Algeria military chief ‘looking at all solutions’ to solve crisis

Students demonstrate in Algiers on Tuesday as Algeria's army chief warned time is running out.. (AP Photo/Toufik Doudou)
Updated 17 April 2019

Algeria military chief ‘looking at all solutions’ to solve crisis

  • Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah's remarks were the strongest indication yet that the military is losing patience
  • Thousands of demonstrators marched through Algiers and in cities across the country

ALGIERS: Algeria's army chief said Tuesday the military was considering all options to resolve the country's political crisis and warned that "time is running out", after weeks of anti-government protests.
Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah's remarks were the strongest indication yet that the military, which has said it supports a transition period after the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is losing patience.
In a speech broadcast on state television, Salah, who was speaking at a military base in the central town of Ouargla, urged protesters to avoid violence.
"All options are open in the pursuit of overcoming the different difficulties and finding a solution to the crisis as soon as possible, in a way that serves our nation’s interests without regard to individual interests," he said.
Salah did not specify what options the army would pursue. But he said: "We have no ambition but to protect our nation."
Hours earlier, the chairman of Algeria's Constitutional Council, Tayib Belaiz, quit his post, state news agency APS said. That followed calls for his resignation by protesters who say he is part of a ruling elite they want abolished.
Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 after weeks of mass protests demanding an end to his 20-year rule. But his departure failed to placate many Algerians who want to topple the old guard and its associates.
Belaiz submitted his resignation to Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, APS reported, citing a statement from the council.
Meanwhile thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Algiers and in cities across the country calling for political change in the eighth week of mass protests.
Belaiz's departure could herald that of other senior political figures who protesters want removed.
These include Bensalah, who was appointed interim president after Salah declared Bouteflika unfit for office and said the military would back a transition period leading to a presidential election on July 4.
Protesters are seeking radical change that would introduce sweeping political reforms in Algeria, an OPEC oil producer and major supplier of natural gas to Europe.

Missile deal signals hot summer for Turkey’s transatlantic ties

Updated 10 min 26 sec ago

Missile deal signals hot summer for Turkey’s transatlantic ties

  • Turkey says buying Russian weapons system is aimed at meeting Turkey’s defense needs

ANKARA: Turkey has until next month to cancel a multibillion dollar S-400 missile system deal with Russia, or face harsh US penalties, CNBC reported on Tuesday. 

If Ankara does not cancel in favor of buying the US-made Patriot missile defense system instead, it may also be removed from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program, costing thousands of jobs. Turkey is currently producing about 800 parts for the world’s most advanced fighter.

The delivery of 100 F-35s to Ankara may also be halted, and other defense and industrial cooperation projects with the US may be put at risk.   

In his latest visit to Turkey in early May, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said its procurement of the S-400 was a national decision. 

However, the system, which cannot be integrated alongside other NATO systems and carries fears around data collection, has been a major source of disagreement between Ankara and Washington. 

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) used to impose sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia, could be used against Turkey should the deal with Moscow proceed, though it is thought not until Ankara takes physical delivery of the missiles, which is expected to take place in July.

Sanctions could include prohibitions on banking and foreign exchange transactions, and the denial of export licenses. 

Individuals involved may also be subject to visa denials and exclusion from the US, as well as partial freezing or confiscation of assets.

Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, says CAATSA would hurt Turkish interests, but would also limit US President Donald Trump. 

“He could technically veto (CAATSA), but the language in the legislation is not as straightforward as other waivers included in sanctions legislation. It is not a question of if Turkey will be sanctioned, it is how, and using which of the 12 available sanctions,” he told Arab News. 

“Turkey would do itself a lot of favors if it stopped saying this was a done deal and delayed acquisition to allow for more talks. But that is Ankara’s choice to make.” 

Turkish military personnel have already traveled to Russia for training on the S-400 system, but Ankara does not believe the deal will affect its involvement in the F-35 program. 

Turkish officials are also evaluating an offer made by the US in late March to sell them the Patriot system, with a decision expected by early June.

In a statement on Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the country was meeting its responsibilities under the F-35 project and added that buying the Russian system aimed at meeting Turkey’s defense needs. 

“Turkey prepares itself for the possible implementation of CAATSA sanctions. In our meetings with the US, we perceive a general rapprochement on issues including the east of the Euphrates, F-35s and Patriots,” he said. 

Besides pushing Turkey away from the Atlantic alliance, the potential CAATSA sanctions would also hit the Turkish economy, which is already in recession, with the Turkish lira losing more than 40 percent of its value over the past two years.

Timothy Ash, a London-based economist, said Ankara would be taking a huge gamble if they thought Trump would block sanctions, telling Arab News it would be “catastrophic for the Turkish economy.”

Trump already doubled US tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum last year, over the detention of an American pastor on espionage charges in the country. 

“There will be very real and very negative consequences if Turkey goes through with its plans to buy the Russia system,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

An expected state visit by Trump to Ankara in July has not been officially confirmed.