Turkey’s opposition leader attacked at soldier’s funeral

The chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu arrives to address the crowd outside the CHP's Headquarters in Ankara after he was punched and kicked by a mob during a funeral for a soldier killed in clashes with Kurdish rebels, on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Turkey’s opposition leader attacked at soldier’s funeral

  • Kilicdaroglu escaped an assassination attempt by PKK militants three years ago in northwestern Anatolia

ANKARA: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was attacked by an angry mob at a military funeral on Sunday.
Kilicdaroglu was reportedly kicked and punched by a number of assailants at the ceremony for one of four soldiers killed in clashes with the Kurdish separatist terror group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along the Turkey-Iraq border on Friday.
Turkish nationalists and pro-government supporters have accused the CHP of working with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) during Turkey’s local elections on March 31, when Kurdish votes for opposition candidates were instrumental in the government losing major cities including Ankara and Istanbul —  although it is contesting the latter result.
Even after Kilicdaroglu was taken to a safe house, the attack continued as the mob gathered outside, throwing stones and chanting, “Burn down the house.”
The opposition leader was taken away in an armored vehicle just one hour after arriving. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar traveled to the area to try and calm the crowd.
The Ankara governor’s office announced that legal action is being taken against the perpetrators of the attack and that additional security forces have been provided to protect Kilicdaroglu. But the governor’s definition of the attack as “a protest,” rather than an attempted lynching, drew criticism.
Burhanettin Bulut, a lawmaker and member of the CHP, said the attack was the result of long-running provocation from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalistic ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as well as media outlets close to them.
“Unfortunately, the danger of further escalation of such hate speech and violence still prevails in the country, especially in rural areas,” he told Arab News.
Kilicdaroglu escaped an assassination attempt by PKK militants three years ago in northwestern Anatolia. In 2014, he was punched by a member of the public
in Parliament.
Several commentators have suggested that the ongoing climate of polarization in Turkey, where demonizing opponents of the government as “terrorists” has become the norm, ranks among the main reasons behind Sunday’s attack, after which the CHP called an extraordinary meeting of its members.
On the same day, the pro-government Turkish daily Gunes blamed Istanbul’s new mayor Ekrem Imamoglu for the deaths of the four soldiers, running the headline, “Are You Happy, Ekrem?”
Sunday’s attack coincided with a rally held by the new mayor of Istanbul, Imamoglu, to thank the city’s inhabitants. Hundreds of thousand of people reportedly attended.
In June last year, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced the imposition of a ban on CHP officials attending soldiers’ funerals, suggesting that they should instead put in an appearance at the funerals of PKK militants killed by Turkish forces.

Missile deal signals hot summer for Turkey’s transatlantic ties

Updated 31 min 48 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.