France wants to take action to tackle Iran’s ‘destabilizing’ behavior: Defense minister

France's Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly participates in a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentaon on Friday in Arlington, Virginia. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017

France wants to take action to tackle Iran’s ‘destabilizing’ behavior: Defense minister

WASHINGTON: France wants to take action to tackle Iran’s missile program and “destabilizing” behavior, but believes scrapping the 2015 nuclear deal would help hard-liners and be a step toward future war, France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Friday.
“We need the JCPOA. Scrapping it would be a gift to Iran’s hard-liners, and a first step toward future wars,” Parly said in a speech at a Washington think tank, referring to the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“But we should also be very serious about the destabilizing ballistic and regional activities. We are working on it.”
Parly spoke as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the nuclear deal could be amended only as long as his country and other signatories agreed to proposed changes.
President Donald Trump last week threatened to pull the US out of the deal week unless US lawmakers amend the law that allows and spells out the terms of Washington’s participation in the international accord.
Trump alone cannot actually terminate the 2015 agreement, which lifted sanctions that had choked Iran’s economy in exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program. But withdrawal by the US would render it virtually meaningless.
Speaking at a conference in Moscow, Lavrov said on Friday that any unilateral changes to the deal “could bury this agreement, which is vital for strategic stability and nuclear non-proliferation.”

Nuclear proliferation
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump risked driving Iran toward nuclear proliferation and worsening a standoff with North Korea if Washington ended a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Kerry, who negotiated the 2015 deal, was speaking in a private lecture delivered at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.
“If you want to negotiate with (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un, and your goal is to avoid war and try to be able to have a diplomatic resolution, the worst thing you can do is first threaten to destroy his country in the United Nations,” Kerry said.
“And secondly, screw around with the deal that has already been made because the message is, don’t make a deal with the United States, they won’t keep their word,” he said.
The nuclear deal places Iran under tough restraints, including inspections, round-the-clock surveillance and tracking every ounce of uranium produced, Kerry said. “We would notice an uptick in their enrichment, like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
“And nobody that I know of with common sense can understand what the virtue is in accelerating a confrontation with the possibility that they might decide they want to break out and make it (a nuclear bomb) now instead of 10 or 15 or 25 years from now.”
Kerry, a former senator who headed the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Swiss media that Trump’s leaving the Iranian deal’s fate to Congress was “very dangerous” and opened the door to “party politics.”
Congress cannot unilaterally renegotiate a multilateral accord, the Geneva daily Le Temps quoted him as saying. “It is possible that Congress would make an unreasonable decision that would put Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a very complicated political situation that could force him to retaliate. It’s a slippery slope.”
Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran would stick to its accord as long as the other signatories respected it, but would “shred” the deal if Washington pulled out, state TV reported.
If Iran violated the accord, UN sanctions would snap back into place, Kerry told the audience.
“Moreover, at that point in time folks, we have a year of break-up. We have all the time that we need in the world to be able to bomb their facilities into submission.”
Ending the deal could lead to Iran hiding fissile production facilities “deep in a mountain where we have no insight.”
“So the scenario that Trump opens up by saying ‘let’s get rid of the deal’ is actually proliferation, far more damaging and dangerous,” Kerry said.

US threaten more sanctions as Turkey scrambles to reassure investors

Updated 16 August 2018

US threaten more sanctions as Turkey scrambles to reassure investors

  • Albayrak said Turkey fully understood and recognized all its domestic challenges
  • Albayrak has the daunting task of reassuring the investors that the economy is not hostage to political interference

WASHINGTON: The United States warned on Thursday that it would levy more sanctions on the troubled Turkish economy if Ankara does not  release a jailed American pastor.

The announcement by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin deepened a dispute that has rattled financial markets.

“We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members,” Mnuchin told President Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting.

“We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly.”

Trump said Turkey, which has a political and military alliance with the US, had not been a very good friend to America, AFP reported.

Referring to imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump said “they have a great Christian pastor there, he's a very innocent man.”

The threat comes as Turkey scrambled to reassure investors reeling from the crash of the Turkish lira.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressed hundreds of foreign investors from the United States, Europe and Asia in a conference call in a bid to soothe the markets.

The lira has clawed back some ground over the last two days after losing almost a quarter of its value on Friday and Monday.

“Turkey will emerge stronger from these fluctuations,” Albayrak said.

Albayrak rejected seeking an IMF bailout. Erdogan often boasts of paying off Turkey's past IMF debts in 2013.

The lira’s months-long slide has accelerated as a result of the diplomatic standoff with Washington over Brunson’s detention. A Trump tweet on Friday announcing a doubling of aluminum and steel tariffs for Turkey triggered the rout in the currency markets.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, held onto its gains during Albayrak’s discussion, trading at 5.7 against the American currency.

“We will turn this crisis into an opportunity,” said Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin after a cabinet meeting chaired by the president, saying measures taken so far had helped bring about a “rapid improvement process” over the last two days.

But Albayrak, who was appointed last month, will have a tough time restoring order to an economy plagued by high inflation and a current account imbalance.

The lira’s drop in value is certain to further fuel inflation, which is already near 16 percent.

Albayrak said there would be no concessions on fiscal discipline, adding: “We are targeting lowering inflation into the single digits as soon as possible.”

However, analysts are calling for a sharp hike in interest rates - which Erdogan adamantly opposes because it will put a brake on economic growth.

In an intensifying cycle of tensions with the United States, Erdogan has called for a boycott of US electronic goods such as iPhones and Ankara has sharply hiked tariffs on some US products.

He has also warned Ankara could start looking for new allies, as well as new markets.

Qatar, which has moved closer to Ankara since a boycott was imposed last year by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, on Wednesday pledged to channel $15 billion direct investment into Turkey in defiance of the US.

Analysts say Turkey is also likely to seek a more dynamic economic relationship with China and Russia, with whom ties have warmed considerably in recent years.

Turkey has also in recent days shown an interest in repairing ties with Europe after a crisis sparked by Ankara's crackdown on alleged plotters of the 2016 failed coup.

Erdogan and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call Thursday to foster trade ties, a Turkish presidential source said.

Albayrak spoke Thursday with his German counterpart Olaf Scholz and they agreed to “take steps in order to reinforce economic cooperation,” Albayrak's office said.

Meanwhile, Turkish courts have moved to defuse other legal cases that have irritated relations with the EU.

An Istanbul court allowed the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic Wednesday, who spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup bid.

And the day earlier, two Greek soldiers held by Turkey since March for illegally crossing the border were also freed.