Turkish defense minister had ‘constructive’ US talks: Anadolu

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had been visiting Washington with a large Turkish delegation for talks which have in part focused on areas of discord between the NATO allies. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Turkish defense minister had ‘constructive’ US talks: Anadolu

  • “The talk was very constructive and occurred with a very positive approach,” Akar said
  • US previously said Turkey could face retribution for buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems under a sanctions law

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s defense minister said he had a “very constructive” talks with US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and their views have got closer on some subjects, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had been visiting Washington with a large Turkish delegation for talks which have in part focused on areas of discord between the NATO allies, chiefly the purchase of a missile-defense system and the war in Syria.
“The talk was very constructive and occurred with a very positive approach,” Akar said of his meeting with Shanahan, according to Anadolu. “We gladly observed that they understood many subjects much better and have got very close to our views on these subjects.”
He did not specify which subjects he was referring to.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week Washington had told Ankara it could face retribution for buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems under a sanctions law known as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA).
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday Turkey expects President Donald Trump to use a waiver to protect it if the US Congress decides to sanction Ankara over the planned S-400 purchase.
Turkey has not backed down from the acquisition and said it should not trigger sanctions as Ankara is not an adversary of Washington and remains committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
US officials have said the S-400 purchase would risk Ankara’s partnership in the joint strike fighter F-35 program because it would compromise the jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp. Turkish companies produce some of the parts for the F-35 stealth fighter jet.
Akar said Turkey had fulfilled its responsibilities on the issue of the F-35 project and that the training of Turkish pilots and maintenance teams was continuing.
“We expect the other eight countries who are partners in this project to fulfil their responsibilities toward us,” he said.
Ankara has proposed to Washington that the two countries establish a technical committee under the NATO umbrella to determine whether the S-400s endanger the F-35 jets as the Americans argue, and is waiting to hear back from the United States.
The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the S-400 radar will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons.
The disagreement is the latest in a series of diplomatic disputes between the NATO allies, including Turkish demands that Washington extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.