Turkey will stand up to US in face of sanctions threat over American pastor -Erdogan

Erdogan said Trump could not make Turkey take a step back with sanctions. (AFP)
Updated 30 July 2018
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Turkey will stand up to US in face of sanctions threat over American pastor -Erdogan

  • Relations between the NATO allies have worsened over the jailing of Brunson
  • Ties had already been strained over multiple issues including Washington’s support of a Syrian Kurdish militia

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will stand its ground after US President Donald Trump threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara if it does not free an American pastor, broadcaster Haberturk reported on Sunday.
Relations between the United States and Turkey are on the line in the dispute over pastor Andrew Brunson, Erdogan was quoted as saying by TRT Haber and other media.
Trump on Thursday threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey unless it freed Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years and has been accused of helping the group Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016.
The pastor, who has denied the charges, is now under house arrest and faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
“We will not step back when faced with sanctions,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “They should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner.”
Brunson, who is from North Carolina, was transferred to house arrest last week after 21 months of detention in a Turkish prison.
Diplomats have been working to settle the tense dispute and on Saturday US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed the status of the pastor with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the State Department said.
Brunson’s detention has deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey’s plan to buy missile defenses from Russia.
It was not clear what would be the nature of sanctions threatened by Trump but Washington was already working on bills related to Turkey due to other issues of concern.
The US Senate has demanded a block on sales of F-35 jets to Turkey unless Trump certifies that Turkey is not threatening NATO, purchasing defense equipment from Russia or detaining US citizens.
Also, a US Senate bill to restrict loans to Turkey from international financial institutions passed through a committee, an important early step for the bill to become legislation.
Erdogan said that Turkey would resort to international arbitration if the United States does not deliver an agreed sale of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara, broadcaster Haberturk reported.
“(If the US blocks F-35 jets) We said we would go to international arbitration. If it comes to that point, there are other alternatives,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
Israel confirmed on Friday that Trump had requested Israel to release a Turkish woman it accused of ties to Hamas.
Israel deported Ebru Ozkan on July 15 and media reported that Washington was hoping that Turkey would release Brunson in exchange.
Erdogan confirmed that Turkey had asked for US help in securing the return to Turkey of Ozkan, broadcaster Haberturk reported, but denied any form of deal to release Brunson in exchange.
“We told the US that they might help for released and innocent Ebru to get back her passport and return to Turkey,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Haberturk.
“However, we did not say we will give you Brunson in return.”


Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

Updated 13 min 17 sec ago
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Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

  • Hariri expresses regret over Libya’s absence and confirms that fraternal relations remain stronger than ever
  • Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri expressed deep regret for the absence of a Libyan delegation at an Arab Economic Summit taking place in Lebanon later this week.

Hariri was speaking at the Union of Arab Chambers (UAC) headquarters in Beirut on Wednesday.

“Good ties with brothers must prevail,” he said. “We are hoping for this summit to result in practical recommendations for promoting and raising living standards among all Arabs. What makes the summit on Sunday very important is that it will be the first to be held after the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.”

Libya boycotted the summit after it said members of the Amal militia had disrespected the Libyan flag.

Addressing representatives from several Arab countries, Hariri called for updating decades-old local laws and enabling citizens to travel freely between Arab countries.

He also shed light on the importance of women taking part in politics and national economic development, “as they are capable of mitigating political conflicts.”

Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes. 

Among the talking points of this year’s summit was poverty.

“The summit is being held amid an atmosphere of change, shifting alliances, a worrying global economic scene and tough local economic conditions,” said Mohammed Choucair, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

He called for “immunizing the Arab economy through implementing signed projects, facilitating trade and investment among Arab countries and encouraging creative initiatives.” Many, however, feel the country is not in any position to be funding nor hosting such an event.

“It has been eight months almost and still we have no government,” said Omar Itani, a small corner shop owner feeling the pinch as a result of the economic downturn plaguing the country.

“They spend all this money on hosting a summit, while our homes are getting flooded and roads being pulled apart by these storms. Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to help us citizens?”

Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury called on enhancing private sector participation and growth rates.

“The public sector must involve companies from the private sector, as well as banks and funds, in the financing process to help raise growth rates, which slowed considerably in the wake of the Syrian refugee influx,” he said.

Kamal Hassan Ali, assistant secretary-general at the Arab League, and Mohammed Abdo, UAC president, also spoke at the event.

Delegations of Arab ambassadors and delegates had begun arriving into the capital ahead of the weekend summit, including a Saudi delegation headed by Hussein Al-Shawish, economic adviser at the Finance Ministry, a Kuwaiti delegation and a Moroccan delegation, headed by the Moroccan Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Al-Tazi, who said that Morocco would be represented by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Lebanon hosted two Arab League summits in 1956 and 2002. Economic and social development summits previously took place in Kuwait in 2009, Sharm El-Sheikh in 2011 and Riyadh in 2013. The 2015 summit, which was scheduled to take place in Tunis, was canceled amid security concerns.

Early in the third quarter of 2018, there were reports that Lebanon was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Economists said the catalyst was the failure to form a government.

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the country would launch an electronic platform to enhance share and goods trading, “thus promoting the market to attract liquidity from Lebanon and abroad.”

He said: “We will continue supporting the digital economy, for it is an important sector with a bright future and it highly benefits Lebanon. In 2018, our studies showed that the economic growth was between 1 and 1.5 percent, while in the region, it was at 2 percent. We would have been able to reach the 2-percent rate if the government had been formed on time.”