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Archive for the ‘Ottoman Land of Anatolia’ Category

Australia says tensions with Turkey ease after WWI remarks

March 21, 2019

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday tensions between his country and Turkey had eased after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said comments by the Turkish leader that sparked the row had been taken out of context.

A diplomatic dispute flared over Erdogan’s comments in the wake of Friday’s gun massacre in which 50 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, attacks for which an Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder.

Speaking while campaigning for local elections, Erdogan warned Australians and New Zealanders going to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would return home in coffins, like their ancestors who fought at Gallipoli in World War I.

Morrison slammed the comments as “highly offensive,” and on Wednesday summoned Turkish Ambassador to Australia, Korhan Karakoc, to explain the remarks. Australia also placed under review its travel advisory for its citizens visiting Turkey, which was already set at “exercise a high degree of caution” due to the threat of terrorism.

But on Thursday, Morrison said progress had been made on mending bilateral ties after a spokesman for Erdogan said the president’s words were “taken out of context.” Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for the Turkish presidency, said Erdogan was in fact responding to the manifesto posted online by the man arrested in the mosque attacks.

Altun also said Erdogan had made his remarks in a historical context relating to attacks past and present against Turkey, a move partly inspired, he said, by the fact the president was speaking near commemorative sites near the Gallipoli battlefields.

“President Erdogan’s words were unfortunately taken out of context,” Altun said on Twitter. “He was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) visitors.

“The terrorist’s manifesto not only targeted Erdogan himself but also the Turkish people and the Turkish state. “As he was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present.”

Morrison on Thursday welcomed what he called a “moderation” of Erdogan’s views, which followed a series of high-level bilateral diplomatic communications on the matter. “Overnight, progress has been made on this issue and overnight we’ve already seen a moderation of the president’s views,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

“It’s my intention to break any cycle of recklessness, to work through these issues practically, to register in the strongest and clearest of terms the offense that was taken — I believe rightly — by those comments yesterday, but now to work constructively,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

“Australia and Turkey, the peoples of both countries, have a tremendous relationship, built up over generations.” Thursday’s developments came as New Zealand Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was en route to Turkey to meet with Erdogan and seek clarification over his comments.

The 1915 Gallipoli campaign, marked by heavy casualties on both sides, was a disastrous defeat for the allies against the then Ottoman Empire. Although the battle later helped cement friendship among the three countries, it remains a highly sensitive subject in Australia and New Zealand.

Erdogan has also sparked outrage abroad by showing video excerpts at his campaign rallies of the footage broadcast by the Christchurch gunman, to denounce what he has called rising hatred and prejudice against Islam. Three Turkish citizens were among the dozens wounded in the attack.

It is not the first time Erdogan has sparked outrage abroad by making controversial statements about foreign countries, particularly during pre-election periods to stir up nationalist sentiment and consolidate his support base. He has sought to patch up relations after the elections.

Local elections are set to be held in Turkey on March 31. With the economy struggling, Erdogan’s party risks losing the capital, Ankara, to the opposition. Such an outcome would be a severe blow to the president, whose ruling Justice and Development Party and its predecessor have run the city for the past quarter century.

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UN rights envoy comes to Turkey to study Khashoggi killing

January 28, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — A U.N. human rights expert has arrived in Turkey for a weeklong visit over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard and her team of experts on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said they are also expected to meet Turkey’s justice minister and the Istanbul prosecutor heading the investigation. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His remains have still not been found.

Turkish officials have called for an international investigation and complained of a lack of cooperation by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in the killing and is seeking the death penalty against five of them.

Turkey: 28 on trial over Russian ambassador’s slaying

January 08, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The trial has opened of 28 people accused of involvement in the 2016 killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, including U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup the same year.

An off-duty police officer fatally shot Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. The officer was later shot dead at the scene by police. Turkish prosecutors say Gulen’s network was behind the killing, which they say aimed to derail warming ties between Turkey and Russia. Nine people were arrested. Others, including Gulen, are on trial in absentia on Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking life prison sentences for some of the defendants and maximum 15-year terms for others. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and in Karlov’s killing.

Russian and Turkish ministers meet for Syria talks

December 29, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers met in Moscow on Saturday to discuss northern Syria as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw and Turkey threatens to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces controlling nearly a third of the country.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said before the talks began that they would focus on the situation in and around Idlib, as well as “what can and should be done” when the U.S. withdraws from Syria.

After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that much of the discussion focused on the pending U.S. withdrawal, and that Russia and Turkey managed to agree on coordinating their steps in Syria “to ultimately eradicate the terrorist threat.”

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said the meeting lasted an hour and a half. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said only that “we will continue our close cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and regional issues.”

The Syrian military said it entered the Kurdish stronghold of Manbij on Friday as part of an apparent agreement between the two sides. The Kurds are looking for new allies to protect against a threatened Turkish offensive as U.S. forces prepare to leave.

With President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw troops earlier this month, Turkey announced it will pause a threatened offensive against Kurdish militants. It has, however, continued amassing troops at the border as it monitors the situation.

The movements follow days of equipment transfers across the border into a Turkish-held area of northern Syria near Manbij. Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters said they have started moving along with Turkish troops to front-line positions near the town as a show of readiness.

A statement released by the rebels said they are ready to “begin military operations to liberate the city in response to calls by our people in the city of Manbij.” Turkish news agency IHA showed video of at least 50 tanks arriving at a command post in Sanliurfa province early Saturday. The province borders Kurdish-held areas east of the Euphrates river in Syria.

The Russian side was represented in Saturday’s talks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Shoigu, and Kremlin foreign affairs aide Yuri Ushakov. The Turkish delegation includes Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Saturday that, in addition to the foreign and defense ministers of each country, the meeting was attended by intelligence chiefs from both sides.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan did not attend the meeting. Peskov said the two would later schedule a separate meeting.

Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut.

Ukraine’s president meets Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul

November 03, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — Ukraine’s president has met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, as some Ukrainian clerics prepare to break ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. President Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke in Istanbul on Saturday, weeks after the patriarchate’s Oct. 11 decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Russia in turn broke off ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate.

Poroshenko thanked the patriarch, who is the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, for supporting the Ukrainian church’s independence. The Ukrainian church had been under the Russian Orthodox Church since 1686. Ukrainian clerics are now being forced to pick sides, to join the independent Ukraine Orthodox church or remain within Russian influence, as the fighting persists in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels.

Turkish court convicts US pastor of terror yet frees him

October 12, 2018

ALIAGA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor on terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave the country, a move that’s likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison for allegedly helping terror groups. But since the evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention, Turkish law allowed him to remain free with time served.

The earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped. Brunson, a native of North Carolina whose detention had sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two NATO allies, had rejected the espionage and terror-related charges and strongly maintained his innocence.

The 50-year-old native of North Carolina had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges. With tears in his eyes, he hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the decision Friday. Lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said Brunson was expected to leave Turkey for the U.S., but it was not clear when. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet for monitoring was removed. Brunson was seen going back to his home in Izmir from the court.

President Donald J. Trump tweeted he was praying for Brunson and announced his release, saying “WILL BE HOME SOON!” Washington had repeatedly called for Brunson’s release and in August had slapped sanctions on Turkey.

But a top Turkish official criticized Trump’s tweet and American pressures for the pastor’s release. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun repeated the president’s message that Turkey would not bow to threats of sanctions and said the court’s ruling proved the judiciary’s independence.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was one of thousands caught up in a widespread government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the Turkish government in July 2016.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups and of alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

“I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” Brunson told the court Friday, speaking in Turkish. Earlier, the court called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at a previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan’s accusations. Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church. He was imprisoned for nearly two years – detained in October 2016 and formally arrested in December that year – before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

Tony Perkins, the commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said he welcomed the court’s decision Friday along with “the millions of Americans who have been praying for Pastor Brunson’s release.”

Washington imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports in August. Those moves, coupled with concerns over the government’s economic management, helped trigger a Turkish currency crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had resisted U.S. demands for Brunson’s release, insisting that Turkish courts are independent. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson for the Pennsylvania resident Fethullah Gulen – the cleric that Erdogan has accused of being behind the coup attempt.

Gulen has denied the claim. Turkey has demanded his extradition but so far U.S. officials say Turkey has not provided sufficient reason for U.S. officials to extradite the cleric, a former ally of Erdogan who had a falling out with the powerful leader.

Brunson’s trial came as another major diplomatic case is developing in Turkey involving Saudi writer and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish officials claim the writer may have been killed inside the Saudi diplomatic mission and Turkish newspapers have released pictures of alleged Saudi agents flown in to allegedly handle the killing. Saudi officials reject the claim as “baseless.”

Associated Press journalists Mehmet Guzel contributed from Aliaga and Suzan Fraser from Ankara, Turkey.

German economy minister visits Turkey to expand trade ties

October 25, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Germany’s economy minister started a two-day visit to Turkey on Thursday, bringing with him a 30-person business delegation in a bid to boost trade ties between the two countries.

Germany is a top trading partner for Turkey. The visit comes as the NATO allies are trying to mend ties after clashing over numerous issues in recent years, including Turkey’s jailing of German journalists. Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused German officials of acting like Nazis after Turkish politicians were barred from holding election campaign rallies in Germany.

The visit by German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also comes months after Turkey faced financial turmoil with a slump of the Turkish currency.  “Germany has an interest in a stable and dynamic economic relationship with Turkey,” Altmaier said ahead of the trip.

Altmaier and Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Peskan will convene for the first time the Joint Economic and Trade Commission, which seeks to improve trade, industry, tourism and infrastructure projects between the two countries.

Altmaier on Friday is opening the second session of the German-Turkish Energy Forum with Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez.

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