Genel

Turkish Defence Minister at Syria border to urge U.S. for prompt joint action

Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (left) met with top commanders on August 16 to inspect the Turkish military build up also to urge the U.S. not to delay the joint action for a safe zone. (Photo: Ministry web site)

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has paid an unscheduled visit to the built-up Turkish troops in Şanlıurfa at Syria border on August 16 with Chief of Joint Staff General Yaşar Güler and force commanders.
The obvious aim of the visit is to supervise the process of establishing a Joint Operation Centre with the U.S. forces in order to form a Safe Zone on the Syrian side of the border in response to Turkish demands against the threats of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG) presence; the militants have been used a ground force by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) since 2014 in the fight against ISIS. Also accompanied by Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Director Hakan Fidan, Akar said following his inspection that he hoped the Operation Center would be ready by next week and Turkey was determined to eliminate threats to its security. (*) Because another aim of his presence at the border was to urge the Donald Trump Administration to take action without further delay as the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan says Turkey was determined to get into Syria to eliminate the threat with or without the help of U.S., Turkey’s NATO partner.
Akar visit was followed by another visit to the area on August 15 by Lieutenant General Stephen Twitty, the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Forces in Europe (EUCOM), who is based in Stuttgart, Germany. After visiting the first party of U.S. troops that arrived in Şanlıurfa on August 12 for the establishment of a Joint Task Force with the Turkish military, Twitty arrived in Ankara for military-to-military talks on the operational details of the Safe Zone as reported by Turkish media. The agreement to establish a task force was agreed between Turkish and American officials in Ankara on August 7 after months-long talks, which took place under the shadow of a major problem: the American decision to “unwind” Turkey from the joint production and sale of F-35 fighter jets in retaliation of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian built S-400 air defence system.
For the last two days there have been commentaries in Turkish media about potential problems since the Safe Zone operation will be under CENTCOM command but the coordination center in Şanlıurfa is a EUCOM operation. Due to being NATO members, Turkish-American military cooperation is with the EUCOM but CENTCOM is in charge with the American operations in the Greater Middle East area. And since Turkey refused to take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the CENTCOM has not been known to be sympathetic to Turkey and although the PKK has been designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization, they are keen to work with the PKK’s Syria extension YPG, providing arms and high quality military training to them, making Turkish government furious.
But sources close to developments told YetkinReport that the coordination center will be “the mechanism for deconflicting”. A source who asked to remain anonymous said that, if there were any problems or differences of opinion that “exceed the ability” of the coordination center to solve they would be resolved by the Joint Staff”. The source “did not think” that a “CENTCOM-EUCOM friction will be a big problem” because there was a “common understanding” of the problem.
As a first step of the joint operation, Turkish UAVs have started to fly over in North East of Syria to observe the YPG positions where air space is controlled by the U.S. since August 14, as announced by the Turkish Defense Ministry.
Turkey wants a safe zone of 30-35 kilometer-deep (as it was first voiced by Trump as “20 miles”), 140 km long (which forms a small part of 913 kilometer-long border with Syria) in which there would be no active YPG militants, no heavy guns used by them, the operation would be monitored by joint patrols by Turkish and American soldiers and those Syrian citizens who migrated to Turkey from towns and villages in that zone due to the civil war would be permitted to return to their homes in time. Turkish officials who refer to the American statements underline that the ISIS threat was eliminated in the north of the country, which a major 2016 Turkish military incursion into Syria in 2016 with the cooperation of Russians contributed to. The depth of the zone is also important for the Turkish military since it covers the main East-West state road, namely M-4, connecting Iraq to Syria which is extensively used by the YPG in their transfers between the PKK headquarters in the Kandil Mountains in Iraq and their strongholds in Syria.
In the meantime the Turkish military has been carrying out a major military operation in north of Iraq against the PKK positions, in coordination with the central Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government for nearly two months now, where a newly built Turkish missile “Bora” with nearly 300 km range was used for the first time.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has recently said in answer to opposition parties’ questions that the government would not let any “new stalling” by Americans. President Erdoğan has recently said that the Turkish history was “full of victories in August” and was ready to set new example. Pro government media likes to bring up the Seljuk army win against Byzantines on Aug 26, 1071, Ottoman army’s win against Egyptians on Aug 24, 1517 and the Turkish army win against invading Greek armies on Aug 30, 1922. With a symbolic highlight, the Turkish operation into Syria in 2016 was launched on Aug 24; that was only 5 weeks after a defeated military coup attempt by a group in the army, indicted to be masterminded by Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist preacher living in the U.S.

(*) Updated on August 16, 18:36.

Genel

And now, the American soldiers have set foot on Turkish soil. Is it really against the PKK in Syria?

Six American soldiers as the first group of reportedly 90 strong troops arrived at the Şanlıurfa airport, neighbouring Syria on August 13, as a part of a Joint Task Force with the Turkish military to examine the establishment of a “Safe Zone” on the Syria side of the border. Such a Safe Zone has been demanded from the American administration by the Turkish government since 2012 and is supposed to prevent the formation of a Kurdish autonomous zone next to Turkish borders by Kurdish militants collaborating with the American forces against ISIS since 2014.
The issues were among the main rifts between the two NATO members along with Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missiles; the American blocking of the delivery of jointly produced F-35 jets to Turkey whilst Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen continued his residence in the U.S. despite being indicted of masterminding the 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey against President Tayyip Erdoğan.
Following months-long talks between the delegations and after a statement by Erdoğan that Turkey was planning to stop the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Syria “with or without the U.S.” as endorsed by the months-long military build-up along the Syrian border, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on August 7 that there was an agreement to set up a joint group to work on a safe Zone. That statement was later on seconded by the U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Pompeo’s Special Syria Envoy (and former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara) James Jeffrey played an important role in the deal.
Turkey wants a 30-35 km deep and around 140 km long (the Turkish-Syrian border being 913 km) zone to be under the joint patrol of Turkish and American troops to stop any possible attack by PKK- affiliate groups to the Turkish soil; no heavy weapons would be permitted in the zone (as it was the U.S. which armed and trained the militants) and the Syrian refugees in Turkey who used to live in those towns and villages before the civil war broke in 2011 would gradually return. The depth of the zone is the most difficult part of the talks as it covers the M-4 state road in Syria from Aleppo through to the Iraqi border laid parallel to the Turkish border, as the main route to connect the PKK headquarters in Iraq’s Kandil Mountains to the Syrian areas controlled by PKK-affiliate groups protected by the U.S. At one point in the summer of 2018, when Erdoğan had signaled that Turkish troops could hit the PKK in Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump had tweeted that such a move could “devastate” the Turkish economy, causing a currency crisis in the country.
The American central Command (CENTCOM) has been using the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants as the ground force against the ISIS presence in Syria in the East of River Euphrates; thanks to their legionary fight it was possible for the CENTCOM to clear cities like Raqqa from the ISIS forces. The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and is nothing but the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. It was, after all, the CIA which helped Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT in the arrest of PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan back in 1999. The YPG is the backbone and the mass of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is merely a PR rebranding as it was admitted by an American general, Raymond Thomas in 2017.
The Safe Zone talks are seen by both the Turkish and the American officials as a way to decrease the tension in-between and to provide some time for diplomatic maneuvering for the S-400/F-35 crisis; it could also help find ways to boost trade, as an incentive for a reconciliation.
Yet there are questions asked by Turkish parties to President Erdoğan, including his main ally in Turkish politics, Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): was this deal “another delay tactic” by the U.S.? Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu responded to such questions, stating that Turkey would not let a delay this time and was determined to clear “East of Euphrates” from YPG/PKK “with or without the cooperation of the U.S.” Ankara calculates that the U.S. Administration would not sacrifice its strategic interests from Turkey to tactical interests from PKK- affiliate groups and would not get into a clash with Turkish soldiers to protect PKK-affiliate militants, as the presence of ISIS in Syria is about to diminish.
The question is whether the U.S. is really ready to stop the Kurdish state enthusiasm of the PKK and the Bashar al-Assad regime as supported by the Russian President Vladimir Putin has already called on them to “return to their flanks”, as Russia has already signaled support for a Kurdish federation in the future “new Syria”. The American efforts to divide the PKK and support the pro-American and pro-Israeli Syrian branch under the name of PYD, SDF or some other name sounds naive, as the PKK chiefs excel in distraction, including creating and dissolving brand names.
The ironical part of the story is that American soldiers have now set foot on Turkish soil with the permission of President Erdoğan. Apart from their presence, whether symbolic on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border, having American soldiers on Turkish soil to invade Iraq was the main reason of the Turkish parliament when rejecting a motion by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2003 as some AKP deputies had joined the opposition.
The question which remains unanswered for now is whether the American soldiers in Turkey are really there to start a joint struggle to stop the PKK from its attacks and plans of creating a Kurdish state next to Turkey or just to play with time to soothe Erdoğan who is actually looking to redefine Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and the west in general.

Genel

More U.S. sanctions might further push Turkey toward Russia

The Turkish service of the Russian Sputnik channel ended the political show of three Turkish journalists on July 19, a day after they interviewed Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former prime minister of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) but now one of the in-house dissidents in preparations of a new party. Ironically, when asked about the probe against the Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel during a 2016 joint press conference with Angela Merkel, Davutoğlu had claimed that no journalists in Turkey were suffering because of their journalistic activities and that if they were it was due to terrorist engagement. According to the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), 127 journalists, writers and media employees are currently in prison and some 10 thousand media people in Turkey have lost their jobs since 2013, due to the political atmosphere.
What is new in this story is that, for the first time, it’s an international media outlet that silences Turkish journalists as a consequence of their political criticism. A recent report titled “Turkey Extensions of International media Outlets” by pro-government think tank Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) named Sputnik among other media outlets which employ Turkish journalists (including Voice of America) and disclosed the names and critical background details of the Turkish journalists employed there. Those outlets have boosted their Turkish services in the last few years amid some 70 percent of Turkish media outlets gradually shifted to ownership of business groups close to Erdoğan.
That domination in media did not help Erdoğan avoid a defeat in the last local elections, especially in the re-vote for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and the heart of its economy. The elections showed that at least half of the Turkish voters were still against Erdoğan’s rule and Turkey was not limited to Erdoğan.
The SETA report was released a week before the first components of the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems started to arrive in Turkey despite months-long objections and threats by the U.S. administration and Congress claiming that the use of S-400s would jeopardize the stealth capabilities of the F-35 fighter jets and thus weaken the U.S. and NATO air defense; Turkey was initially committed to buying 100 of them as an initial partner and a joint producer of the project.
The White House announced on July 16 that it would suspend F-35 sales to Turkey. Right after, Pentagon announced the start of “unwinding” Turkey from the project, on which Turkey had constructed its air defense from the 2020s on, as the Western defense alliance NATO’s South East guard, neighboring Russia and bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria. Turkey has been producing some 900 parts of the platforms and invested in some $1.4 billion to the project so far. Turkish Foreign Ministry said the decision could cause “irreparable” damage in Turkish-U.S. ties as Russians were quick to offer their Su-35 fighter jets instead with promises of Su-57s with supposed stealth capabilities but at the developmental stage. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a TGRT TV interview on July 22 that if Turkey would officially be removed from the F-35 program, it would have to look for other options.
Following the moves, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “It will be bad for all of us”; meaning that both Turkish and American decisions would weaken the entire NATO defense which will make Russian President Vladimir Putin happy more than anyone else.
Following a telephone conversation between Erdoğan’s Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser, and spokesman İbrahim Kalın and Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump said on July 18 that CAATSA sanctions on Turkey were still under consideration despite bi-partisan urging by the Congress. Trump, who said during a joint press conference with Erdoğan on June 29 in Osaka, Japan that Turkey had a point because it was denied to buy American Patriot defense systems by his predecessor Barack Obama, is reported to consult the possible sanctions with a group of Republican senators. Çavuşoğlu said on the same July 22 TV show that Ankara believed Trump would do his best to keep his promises to Erdoğan and try not to impose sanctions on Turkey. The Pentagon and the Congress do not want the Turkish blow on the U.S. reputation by purchasing Russian S-400s despite the threats to set an example to other allies, in and out of NATO to establish better relations with Russia; India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are reportedly in line to buy S-400s.
While waiting for Trump’s decision on sanctions for possible Turkish action in response to F-35s, Erdoğan shows no indication of moderating his attitude, despite the election defeat despite deeps cracks within its party. Apart from Davutoğlu, Erdoğan’s former economy chief, an internationally renowned economist Ali Babacan is after another formation with the backing of former President Abdullah Gül, who was one of the founding fathers of the AKP together with Erdoğan. The biggest criticism to Erdoğan from within the AKP is about keeping his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as Finance and Treasury Minister. The economy has been shrinking in the last two quarters, despite contrary expectations by the government. Erdoğan has recently fired the Governor of the Central Bank, Murat Çetinkaya –who was also appointed by the government- because he resisted decrease in interest rates as much as Erdoğan has asked for.
On the rights and freedoms front the problem is not only with the media. Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chairman of the Kurdish-problem-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has been in jail for nearly three years now, accused of terrorism propaganda in his political speeches. An Istanbul court has turned down the release demand of Osman Kavala, a social activist who has been in jail for nearly two years, accused of masterminding the 2013 Gezi protests in contact with the Open Society founder George Soros. Upon Erdoğan’s lawyers’ complaint, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the İstanbul Chairwoman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) appeared before the court on July 18, being asked for up to 17 years in prison because of insulting the President and humiliating the security forces in her Tweets during the 2013 Gezi protests. The government has postponed the debates on a judicial reform draft in the Parliament to after the summer recess, despite domestic and international calls. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told YetkinReport on July 23 that the U.S. and the European Union should think twice before imposing sanctions on Turkey which may force President Erdoğan to get into closer ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The Sputnik example might be an indication for the worse: it seems Erdoğan now has the indirect backing of Putin in domestic moves, in addition to the strategic international ones. It is no coincidence that items appeared to emerge in Turkish media which imply that Putin offered help to Erdoğan on the night of the military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, indicted to be masterminded by the U.S. resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.
It is not likely that more sanctions will deter Turkey and change its stance; the country had closed its bases, including the strategic Incirlik base back in 1975 in response to an arms embargo imposed by the U.S. after Turkish military intervention to Cyprus in 1974. More sanctions are likely to push not only Erdoğan but Turkey away from the west and the Western values and towards more cooperation with and dependency to Russia. The whole debate has served also as a massive promotion campaign for Russian weaponry.
That brings the Western alliance NATO at a crucial juncture whether to redefine the relations between members gaining more freedom from the U.S. in national defense matters or letting Russia weaken the NATO by opening new holes in the wall.

Genel

Turkey asks U.S. to revoke its F-35 removal decision to avoid “irreparable damage” in ties.

A Pentagon announcement was made on July 17 about removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program because of Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement in response, in the later hours, asking the U.S. to revoke the decision “which will irreparably damage” the relations between the two NATO allies.

The Ministry said that it was “unfair” to remove Turkey as one of main partners of the F-35 program on the “claims” that the S-400s would jeopardize “sensitive information” about F-35s while being “irresponsive” to Turkish proposal to examine the case together with NATO showed the U.S. “bias” and “lack of will to resolve the matter in good faith”.

Stating that the “unilateral” move by the U.S. neither complied with the “spirit of alliance” nor was “based on legal grounds” the Turkish Foreign Ministry also said it was important to “remain faithful” to the “understanding at all levels” between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğanon June 29 in the premises of the G20 Summit in Osaka.

On July 17, it was first the Office of the Press Secretary of the White House which said that Turkey was an ally but that the Trump Administration could not let the F-35 jets go together with the Russian S-400 air and missile defense systems. The statement said that Trump has offered Turkey to sell Patriot missiles instead;Trump had communicated this offer in Osaka, on offer which had been denied to Turkey by his predecessor Barack Obama. 

The White House statement was followed by a press briefing by the Department of Defense where the process of “unwinding” Turkey from the F-35 program was announced by Ellen Lord, the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, who said that “Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligencecollection platform [S-400] in proximity to where the F-35 program makes repairs and houses F-35s.” David Trachtenberg, the undersecretary for Defense Policy said that the decision was taken “in alignment” with other partners of the F-35 program and U.S. still valued “strategic partnership” with Turkey in NATO which would remain “unchanged” in other areas. Then acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had told Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in a June 6 letter that if Turkey continued with the S-400 purchase, the U.S. would remove Turkey from the F-35 program and that the process would start as of July 31; he also added that the training program for the Turkish Air force personnel on the first two F-35s delivered to Turkey but were still stationed in the U.S. had already been suspended. Akar’s response to that was that it would be a serious mistake which could damage relations.

Trumps words in Osaka on June 29 has caused Erdoğan to be hopeful that the U.S. President could find a way to soften the Congress attitude on F-35s and CAATSA threats. By then the delivery preparations of the S-400s have already started and the delivery of the first components have started on July 12; the 16thRussian cargo plane, an Antonov-124 was landed on the Mürtedair base near Ankara as the White House statement hit the wires on July 17.

The first reaction of the NATO SecretaryGeneral Jens Stoltenberg to the U.S. decision to remove Turkey from F-35s came at a speech in the Aspen conference in Colorado: “I am concerned about the consequences of the Turkish decision because it means Turkey will not be a part of the F-35 program. It is no good; bad for all of us”. After his visit to meet Erdoğan in June, Stoltenberg has said that removing Turkey from F-35 program would weaken not only Turkish but also entire NATO defense.”

Turkey has been part of the F-35 program for 20 years. Ten Turkish companies are contributing to the supply chain and some parts of the plane have been uniquely produced by Turkish companies. Commissioned to buy 100 jets, Turkey has invested $1.4 billion in the project Erdoğan has said recently and fulfilled each and every obligation stated by the contract so far. “Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Pentagon undersecretary Lord said on July 17 briefing, “It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected workshare related to the F-35 over the life of the program”.

The attitude hardly matches the words that the U.S. would like to carry the “strategic partnership” with Turkey “unchanged”.

Turkish President Erdoğan has already started to question the strategic dimension of the partnership in his June 14 words that most of the threats to Turkey’s security came from Turkey’s western partners in the last years. The Foreign Ministry statement in July in response to the F-35 decision also mentioned the U.S. cooperation with the Syria branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Turkey’s number one security problem and the U.S. residence of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen who is indicted to mastermind the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt to overthrow Erdoğan government. “The U.S. must show the importance it attaches to Turkey’s friendship not just with rhetoric but with actions,” the statement said.

In Turkish collective memory, to stop the delivery and seize an already paid defense requirement has an unpleasant meaning. In 1914 when the First World War started, the UK had stopped the delivery and seized two Turkish warships built in the British dockyards and that was a factor in the Ottoman government to get into the war in alliance with Germany.

In the near past, Turkey was subject to an arms embargo by the U.S. in 1975 following Turkey’s military intervention to Cyprus after a rightwing coup there threatening Turkish Cypriots lives in 1974 and a rift over opium farming in Turkey which resulted in the closure of all Turkish bases to U.S. military use. 

Ankara may not let the F-35 removal decision remain unanswered, just as the U.S. did not let the S-400 procurement decision go unanswered. It will have serious consequences.

The next step to watch for could be the CAATSA sanctions on Turkey that Congress wants Trump to implement. It is rational to expect that the Trump Administration would not like to strangle Turkey with too strong economic sanctions and further push the country for more cooperation with Russia. Vladimir Putin was smart to take the opportunity and propose that Russia can sell its newgeneration jets to Turkey; Erdoğan has already suggested that they can together develop and produce new weapon systems.

NATO SecretaryGeneral is right to be afraid of more consequences which could weaken the Western alliance. But it seems there might be more to come.

Genel

Turkey suspects terrorist attack in the killing of its diplomat in Iraq’s Kurdish region

Turkish Foreign Ministry said that a diplomat working in the Turkish Consulate General in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, was murdered in an armed attack on the afternoon of July 17. The name of the diplomat was disclosed as 36 years-old Osman Köse. (*) An Iraqi citizen is reportedly killed in the attack.
Agencies report that soon after a group of Turkish consulate personnel were given their table for lunch in the downtown restaurant of Huqqabaz, a man with civilian clothes emerged, carrying a gun with a silencer (two guns according to different witness accounts) and opened fire at the table. Erbil police chief Abdullatif Talat was quoted saying that a manhunt was underway to arrest the other(s). Security experts commenting on Turkish TV stations point at the fact that Turkish consulate members have been frequenting the restaurant because of the security measures there. They also claim that the Turkish Council General was sharing the headquarters with several international companies and agencies under tight security; because the attackers could not target the diplomat in the consulate they might have picked the restaurant for the assassination.
Turkish security sources told YetkinReport on condition of anonymity that they suspected the attack to be a terrorist one. They also suspect the attack could have been carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) but the method of the assassination doesn’t look like a typical PKK attack; they can therefore not be certain before a criminal investigation is carried out.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın stated that those who are responsible for the attack would pay for it. President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter that he condemned the attack and urged the Iraqi government to find the attackers as soon as possible. Iraqi Foreign Ministry, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the European Commission Representation in Ankara also condemned the attack.
The Turkish military has been carrying out a campaign against the PKK positions in Iraq, called “Operation Claw”, for more than a month in cooperation with the KRG under silent approval of Baghdad. Nechirvan Barzani, the new KRG leader had paid a visit to Turkey last month to meet Erdoğan to discuss possible cooperation in many fields including oil trade. Following the U.S. sanctions of Iraq Turkey has been planning to replace imports from Iran (almost half of the Turkish oil imports being from Iran in 2018) with imports from Iraq, mainly from the KRG region. There are two twin pipelines from Kirkuk and Mosul oilfields to Turkey’s Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan which have been subjected to PKK attacks frequently in the past.
The Hakurk region that the Turkish military has been targeting is a key region where the PKK has been using as a mountainous passage in its attacks into Turkey; it also serves as a bridge between its headquarters in Iraq’s Kandil Mountains near Turkish and Iranian borders and its bases in Syria through Sinjar Mountains, northwest of Iraq. PKK’s Syria branch, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) have been collaborating with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since 2014, adding another problem between the two NATO allies.
The attack also coincided with reports that the Turkish military started to remove the concrete blocks by the Syria border across the border town of Tel Abyad, which is under the control of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) with a heavy presence of the YPG. An American delegation is expected in Ankara nowadays to discuss the matter as the rift between Turkey and the U.S. continues over the purchase of Russian S-400 missiles.

(*) Updated as of 08.44 on July 18, 2019.

Genel

U.S. faces a blow to its reputation with Turkish S-400 deal with Russia

Media outlets which have been prepared for some time for immediate U.S. response by the Donald Trump administration against Turkey by imposing heavy sanctions were surprised with the news of Pentagon cancelling a July 12 press conference. Amid speculations that it was asked by Trump, the cancellation followed a telephone conversation between the acting Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.
A few hours earlier than the cancellation of the Pentagon briefing, Akar’s office had announced the arrival of the first components of the Russian S-400 surface to air missiles to the Mürted air base near Ankara transported by Russian AN-124 and IL-72 cargo planes. On July 15, the 8th plane landed on the base which was built during the Cold War to counter the threat from Moscow. At one point the one of the bases for US Air force nuclear warheads to be used against the Soviets, the Mürted base was the headquarters of the military coup attempt exactly three years ago on July 15, 2016, which was indicted to be masterminded by the US-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.The general view in the West was that Turkey would be intimidated by the sanction threats by the U.S., its biggest NATO ally, and would at least delay the delivery; up until the last minute, decision-makers in the West hoped President Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey would cancel or at least freeze the $2.5 billion deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an adversary of the U.S. and NATO. As of July 16, Trump said that talks were going on with Turks but won’t sell F-35s any longer and Esper said the U.S. was “Disappointed”, but there was still no word about CAATSA sanctions. (*)
Many people have been focusing on what kind of sanctions await Turkey: the cancellation of the delivery of the new generation of jet fighters even though Turkey is a co-producer and imposing CAATSA sanctions to punish Turkey by devastating its economy, as Trump stated months ago, to stop Turkish military operations into Syria.
On the flip side there is a rare blow – that is if there has ever been any other of the same scale- to the American reputation since the Second World War: a U.S. ally, in this case, Turkey highlighting its sovereignty, rejects the requests, demands and threats of the superpower on a strategic issue to make its own military choice alongside an American adversary, in this case, Russia.
This is a rare blow not only to the reputation of the U.S. but to its mighty image as well. It sets an example of what is possible to other allies of the U.S. Washington DC noted months ago that America’s Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt and one of its Asian allies, India, have speeded up their negotiations with Russia to buy S-400s following Turkey’s announcement of the deal with Russians. Saudis have already got the American Patriot batteries but also know that Patriots are less capable than S-400s. Though they currently depend on an American (thus indirectly Israeli) air defence network today (since being anti-Iran connects Saudis and Israelis). However, if things take a turn in the future, Riyadh might need an autonomous system like S-400s. A Russian lawmaker, Leonid Slutsky said on July 14 that exports to Turkey were a start and more S-400 systems would be seen in the Middle East soon. Despite being under CAATSA sanctions threat by the U.S. Congress, Indian authorities also openly say that they would carry on with the project to strengthen their air defence.
A ranking American source told YetkinReport on conditions of anonymity that “they had intelligence” that even some NATO members might be interested in S-400s and waiting to see where and how the U.S.-Turkey rift would end. That is why the U.S. Administration is not happy with the dose of criticism and warning by the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. On the contrary, Stoltenberg said that stopping the delivery of F-35s to Turkey would not only harm Turkey’s air defence but also the entire NATO defence. And speaking of kicking Turkey out of the F-35 program into which it has invested $1.25 billion so far, contributing to the production alongside ten companies, ready to buy 100 planes for the start, one should keep in mind the July 2018 letter of the former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to Senate Armed Services panel. There he said that apart from compensations to be paid to Turkey and loss of credibility, the disruption of the supply chain could delay the delivery of 50-75 jets, most of them to U.S. Air Force, for another 18-24 months.
Also, it is not in vain that Turkish opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who opposes almost everything that Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) does, called on the U.S. Congress to have a look at the map before sanctioning Turkey. This is a country bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria, having the longest Black Sea coast neighbouring Russia and Ukraine, bordering Azerbaijan and Armenia, having access to Central Asia, in addition to holding a strategic position in the East Mediterranean in the neighbourhood of Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Cyprus. The strongest warning to Turkey from NATO came from Supreme Allied Commander, General Curtis Scaparotti, and the fact that there were no non-American NATO officials saying that so far was underlined by American opinion-holders. No European country or politician has taken the same strong stance with Americans on the S-400 rift with Turkey. The Europeans may well be waiting to see the limits of the reaction of the Americans to Turkey. In March 2019, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said during an address to the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, after giving disturbing figures of U.S. dependency of NATO countries in military systems, the European countries should be able to look after themselves. (*)
Can it be because not only Turks but many other nations may have been fed up with being pushed around by Americans, especially under the Trump Administration? It’s possible. As times change, so does the balance of power.
That is why there are capitals that are eagerly waiting for an American reaction to the Turkish decision to buy S-400s which prompted those defying American threats.
The American silence might be dangerous, too. The cancellation of the Pentagon briefing might well be the calm before the storm or it could be that Americans are taking a deep breath before a review of the situation.
The Congress, State and Pentagon might ask the President not to let Turkey get away with this blow, also in order to set an example for other allies to show that they might face the same consequences. The question is that will the sanctions force Turkey to change its strategic choices or do any good for America interests other than serving revenge.
Another question is whether the U.S. really wants to cut or downgrade its links with Turkey because of this, which could also mean accepting the defeat and leaving the ground to Russia. And what the European members of NATO would say to that?
On the other hand, going too far with the sanctions on the military side could further alienate Turkey and push the country to cooperate more with Russia. Similarly, going too far with the economic sanctions could put more burden on the Turkish citizens, not the government, causing the government to explain the failure of the economy with the American intervention, which would serve nothing but a further rise in existing anti-Americanism.
It should also be noted that S-400 is not the only area of discrepancy between the two NATO allies, at least on paper. Turkey has been objecting the American collaboration with the Syria branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria in the struggle to ISIS. That is the main reason for Turkey’s cooperation with Russia in Syria, despite being against the Bashar al-Assad regime there. Another major rift is the residence in Pennsylvania of the Islamist preacher Gülen who has been indicted to mastermind the 2016 coup attempt to overthrow the Erdoğan government; Turkey wants Gülen to be extradited.
American media say that a decision of Trump Administration and the Congress is likely I the week of July 15. It is something more than a coincidence that the delivery of S-400s has started on the eve of the July 15 commemorations to be led by Erdoğan by a massive rally in Istanbul.
It has to be Putin who enjoys the scene most.

(*) Updated as of 21.10 on July 16, 2019.

Genel

Russian S-400 missile parts arrive in Turkey despite U.S. threats

Turkish National Defence Ministry announced that the components of Russian S-400 missiles arrived in Mürted air base near Ankara on July 12. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that the purchase program continued with “no problems” and will continue as planned. The delivery has started in spite of strong objections ad sanction threats by Turkey’s NATO ally the U.S. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has said that there would be no paddling back from his deal with the Russian President Vladimir Putin to purchase 4 batteries of S-400 air and missile defense systems for $2.5 billion, defying warnings by President Donald Trump’s administration in the U.S. that S-400’s would be a risk for its new generation F-35 fighter jets. Trump had admitted in June 29 meeting with Erdoğan in Japan that Turkey decided to purchase Russia missiles after being refused by the Barack Obama administration to but America Partiot missiles. Congress insisted that Turkey should not get F-35, despite being a co-producer and be subject to CAATSA sanctions if it does cancel the S-400 purchase. Erdoğan has said o July 1 that the delivery would start in ten days.
The delivery of the Russia missiles to Turkey is a rare example for a NATO ally to turn down demands and defy the sanction threats by the U.S. whilst cooperating with Russia; a move which can be interpreted as defying the authority of the U.S. in Western collective defence. In American eyes, it might set a bad example for others; other NATO members, especially European members who are fed up with getting pushed around by Trump’s administration. On the other hand, Russian President Putin would be happy to watch a major rift within NATO, all because of a Russian weapon with cutting-edge technology.
The questions now are; 1- Whether they will be activated and if they will be activated in connection with Turkey’s NATO–integrated air defence system; 2- When and how the U.S. sanctions will be implemented; 3- What will be Turkey’s reaction to the sanctions.
Turkey had closed down its bases for American use in 1975 –for three years- in reaction to an arms embargo due to the ban of opium farming and the 1974 Turkish military intervention to Cyprus which ended up causing the division of the Island into Turkish and Greek parts. The American cancellation of the delivery of Turkey’s F-35 fighter jets in reaction to the S-400s might have consequences, which might give harm Turkey but not only Turkey. Both Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made separate warnings that such a move might harm NATO air defence as well.
The new U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, David Satterfield arrived in the city under those circumstances on July 10, as Erdoğan’s calendar for delivery was about to expire. Satterfield is a Middle East expert who has served a number of countries in the region including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, worked as the director of Arab and Arab-Israeli Affairs in the State Department and worked as the American observer of the Astana Process between Turkey, Russia and Iran about Syria. As the first U.S. Ambassador to Ankara after two years, he hasn’t got an easy job. The other key diplomat who had served under bush ad Obama administrations is James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara ad currently Special Syria Envoy of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It is considered that American sanctions might also target the Turkish economy, which is not in good shape with declining growth in the last two quarters, increasing living costs, unemployment and a currency that is vulnerable to political interventions especially by the U.S. Earlier in 2019 Trump has threatened Turkey with “devastating” its economy if Turkish army were to attack Turkey’s arch-enemy, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party-PKK’s Syria arm, which has been collaborating with the American forces against ISIS since 2014. Trump said in a press conference in Tokyo recently that he had phoned Erdoğan to stop the Turkish army’s campaign. That Tweet by Trump had caused another crisis hitting the Turkish lira against the USD.
And it’s not only the U.S. Due to the gas exploration rights rift around the island of Cyprus; the European Union has also threatened Turkey with sanctions as well. Half of Turkey’s exports is with EU countries and a considerable bulk of foreign investments to Turkey comes from the EU. The subject has no apparent link with the S-400 rift with the U.S. but nevertheless puts additional pressure on President Erdoğan who suffered a defeat in the last local elections.
Erdoğan feels that not giving up in the S-400 move is vital to redefine Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and the West. The load already exceeds Turkey’s existing need to have a modern air and missile defence; unlike in domestic political and economic matters, polls show that the government has reasonable support on this issue. A recent, respected survey by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed that 44 percent said that the S-400 purchase should be completed no matter the consequences and only 24.5 percent opposed.
The Russian S-400 missiles case is turning into a stress test of the relations between Turkey and the U.S. and more generally between Turkey and the West.
The parameters of this stress test could be listed as follows:

  1. Will the U.S. risk losing Turkey because of Russian missiles, where the gap would most likely be tried to be filled in by even more Russian influence?
  2. Will Turkey take the risk of its political and economic ties to be severed with the U.S. and perhaps with the EU as well?
  3. Can Turkey rely on Russia, given the two countries’ centuries-long problematic relationship?
  4. For how long can Turkish voters carry the worsening bill of the economy?
  5. Will this pressure lead up to a snap election where Erdoğan would highlight national security and survival themes?
    In the days ahead, S-400-related tensions could be felt even more intensely.
Genel

Russian missiles: a stress test to Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and the West

The CIA, as well as a number of other intelligence agencies, must be busy nowadays trying to find out when and where the first battery of Russian S-400 missiles will be delivered to Turkey. That is if they haven’t already been delivered by now. Defying heavy sanction threats by the Donald Trump administration in the U.S., Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan had said on July 1 that the first party would arrive in Turkey “within ten days”. Ten days have now passed with still no official statement about the delivery.
This doesn’t mean that Turkey has or will cancel the purchase. If there had still been a leeway in this situation, an ultimatum-like letter sent on June 6 from Pentagon to the Turkish Defence Ministry has literally made it impossible to back down; let alone Erdoğan’s AKP government, no Turkish government could or would have cancelled the deal after those blunt threats. Unconfirmed scenarios about this situation are being produced in Ankara. One of them is that Erdoğan might prefer to announce the delivery in a particularly commemorative setting: the third anniversary of the foiled military coup on July 15, which could serve as a message regarding the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen living in the U.S. despite being indicted to mastermind the attempt.
The reason why there is no statement about the S-400 delivery could simply be that Turkish and Russian officials are keeping the information as a top secret from other parties for security reasons; Turkey being a NATO member and Russia being NATO’s adversary.
It will be a rare example for a NATO ally to turn down demands and defy the sanction threats by the U.S. whilst cooperating with Russia; a move which can be interpreted as defying the authority of the U.S. in Western collective defence. In American eyes, it will be a bad example for others; other NATO members, especially European members who are fed up with getting pushed around by Trump’s administration. On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin would be happy to watch a major rift within NATO, all because of a Russian weapon with cutting-edge technology.
The questions now are; 1- When and where the S-400 batteries will be deployed, 2- Whether they will be activated and if they will be activated in connection with Turkey’s NATO–integrated air defence system; 3- When and how the U.S. sanctions will be implemented; 4- What will be Turkey’s reaction to the sanctions.
Turkey had closed down its bases for American use in 1975 –for three years- in reaction to an arms embargo due to the ban of opium farming and the 1974 Turkish military intervention to Cyprus which ended up causing the division of the Island into Turkish and Greek parts. The American cancellation of the delivery of Turkey’s F-35 fighter jets in reaction to the S-400s might have consequences, which might give harm Turkey but not only Turkey. Both Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made separate warnings that such a move might harm NATO air defence as well.
The new U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, David Satterfield arrived in the city under those circumstances on July 10, as Erdoğan’s calendar for delivery was about to expire. Satterfield is a Middle East expert who has served a number of countries in the region including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, worked as the director of Arab and Arab-Israeli Affairs in the State Department and worked as the American observer of the Astana Process between Turkey, Russia and Iran about Syria. As the first U.S. Ambassador to Ankara after two years, he hasn’t got an easy job.
It is considered that American sanctions might also target the Turkish economy, which is not in good shape with declining growth in the last two quarters, increasing living costs, unemployment and a currency that is vulnerable to political interventions especially by the U.S. Earlier in 2019 Trump has threatened Turkey with “devastating” its economy if Turkish army were to attack Turkey’s arch-enemy, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party-PKK’s Syria arm, which has been collaborating with the American forces against ISIS since 2014. Trump said in a press conference in Tokyo recently that he had phoned Erdoğan to stop the Turkish army’s campaign. That Tweet by Trump had caused another crisis hitting the Turkish lira against the USD.
And it’s not only the U.S. Due to the gas exploration rights rift around the island of Cyprus; the European Union has also threatened Turkey with sanctions as well. Half of Turkey’s exports is with EU countries and a considerable bulk of foreign investments to Turkey comes from the EU. The subject has no apparent link with the S-400 rift with the U.S. but nevertheless puts additional pressure on President Erdoğan who suffered a defeat in the last local elections.
Erdoğan feels that not giving up in the S-400 move is vital to redefine Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and the West. The load already exceeds Turkey’s existing need to have a modern air and missile defence; unlike in domestic political and economic matters, polls show that the government has reasonable support on this issue. A recent, respected survey by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed that 44 percent said that the S-400 purchase should be completed no matter the consequences and only 24.5 percent opposed.
The Russian S-400 missiles case is turning into a stress test of the relations between Turkey and the U.S. and more generally between Turkey and the West.
The parameters of this stress test could be listed as follows:

  1. Will the U.S. risk losing Turkey because of Russian missiles, where the gap would most likely be tried to be filled in by even more Russian influence?
  2. Will Turkey take the risk of its political and economic ties to be severed with the U.S. and perhaps with the EU as well?
  3. Can Turkey rely on Russia, given the two countries’ centuries-long problematic relationship?
  4. For how long can Turkish voters carry the worsening bill of the economy?
  5. Will this pressure lead up to a snap election where Erdoğan would highlight national security and survival themes?
    In the days ahead, S-400-related tensions could be felt even more intensely.
Genel

Istanbul re-vote defeat causes tremors in Turkey’s ruling party despite Erdoğan’s denial

The first consequence of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) landslide defeat in the Istanbul reelection on June 23 were tremors shaking his power within the party, as it was anticipated before the elections.

The resignation of Ali Babacan, Erdoğan‘s former economy captain from the AKP of which he was one of the founders in 2001 is the first big loss; there could be more resignations following Babacan. (*)

It was Erdoğan who asked for the re-vote by persistent demands on the Supreme Election Board (YSK) because his candidate Binali Yıldırım lost to main opposition Republican Peoples Party’s (CHP) Ekrem İmamoğlu by 13 thousand votes on March 31 local elections, in the city of more than 10.5 million registered voters. The result turned into a disaster for Erdoğan as the gap widened up to 806 thousand votes: a difference of roughly 9 percent. 

During AKP’s first executive board meeting where the election result was evaluated on June 26, Erdoğan reportedly brought up the subject of getting a provincial governor to open a court case against İmamoğlu because of an alleged insult case during the election campaign; the plan would be to get İmamoğlu convicted,so as to make him lose his mayor post. That demonstrated Erdoğan’s difficulty in coming to terms with the election defeat. AKP’s first deputy chairman Hayati Yazıcı objected to this proposal saying that it would be going too far and there were no legal grounds anyway. Turkish media reported that Erdoğan dressed down Yazıcı, also his personal lawyer for long years so badly that many members of the board preferred to keep their mouths shut.

The defeat has accelerated the moves within the AKP to force Erdoğan to end his trajectory to absolute one-man-rule or resign from the AKP which has been ruling the country since 2002 to establish a new party. 

Erdoğan’s former Foreign Minister and then his handpicked successor as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a public meeting in the Eastern town of Elazığ that If new developments had proved that the AKP was on the right track, he could have kept silent till eternity but that somebody has to give the account of the deep despair in AKP grassroots caused by the Istanbul defeat. AKP is not the party of a person, a family or a group; it was not launched as such” Davutoğlu said, still being a member of the AKP; If masses have started to leave the party, you cannot stop disintegration, no matter how you threaten them. A new political understanding is needed.

Davutoğlu has a group of followers in the conservative deep Anatolia but has been held responsible by many, including the business circles, for the failing Syria policy which dragged Turkey into the quagmire of the Middle East, a term widely used in Turkish politics. 

Business circles, in and out of Turkey eye the moves of another AKP figure who is also upping a gear in his initiative which might bring about a new party from within the AKP: Ali Babacan. Once the economy czar of the AKP, Babacan also served as the European Affairs Minister and Foreign Minister in the heydays of the Erdoğan governments. Being one of the founding members of the AKP, Babacan is in close contact with another founder, former President and Prime Minister Abdullah Gül and Mehmet Şimşek, his successor as Treasury Minister before the ministry was merged with Finance ministry and handed over to Berat Albayrak, President Erdoğan’s son in law.

Recently, Davutoğlu made a call on Babacan to join efforts, followed by another AKP founder, Abdüllatif Şener, who, as one of Erdoğan’s former finance ministers, resigned from AKP years ago. But Babacan has not responded to Davutoğlu’s call. Babacangives the message that their initiative aims to address beyond the pious/conservative voters; he also wishes to target the secular centre-right who are scared of the one-man-rule trajectory of Erdoğan and liberals who supported the AKP rule in the very first years and who later on regretted it due to the manipulation of the judiciary for political purposes, regression in the use of basic rights ad freedoms and the government intrusions to the market economy.

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın recently confirmed reports that Erdoğan had a meeting with Babacan. He did not, however, get into the details of media reports claiming that Erdoğan offered Babacan to return to the government to run the economy but that Babacan turned him down on the grounds that he wouldnt have the flexibility to perform a structural reform program, especially with Albayrak still around.

Then a prosecutor opened an investigation against Babacan about his alleged links with Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is indicted to mastermind the July 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey. The investigation was immediately dropped after Bülent Arınç, another founder of the party, former Parliamentary Speaker who was recently appointed as a member of the President’s newly established Consultative Board (almost everything is “supreme” in Turkey’s Presidential system) intervened. Arınç said during a TV interview that if such an investigation was considered as a threat to Babacans initiative for a new party, it could only speed it up.

Babacan and Davutoğlu have one thing in common. That is a revision of the executive presidential system that Erdoğan achieved through a 2017 referendum with the help of his election partner Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Babacan and Davutoğlu say they have seen enough of the Alla Turca Presidential model’s failures and want a shift to a stronger parliamentary system with separation of powers and checks-and-balances. 

That is actually what the opposition leaders, namely CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Meral Akşener of the Good Party (GP) have been saying for a long time. Last week Kılıçdaroğlu repeated his call on Erdoğan and said that he was ready to cooperate with the AKP over a constitutional amendment for a stronger parliament and independent judiciary.

When AKP deputies attempted to open up the drawbacks of the current system in Erdoğan’s “consultations with them, he reportedly ended the discussion by saying no way back, despite other reports claiming that the Presidential office has started towork with McKinsey to revise the system. Erdoğan earlier said in Parliament that if there is need to finetune the system, they dont need the advice of anyone else, implying the domestic criticisms, but would make the correction themselves.

But criticisms are coming from every direction. Even Arınç, enjoying his comeback to Erdoğan’s close circle said in a recent TV interviews the following: We have lost our wind, our enthusiasm. (..) Now 50 percent [of the voters] hate us. He also thinks the system should be revised but not as radical as inner AKP opposition or opposition party leaders suggested. Arınç wants Erdoğan to leave his position as AKP chairman, without openly suggesting himself for the position.

In answer to those, Erdoğan denied that his AKP is experiencing tremors after the local elections, particularly after the Istanbul re-vote. Keep your morale high, we are not defeated, he said to a group of AKP deputies during a meeting on July 4; We have seen similar attempts in the past; they are history now. The next day he said publicly that Those who think the shadow of the AKP is the shadow of their own, will collapse like an empty sack.

Erdoğan might either be in a state of denial of the fact that his uninterrupted rise in politics has come to a halt in Istanbul where it started 25 years ago, or simply thinks that if he doesn’t admit the defeat, he could hide what has been happening from the eyes of his followers in this era of communications. But the post-election trauma of the AKP might end up in Erdoğan’s losing some of his current powers, and perhaps also his AKPs dominant position in the parliament through splits.

(*) Updated as of 13.55 on July 8 after Babacan’s resignation.

Genel

Turkish Foreign Ministry denies reports about arrest of Turkish military personnel in Libya

Turkish Foreign Ministry denied on July 1 claims by some media outlets that a number of Turkish military personnel were arrested in Libya by the rebel Halifa Haftar forces.

A ranking Turkish Foreign Ministry source who asked not to be named told YetkinReport the following: “We categorically deny the claims. This is fabricated news. We have 6 Turkish civilian seamen taken under custody in Libya and we ask for their immediate release.”

In an earlier statement Turkish Foreign Ministry has said that 6 Turkish citizens working in a ship were arrested over the weekend and asked for their release at once. Turkish Deputy President Fuat Oktay has said in a separate statement that if Turkish citizens will not be set free at once those who are responsible for the act would be considered as “legitimate target” by Turkey and face “heavy consequences”.