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Posts tagged ‘Ottoman Land of Anatolia’

Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border from Kurds

2017-10-31

ANKARA – Iraqi government forces on Tuesday took control of the key border crossing with Turkey in the Iraqi Kurdistan region after weeks of tensions between Baghdad and Arbil, the Turkish prime minister said.

The border crossing “has been handed over to the central government” of Iraq, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling party at a televised meeting in Ankara.

He said all controls at the border will now be carried out by Iraqi and Turkish officials on their respective sides.

The Iraqi forces deployed at the Ibrahim Al Khalil crossing alongside Turkish forces with whom they have been carrying out joint exercises over the last weeks, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

They were to raise the Iraqi national flag and take down the flag of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) which had until now controlled the crossing, it said.

The border crossing was closed while the handover was being carried out, leading to long queues, it added. There were no reports of any clashes.

The Kurdish region has found itself increasingly isolated after holding a non-binding independence referendum on September 25 that was opposed not just by Baghdad but also Iran, Turkey and the Kurds’ Western allies.

Turkey, which over the last years had cultivated strong trade ties with the KRG, reacted with fury to the referendum, fearing the move could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurdish minority.

Deemed by many analysts to have severely overplayed his hand by holding the referendum, the KRG’s leader Massud Barzani said at the weekend that he was stepping down.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85691.

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Leaders of Turkey, Greece air grievances at tense conference

December 07, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leaders of Greece and Turkey publicly aired their grievances Thursday in a tense news conference as a two-day visit to Athens by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got off to a rocky start.

The Greek government had expressed hopes that the visit — the first to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years — would help improve the often-frosty relations between the two neighbors. The NATO allies are divided by a series of decades-old issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, and have come to the brink of war three times since the early 1970s.

But from the outset, the discussions focused on disagreements. On the eve of his visit, Erdogan rattled his Greek hosts by telling Greece’s Skai television that the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne should be “updated.” The treaty delineated modern Turkey’s borders and outlines the status of the Muslim minority in Greece and the Greek minority in Turkey, among other issues.

In a visibly testy first meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the two engaged in a thinly-veiled verbal spat over the treaty and Greece’s Muslim minority, which Erdogan is to visit Friday.

“This happened in Lausanne, that happened in Lausanne. I get that, but let’s now quickly do what is necessary,” Erdogan told Pavlopoulos. “Many things have changed in 94 years. If we review these, I believe that all the sides will agree that so many things have to (change.)”

The spat continued during Erdogan’s appearance at an unusually candid joint news conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The two listed a series of grievances their countries have with each other, including religious and minority rights, the divided island of Cyprus and the case of ten Turkish servicemen who have applied for asylum in Greece following a Turkish government crackdown after a failed coup last year.

“It is very important to strengthen our channels of communication, and this can only happen on the basis of mutual respect,” Tsipras said. The prime minister said the two also discussed tensions in the Aegean Sea, where Greece complains Turkish fighter jets frequently violate its airspace.

“The increasing violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean and particularly the simulated dogfights in the Aegean pose a threat to our relations, and particularly a threat to our pilots,” Tsipras said.

For his part, Erdogan insisted once more that the Lausanne treaty needed to be reviewed, but stressed his country had no territorial claims on its smaller neighbor. On the topic of the Muslim minority in Greece — which the country recognizes only as a religious minority, while Turkey has long pressed for better rights — Tsipras said his government agreed that improvements must be made in their quality of life.

“But issues that concern reforms involving Greek citizens are not an issue of negotiation between countries,” he said. Tsipras noted it was unclear exactly what Erdogan was seeking with his call to update the 1923 treaty.

“The truth is I am a little confused about what he is putting on the table,” he said. Greeks have been aghast at Erdogan’s previous comments over possibly revising the Lausanne treaty, fearing that could harbor territorial claims.

Erdogan and Tsipras also sparred over Cyprus, a Mediterranean island divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion into a Turkish-occupied north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south. Another round of internationally-brokered peace talks to reunify the island failed earlier this year.

“Who left the table? Southern Cyprus did … we want the issue to reach a fair and lasting solution but that is not southern Cyprus’ concern,” Erdogan said. Tsipras retorted: “My dear friend, Mr. President, we must not forget that this issue remains unresolved because 43 years ago there was an illegal invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.”

Erdogan also raised the issue of Athens having no official mosque, to which Tsipras responded by saying Greece had restored several mosques around the country, including a centuries-old mosque in Athens.

The refugee crisis appeared to be the only issue the two sides did not disagree on, with both noting they had shared a significant burden of the migration flows into the European Union. More than a million people crossed from Turkey through Greece at the height of the crisis.

Later Thursday, several hundred leftist, anarchist and Kurdish protesters held a peaceful march through Athens against Erdogan’s visit. On Friday, Erdogan will visit the northeastern town of Komotini to meet with members of Greece’s Muslim minority.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Derek Gatopoulos and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power Inaugurates $1Bn Power Plant in Turkey

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Saudi-based Acwa Power has announced the launch of the $1-billion Kirikkale Combined Cycle Power Plant in Turkey which has a 1,000 MW capacity, enough to meet three percent of the country’s total electricity demand.

The project was officially launched at a major ceremony held at the Presidential Complex in the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Berat Albayrak, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources besides other senior officials.

It is located in the municipality of Kiliclar in the Yahsihan District, 15km from Kirikkale City Center and 50km east of Ankara.

“The inauguration of this project is a clear sign of the growth and modernization in Turkey, which is making the country set for continued development,” Acwa Power Chairman Mohammad Abunayyan said.

The plant is the first and largest of Saudi energy investments in Turkey’s power sector. Abunayyan said that it stressed Acwa Power’s role in boosting Saudi foreign investment base in the economic, strategic and investment sectors, in line with requirements of Saudi Vision 2030 and its objectives.

“We applaud the Turkish authorities on delivering a key infrastructure project to drive the economy forward for future generations,” he added.

For his part, Managing Director at ACWA Power Thamer al-Sharhan said that achieving this significant milestone has only been possible through the support extended by various institutes, including Energy Ministry, Regulator (EPDK), TEIAS, Kirikkale Governor and Municipality.

“This project is an ideal example of the power of public-private partnerships in fulfilling national ambitions,” Sharhan said.

Notably, the Kırıkkale Power Plant will provide a steady and reliable energy to Turkey’s national grid.

The project is also among the top three most efficient combined cycle gas power plants in Turkey, significantly contributing to the country’s economy through savings in gas consumption.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1097416/saudi-arabia%E2%80%99s-acwa-power-inaugurates-1bn-power-plant-turkey.

New Turkish nationalist party could be challenge for Erdogan

2017-11-19

A new nationalist party in Turkey could become a serious political chal­lenge for President Re­cep Tayyip Erdogan as voters complain about a slowing economy and rising corruption.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and De­velopment Party (AKP) is facing lo­cal and parliamentary elections in 2019. That year also includes a pres­idential election that will decide whether Erdogan can obtain his goal of becoming head of state with full executive powers. While polls show that the AKP, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s strongest political force, the creation of a new party could thwart Erdogan’s ambi­tions.

The Good Party, led by former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, is scoring well in opinion surveys, suggesting it could draw disgrun­tled right-wing voters from the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

As one of the few prominent women in Turkey’s male-dominat­ed political scene, Aksener joined the center-right True Path Party (DYP) and served in the cabinet as interior minister (1996-97) before switching to the MHP.

Now she has launched her own organization, which has become the source of much speculation in Turkey. A survey by the Gezici poll­ing firm has Aksener’s Good Party at nearly 20% of the vote, a result that, if true on Election Day, would make it the third strongest group in Turkey’s parliament and that could end the AKP’s domination of the chamber.

The Good Party enters the stage at a time many Turkish voters are looking for alternatives, pollster Murat Gezici said. “One-in-three AKP voters think Turkey needs a new party,” he said, referring to the results of his latest survey.

The poll also indicated that a ma­jority of MHP voters said they want a new political movement and that Aksener could be a serious chal­lenger to Erdogan in the presiden­tial election in two years. The sur­vey results suggested support for Aksener could keep Erdogan to less than 50% of the votes cast in the first round of the election and could force the president to face her in a second round.

Aksener, who studied history be­fore going into politics, is not hiding her ambition. When the audience at the launch of the Good Party on October 25 called her “prime min­ister” in celebratory chants, she re­sponded by saying that she would be president.

The Good Party is a staunchly right-wing group competing with the AKP and the MHP for conservative voters and could profit from growing skepticism towards the rul­ing party.

“We don’t know much about the new party but Aksener sure is bet­ter than Tayyip,” Rahfet, an Istanbul taxi driver who would only give his first name, said in reference to Er­dogan. “There is corruption every­where.”

Erdogan, in power since becom­ing prime minister in 2003 and pres­ident in 2014, is Turkey’s most pow­erful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the republic almost a century ago. Turkey en­joyed an unprecedented economic boom under Erdogan and the AKP but a wave of persecutions of sus­pected enemies of the state since a failed coup in 2016 led to com­plaints of a repressive atmosphere in the country.

Turkey’s relations with tradition­al partners in Europe and the Unit­ed States are strained. At the same time, inflation has risen to 12% and unemployment is at 10% overall, with one-in-five younger Turks out of work.

In a sign of the rising political discontent, almost half of Turkish voters rejected Erdogan’s plans for an executive presidency in a refer­endum this year. Results showed that voters in the country’s biggest cities had turned against him. The president responded with a purge of local officials that included forced resignations of the AKP mayors of Istanbul and Ankara.

Aksener told delegates at the founding ceremony of her party that Turkey was suffering from a “dysfunctional opposition and a political structure that is no longer democratic.” She accused Erdogan and the AKP of using the judiciary for political ends and said the coun­try was “tired” of the current gov­ernment.

That sentiment is shared by Turks who are concerned that the country is on the wrong track. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim recently had to defend himself after the publication of documents of the so-called Paradise Papers revealed that his family had investments in Malta that could be used to evade Turkish taxes. The opposition called for an investigation.

Gezici’s poll found that approximately 12% of AKP supporters and more than 22% of MHP voters might go for Aksener’s party in the next election. If that holds in the elec­tion, the MHP, an AKP ally, could drop below the 10% threshold that a Turkish party needs to cross to win seats in parliament.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli called for an abolition of the 10% condi­tion, a move seen by many as an in­direct admission that the MHP sees its support waning.

Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86007.

Erdogan swipes at Russia, U.S. missions in Syria

NOVEMBER 13, 2017

ANKARA/SOCHI (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took swipes at U.S. and Russian interventions in Syria on Monday and said if countries truly believed a military solution was impossible, they should withdraw their troops.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump said in a joint statement on Saturday they would continue to fight against Islamic State in Syria, while agreeing that there was no military solution to the country’s wider, six-year-old conflict.

”I am having trouble understanding these comments,“ Erdogan told reporters before flying to Russia for talks with Putin. ”If a military solution is out of the question, then those who say this should pull their troops out.

“Then a political method should be sought in Syria, ways to head into elections should be examined… We will discuss these with Putin,” he said.

After more than four hours of talks with Putin in the southern Russian resort of Sochi, Erdogan said the two leaders had agreed to focus on a political solution to the conflict.

“We agreed that the grounds to focus on a political solution (in Syria) have been formed,” he said.

Putin said Russia would continue to work on Syria with Turkey and their efforts were yielding results: “The level of violence has definitely been reduced, favorable conditions are being created for the progression of a inter-Syrian dialogue.”

Neither leader went into more specific detail. Asked if the two discussed Erdogan’s earlier comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the talks were about more complex issues which could not be made public, according to RIA news agency.

Turkey has been annoyed by both Russian and U.S. missions in Syria. Before his trip to Russia, Erdogan said both Moscow, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, and Washington, which armed Syrian YPG Kurdish forces Ankara sees as allied to separatists fighting in southeastern Turkey, had set up bases.

“The United States said it would completely leave Iraq, but it didn‘t. The world is not stupid, some realities are being told differently and practiced differently,” he said.

He said the United States had 13 bases in Syria and Russia had five. The YPG has said Washington has established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria. The U.S.-led coalition says it does not discuss the location of its forces.

Russia has been a strong supporter of Assad, whose removal Erdogan has demanded, and Moscow’s military intervention two years ago helped turn the conflict in the Syrian president’s favor.

Turkish troops have also fought in Syria to halt the advance of Kurdish YPG forces along its frontier.

“We attach great importance to the joint steps Turkey and Russia will take on (the) defense industry,” Erdogan said.

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-russia/erdogan-swipes-at-russia-u-s-missions-in-syria-idUSKBN1DD1F2.

As Turkey and US agree to disagree, Erdogan heads east

2017-11-13

By Thomas Seibert

ISTANBUL

Turkey and the United States have failed to iron out differences in key areas of their relationship, including a visa dispute, during high-level talks that put a spotlight on tensions between An­kara and the West.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim met with US Vice-Pres­ident Mike Pence in the White House on November 9 in the first face-to-face contact by senior of­ficials of the two NATO partners since the United States angered Ankara a month earlier by suspending visa services for Turks in response to the arrest of an employee of the US Consulate in Is­tanbul by Turkish authorities.

A White House statement issued after the Pence-Yildirim meeting expressed hope for a “new chapter in US-Turkey relations” as well as agreement “on the need for constructive dialogue.” Yildirim told Turkish reporters travelling with him that, while Pence had displayed a “positive” approach towards Turkey, the visa problem remained unsolved. “We will follow developments,” he said.

Turkey introduced similar restrictions for US citizens and both countries had relaxed their visa bans before Yildirim’s visit.

The White House and Turkey were unable to resolve other issues as well. Yildirim said Pence had made it clear that US support for a Kurdish militia in Syria, seen as a terrorist group by Ankara, would continue despite Turkish protests. Pence pressed Yildirim on the case of Andrew Brunson, a US pastor under arrest in Turkey, and Yildirim criticized an indictment by US prosecutors against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader awaiting trial in New York. Reports have said Zarrab’s trial might rekindle corruption allegations against the Erdogan government.

“We have decided to continue the dialogue,” Yildirim said about his meeting with Pence, the Turk­ish newspaper Hurriyet reported. The prime minister and the vice-president agreed to create a direct phone link and Yildirim said: “Our telephones will be reachable 24 hours.”

Some observers saw Yildirim’s visit as a failure.

“The trip’s futility is hardly surprising for Turkey watchers,” Aykan Erdemir and Merve Tahiroglu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Wash­ington think-tank, wrote in an analysis. “The Turkish prime minister probably had no illusions of his ability to extract any concessions from his American counterparts but, as Erdogan’s loyal caretaker, Yildirim performed the role that his boss had demanded.”

While Turkey’s ties with the United States and key European allies remain difficult, Ankara is strengthening its relations with Russia. Less than two months after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tur­key, the Turkish leader was to see him November 13 at Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Turkey raised eyebrows in the West by cooperating with Russia in the Syrian crisis and by talking with Moscow about buying a Russian missile defense system, S-400, a highly unusual step for a NATO country.

Erdogan was also to fly to Ku­wait for talks that are expected to center on the row between Qatar and a Saudi-led quartet of neighboring countries. Turkey is a supporter of Qatar, while US President Donald Trump has taken a strong stance against what he calls financial support for terrorism by the government in Doha.

Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85910.

Erdogan signs contentious religious marriages law

2017-11-03

ANKARA – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed into law controversial legislation to let state-approved clerics conduct marriage ceremonies, a move critics claim risks undermining Turkey’s secular foundations.

The government-championed measure, passed by parliament last month in the face of bitter opposition, was published Friday in the Official Gazette following Erdogan’s signature Thursday, which means it has now come into force.

The law allows “muftis” to perform and register marriages, as well as state-appointed civil servants.

Muftis are clerics employed by Turkey’s state religious affairs agency Diyanet with the task of taking care of worship across the country.

Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation but an official secular state under its constitution as set up by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, in 1923.

“The AKP has taken another step that harms the state’s secular pillars and that moves people away from secularism,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) which was founded by Ataturk, told AFP.

– Open way for child marriages –

Until now, the law has stipulated that even religiously observant couples must be married by a state registrar from the local municipality, not a cleric.

Critics also claim the new law will open the way for unregistered marriages, and will breach Turkey’s civil code.

The government however says a marriage conducted by a mufti is a civil marriage, arguing that the bill is actually regulating secular life, not religious life.

But Tanrikulu said the law was “not an actual need” and expressed fear that citizens would feel under pressure to have a religious marriage as this would go down in records that could be examined by future employers.

“The seeds of such a discriminatory practice are being sown today,” he said.

Tanrikulu expressed concern in particular that the change will exacerbate an already existing problem in the country with child marriage.

According to UN children’s agency UNICEF Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe with a rate of 15 percent of women married by 18.

“The new law will open the way for child marriages,” he said.

But the law has been a priority for the government and in October, Erdogan told the opposition that the law would pass “whether you like it or not.”

Erdogan and the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been repeatedly accused by critics of eroding the secular pillars of modern Turkey.

Erdogan’s governments have notably eased restrictions on wearing the Islamic headscarf in education, politics, the police and most recently the army.

The government rejects the criticism, arguing it allows freedom of worship for all Turkish citizens and the lifting of headscarf bans merely brought Turkey into line with the rules in many Western, non-majority Muslim, nations.

Some European countries, notably Britain, recognize religious marriages but in other EU members like France and the Netherlands couples must first marry in a civil ceremony.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85755.

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