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.”


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.