hands of IS jihadis in 2014.

The Kurdish regional government included the disputed oil-rich province in the independence referendum, reflecting the Kurds’ historical claim to the area. Baghdad had controlled Kirkuk before IS pushed out the Iraqi army three years ago.

Read moreWhat is the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum?

‘No plans for a military operation’

Abadi has repeatedly denied any plans to attack the Kurds, insisting Thursday that he was “not going… to make war on our Kurdish citizens.”

But thousands of heavily armed troops and members of the Popular Mobilization paramilitary force, formed mainly by Iranian-trained Shiite groups, have taken position around Kirkuk.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters also rejected a 2100 GMT deadline from the paramilitary force to withdraw from a strategic junction south of Kirkuk city, Reuters news agency reported, citing a Kurdish security official. The strategic position north of the Maktab Khalid junction controls access to an air base and some of the oil fields located in the region.

shs, ap/sms (AFP, Reuters)

US-backed fighters begin final attack in Syria’s Raqqa

October 15, 2017

The Associated Press

OCTOBER 15, 2017 2:31 AM

© AFP/File | The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they have begun the battle to capture the last 10 percent of Raqa under jihadist control

‘Islamic State’ facing imminent collapse in Syria’s Raqqa

October 15, 2017

US-backed coalition forces claim they are about to drive the “Islamic State” completely out of Raqqa. Local officials and tribal leaders have reportedly struck a deal to allow IS fighters and civilians to evacuate.

SDF forces fight Islamic State in Raqqa in 2017

US-backed forces were on the brink of defeating the last remnants of the “Islamic State” (IS) group in the jihadists’ de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa on Saturday, according to officials close to the operation to retake the city.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said that around 100 IS militants had already surrendered and been “removed” from the city since Friday.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think Islamic State will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said.

But the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG told Reuters that coalition forces could have the city clear of IS forces within days.

Read more: Syrian Christians advance against IS in de-facto capital Raqqa

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (IS) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said.

Kurdish YPG in Syrian SDF alliance

The YPG is one of the most influential militant in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of groups that also includes Arabs and Christian units.

The SDF offensive to retake Raqqa started in June with the help of US-led airstrikes and several hundred US special forces.

Syrian IS fighters leaving Raqqa

Hundreds of people are trapped in IS-held pockets in the city, raising concerns over civilian casualties and IS using human shields.

Local officials from the Raqqa Civil Council and tribal leaders announced Saturday they had struck a deal to evacuate civilians and local fighters. The SDF will search and screen all people departing Raqqa.

The US-led coalition confirmed the deal in a statement.

“The arrangement is designed to minimize civilian casualties and purportedly excludes foreign terrorists,” the US-led coalition said in a statement, adding that it does not condone a deal that allows IS fighters “to escape Raqqa without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else.”

 Civil Council/local Arab tribal elders work to minimize civilian casualties as SDF & @CJTFOIR prepare for major defeat in Raqqa

UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group said that the issue of foreign fighters was of particular concern.

“The obstacle to their departure is that the mastermind of attacks in Paris in November 2015 is believed to be among them and he has refused to surrender,” SOHR head Rami Abdel-Rahman said. IS supporters killed 130 people in multiple terrorist attacks across Paris in November 2015.

Separately, the Syrian government and allied Shiite militia retook the town of Mayadeen from IS after intense fighting and Russian airstrikes, the Syrian military said Saturday.

Located along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, Mayadeen has been strategic IS stronghold as the group lost territory in Syria and Iraq.

Pro-Syrian regime forces have been trying to secure the Iraqi border and push IS out of a small pocket in the provincial capital Deir al-Zor

IS stronghold since 2014

IS had seized Raqqa as part of a broad offensive in Syria and Iraq in early 2014 and the city has since served as the jihadists’ primary Syrian stronghold.

But IS has lost much of its territory after US and Russian-backed forces began separate offensives against the militant group. In July, US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul, the jihadists’ de-facto capital in Iraq.

cw/amp/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)

Syria demands ‘immediate’ withdrawal of Turkey troops

October 14, 2017


© AFP | A picture taken on October 14, 2017, shows Turkish army diggers on a hill in the Syrian border town of Salwah

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syria on Saturday demanded the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of Turkish troops that have deployed in the country’s northwestern province of Idlib, state media said citing a foreign ministry source.

 Turkish troops entered Idlib on Thursday night as part of efforts to enforce a so-called “de-escalation zone” agreed by rebel backer Ankara and regime allies Russia and Iran at talks in Astana earlier this year.

But the Syrian foreign ministry source slammed the “Turkish aggression”, saying it had “nothing whatsoever to do with the understandings reached by the guarantor countries in the Astana process.”

The source added that the deployment was “a violation of these understandings and a departure from them.”

“The Turkish regime must abide by what was agreed in Astana.”

Turkey’s military said Friday it had begun “activities to establish observation posts on October 12”, days after Turkish troops launched a reconnaissance mission in Idlib.

On Friday, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported over 100 soldiers including special forces, and 30 armoured vehicles, had entered Idlib.

And a new convoy entered on Saturday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

The province is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, which has ousted more moderate rebels in recent months.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops had entered Syria with the Free Syrian Army, the name Ankara uses for rebels seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.

Turkey says it is backing Syrian rebels in a bid to oust HTS members in the area and allow Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement the zone.

The “de-escalation” zone in Idlib is the one of four agreed in Astana and the last to be implemented, after.

Idlib is one of the last major areas of Syria beyond the control of the government, which has recaptured vast swathes of territory from opposition fighters since its ally Russia intervened on its behalf in September 2015.

Turkey has intervened in Syria before, last year launching its operation Euphrates Shield targeting the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Hundreds of Turkish officials seek asylum in Germany

October 14, 2017

Some 600 senior-ranked Turkish officials have sought asylum in Germany since last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, according to a Berlin newspaper. The number highlights the growing uncertainty in the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (picture-alliance/AA/Turkish Presidency/Handout/Y. Bulbul )The EU is stringing Turkey along over the question of EU membership: Erdogan

Germany’s Funke media group, which includes the Berliner Morgenpost, reported Saturday that the more than 600 asylum applicants comprised 250 persons with Turkish diplomatic passports and 380 with identity papers showing them to be senior Turkish public servants.

Last year’s coup attempt, blamed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, was followed by the arrests of 50,000 people in Turkey and 150,000 sackings and suspensions in the military, public and private sectors.

The Berliner Morgenpost said it had obtained the figures from Germany’s Interior Ministry, which last month said 196 Turks with diplomatic passports had been granted asylum in Germany.

That count did not include members of Turkey’s military, including NATO attaches, who have also sought asylum.

Read more: Turkey’s purged military officers stuck in limbo one year after failed coup

Judicial independence at risk

Strains have emerged in the traditional good relations between Ankara and Berlin over the German government’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers, outrage over Turkey’s prosecution of dozens of detained German citizens, including journalists, and Erdogan’s April referendum to expand his powers.

Read more: Turkey’s prosecution of German journalist Mesale Tolu ‘unlawful’

The Berliner Morgenpost quoted the executive director of the German Association of Judges, Sven Rebehn, as saying that hardly any judicial independence remained in Turkey to exercise controls over Erdogan.

“Thousands of judges and state attorneys have been dismissed and some taken into detention. They have been replaced by government-allied jurists, who are appointed after crash courses,” he said.

“As a result, an effective, constitutional legal control of the Erdogan regime through an independent judiciary is largely inconceivable. It’s to be feared that the Turkish president will continue to dismantle Turkey’s civil society unperturbed.”

Bildcombo Yücel Tolu Steudtner (picture-alliance/dap/Zentralbild/K. Schindler/privat/TurkeyRelease Germany)Held by Turkey: German journalists Deniz Yücel (left), Mesale Tolu (center) and rights advocate Peter Steudtner

Erdogan: EU must make up its mind

In a speech to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Friday, Erdogan demanded that the EU at its Brussels summit next week make a decision on Ankara’s longstanding bid for accession to the 28-nation bloc.

“Still they string us along. But we will be patient. We say: It will be not us, but you who leaves the ring,” Erdogan told his AKP executive.

Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a major trading partner and tourist destination for Germans.

ipj/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

Includes videos:

Qatar’s Iran Alliance Likely To Cause a Loss of Leverage

October 14, 2017

Image result for qatar photos,

By Dr. Manuel Almeida

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Qatar last week, his second this year, was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves that brought Doha and Tehran closer in recent months.

In the highly transactional sphere of international politics, there are hardly points of no-return. Yet the latest Qatari leap toward Tehran could prove further down the line to have gone a step too far, not only from the perspective of the three Gulf states that cut ties with Doha, but mainly when it comes to Qatar’s own loss of leverage.

By choice or sheer necessity, rapprochements that looked unlikely until they happened have been quite common in recent years between local players and with outside powers as well — a natural consequence of the Middle East’s constant state of turmoil.

Only last week, King Salman’s historic visit to Russia culminated the process of warming ties and aligning interests with Moscow. Two years ago, Riyadh appointed a resident ambassador to Baghdad, the first since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This year, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir paid a landmark visit to the Iraqi capital.

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The collapse of Turkey’s foreign policy — grounded in a deeply ideological, neo-Ottoman outlook as envisioned by its chief architect, former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — also opened the door to fresh diplomatic starts. After a six-year rift going back to the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010, Turkey and Israel reached a deal to normalize relations in June last year.

Mounting tensions between Ankara and Moscow over Syria’s conflict, despite their significant trade ties, peaked after Turkey shot down a Russian military plane over Turkish airspace. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan eventually issued an apology, calling Russia a “friend and strategic partner.” Today, Turkey acts as a close partner of Russia, while its relations with the US have hit an all-time low.

Since the eruption in June of the ongoing diplomatic crisis centered on Qatar, Doha has restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran. Among other Qatari violations of the accord signed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in 2013 are non-interference in the internal affairs of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and support for extremist groups. These are the same kinds of threatening activities most of Iran’s neighbors accuse Tehran of.

Early last year, Qatar recalled its ambassador in Tehran after the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran. But following sanctions imposed by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Doha restored full diplomatic ties with Tehran in August. A Qatari Foreign Ministry statement read: “The state of Qatar expressed its aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields.”

Tehran is very capable of placing Doha in an uncomfortable position, should it choose to do so.

Dr. Manuel Almeida

That Qatar and Iran share the North Field, a huge offshore natural gas field that is the key source of Qatar’s massive wealth, is sufficient reason to maintain a basic working relationship with Tehran.

Yet under the previous emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, bilateral relations developed significantly. Under his successor Sheikh Tamim, there was the promise of a more balanced foreign policy. But in 2016, that did not prevent Qatar from voting against UN Security Council 1969, which called on Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program. Qatar was the only council member that voted against it.

Despite its GCC membership, the small emirate and Iran have in common a highly populist and disruptive foreign policy, often based on steering trouble abroad by supporting extremist groups of all sorts. Crucially, this is what distinguishes Qatar from Oman, which has tried to maintain an equidistant policy toward Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The talks between the pro-Islamist governments of Qatar and Turkey on the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar, which started long before the current diplomatic crisis, were already another sign of Doha’s significant differences with its Arab Gulf neighbors. In June, Erdogan, who calls Sheikh Tamim “brother,” fast-tracked a bill through Parliament to allow Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar.

Turkey’s growing military umbrella might offer some assurances to Doha, but there is plenty the far more powerful Iranian regime can do to place Qatar in an uncomfortable position. They are still fighting a proxy war in Syria, their interests do not align on every issue, and there will be other crises that will seriously test the relationship.

One of these crises could be the rising tensions between the Trump administration and Israel on the one hand, and Tehran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the various terrorist groups and militias that Iran backs across the region on the other. The US military base of Al-Udeid, southwest of Doha, could turn from a security guarantee to a problem for Qatar’s leap toward Tehran.

• Dr. Manuel Almeida is a political analyst and consultant focusing on the Middle East. He is the former editor of the English online edition of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Twitter: @_ManuelAlmeida

Don’t isolate Turkey, warn writers caught in crackdown — “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea.”

October 13, 2017


© AFP / by Michelle FITZPATRICK | “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea,” Can Dundar says
FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – Thinking back to his months in an Istanbul prison last year, Turkish journalist Can Dundar recalls a fellow inmate asking a guard for a book from the prison library.

“We don’t have the book, but we have the author,” came the reply.

The anecdote, told with a wry smile during a roundtable discussion at the Frankfurt book fair, exemplifies Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

Among the more than 50,000 people arrested since then are some 180 journalists, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced fierce criticism from the West over the repression.

But Dundar — seated next to celebrated Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan, herself held for four months on “terror propaganda” charges — urged European governments not to turn their backs on Turkey as the rift with Erdogan widens.

“Isolating Turkey means supporting Erdogan, not us,” Dundar told the audience. “Pushing Turkey to Russia and Iran is not a smart idea.”

Millions of Turks voted against granting Erdogan sweeping new powers in last April’s controversial referendum, he added.

And recent opinion polls had shown a drop in support for the veteran Turkish leader, who first came to power in 2002.

“At least half the country now is resisting, suffering and struggling at the same time,” the former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet opposition newspaper said.

– ‘Not Erdogan’s Turkey’ –

The roundtable talk was one of a series of events at this year’s book fair, the publishing industry’s top annual showcase, to shine a spotlight on press freedom in Turkey.

Earlier this week jailed Turkish investigative reporter Ahmet Sik received an award in absentia for courageous journalism, and supporters of Germany’s Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel called for his release under the banner #FreeDeniz.

Award-winning novelist Burhan Sonmez, the third participant in Thursday’s discussion in the western German city of Frankfurt, said he had recently returned to live in Istanbul after spending a decade in Britain.

He said dissenting voices live under a cloud of fear in Turkey.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen the next morning. You could be at work or in prison,” he said.

But it was also what spurred him on. “You have to speak, you have to write. Because you could be next.”

“Erdogan believes that Turkey belongs to him, but Turkey belongs to us,” he went on. “We are the cultural, social life.”

Dundar, who fled to Germany after being sentenced to a near six-year jail term for revealing state secrets, described a constant cat-and-mouse game with Turkish authorities in a bid to circumvent restrictions and reach readers.

“Since the media is controlled by the government we need to find new ways to express ourselves and give voice to the voiceless.

“Thank God people in Turkey know how to reach censored websites,” the bespectacled 56-year-old added.

– Not forgotten –

Asli Erdogan, 50, who was freed in December pending trial but only saw her passport returned to her last month, said however it was “too easy to blame everything on Erdogan”, pointing to Turkey’s fractured opposition.

“The Armenian issue, the Kurdish issue, these are faultlines that break the opposition. We can’t form a strong barrier against Erdogan and his tyranny because of these faultlines.”

Dundar and Asli Erdogan both pleaded for more solidarity with the writers being detained — not just with words but with action.

“We have to tell them we haven’t forgotten about them,” said Erdogan, whose next court date in the trial over her links to a pro-Kurdish newspaper is on October 31. She faces a lifetime behind bars if convicted.

Dundar — who was arrested after publishing an article accusing Turkish intelligence services of trafficking arms to Syria — urged journalists around the world to pick up the baton and follow up on “the banned stories, the censored stories”.

That would show the detained reporters they were being supported, he said.

“And to the government it would send the message: If you touch a journalist, you only make the story bigger.”


Erdogan: US is being governed by ambassador in Ankara

October 13, 2017

By Al Jazeera

Erdogan: 'It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey's strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador' [AP]

Erdogan: ‘It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey’s strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador’ [AP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Washington for coming under the influence of the US ambassador in Ankara over a visa dispute, which has strained relations between the between the two allies.

Erdogan reiterated his opinion that US Ambassador John Bass was behind the decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services in Turkey in a speech on Thursday.

“What a shame if the great United States of America is being governed by an ambassador in Ankara. Because this is the position they are holding. They should have said, ‘You cannot treat my strategic ally this way, you cannot act this way.’ But they couldn’t say this,” he said.


What prompted the US-Turkey visa dispute?

“It is unacceptable for the US to sacrifice Turkey’s strategic partnership for an impertinent ambassador. It is impossible for us to say ‘yes’ to this.”

The US mission in Turkey announced on Sunday that it had stopped all non-immigrant visa services amid concerns over “the security of US mission and (its) personnel”. Ankara reiterated reciprocally hours later, using similar language.

The development is an unprecedented escalation between the two NATO allies and represents a major fallout in bilateral relations.

Turkish authorities last week detained Metin Topuz, a Turkish citizen working for the US consulate in Istanbul.

US denies claims

Ambassador Bass told reporters on Wednesday the US government had still not received any official explanation from the Turkish government for why the employee was arrested.

He dismissed allegations that suspects in Turkish anti-terror probes are hiding in US diplomatic outposts in Turkey.

Bass also said that the Turkish move “raised questions about whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the long-standing cooperation” between Washington and Ankara.


How Turks are being affected by US suspension of visas

Topuz is accused of having links to a group associated with Fethullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader and businessman based in the US and wanted in Turkey.

Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt that killed more than 300 people.

President Erdogan has repeatedly called on Washington to extradite Gulen since the coup attempt, but the US has refused.

Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said earlier on Thursday that Turkey received a proposal from the US to resolve an escalating row between the two countries and Ankara was currently evaluating it.


Turkish forces set up positions in Syria’s Idlib

October 13, 2017

Image may contain: outdoor

Turkish forces are entering Syria as part of a deal with Iran and Russia [Osman Orsal/Reuters]

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Turkish forces that entered Syria’s Idlib province late on Thursday have started setting up observation positions that appear aimed at containing a Kurdish militia, a senior rebel involved in the operation said early on Friday.

“The allied Turkish armed forces have entered Syrian territory and begun setting up observation posts,” said Mustafa Sejari, an official in a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group.

 Image result for Turkish forces in Idlib, photos

Turkish army surveys Syria’s Idlib before deployment

Turkey sent a convoy of about 30 military vehicles into rebel-held northwest Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing in Idlib, rebels and a witness said.

President Tayyep Erdogan announced the deployment on Saturday, saying Turkey was conducting a “serious operation” with rebel groups it supports, as part of a “de-escalation” deal it agreed last month with Iran and Russia in Kazakhstan.

Turkey has been a big supporter of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the war. But since last year Ankara has focused on securing its border, both from jihadists and from Kurdish forces that control much of the frontier area inside Syria.

The Astana agreement with Assad’s foreign allies Russia and Iran involves reducing warfare in several regions of Syria, including Idlib and adjacent swathes of the northwest, the most populous rebel-held area.

Tahrir al-Sham, a powerful jihadist alliance that controls much of that territory, is not party to the de-escalation deal, and is at odds with some of the rebel groups that Turkey supports.

However, its forces gave an escort to the Turkish convoy late on Thursday, witnesses said, indicating that there might not be any fighting between them.

Residents of northwest Syria and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have reported intense air raids on Idlib and nearby areas for months.

The convoy was heading towards Sheikh Barakat, a high area overlooking rebel-held territory and the Kurdish YPG-controlled canton of Afrin, the witnesses said.

“(Turkey’s deployment is) in line with Astana 6 resolutions to ensure the area is protected from Russian and regime bombing and to foil any attempt by the separatist YPG militias to illegally seize any territory,” said Sejari.

Reporting By Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Michael Perry