Turkey will not withdraw from its observation posts in the Syrian rebel bastion province of Idlib which has seen an increase in violence carried out by regime forces supported by Russian airstrikes, the defence minister said.
The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Syrian regime ally Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels, to avert an all-out Syrian government onslaught in Idlib.
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces surrounded one of 12 Turkish observation posts in Idlib province on Monday after overrunning nearby areas in a push to take the last opposition holdout, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in comments published on Sunday on the defence ministry’s Twitter account.
“We will by no means empty those 12 observation posts, we will not leave there,” Akar said.
His comments came during a visit, together with top army commanders, to the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border to inspect Turkish troops on Saturday.
Turkey, worried over a new wave of refugees from the Idlib region, is pressing for a fresh ceasefire deal, as it sent a delegation to Moscow on Monday.
“We are doing what’s needed to put an end to this massacre,” Akar was quoted as saying by the official news agency Anadolu.
He said Ankara expected Damascus ally Russia to “use its influence on the regime in order to stop ground and air assault” in Idlib.
The latest violence has displaced more than 235,000 people and killed scores of civilians, despite an August ceasefire deal and international calls for a de-escalation.
The Idlib region hosts some three million people including many displaced by years of violence in other parts of Syria.
“As long as this pressure remains in place, it will trigger a new migrant wave and put further burden on Turkey which is already hosting nearly four million Syrian brothers,” said Akar.
Around 300 protesters — mostly Syrians living in Turkey — held an anti-Moscow demonstration near the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Saturday against the intensified attacks in Idlib, shouting “murderer Putin, get out of Syria!”, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Akar’s visit to soldiers on the border region comes as Turkey is also readying to send troops to support the UN-recognised government in Tripoli against strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
“The Turkish Armed Forces are ready for whatever task is given in order to protect our country and people’s interests,” Akar said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said Ankara would respond to an invitation from the Libyan national unity government and that the Turkish parliament would vote on a motion to send troops as soon as it returns from recess as early as next month.
Ankara signed in November a security and military cooperation deal with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) but in order to send troops, parliament needs to vote through a motion as it does for Iraq and Syria.
Anadolu news agency, citing sources in Erdogan’s ruling party, reported that the timetable could be brought forward and the motion could be presented to the parliamentary speaker’s office on Monday.
The General Assembly could vote the measure in an extraordinary session on Thursday, it said. Parliament is due to return from recess on January 7.
Turkey on Wednesday summoned the US ambassador to Ankara over a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives officially recognising the “Armenian genocide”, officials at the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The US Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield was summoned to the foreign ministry over “a resolution that lacks any historical or legal basis” and a bill that imposes sanctions over Turkey’s military operation in Syria, the officials said.
Turkey on Wednesday rejected the US House of Representatives’ official recognition of the “Armenian Genocide”, warning it risks harming ties “at an extremely fragile time” for international and regional security.
“As a meaningless political step, its sole addressees are the Armenian lobby and anti Turkey groups,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We believe that American friends of Turkey who support the continuation of the alliance and friendly relations will question this grave mistake and those who are responsible will be judged by the conscience of the American people,” it added.
Jurgen Klopp hailed “incredible” UEFA Super Cup hero Adrian and then admitted he had no idea where the goalkeeper even was a fortnight ago.
The Spaniard, only in the side because of an injury to number one goalkeeper Allison Becker, saved Tammy Abraham’s penalty to give Liverpool a 5-4 shootout win against Chelsea after the showdown between Champions League and Europa League winners had finished 2-2 in Istanbul on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old former Betis shot-stopper joined Liverpool on a free transfer to replace the departed Simon Mignolet on August 5, the day after Klopp’s team lost on penalties to Manchester City in the Community Shield.
Released by West Ham United, he was thrust into the spotlight when he had to replace the injured Alisson in the first half of the Premier League opening 4-1 win against Norwich on Friday.
“I don’t know where Adrian was two weeks ago when we played Man City,” said Klopp after seeing his European champions win the Super Cup for the fourth time.
“When I spoke to him for the first time it was clear he would need time to get fit, but we didn’t have that time so he has to be fit now, and he was fit, he played an incredible game, he made sensational saves.”
Adrian made notable interventions during the game, diving at the feet of Mateo Kovacic in the first half and batting away a Mason Mount strike late in extra time.
‘Icing on the cake’
However, he also fouled Abraham to give away the 101st-minute penalty which Jorginho scored to make it 2-2 after Sadio Mane’s 95th-minute second goal had seemed to have put the Merseysiders on course for an extra-time victory.
“In penalty shootouts you’re always lucky but his performance over 120 minutes was incredible, making the save from the penalty was the icing on the cake,” said Klopp.
“He helped us a lot and he can be really proud of what he did tonight,” added the German manager, who described Adrian as “a proper personality in the dressing room”.
Adrian had once been a regular for West Ham but did not play in the Premier League last season and his last appearance before arriving at Anfield had been an FA Cup defeat by third-tier AFC Wimbledon in January.
“Welcome to Liverpool! It was a crazy week, but with them it’s so easy playing at the back, so I am really happy for the team, happy to get that trophy, that title,” Adrian told BT Sport.
Klopp was also effusive in his praise of the all-female refereeing team, headed by France’s Stephanie Frappart, even if he was not happy with the penalty awarded to Chelsea in extra time.
“I told the ref team that if we had played like they whistled we would have won 6-0, that was my opinion, that they played a brilliant game.”
Coach Frank Lampard took great encouragement from Chelsea’s display in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul on Wednesday, despite the disappointment of losing on penalties to English rivals Liverpool.
“I think we can get better, there are things I still want us to improve on in terms of how we play slightly, but I am really happy with the performance,” said Lampard after Chelsea held the European champions to a 2-2 draw after extra time, only to lose 5-4 in the shoot-out.
“To lose the game was disappointing but if it means Chelsea’s season can be something like how we played today, we’ll be OK.”
Chelsea took the lead in Istanbul through Olivier Giroud, but Sadio Mane’s equaliser meant the match at the home of Besiktas went to extra time.
The Senegal star then put Liverpool in front in the 95th minute, only for a Jorginho penalty to restore parity again.
The decisive moment came after nine successful spot-kicks when Tammy Abraham’s effort was saved by Adrian.
However, Chelsea were a match for Jurgen Klopp’s team for long spells and Lampard believed they were moving in the right direction after his first competitive game at the helm ended in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United.
“You know Liverpool have got to where they have got, and I have complete respect for Jurgen Klopp,” said Lampard.
“I am a new manager who’s been here for six weeks or so, and what I saw today were things that I want in the team.
Abraham ‘will come back stronger’
Lampard had already twice been on the losing side in the Super Cup as a player for Chelsea, including the 2013 shootout defeat to Bayern Munich.
He admitted that having two days fewer to prepare had been a factor as the match went all the way. Chelsea played at Old Trafford on Sunday, two days after Liverpool beat Norwich City in their Premier League opener.
“To have two more days recovery at this stage early in the season, it’s clear that it affects your preparation and it’s an advantage to them going in,” said Lampard, whose side next host Leicester City on Sunday.
“But that said I think it happens a lot. I don’t want to look like I’m moaning, I’m delighted with our performance, we didn’t lose the game because of that but it was a bit frustrating.”
Lampard said he had offered words of comfort to Abraham, the 21-year-old who has returned after a loan at Aston Villa with Chelsea unable to make new signings due to a transfer ban.
Abraham had started against Manchester United but was on the bench at kick-off Wednesday before replacing Giroud in the second half.
“He will come back stronger. It is part and parcel of being a player at a top level which is what Tammy now is.”
Lampard was also delighted with the contribution of USA star Christian Pulisic, who made his full debut after signing from Borussia Dortmund in January.
Not 21 until next month, Pulisic played 74 minutes and set up Giroud’s opening goal.
“I think there’s a lot more to come. I think the expectation is right because he is a big signing for us, but we must also remember his age, he’s 20. I am really happy with him.”
A vast crowd gathered at Istanbul’s town hall on Thursday to see the inauguration of new mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, whose landslide victory has boosted the opposition for the first time in years.
“Today is a celebration of democracy, a celebration of Istanbul,” he told a sea of Turkish flags in the city’s historical centre.
None of Turkey’s main television channels, seen as cowed by the government of President Recept Tayyip Erdogan, carried Imamoglu’s speech.
It is the second time this year that Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been handed the keys to the city.
His first election victory in March was annulled after controversial claims of rigging by Erdogan and the ruling AKP.
But he won a decisive victory in the re-run last Sunday, increasing his margin of victory from just 13,000 in March to more than 800,000 against Erdogan’s chosen candidate, Binali Yildirim.
“The people of Istanbul taught a lesson to a handful of people who wanted to harm democracy,” Imamoglu said.
The 49-year-old former district mayor has electrified the opposition by eschewing the usual aggressive trash-talking of Turkish politics.
“He speaks a language we have been missing for years. That’s why we are here,” said Erol, a supporter in the crowd.
Erdogan — who once said that winning Istanbul was like winning all of Turkey — appears to have accepted the victory.
“We don’t have the luxury of turning a deaf ear… to the message given by our people,” he told party members on Wednesday.
The defeat is seen as especially sensitive for the Turkish leader, who grew up in one of its working class neighbourhoods and launched his political career as Istanbul mayor in the 1990s.
It comes against the backdrop of an economic slowdown and double-digit inflation which analysts say contributed to the ruling party’s losses in major cities including Ankara in the March local elections.
However, the results showed Erdogan’s party remained the most popular nationwide, with the president still credited for the economic boom of the early 2000s and for giving religious conservatives a seat at the table.
There have been fears the government may try to curtail mayoral powers in opposition-run cities.
The opposition Cumhariyet newspaper reported this week that Ankara had removed municipalities’ power to appoint the heads of city-run companies, although this has not been confirmed.
“Istanbul is a metropolis and has a vast budget. It is possible that Erdogan may try to block its funding opportunities, but… it has many opportunities to generate and develop its own funding,” Unal Cevikoz, deputy head of the CHP, told AFP.
Former German international football Mesut Ozil was married in Istanbul on Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as his best man.
The 30-year-old Ozil, who has Turkish family roots, sparked controversy last year when he was photographed with Erdogan, raising questions about the footballer’s loyalty to Germany on the eve of their disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign.
The Turkish leader arrived in the early evening for Friday’s ceremony at a luxury hotel on the banks of the Bosphorus to see the former Arsenal midfielder marry his fiancee, former Miss Turkey Amine Gulse.
A smiling Erdogan and his wife Emine were seen standing next to the young couple as their marriage was formalised.
After 92 appearances for Germany, including a key role in the 2014 World Cup victory, Ozil suddenly quit the national squad last July, accusing German football officials of racism.
Ozil announced in March that he had asked Erdogan to be his best man.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff was part of a chorus of criticism of the invitation.
Helge Braun, a CDU told the Bild newspaper then that it “makes one sad” that Ozil would make a such a move despite having already been sharply criticised by the German public over his first meeting with Erdogan.
Ozil has dated Gulse since 2017 and the couple announced their engagement in June 2018.
The footballer, a third-generation German, whipped up a political storm when he was pictured alongside Erdogan last May.
Criticism intensified after the red-faced defending champions crashed out of the first round of the World Cup in Russia.
In the wake of the World Cup fiasco, Ozil announced his resignation from the national squad, saying: “I am German when we win, an immigrant when we lose”.
Erdogan often attends marriages in Turkey of celebrities, whom he particularly seeks out during election campaigns.
His presence at Ozil’s marriage comes ahead of a mayoral election in Istanbul on June 23, required after the original voting in March was annulled following a narrow victory for the main opposition Republican People’s Party.
The death toll from the collapse of an Istanbul apartment block rose to 10 on Thursday as more bodies were pulled from the rubble, Turkish authorities said.
The eight-storey building, which is located in the Kartal district on the Asian side of the city, collapsed on Wednesday but the cause is not yet clear.
Rescuers had initially put the death toll at two, but Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Thursday the figure had leapt to 10 as more bodies were pulled from the rubble, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Another 13 people were injured, three of them seriously, he said.
As rescuers worked through the mountain of shattered concrete and twisted metal, which also crushed several nearby vehicles, they found a survivor on Thursday — a five-year-old girl
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called for the trial in Istanbul of the Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crime that he said was intricately planned days in advance.
Erdogan had promised that his speech in Ankara would give the “naked truth” about the killing and he gave a host of new details while still saying Turkey wanted answers to key questions, including who gave the orders.
Hours before Erdogan delivered his speech to ruling party lawmakers, a major Saudi investment forum opened in Riyadh under the heavy shadow of the murder after key delegates pulled out.
The murder of the Washington Post contributor has damaged the international reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has spearheaded a reform drive in the kingdom.
“My demand is that 18 people be tried in Istanbul,” Erdogan said in a speech to ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, referring to 18 people including security officials who have already been detained by Riyadh.
He added that “all those who played a role in the murder” had to face punishment.
Erdogan said that the murder was “planned” days in advance according to a “roadmap” set up by a Saudi team who were sent to Istanbul for the purpose. The surveillance system at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was deactivated on purpose, he said.
“First they (the Saudis implicated) removed the hard disc from the camera system,” Erdogan said. “This is a political murder,” he added.
But Erdogan added he still wanted answers on numerous issues including “who gave orders” to the team and where the corpse is.
Erdogan did not mention Prince Mohammed by name in the speech but said he was confident of the full cooperation of his father Saudi King Salman in the probe.
‘Must never happen again’
Saudi Arabia only confirmed the killing more than two weeks after the event. The killing has alarmed even Saudi Arabia’s staunchest Western allies.
US President Donald Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Riyadh’s explanations.
A former royal family insider turned critic of the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.
The case has shone the spotlight on the crown prince, who was credited with reforms including giving women the right to drive but is now accused of having ordered Khashoggi’s murder — a claim Riyadh denies.
The timing of the controversy could not be worse for Prince Mohammed as the investment summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, began in Riyadh, overshadowed by big-name cancellations and Erdogan’s threat of revelations.
Dozens of executives, including from banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, ride-hailing app Uber and Western officials such as International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have pulled out of the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII).
French energy giant Total’s head Patrick Pouyanne, however, said he would attend the meeting, arguing that “empty chair politics” do not advance human rights.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin would not export arms to Riyadh “in the current situation,” despite Germany’s approval last month of 416 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of arms exports in 2018.
Despite also pulling out of the summit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met the crown prince behind closed doors for bilateral talks in Riyadh. CIA Director Gina Haspel, meanwhile, headed for Turkey, although details of her trip were not immediately clear.
White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, believed to have close ties with the crown prince, said he had urged him to be “fully transparent”, stressing that “the world is watching”.
Speaking in Jakarta, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir vowed “a thorough and complete investigation”. He said procedures would be put in place to “ensure that something like this can never happen again.”
Abandoned Saudi car
With Khashoggi’s remains still missing, Turkish police have found an abandoned car belonging to the Saudi consulate in an underground car park in the Sultangazi district of Istanbul, state media said.
CNN broadcast images apparently showing a Saudi official playing a body double for Khashoggi, wearing the journalist’s clothes, exiting the consulate.
Anti-terror officers in Istanbul and Ankara detained 48 alleged members of the Islamic State extremist group (IS) suspected of planning attacks, state media reported Saturday.
Police detained 31 foreigners who were picked up in anti-terror raids in Istanbul, state-run news agency Anadolu said, without specifying their nationalities, adding that they were believed to have been preparing an attack.
Another 17 people were taken into custody in Ankara over alleged ties to IS who were also accused of plotting an attack, the agency reported later on Saturday without saying when the raids took place.
Turkey suffered a series of terror attacks in 2015 and 2016 as well as one in 2017 blamed on IS and Kurdish militants, killing hundreds.
The last attack claimed by IS was in January 2017 when a gunman killed 39 people at the elite Istanbul nightclub Reina during New Year’s celebrations.
Police have since carried out frequent raids against IS across the country including in the northern province of Samsun on Wednesday when six Iraqis were detained on suspicion of being members of IS.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul earlier Saturday said Turkey had either remanded in custody or convicted 1,354 IS suspects.