Turkey Opposes NATO Membership For Finland, Sweden

A handout photograph taken and released on October 25, 2021 by the Turkish Presidential Press Service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara. Murat KULA / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP
FILE: A handout photograph taken and released on October 25, 2021 by the Turkish Presidential Press Service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara. Murat KULA / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey did not have a “positive opinion” on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, throwing up a potential obstacle for the nations’ membership bid. 

The leader of NATO-member Turkey spoke ahead of expected confirmations from the Nordic nations on Sunday that they will apply to join the Western military alliance.

Erdogan accused both countries of harbouring “terrorist organisations” in his unfavourable assessment of the membership bids.

READ ALSO: Finland Will Join NATO ‘Without Delay’ – President, PM

“We do not have a positive opinion,” Erdogan told journalists after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“Scandinavian countries are like a guesthouse for terror organisations,” he said.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, especially Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher wanted over a failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan cited a “mistake” made by Turkey’s former rulers who okayed Greece’s NATO membership in 1952.

“We, as Turkey, do not want to make a second mistake on this issue,” he said.

Unanimous approval needed

Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has swung political and public opinion in Finland and Sweden in favour of membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

Both countries have long cooperated with NATO and are expected to be able to join the alliance quickly.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said they would be welcomed “with open arms”.

Turkey’s response is the first dissenting voice against the two Nordic countries’ NATO prospects.

Sweden’s and Finland’s foreign ministers responded on Friday by saying they were hoping to meet their Turkish counterpart in Berlin at an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Saturday.

“We will then have the opportunity to discuss a potential Swedish NATO application,” Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said in a statement to AFP, also noting the “Turkish government had not delivered this type of message directly to us”.

Speaking at a Helsinki press conference, Finland’s Pekka Haavisto also said he hoped to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during the weekend to “continue our discussion.”

Stockholm and Helsinki have cranked up their international contacts to seek support for their potential bids.

Once a country has decided to apply for NATO membership, the alliance’s 30 members must agree unanimously to extend a formal invitation, which is followed by membership negotiations.

The final approval could then take place at a NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June. The 30 member states would then have to ratify the decision.

Turkey, which enjoys good relations with Kyiv and Moscow, has been keen to play a mediating role to end the conflict and has offered to host a leaders’ summit.

Ankara has supplied Ukraine with combat drones but has shied away from slapping sanctions on Russia alongside Western allies.

‘Hungary of the EU’

Erdogan’s comments may also raise tensions with France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has said NATO was undergoing “brain death” partly due to Turkey’s behaviour.

Macron has made clear he supports Finland’s bid as does the United States.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday Washington was “working to clarify Turkey’s position”, adding there was “broad support” for the two countries’ joining the alliance.

The Finnish president spoke with Erdogan in April as part of consultations for its NATO bid.

“I thanked President Erdogan for his efforts for peace in Ukraine. Turkey supports Finland’s objectives,” he tweeted at the time.

Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership risks making it look like the “Hungary of the EU”, said Washington Institute fellow Soner Cagaptay.

Pro-Russia Hungary often breaks from its EU colleagues on a broad range of issues, including rule of law and human rights.

Cagaptay said Ankara should have negotiated its terror-related concerns behind closed doors with the two countries.

“The fact that this is done publicly is going to hurt Ankara’s image significantly,” he said.

But Erdogan is “a clever tactician”, said Elisabeth Braw, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“He knows that this is an opportunity for Turkey to get something from NATO member states… F-35s, for example,” she said, referring to US defence giant Lockheed Martin’s jets.

AFP

Turkey Confirms Transfer Of Khashoggi Murder Trial To Saudi Arabia

In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attends a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. (Photo by MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP)

 

A Turkish court on Thursday confirmed a halt to the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that has angered rights groups.  

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.

A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 with relations tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers.

But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.

READ ALSO: EU Court Rules In Favour Of Mubarak Family On Assets Freeze

The judge told the court: “We decided to halt and hand over the case to Saudi Arabia.”

The court decision comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that he would approve a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the latter’s demand.

The prosecutor said the case was “dragging” because, as the defendants were foreigners, the court’s orders could not be carried out.

‘Entrusting lamb to wolf’

Defence lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court on Thursday that there would not be a fair trial in Saudi Arabia.

“Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” he said, using a Turkish saying.

Another defence lawyer, Gokmen Baspinar, said that the justice ministry’s move was “against the law.”

“There is no prosecution going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” he said. “Saudi authorities have concluded the trial and acquitted many suspects.”

He said the decision to hand over the case to Riyadh would be tantamount to a “breach of Turkish sovereignty” and “an example of irresponsibility against Turkish people”.

The decision has deeply angered rights groups.

The Istanbul tribunal “agreed to transfer the case to the Saudi authorities — in one sentence, just like that. Didn’t even bother to state the lawyers’ requests are rejected,” Milena Buyum, of Amnesty International, said.

She tweeted: “Appalling and clearly political decision.”

Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the sentences, handing jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.

Appeal

Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz, who was present at the hearing on Thursday, said that she would appeal the decision.

Turkey “is not ruled by a family like in Saudi Arabia. We have a justice system that addresses citizens’ grievances,” she told journalists outside Istanbul’s main court.

“We will appeal the decision in line with our legal system”.

Speaking to AFP, she vowed to “continue to fight. Whoever gives up has given up. I will continue. Sometimes the legal battle itself is more important than the results.”

To Riyadh’s dismay, Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had, at the time, said the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of government.

Subsequently, Saudi Arabia sought unofficially to put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott on Turkish imports.

Last year, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Riyadh to mend fences with the kingdom.

Transferring the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to a normalisation of ties.

In an interview with AFP in February, Cengiz urged Ankara to insist on justice despite the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.

“In order for such a thing to not happen again…(Turkey) should not abandon this case,” she said.

Cengiz had been waiting outside the consulate for Khashoggi when he was murdered. He had gone there to obtain paperwork to marry her. His remains have never been found.

Erdogan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up — particularly from the West.

In January, he said he was planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the economy went through a tumultuous period.

Turkey’s annual inflation has soared to 61.1 percent, according to official data Monday.

 

AFP

Abramovich: The Surprise Participant In Russia-Ukraine Talks

This handout video grab taken from a footage released on March 29, 2022 by the Turkish Presidency shows Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich (C, 2nd row) during the first Russia and Ukraine face-to-face talks in weeks at Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul.. (Photo by Handout / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

 

 

When Turkey hosted talks between Russia and Ukraine last week, a familiar but unexpected face was seen among the officials and diplomats gathered in a wing of the former imperial Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. 

It was Roman Abramovich, the billionaire Russian tycoon and owner of Chelsea Football Club, who has long sought to strike a balance between cordial ties with the Kremlin and a jet-setting lifestyle in the West.

What was he doing at the Istanbul talks?

“Abramovich participated in the negotiations as a member of the Russian delegation,” explained Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said Abramovich’s presence indicated that the oligarch was “trusted” by Moscow.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Abramovich had been making “sincere” efforts for peace since the first days of the war, adding that he had made a “positive” contribution to diplomatic efforts.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while Abramovich was not an official member of the delegation, he was involved in “ensuring certain contacts” between the Russian and Ukrainian sides, for which he had approval from both parties.

Adding to the intrigue, the Wall Street Journal last week reported that Abramovich had travelled to Kyiv earlier in March to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky. While there, he suffered a suspected poisoning attack that temporarily affected his eyesight.

‘Right side of history’

Analysts say Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a personal disaster for Abramovich, leaving him sanctioned by the EU and UK, forced to sell Chelsea and seeing billions wiped off the value of his assets.

He has every personal interest in seeing a peaceful end to the conflict and possibly performing a role that could allow him to win back favour in the Western capitals that once welcomed him so ardently.

Alexander Baunov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Abramovich’s presence at the talks had “various possible explanations” but could be linked to “reparations” in rebuilding areas destroyed in Ukraine, possibly using private money.

“For Abramovich, it’s also a welcome chance to be on the right side of history,” he added.

For critics, the situation has merely exposed the reality that Abramovich is a Kremlin-friendly oligarch, who managed to build up his wealth thanks to close ties with President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich has “had privileged access to the president and has maintained very good relations with him. This connection with the Russian leader helped him to maintain his considerable wealth,” the EU said last month when it announced sanctions against Abramovich and other Russia oligarchs over Ukraine.

In a possible bid to avoid being hit by sanctions, two luxury superyachts owned by Abramovich –- the over 160-metre Eclipse and 140-metre Solaris –- have docked in Turkey, which has not joined the European sanctions.

 ‘PR stunt?’

Maria Pevchikh, investigative chief at Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation, described Abramovich as “the most faithful and devoted of Putin’s oligarchs”. She said they had profited from a tacit deal with the Kremlin to stay out of politics.

His participation in the talks “looks like a PR stunt to me”, she said.

In a surprising career turn, Abramovich served from 2001 to 2008 as governor of the sparsely populated Chukotka region in the far northeast of Russia, pouring his own money into one of the country’s least developed regions.

Abramovich used to be a co-owner, along with the government, of Russia’s Channel One television. The channel has earned notoriety during the invasion for its pro-Kremlin reporting and for being the target of an on-air protest by a disgruntled journalist.

He reduced his stake to 20 percent and then sold off that final portion to a Russian state-owned bank in March 2019.

According to Forbes magazine, the invasion of Ukraine has resulted in Abramovich’s net worth being whittled down to $8.3 billion (7.6 billion euros), compared to almost $15 billion before the assault started.

“And he likely has only limited access to that,” it said, describing the invasion as a “personal, financial and now physical disaster” for Abramovich.

‘Rehabilitate himself’

Famously publicity-shy and never giving interviews, Abramovich announced in a rare personal statement on March 2 that he was selling Chelsea Football Club, although the UK sanctions mean he cannot profit from the sale.

In a carefully worded statement that contained no criticism of the Russian invasion, he said then that a foundation would be set up “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine”, including their immediate needs as well as “supporting the long-term work of recovery”.

“The most important thing is that Putin trusts him. But Zelensky can also trust him,” Konstantin Kalachev, a Russian political scientist who once worked with the ruling party, told AFP.

“Abramovich must rehabilitate himself in the West. He wants to keep his status as a citizen of the world. I doubt very much that he would want to isolate himself in Russia.”

Ukraine Asks Turkey To Be Among Guarantors Of Any Russia Deal

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gives a press conference after meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister for talks in Antalya, on March 10, 2022. – Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are in Turkey to hold face-to-face talks in the first high-level contact since the invasion began. (Photo by AFP)

 

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked Turkey to be a guarantor of any future deal with Russia, along with the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, Ankara’s top diplomat said Thursday.

“Ukraine made an offer on the collective security agreement: P5 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members), Turkey and Germany,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“I saw that the Russian Federation had no objection and could accept such an offer,” he added, referring to his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.

The five permanent UN Security Council members are China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Cavusoglu said ceasefire hopes in the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow had “increased” following his diplomacy in Russia and Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday to repeat his offer of hosting a meeting between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ankara or Istanbul.

Erdogan also underlined “the necessity of opening humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians to flee the fighting, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey, which has close ties with Ukraine and Russia, has tried to position itself as a mediator in the three-week-old conflict.

Last week, it hosted the first high-level meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers since the war began in the southern resort city of Antalya.

AFP

Turkey Tourism Recovery Hurt By Russia Invasion Of Ukraine

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 20, 2022, people sit at a cafe in the northern part of Cyprus’ divided capital Nicosia, in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  (Photo by Birol BEBEK / AFP)

 

Every Sunday Noori Sani welcomes his old friends around a bountiful Turkish breakfast in Istanbul. But surrounding him now are empty tables on his terrace at his restaurant by the Blue Mosque.

“On a day like this, we should be full,” the owner of Serbethane restaurant said in the city’s historic district.

Within a few days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainians and Russians cancelled reservations for trips, disastrous for Turkey where tourism represented 10 percent of GDP before the pandemic.

There had been high hopes for a tourism revival in 2022 and the sector was in desperate need of a boost after the Turkish lira lost significant value last year and inflation soared to over 50 percent in February.

Visitors from Ukraine and Russia made up over a quarter of all tourists who arrived in Turkey last year, usually opting for the turquoise beaches on the Mediterranean and Aegean, according to tourism ministry figures.

“Russia and Ukraine are very important markets for us,” Hamit Kuk of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB) said.

Read Also: Putin Threatens Ukraine ‘Statehood’ As Moscow Sanctions Tighten

Around 4.5 million Russian and two million Ukrainian tourists descended on Turkey last year.

TURSAB expected seven million Russians and 2.5 million Ukrainians this year, but Kuk said it would “likely have to review these figures”.

“The war between Russia and Ukraine is making everyone nervous here. Both from a human and commercial point of view,” Kuk said.

“Normally, there would be a rush of summer reservations in March. But the demand has stopped,” he added.

– Sanctions pain –

“If it goes on like this, there will be a very serious problem,” warned TURSAB president Firuz Ballikaya.

“We try to wait as calmly as we can.”

In front of the Hagia Sophia mosque, Russian tourists were rushing to follow their guide, ducking their heads and refusing interviews.

There were even a few Ukrainians, including a young couple from Kyiv who “arrived as tourists and became refugees” and who were now tearfully looking to leave for a third country.

“Maybe the United States?” they asked, wishing to remain anonymous.

The situation is tricky for Turkish travel agents like Ismail Yitmen because of Western sanctions against Russia.

In his office opposite the Hagia Sophia, Yitmen despaired.

“Travel agencies like mine working with Russia are really suffering right now. Taking into account the deposit amount I have paid for hotels, my loss is more than 11,000 euros ($12,000) so far,” he said.

If more groups cancel, he could lose between $65,000 and 76,000.

“A group was supposed to arrive in Turkey in two months, but we couldn’t receive the money, so it’s cancelled. It’s because they stopped SWIFT transfers. We had already paid for the hotels.”

Several Russian banks were cut off from the SWIFT messaging system, which allows banks to communicate rapidly and securely over transactions.

Despite being a NATO member, Ankara did not sanction Russia and unlike many other countries, Turkey has not closed its airspace to Russian planes.

– Safety fears –

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism sector was recovering after multiple terror attacks in 2015 and 2016 scared tourists away.

On the edge of the Middle East, the country had suffered in the few years from the impact of wars in Syria and Iraq, both on its southeastern border.

“When the war started in Iraq and then in Syria, European and American tourists stopped coming. They thought we were too near,” said Hassan Duzen, sitting with his friends at the back of his deserted carpet shop.

He was convinced the same thing would happen after the invasion.

“When they look at a map, they will see the Black Sea and think we are very close,” Duzen lamented. “Why would they take a risk?”

The Ukrainian couple had the same fears.

“We can’t stay here, this place isn’t safe, it’s too close. Their missiles can hit you,” the young man said, his eyes clouded with anxiety.

AFP

Turkey’s Erdogan Arrives In UAE To Boost Long-Strained Ties

File photo of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

 

 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in the United Arab Emirates Monday for the first time in nearly a decade, to revive relations that were long strained by regional disputes.

Erdogan arrived in the capital Abu Dhabi, where he was greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, reported the official WAM news agency.

Turkey and the oil-rich Emirates have backed opposing sides in the Libyan civil war and in a Gulf diplomatic crisis, and they have sparred over issues such as gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

But those tensions eased after Sheikh Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the UAE, travelled to Ankara in November, the first high-level visit to Turkey since 2012.

That trip “marked the beginning of a new era in relations,” Erdogan told journalists at Istanbul airport before leaving for his two-day trip.

The Turkish president’s visit to the UAE, meanwhile, is his first since 2013, when he was prime minister, and it is his first as head of state.

“We are planning to take steps that will bring relations back to the level they deserve,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey-UAE dialogue and cooperation are “important to the peace and stability in our region”.

His trip comes as the Emirates face a growing threat from Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have launched several drone and missile attacks on the Gulf country, prompting stepped up UAE defence cooperation with the United States and France.

To greet Erdogan on his trip, which will take him to the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair on Tuesday, the host country was lighting up the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the colours of the Emirati and Turkish flags.

Following Sheikh Mohammed’s visit in November, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, where the economy has been reeling and inflation last month surged to a near 20-year high.

– ‘Peace and prosperity’ –
During this week’s visit, Erdogan was expected to sign 12 agreements with UAE partners, ranging from media and communications to economic and defence deals, Turkish media reports said.

His trip “will open a new, positive page in bilateral relations,” Anwar Gargash, adviser to the UAE president, said in a tweet.

Erdogan said in a weekend op-ed in the Emirati English-language daily Khaleej Times that “Turkey and the UAE together can contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity.

“As Turkey, we do not separate the security and stability of the UAE and our other brothers in the Gulf region from the security and stability of our own country.

“We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of deepening our cooperation in this context in the future.”

Turkey-UAE relations were particularly tense after Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Bahrain in 2017 cut all links with Qatar, a close ally of Ankara. Those relations were restored in January 2021.

Erdogan has since last year sought to improve ties with regional rivals in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up, particularly from the West.

Last month he said he would visit Saudi Arabia in February, the first trip to Riyadh since relations soured over the 2018 murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

In the op-ed this weekend, Erdogan said Turkey also wanted to advance cooperation with the UAE on several fronts, including tackling “climate change, water and food security”.

“I believe that both sides are eager to set new targets for further investment and cooperation,” he said, predicting benefits “at the regional level”.

Turkey-UAE trade topped 26.4 billion dirhams ($7.2 billion) in the first half of 2021. The UAE hopes to double or triple trade volume with Turkey, which it sees as a route to new markets.

About 400 Emirati companies operate in Turkey, the UAE’s 11th largest trading partner, WAM said.

Abdul Khaleq Abdallah, a political science professor in the UAE, tweeted on Sunday that the two countries should aim to bolster a “strategic political partnership”.

Turkey Says Migrant Toll At Greek Border Up To 19

This aerial view taken on January 25, 2022 shows cars stranded on the highway after heavy snowfall at the Basaksehir district in Istanbul. – Istanbul is experiencing heavy snowfalls, with roads blocked, flights and intercity transportation canceled and thousands of vehicles stranded on majors roads. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

 

The frozen bodies of seven more migrants have been discovered close to the Greek border, Turkish officials said on Thursday, bringing the death toll in the diplomatically-charged incident to 19.

Turkey accuses border guards in neighbour Greece of allowing the migrants to die in the winter cold after stripping them of their clothes and then forcing them back across the border.

Greece has denied Turkey’s version of events, although a top EU official expressed alarm and said the claims needed to be investigated further.

“After search and rescue operations in the region, the number of migrants who were pushed back and froze to death has unfortunately risen to 19,” the governor’s office of Edirne on the border with Greece said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Germany To Offer 4th COVID-19 Jab To Vulnerable People

The bodies of 12 migrants first discovered on Wednesday have been taken to a forensic medicine institution in Istanbul for identification, the private DHA news agency reported.

Turkish officials say they have no information yet about the migrants’ nationalities.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Wednesday posted blurred pictures of partially naked bodies lying by the roadside, saying they had been “stripped (of) their clothes and shoes” by Greek border guards.

Human rights groups believe that such actions, reported by migrants in different parts of the world, are designed to discourage fleeing people from trying to enter a particular country, and to look for a different route.

– ‘Utter nonsense’ –

Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi did not dispute the deaths but dismissed Turkey’s version of events as “false propaganda”.

“These migrants never made it to the border. Any suggestion they did, or indeed were pushed back into Turkey is utter nonsense,” Mitarachi said.

But the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson expressed alarm at Turkey’s claim.

“I’m a bit shocked,” she told AFP by telephone while attending a meeting of the 27-nation bloc’s interior ministers in France.

“We have the Greek minister here, I will raise it with him and ask for clarification on this. This needs to be investigated of course.”

The incident threatens to escalate simmering tensions between the rival members of the NATO defence alliance.

“It’s not the first time that we are seeing this type of behaviour from Greece,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

Turkey regularly accuses Greek officials of illegally pushing back migrants into its territory, but Athens denies the claims.

Greece in turn claims Turkey is turning a blind eye to people trying to reach Europe via its border in violation of a 2016 deal between Ankara and the EU.

The agreement, which has been extended, sees the bloc provide billions of euros in aid to Ankara in exchange for Turkey agreeing to host millions of Syrian and other refugees.

Erdogan Vows To Punish Journalist Over Alleged Insult

President of Turkey and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the party’s group meeting at Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on February 12, 2020. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday promised that a well-known television journalist would not go “unpunished” after she was arrested for allegedly insulting him.

Police detained Sedef Kabas at her home at 2:00 am on Saturday, just hours after she aired the comments and then posted them on Twitter to her 900,000 followers.

She was formally arrested after appearing in court.

“This offence will not go unpunished,” Erdogan said in an interview aired on private television channel NTV.

“It is our duty to protect the respect of my function, of the presidency,” he said.

“It has nothing to do with freedom of expression.”

He slammed a suggestion by the opposition Republican People’s Party that the crime of insulting the president, which carries a jail sentence of one to four years, should be scrapped.

The Turkish journalists’ union has called Kabas’ arrest a “serious attack on freedom of expression”.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since Erdogan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 153rd out of 180 in its 2021 press freedom index.

Turkey Detains TV Journalist For Insulting President

A photo combination showing journalist Sedef Kabas and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A photo combination showing journalist Sedef Kabas and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Turkey has detained a well-known television journalist for comments she made on air about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, her lawyer said Saturday.

Police detained Sedef Kabas at her home at 2:00 am on Saturday, just hours after she aired the comments and then posted them on Twitter to her 900,000 followers.

She was formally arrested after appearing in court.

The crime of insulting the president carries a jail sentence of one to four years in Turkey.

READ ALSO: Russian And UK Defence Ministers To Meet Over Ukraine

“A so-called journalist is blatantly insulting our president on a television channel that has no goal other than spreading hatred,” Erdogan’s chief spokesman Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.

“I condemn this arrogance, this immorality in the strongest possible terms. This is not only immoral, it is also irresponsible,” Altun said.

But the Turkish journalists’ union called Kabas’ arrest a “serious attack on freedom of expression”.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since Erdogan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 153rd out of 180 in its 2021 press freedom index.

 

Nigeria’s Isiaka Assumes Position As D-8 Secretary-General In Turkey

Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam has assumed duty as D-8 Secretary General in Turkey.

 

Nigeria’s Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam has assumed duty as the Secretary-General of the D-8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation.

His assumption of office is based on the principle of rotation in alphabetic order, a statement issued on Tuesday by Abdullahi Tukur of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.

“The Secretary-General shall be appointed on recommendation by the Council of Ministers by consensus from among the nationals of the Member States and approval by the Summit for a non-renewable four-year term in accordance with the principle of rotation in alphabetic order with due consideration for competence, integrity and experience. The Secretary-General will be of the rank of Ambassador in the diplomatic service of the Member State,” the statement read.

READ ALSO: Air Force Redeploys Senior Officers, Appoints Heads Of Formations

D-8 is an organisation for development cooperation among Nigeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey.

See the full statement issued below:

NIGERIA ASSUMES THE POST OF SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE D – 8 ORGANISATION FOR ECONOMIC COOPERATION IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

As it is the turn of Nigeria to take the helm of affairs of the intergovernmental organisation, Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam assumes duty as Secretary General of the D – 8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation today, based on the principle of rotation in alphabetic order.

This is in consonance with article 9.3 of the D – 8 Charter which stipulates that “the Secretary-General shall be appointed on recommendation by the Council of Ministers by consensus from among the nationals of Member States and approval by the Summit for a non-renewable four-year term in accordance with the principle of rotation in alphabetic order with due consideration for competence, integrity and experience. The Secretary-General will be of the rank of Ambassador in the diplomatic service of the Member State.”

Ambassador (Retd.) Imam hails from Ilorin, Kwara State. He joined the Nigeria Foreign Service in 1993 after acquiring B.A. (Hons) 2:1 Class (Political Science) in 1985 from American University in Cairo, Egypt. He has served meritoriously in different capacities at our Missions in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Pretoria (South Africa), Tokyo (Japan), and Brasilia (Brazil) accordingly. He was conferred with the title of Ambassador in-situ by H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari in Council in 2020, as well as approved his nomination as Secretary General of D – 8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation in 2021.

It is pertinent to underscore that the Developing Eight Organization for Economic Cooperation, founded in 1997, is an intergovernmental organization comprising the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Republic of Turkey. The aspiration of the D-8 is to become an economic powerhouse that will promote sustainable development of its Member States to become major actors in the global economic system.

The recent development is critical to Nigeria as the office of the Secretary General of the D-8, during this tenure, will provide Nigeria with a veritable platform to achieve Mr. President’s economic diversification agenda through trade cooperation largely driven by the non-oil sector, and partnerships in other priority areas of comparative advantage.

Turkey’s Currency Loses Value As President Erdogan Goes Religious

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speaks to announce the net minimum wage will be raised by 50 percent starting next year, next to Turkish Minister of Labor and Social Security Vedat Bilgin at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on December 16, 2021. Adem ALTAN / AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speaks to announce the net minimum wage will be raised by 50 percent starting next year, next to Turkish Minister of Labor and Social Security Vedat Bilgin at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on December 16, 2021. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkey’s troubled lira nosedived Monday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Islamic teachings to justify not raising interest rates to cushion the currency against historic falls.

Erdogan has pushed the central bank to sharply lower borrowing costs despite the annual rate of inflation soaring to more than 20 percent.

Economists believe the policy could see consumer price increases reach 30 percent or higher in the coming months.

But Erdogan said in remarks aired by state television that his Muslim faith prevented him from supporting rate hikes.

READ ALSO: Buhari Returns From Turkey After Partnership Summit

“They complain we keep decreasing the interest rate. Don’t expect anything else from me,” he said in the televised comments.

“As a Muslim, I will continue doing what our religion tells us. This is the command.”

Islamic teachings forbid Muslims from receiving or charging interest on loaned or borrowed money.

Erdogan has previously cited his religion in explaining why he believes interest rates cause inflation instead of reining it in.

High interest rates are a drag on activity and slow down economic growth.

But central banks raise their policy rates out of necessity when inflation gets out of hand. High interest rates return value to saving money for consumers and make it expensive for companies to invest, thus reducing the demand that often fuels rising prices.

The Turkish lira has now lost more than 45 percent of its value since the start of November alone.

It fell Monday by as much as 10 percent against the dollar before paring back some of the losses.

The main stock exchange in Istanbul also briefly suspended trading for the second successive session as the currency rout extended to Turkish shares.

“You cannot run a modern economy integrated into the global economy on this basis,” economist Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management said in a note to clients.

“Even Saudi Arabia really does not attempt full shariah compliant macro(economic) management.”

Fight with big business

Turkey’s nominally independent central bank — stacked in the past year with Erdogan’s allies and supporters — has used four successive rate cuts to lower its policy rate to 14 percent from 19 percent.

Diplomats think the powerful but increasingly unpopular Turkish leader believes that economic growth at all costs will help him extend his rule into a third decade in an election due by mid-2023.

Erdogan last month launched a self-declared “economic war of independence” aimed at breaking Turkey’s reliance on foreign investment and the fluctuating cost of imports such as oil and natural gas.

But the policy is meeting increasing resistance from powerful business leaders who had largely rallied around Erdogan during his 19-year rule.

The TUSIAD lobby of major exporters issued an unusually firm rebuke of the president over the weekend.

“The policy choices implemented here are not only creating new economic problems for businesses, but for all of our citizens,” the big business lobby said.

“It is urgent that we assess the damage that has been done to the economy, and quickly return to the implementation of established economic principles, within the framework of a free market economy.”

Erdogan attacked TUSIAD directly after chairing a cabinet meeting at which ministers agreed to introduce tax and other support measures aimed at making lira holdings more attractive compared to dollars and euros.

“You are scheming to topple the government,” he told members of the industrial lobby.

“Do not hold out your hopes in vain. You’re dreaming. You will have to wait until June 2023,” he said in reference to the date of the next scheduled election.

 

AFP

Turkey To Partner Nigeria In Tackling Insecurity, Says Garba Shehu

 

Presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu has said that Turkey will partner with Nigeria to tackle insecurity in the country.

Mr Shehu who was a guest on Channels TV’s Sunday Politics, said this while giving some insight into the gains from President Muhammadu Buhari’s just-concluded trip from Istanbul.

He added that Turkey is an experienced nation as regards tackling insecurity and they are ready to donate equipment for Nigeria.

“Turkey with their experience in weapons manufacturing and technology and all of that, they’ve handled matters that we are dealing with for a long time so there’s a lot we can learn from them and from the engagements, it is clear that we have got that partner that we needed that would help Nigeria.

“They are donating equipment, we are buying some and we hope that as soon as we go into the new year, some activities will start,” he said.

He also explained that discussions around securing Nigeria were priotised during President Buhari’s trip to Turkey.

“At the center of all of the President’s engagements in Turkey is the issue of securing Nigerians and making Nigeria safe,” he said.

President Buhari returned from Istanbul on Sunday evening after a three-day summit.

Read Also: Buhari Condemns Gruesome Killings In Kaduna

His return coincided with reports of the gruesome killing of at least 38 persons in various communities in Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

While the President has condemned the killing and assured people of the state of intensified security in the area, his aide has also assured Nigerians of improved security following the new partnership with Turkey.

The area of trade and investment is not excluded, as the President’s aide also said a number of investors are coming into the country soon.