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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

Turkish PM Denies Russia Demanding to Use NATO Nuke Base

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Russia is not demanding to land its planes in the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey, as several Russian news services have claimed. “Russia had no demands to use İncirlik air base, those reports are not true,” Yildirim told foreign correspondents in Istanbul on Saturday, according to Hurriyet Daily News. However, the prime minister did agree that should Russia wish to use the base for its operations against ISIS, it would be welcome to do so. Still, Yildirim added, “Russia doesn’t need to use the base. They have bases in Syria.”

Yildirim’s statement concluded an anxiety-filled few days in which Russian news sources were announcing that Russia has been demanding that Turkey give its air force access to the NATO air base in İncirlik, which is where US and coalition air forces take off on their strikes in Syria. Located some 65 miles from the Syrian border, Incirlik is also where an estimated 50 US B-61 nuclear warheads (think 100 Hiroshimas times 50) are kept.

According to Izvestia, a Russian lawmaker named Igor Morozov said it was only a matter of time before Turkish president Erdogan hands over the NATO base at Incirlik to the Russians, to intensify the war against ISIS. “You’ll see, the next base will be İncirlik,” Morozov told Izvestia, shortly after the Kremlin had revealed that Russian bombers have been using an Iranian airbase for their attack on Syria. He predicted İncirlik would be “one more victory for Putin.”

Those statements came against the background of a report by EurActiv, a Belgian foundation focusing on European Union policies, that the US has begun to transfer its nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, for fear of the worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.

EurActiv cites a Stimson issue paper from August 2016, suggesting that during the July failed coup in Turkey, the Incirlik base power was cut, and US planes were not allowed to fly in or out of the base. As the coup was being suppressed, the base commander was arrested. Another source told EurActiv that US-Turkey relations have so deteriorated after the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara with the nuclear weapons, and so the warheads are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania.

Foreign Policy on Friday debunked the story, quoting a tweet from nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis, the director of non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, that said Romania does not have the special WS3 vaults needed to store the weapons safely. Also, the Romanian Defense Ministry released a statement saying “so far there have not been any plans or discussions on this topic.”

Of course, this entire brouhaha is borne by Erdogan’s obsession with his former ally and current enemy Fetullah Gulen, whose extradition from the US the Turks have been demanding since the failing of the coup (which Gulen’s supporters may or may not been responsible for). As long as the US insists on following the rule of law on the Gulen extradition, the Turks will persist in these shenanigans, until someone gets seriously hurt.

So far, as that Moscow parliamentarian has put it so aptly, one more victory for Putin.

JNi.Media

Turkish Parliament Reviews Normalization Deal with Israel

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

The agreement to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel was formally submitted Wednesday (Aug. 17) to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara for review and a final vote of approval, or not, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The debate on the issue has been delayed by several weeks due to last month’s failed attempt by part of the Turkish military to overthrow the government. Thousands of government employees and high-ranking officials were purged in the wake of the incident.

Tourism has taken a serious hit as a result of the coup and the ongoing purges, with numerous countries issuing advisories to its citizens against traveling to Istanbul, further damaging an already compromised economy. For this and other reasons, it is becoming more urgent than ever for Turkey to complete its agreement with Israel and improve its ties with Russia — which it is working on — as well as with others in the region.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a televised interview a week ago (Aug. 11) that the deal would be completed and signed before September, finalized by the Turkish Parliament “as soon as possible.”

Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News quoted Cavusoglu as saying during a joint news conference following a meeting with Palestinian Authority Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ankara that Turkey is ‘eager to contribute to the Palestinian issue and the Middle East process.’ Cavusoglu added that Turkey had always ‘advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and would continue to contribute to permanent peace in the region.

“Now we have started a normalization process with Israel,” he said, according to Hurriyet. “According to our latest agreement, the two countries will mutually appoint ambassadors. After this step we will continue to support the Palestinian issue and the Middle East peace process.”

Upon ratification of the agreement by the Turkish Parliament, the two nations will exchange ambassadors to fully restore diplomatic ties. Turkey reportedly plans to build a hospital in Gaza and ratchet up efforts to build an industrial zone project in Jenin.

The deal to restore ties between the two countries was signed on June 28 after numerous repeated attempts to heal the wounds of a breach after a 2010 illegal flotilla that included a Turkish ship attempted to break the marine blockade on Gaza. Israeli commandos boarded the ship to redirect the vessel to Ashdod port, and a clash with armed “activists” ensued, leaving 10 Turks dead and numerous IDF commandos wounded.

Israeli and Turkish delegates spent the better part of 2015 and 2016 working on an agreement to renew the ties between their two nations.

At the end, Israel agreed to pay Turkey $20 million (17.8 million euros) within 25 days, in compensation to the families of those who died in the 2010 clash.

The legal case in Turkish court, targeting the Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla vessel, will also be dropped, according to Anadolu news agency. In addition, individual Israeli nations will not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.

Hana Levi Julian

Syrian Refugee Kidnapped, Raped, Stabbed and Beheaded in Istanbul

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

A young Syrian man who fled the certain dangers of his homeland to what he thought was the safety of a new life in Istanbul has been found tortured to death, so badly mutilated that his friends had to identify him by his pants.

According to the report in Pink News, Wisam Sankari was gay — a status not well tolerated in the increasingly conservative society developing in Turkey, led by the Islamist AK (Justice and Development) Party headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

There is also growing resentment among Turkish citizens against Syrian refugees, who are perceived to be a threat to employment and school opportunities for locals and other economic issues in the country.

Sankari arrived in Istanbul, the city once known as Constantinople, about a year ago after fleeing the civil war in Syria. The man was found dead during the last week in July, according to Cumhuriyet and other local news reports, which said his mutilated body was found in Yenikapi.

In fact, “They had cut Wisam violently… so violent that two knives had broken inside him. They had beheaded him. His upper body was beyond recognition, his internal organs were out. We could identify our friend from his pants,” said a friend, Rayan, who spoke with KaosGL.org.

This time they killed the young Syrian refugee, but it was not his first experience with abduction or torture at the hands of a band of men. His friends turned to alleged United Nations human rights advocates, who did nothing. Neither did local police.

“About five months ago a group kidnapped Wisam in Fatih. They took him to a forest, beat him and raped him,” Rayan said. “They were going to kill him but Wisam saved himself by jumping at the road. We complained to the police headquarters but nothing happened.”

Sankari and others had been threatened several times with rape, and more, several times by male groups armed with knives. They also had to leave a house in which they were living due to their obvious sexual orientation. “People around would constantly stare at us,” he said.

Another friend, Gorkem, told KaosGL.org that his friends had warned the victim not to leave the house due to recent threats, but he insisted on leaving “for 15-20 minutes.” When he didn’t return, the group panicked, and went to the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which sent them to Fatih police headquarters.

“On Sunday police called us,” he said. They took the group of friends to Yenikapi to identify the body. Needless to say, they were horrified. Another friend, “Diya,” talked about also having been kidnapped twice before.

“They let me go in Cerkezkoy and I barely got home one time. I went to the United Nations for my identification but they did not even respond to that. No one cares about us. They just talk. I get threats over the phone.

“It does not matter if you are Syrian or Turkish — if you are gay you are everyone’s target.”

Turkey is currently under a three-month state of emergency after an attempted but failed coup to bring down the government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters last month that the move was aimed at effectively and swiftly taking steps to “eliminate the threat to democracy… the rule of law and the rights and freedom of our citizens.”

Any Syrian refugee will tell the reader, sadly, that such majestic concepts are not intended to cover the safety and well-being of those who fled to Turkey believing it a place in which to take shelter and begin a new life.

That, they discovered, was just another question mark at best.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkish Government Fires Tens of Thousands After Coup Attempt

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Tens of thousands of government employees have been dismissed by the Turkish government in the wake of last week’s failed coup attempt.

Every department, every area of government has been affected by the event, from the judiciary to security to administration.

Some 9,000 judges, prosecutors, security personnel, religious leaders and others were arrested and taken into custody earlier in the week. The courts ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed as well. In addition, 9,000 police officers were fired Monday by the Interior Ministry, which then dismissed another 8,777 more employees on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Education fired 15,200 employees, and the Board of Higher Education “requested” the resignation of 1,577 university deans across the country.

At least 3,000 military personnel were arrested and held in custody over the weekend. Nearly 500 clerics, imams and religious instructors were dismissed by the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Nearly 400 staff members were fired by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile has continued to advocate for the restoration of the death penalty. His government has formally submitted an extradition request to the United States for the deportation of elderly Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by the Turkish leader of fomenting and driving the attempted coup.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the plot and has said he will cooperate with the extradition if the U.S. decides to expel him.

Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the Turkish government with a request for concrete evidence connecting Gulen to the coup as a condition for cooperation by the U.S. with the extradition request.

Hana Levi Julian

Former Turkish Military Attache to Israel Recants ‘Confession’

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Former Turkish Air Force Chief Akin Ozturk may have “confessed” alleged involvement in last week’s failed coup attempt earlier in the day on Monday, but he had a very different account to share later in the day when he made his statement to prosecutors.

Turkey’s former military attache to Israel insisted that he was “not the person who planned or led the coup,” according to a report by the BBC. The state-run Anadolu news agency earlier had quoted him as telling his interrogators that he had “acted with the intention to stage a coup.”

Ozturk served as Turkey’s military liaison to Jerusalem from 1996 to 1998. He and 26 senior officers were charged with treason and remanded in custody by a Turkish court Monday, the Anadolu news agency reported, though he denied involvement.

“I don’t know who planned or directed it,” he reportedly told prosecutors before appearing in court in Ankara, adding that perhaps the Gulen movement had a hand in it.

“But I cannot tell who within the armed forces organized and carried it out. I have no information. I have fought against this structure,” he said, challenging his accusers to produce evidence proving his involvement. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for reinstatement of the country’s death penalty, ostensibly in response to the “demands of the public” — but as he openly acknowledged at a public rally, also due to his own desires to see the return of capital punishment.

“Your request can never be rejected by our government,” Erdogan told the thousands of people gathered at a massive rally over the weekend. “But of course it will take a parliamentary decision for that to take action in the form of a constitutional measure so leaders will have to get together and discuss it,” he told CNN subsequently in an exclusive interview. “If they accept to discuss it, then I as president will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament,” he added.

Probably the first candidate for death row would be Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, if the United States accedes to Erdogan’s demand to extradite him to Turkey, although if Ankara approves the death penalty, its application for membership to the European Union will be denied with finality, according to a statement on Monday by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Erdogan blamed the failed coup on the U.S.-based Islamic cleric and has said he will measure the quality of America’s alliance with Turkey by its response to the request. Turkish officials have said Gulen formed a “parallel structure” in Turkey to overthrow the government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded that he would not stand in the way of the extradition, if Turkey can provide concrete evidence of Gulen’s role in the attempted coup. “There must be a legal basis for such a move,” Kerry said.

During the attempted coup military forces shut down national access to social media, and sealed off the two bridges in Istanbul that link the European and Asian continents over the Bosphorus on Friday. They also shut down Istanbul’s main airport, and sent tanks to the parliament building in Ankara.

So far more than 200 people have died in the unrest that gripped the country during the attempt to overthrow the Erdogan government — and in the shock waves that continue in its aftermath. The deputy mayor of Istanbul remains in critical condition after an assassination attempt Monday in the city’s Sisli district. An unknown attacker shot the deputy mayor in the head during the day, but it was not clear whether the attack was linked to the failed coup attempt.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkish Tourism Worst Casualty of Failed Coup, Terrorism

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Turkish Hoteliers Federation head Osman Ayık told the Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey must improve its reputation abroad in order for its troubled tourism sector to prosper again. “The confidence factor that Turkey projected abroad has eroded,” Ayık said. “There is a certain perception in Europe about Turkey and arrivals from the continent have seen a sharp decrease. We need to take steps to reverse that trend.”

Tourism is an essential part of the Turkish economy, employing 8% of the country’s workforce, and it has taken a severe blow from the failed military coup this past weekend, and earlier in this year of relentless terrorist attacks, with a 10% decline in arriving tourists in the first quarter of 2016. According to Euromonitor International, the number of international visitors to Turkey is expected to decline by 5.2% overall in 2016.

Since the coup attempt, the Federal Aviation Administration has not allowed US airlines to fly to or from Istanbul and Ankara, and has blocked all carriers, foreign and domestic, from flying into the US from Turkey even indirectly. The State Department warned US citizens to avoid travel to the tourism sites in southeastern Turkey, and the UK Foreign Office issued an advisory to its citizens against travel to Turkey because terrorism threats are still high there.

Roenen Karaso, a VP in Israel’s tourism company ISSTA, told The Marker that Turkey is “a dead destination. Today we’re talking about bottom prices for mini-vacations to Turkey for 40% less compared with last year. For instance, three nights in motels, all included, in Topkapi or Kremlin in Antalya (Turkey’s resort destination on its southern Mediterranean region, known as the Turquoise Coast for its blue waters) will cost a family (two parents with two children) $400, compared with $600 a year ago — and there are still no takers.”

Karaso said that even connecting flights, the bread and butter of Istanbul’s international airports which until the coup continued to thrive despite the threat of terrorism, “are starting to show a decline of about 10% in orders compared with the previous Sunday.”

For Russian, European and Israeli vacationers, Turkey is not in the cards this summer, which will go down as Turkey’s lost summer. Efraim Kramer, CEO of tourism website Eshet Tours, told The Marker that tourism rates in Turkey “have come down because the Russians have stopped traveling to Turkey, and the Germans and English travel there less as well. We’re seeing an international phenomenon of tourists from Christian countries avoiding Muslim countries — we’ve seen it in Egypt, Tunisia and Marocco, and now in Turkey, too.”

Ayık told the Hürriyet Daily News that “the most fundamental lesson to be learned is to be in harmony with the world. It is the gist of our job. Our sector is one that goes hand-in-hand with peace. That’s why Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s statement that we will increase our friends and decrease our enemies will have a positive reflection on our sector. No matter how beautiful your country might be, if you don’t get along well with your neighborhood that means serious trouble for tourism.”

JNi.Media

Israel ‘Assumes Reconciliation to Continue’ With Turkey

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Israel is watching closely as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to reassert control over the government and his nation after an attempted coup this past weekend. Officials are particularly concerned, given the long months of talks both nations invested in re-establishing the recent diplomatic ties between Ankara and Jerusalem.

The death toll in the weekend violence has risen to 290, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, including more than 100 who participated in the coup. At least 6,000 people have been arrested after the failed coup — half of which are judges and prosecutors; half are military officers and soldiers. Shots were heard Sunday at Istanbul’s second largest airport and at a military base in the central Konya province, according to local sources.

Among those in custody is Colonel Ali Yazici, the top military aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey — used by U.S.-led coalition aircraft for raids against Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists in Syria and Iraq — and former Chief of Air Staff Akin Ozturk, who served as military attache to Israel from 1996 to 1998.

Erdogan suggested the possibility that perhaps the United States had had a role in formulating the coup attempt — a suggestion firmly and swiftly rejected on Saturday by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel, meanwhile, is closely monitoring the situation since having completed a reconciliation agreement to restore diplomatic ties with Turkey after a six-year freeze barely three weeks ago.

Speaking at Sunday’s weekly government cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that “Israel and Turkey recently agreed on a reconciliation process between them.

“We assume that this process will continue without any connection to the dramatic events in Turkey over the weekend,” he said.

Netanyahu went on to note, “we also experienced the shocking terrorist attack in Nice and it underscores the need for a unified and aggressive approach in the face of the murderous terrorism that is attacking the entire world.”

Last Thursday night, a Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist drove a massive truck down the main boulevard in the southern French Riviera city running down the thousands who were celebrating the nation’s Bastille Day, the equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July holiday while opening fire at other hapless victims along the way. At the end of the nightmare, 84 people were dead, including 10 children, and 202 more were injured, many with critical injuries.

The prime minister said he sent condolences on behalf of the government and people of Israel and his wishes for a recovery to the wounded, via French President Francois Hollande.

“The Palestinian Authority also sent condemnations and condolences, but with one difference: Here, not only do they not condemn vehicular terrorism, they encourage it. They glorify the terrorists responsible and finance them and their families if the terrorists are dead,” Netanyahu said.

“Terrorism is terrorism, whether it is in France or Israel, and there must be a unified approach of condemnation and war on this terrorism – here and everywhere else.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-assumes-reconciliation-to-continue-with-turkey/2016/07/18/

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