“Preparations have reached a point to allow the ships to leave the port of Odessa. The ships have been loaded, they are ready to leave, but we need good logistical coordination,” he said.
The resumption of exports was also discussed in talks between the Turkish and Ukrainian defence ministers, Ankara said Sunday.
“It is planned to begin transport as soon as possible,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement.
The Joint Coordination Centre, charged with controlling Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, was officially inaugurated Wednesday in Istanbul in line with the deal.
The deal to lift the blockade — the first significant text involving both sides since the conflict began — is aimed at easing a global food crisis that has seen prices soar in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The coordination centre is responsible for registering and tracking merchant ships taking part in the convoys, monitoring them via the web and satellite, and inspecting the ships as they are loaded at Ukrainian ports and when they arrive at Turkish ports.
The Kremlin said Monday talks between negotiators from Moscow and Kyiv have so far made no major breakthroughs on the conflict in Ukraine as the delegations prepare for a new round of talks in Istanbul.
“So far we cannot state any significant achievements or breakthroughs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during his daily press briefing.
“For now we cannot and will not speak of progress,” Peskov added.
He said, however, that it was “important” that it had been decided to continue the talks in person.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the United States of siding with “terrorists” after blaming outlawed Kurdish militants of executing 13 Turks in northern Iraq.
Erdogan’s comments came a day after Ankara said Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels had killed 13 captives — most of them Turkish soldiers and police officers — they had allegedly abducted in southeast Turkey and kept in an Iraqi cave.
The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that is believed to have left tens of thousands dead.
The United States and Turkey’s other Western allies recognise the PKK as a terror group.
But Washington has supported another Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey sees as an offshoot of the PKK.
Turkey this month launched a military operation against rear PKK bases in northern Iraq that Erdogan said on Monday was designed in part to free the 13 hostages.
“The statement made by the United States is a farce,” Erdogan said in his first public comments on the incident.
“You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.
The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.
The PKK said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.
“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department said in a statement.
Erdogan said Turkey’s NATO allies had to pick sides.
“After this, there are two options. Either act with Turkey with no ifs or buts, without questioning, or they will be a partner to every murder and bloodshed,” he said.
“The terrorist organisation on our doorstep, on our borders, is killing innocents.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stripped down to a black t-shirt and got vaccinated on Thursday as the nation of 83 million people began rolling out China’s Sinovac jab despite conflicting data about its efficacy.
The 66-year-old Turkish leader was whisked into an Ankara hospital by a bevy of security guards before emerging about an hour later to stress the importance of officials setting a good example by getting the jab.
“There are some people doing negative campaigning (about vaccinations) but I am sure common sense will prevail,” Erdogan said as a masked doctor stabbed him with a needle while a nurse put a comforting arm on his shoulder.
“I believe it will be vital for political leaders and deputies to encourage the vaccination drive (by getting vaccinated) themselves,” he later told a group of waiting reporters.
One opinion poll conducted in November showed about half of Turkish respondents unwilling to take the jab.
Health officials have spent two weeks testing the safety of the doses delivered from China after preliminary studies involving 7,371 volunteers in Turkey showed Sinovac’s vaccine to be 91.25 percent effective.
But a bigger trial in Brazil put the efficacy of Sinovac at 50.4 percent while a third one in Indonesia resulted in a 65.3 percent success rate, raising concerns about the Chinese manufacturer’s transparency.
Turkish television was plastered with images on Thursday of healthcare workers receiving their first doses as officials tried to raise awareness and acceptance of the vaccine.
“Our citizens should not worry,” Recep Demirhan, chief physician at a city hospital on the Asian side of Istanbul, told reporters as he received his shot, adding all vaccines arriving in Turkey are safe.
And the doctors and nurses lining up for their shots sounded relieved after a year fighting a virus that has officially killed more than 23,000 in Turkey and filled hospitals in hotspots such as Ankara to capacity.
“We have been struggling for a long time,” said Nimet Aktasa, a health worker in Ankara.
– ‘Light at end of tunnel’- After covering Turkey’s 1.1 million healthcare workers, the vaccination programme will move on to essential workers and people aged 65 and above.
“This vaccination drive is needed to return to our normal, old way of life,” Koca said on Wednesday.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel and I believe the coming days will be bright.”
Turkey has signed up for 50 million doses of CoronaVac. Twenty million of them are due to arrive by the end of the month.
The official Anadolu news agency reported that Turkey also sent 20,000 doses to the breakaway state of northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara.
In December, Turkey also reached a deal to receive 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab by late March.
Officials hope to receive up to 30 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, although talks are still ongoing.
Turkey has seen its official daily death tolls slip back down to under 200 after imposing weekend lockdowns and other daily restrictions in November.
Last month, it began requiring passengers arriving from abroad to submit negative PCR tests.
US President Donald Trump held a previously unannounced bilateral meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit on Wednesday.
Turkey has faced criticism among the allies at the London meeting and has threatened to impede a stronger defence policy for the Baltic states and the head-to-head was not on Trump’s published agenda.
“The presidents discussed the importance of Turkey fulfilling its alliance commitments, further strengthening commerce through boosting bilateral trade by $100 billion, regional security challenges, and energy security,” a White House official said.
Some of Turkey’s western allies, particularly France, have sharply criticised Ankara’s operation in northern Syria, which has targeted the Kurdish militia fighters who helped defeat the Islamic State group.
European capitals were as annoyed that Erdogan chose to buy and deploy Russia’s S-400 air defence system, in defiance of US sanctions threat and NATO defence procurement policy.
But Ankara in turn has demanded that NATO members recognise the Kurdish groups as “terrorists” and has threatened to oppose measures to shore up eastern European members against threats from Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday slammed as “unacceptable” recent remarks on NATO by French leader Emmanuel Macron, who claimed the alliance was experiencing “brain death” and deplored Turkey’s actions in Syria.
Hosting his counterpart in the Oval Office, US President Donald Trump said Erdogan was “very disappointed in the statement made by France” regarding NATO.
“I think that bothered the president very much,” Trump said. “I think a lot of other people feel that way too.”
“Unacceptable,” added the Turkish leader, speaking through an interpreter.
In an interview earlier this month, the French president decried what he called a lack of coordination between Europe and the United States and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a NATO member.
“You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,” Macron told The Economist.
“You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake,” he added.
Turkey’s latest military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria was staunchly opposed by fellow NATO members like France, but made possible by a withdrawal of US forces ordered by Trump.
In the interview, Macron asked what NATO’s mutual self-defense pact, enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty, might mean in the future, and pondered whether it could be invoked if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces retaliate against Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.
Macron also said that while “it’s not in our interest” to expel Turkey from the alliance — as has been urged by some politicians — members states should “reconsider what NATO is.”
The two leaders were to hold several hours of meetings, including lunch, before giving a joint news conference.
While Congress listened to evidence against Trump from two diplomats in the impeachment inquiry, the US president met Erdogan on the White House’s South Lawn, together with a military honor guard, before heading straight to the Oval Office.
In the run-up to Erdogan’s arrival, Trump did not tune into the nationally televised impeachment hearings, because he was “too busy,” he told reporters.
If Trump was ignoring the drama on Capitol Hill, he was also turning a deaf ear to opposition from many in Congress, including in his own Republican party, to rolling out the red carpet for Erdogan.
The US-Turkish relationship has been under severe strain following Erdogan’s ordering of an October offensive against US-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Trump ordered US troops stationed in the border area to withdraw ahead of the Turkish invasion, while exhorting Erdogan in an extraordinarily undiplomatic letter to avoid too much bloodshed.
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump wrote in the letter, which was reportedly thrown by Erdogan into the trash.
Despite the letter, Trump’s withdrawal of the US soldiers effectively gave fellow-NATO member Turkey a green light for what appears to be an extended occupation of a large swath of Syria.
This outraged many in Congress, which saw the move as an abandonment of the Kurds, who died in large numbers while fighting alongside US forces against Islamic State jihadists in the area.
The reshuffling of forces in the region was also criticized in Washington as a boon for Russian ambitions.
“Given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States, and we urge you to rescind this invitation,” a bipartisan group of legislators wrote to Trump last week in a letter made public Monday.
Trump was defiant Wednesday, saying: “We have been friends for a long time.”
Russian missiles – On top of the Syria mess, Turkey’s role in NATO is under question following Erdogan’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.
Washington has excluded Turkey from the F-35 stealth warplane program over the purchase, creating even more tension in the troubled Western alliance. Erdogan has responded by suggesting he could instead buy Russian warplanes as well.
A senior White House official, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged the high tension but said Trump wanted to find solutions.
“This is nearly a 70-year alliance. It has helped both of our countries through very, very dark times. We are not going to throw it away lightly if there is a way forward,” the official said.
Trump needs to avoid antagonizing the Republicans who will be voting on his fate in case of an impeachment trial.
But those legislators have little love for Erdogan and the feeling is likely mutual.
The House of Representatives showed its displeasure with Turkey in October by voting to recognize the mass destruction of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Modern-day Turkey continues to deny the accusation of genocide, saying Armenians were merely among the many other victims of World War I. The vote infuriated Erdogan.
– Protesters beaten up – The State Department defended the invitation to Erdogan, saying the complex issues make face-to-face talks important.
“Don’t look at these things as rewards, they are the execution of diplomacy,” an official said.
But there will be tension to spare even beyond the Syrian Kurds and the S-400s.
Washington is angry over the long-term detention of Turkish citizens working for US consulates, while Ankara continues to push hard for the extradition of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan claims engineered a failed 2016 coup.
Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney raised another point of contention: the ugly scenes during Erdogan’s last Washington visit, in 2017, when his bodyguards beat up protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
“The Erdogan regime’s use of violence against civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,” she wrote in a letter demanding that the State Department bar any of the “thugs” involved from returning.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday renewed Turkey’s threat to launch an “air and ground” operation in Syria against a Kurdish militia viewed as terrorists by Ankara.
The president previously said that Turkey’s patience was wearing thin after Turkish and American officials agreed in August to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria.
“We’ve made our preparations, completed our operation plans, given the necessary instructions,” Erdogan said during a televised speech, adding that the offensive could start “as soon as today, tomorrow”.
Ankara and Moscow have forged closer cooperation after overcoming a major rupture in 2015 following the downing of a Russian fighter jet.
As Russia started delivering to Turkey a missile defence system in a deal that has angered the US, here is a recap of the fallout and repair of bilateral relations.
‘Stab in the back’
In November 2015, two Turkish military jets shoot down a Russian warplane over the Turkey-Syria border, resulting in the death of a pilot.
Russia rejects Turkey’s assertion that the plane, deployed in support of the Syrian regime’s fight against rebels, had strayed into Turkish airspace.
President Vladimir Putin slams a “stab in the back” and Moscow announces a raft of economic sanctions against Ankara, including in agriculture, tourism and construction.
There is a thaw in late June 2016 when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expresses regret about the incident and calls for friendlier ties.
The Kremlin says he also apologised.
After their first telephone call since the incident, Putin announces an end to the tourism bans and the normalisation of trade ties.
The following month he is among the first international leaders to offer Erdogan support after a failed coup rocks his country.
– Gas pipeline go-ahead – In August 2016, the two men meet in Saint Petersburg, Putin saying afterwards their countries had “lived through a very complicated moment” but wanted to overcome their “difficulties”.
In October, Russia and Turkey sign an agreement to build the TurkStream gas pipeline that will pump Russian gas under Turkish waters in the Black Sea towards Europe.
Construction starts in March 2017.
Together on Syria
In January 2017, Russia, Turkey and Assad-backer Iran launch talks in Astana, Kazakhstan to end the Syrian conflict.
It sidelines the United States, with which both have strained ties.
Several rounds result in agreement on four “de-escalation” zones in Syria, leading to a decrease in violence in some areas.
Even though Russia backs the regime and Turkey is behind the rebels, they forge strong cooperation over Syria.
– ‘Most important partner’ – In March 2017, Putin and Erdogan announce the “normalisation” of ties. “We consider Turkey our most important partner,” Putin says.
They sign a new economic cooperation plan and pledge to continue cooperation notably in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group active in Syria.
At the end of May, Putin orders the lifting of most remaining sanctions on Turkey.
Russian defence system
In September 2017, Turkey signs a deal with Russia to buy its S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems, its first major weapons purchase from Moscow.
It raises concern with Ankara’s allies in the NATO military alliance.
In December, Russia announces negotiations are finalised with delivery scheduled for 2019.
– Nuclear plant accord – In April 2018, the two presidents launch construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power station, to be built by Russia’s state atomic energy cooperation Rosatom.
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant is expected to be operational by 2023.
– New Syria deal – In September 2018, they agree to create a “demilitarised zone” around Syria’s Idlib region in a bid to avert a military assault on the last rebel and jihadist bastion in the country.
Syrian forces and their Russian allies, however, step up strikes on the hold-out areas from April 2019.
Joint defence production
In May 2019, Erdogan says Turkey and Russia will jointly produce the next generation S-500 defence systems.
There is “absolutely no question” of stepping back from the S-400s purchase, he adds, after Washington had threatened sanctions if the deal went ahead.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sacked the governor of Turkey’s central bank and replaced him with his deputy, a presidential decree said Saturday, after months of tension with the government over high-interest rates.
Murat Cetinkaya, who was appointed to the role in April 2016, has been replaced by Murat Uysal, according to the decree published in the official gazette, which gave no official reason for the change.
There had been recent speculation that Cetinkaya could be replaced amid disagreements with the government on cutting interest rates.
Erdogan has repeatedly railed against high interest rates and called for them to be lowered to stimulate growth.
He once called high rates the “mother and father of all evil”.
Turkey’s main interest rate is 24 percent after the bank under Cetinkaya made an aggressive rate hike of 625 basis points last September following a currency crisis in August.
Last month, Erdogan said the current rate was “unacceptable”, promising to find a solution as soon as possible.
“I agree on the independence of the central bank but let me put it very clearly that I am against interest (rate) policies and above all, high interest rates,” he said.
– ‘Adventurist path’- Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has built its success on Turkey’s strong growth, with supporters boasting of progress in living standards during the Turkish leader’s 16 years in office – first as prime minister and then president.
But the weakening economy contributed to the AKP losing Ankara and Istanbul in recent local elections, in what was a stinging rebuke to the ruling party in power since 2002.
Economic columnist Ugur Gurses said that the central bank chief was sacked with the goal of lowering rates.
“As I predicted, Ankara is swiftly taking an adventurist path after losing the election,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The goal of removing the central bank governor is clear: print money and lower the interest (rate) but the governor cannot be sacked except for the reasons specified in its law. A presidential decree is not above law.”
The central bank’s next policy meeting is scheduled to be held on July 25.
The new governor Uysal said he would continue to use monetary policy tools “independently” while remaining focused on ensuring price stability as his “main aim”, according to a central bank statement.
Uysal, who had served as deputy governor since June 2016, will hold a press conference in the coming days, the bank said.
The change of central bank chief came after markets closed on Friday.
– Disputes with US- Turkish inflation fell to 15.72 percent in June — the lowest rate in nearly a year — from 18.71 percent in May, official statistics showed on Wednesday.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) spoke out against the removal of Cetinkaya, with spokesman Faik Oztrak accusing the president of interfering in the independence of the central bank.
“Those who do this have lost the right to say ‘trust in our economy’. The Turkish central bank is a hostage in the hands of the Palace. Full stop,” he wrote on Twitter.
Turkey’s economic outlook is likely to be overshadowed by Erdogan’s testy relations with the United States, which were already frayed by numerous disputes including Ankara’s purchasing of Russian missiles.
Turkey expects the delivery of the Russian S-400s this month despite Washington suspending Ankara’s participation in the US-made F-35 fighter jet programme and warning of more sanctions to come.
After a trade dispute with the US last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey and tariffs on some Turkish goods, leading to a 30 percent slide in the lira’s value.