Erdogan: US will not impose sanctions over Russian missile deal

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the US did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying Russian arms, on Saturday in Osaka, Japan. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2019

Erdogan: US will not impose sanctions over Russian missile deal

  • The NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's decision to procure the Russian S-400 missile defense systems
  • Despite the threat of sanctions, Turkey had put its hopes on the relationship between Erdogan and Trump

OSAKA, ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the United States did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying Russian defence systems, after the U.S. president said Turkey had not been treated fairly over the contract.
The NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's decision to procure the Russian S-400 missile defence systems, with Washington warning of sanctions if the deal goes through.
Russia's Interfax agency on Saturday quoted a Kremlin spokesman as saying that the deal envisaged a partial handover of technology.
Turkey has said it would not back down before the early July delivery date, further testing relations that are already strained over a host of other issues.
But in contrast to statements by U.S. officials, Donald Trump said Turkey had been treated unfairly over its decision to buy the S-400s and blamed the "mess" on the administration of former President Barack Obama. Trump did not rule out sanctions.
Speaking shortly after bilateral talks with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan, Erdogan said that the S-400s would be delivered in the first half of July, adding he had heard directly from Trump that there would be no sanctions.
"We have heard from him personally that this would not happen," Erdogan said. "We are strategic partners with the United States. As strategic partners, nobody has the right to meddle in Turkey's sovereign rights. Everyone should know this."
Earlier, asked if the United States would impose sanctions on Turkey, Trump, sitting alongside Erdogan, said the issue was being discussed, but it was a "two-way street" and both sides were evaluating "different solutions".
The United States says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO's defence network and could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy.
Under possible U.S. sanctions, Turkey could face expulsion from the F-35 programme, a move Erdogan has dismissed. But Washington has already started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 programme, halting training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft.
"We have a payment so far of $1.4 billion to the United States," Erdogan said. "As joint producers, until now four F-35 jets have been delivered to us, but we will still receive... a total of 116 jets. We are expecting these," he added.
"What some people in lower ranks are saying absolutely do not align with Mr Trump's approach. I believe these will not harm our bilateral ties, and that is the commitment we are going on with."
'UNFAIR' TREATMENT
Despite the threat of sanctions, Turkey had put its hopes on the relationship between Erdogan and Trump, saying it expected the U.S. president to protect it from sanctions over the S-400 deal.
Ahead of Saturday's talks, the meeting between Erdogan and Trump was seen as Turkey's last push to avoid U.S. sanctions that could significantly damage its already ailing economy.
Even minor U.S. sanctions could prompt another sharp sell-off in the Turkish lira. A 30% slide in the currency drove the economy into recession last year, and the lira has lost another 10 percent this year.
Erdogan's comments also appeared to go beyond statements made by the Turkish presidency and the White House after the talks between the two leaders, which lasted around 40 minutes.
The White House said Trump "expressed concern" over the S-400 deal and "encouraged Turkey to work with the United States on defence cooperation in a way that strengthens the NATO alliance", while the Turkish presidency said Trump had voiced a desire to resolve the dispute without harming bilateral ties.
In an effort to sway Turkey, the United States has offered to supply it with Raytheon Co Patriot missiles, but Erdogan has said the U.S. offer was not as good as Russia's S-400 proposal.
Speaking at a news conference at the G20 minutes before Erdogan, Trump blamed Barack Obama's administration for placing conditions on Turkey's purchase of Patriot missiles and treating Turkey unfairly, and added Erdogan had no fault in the dispute.
"This administration previous to mine would not let him buy it (Patriots). So (Erdogan) goes out, he goes to Russia, and makes a deal for the S-400," Trump said. "He made a deal, he paid them a lot of money, put up a lot of money. And he bought it."
"As soon as he bought it (S-400), people went back to him from our country and they said, 'Listen, we don't want you to use that system because it's not the NATO system," he added. "He got treated very unfairly."
Trump also said he would visit Turkey, but added that a date had not been set yet. Erdogan said earlier this week that Trump may visit in July.


Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 17 August 2019

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final agreement for a transitional government.
The agreement was signed in the presence of regional and international dignitaries including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. 
During a ceremony that was held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir led Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony in Khartoum, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Jubeir is being accompanied by the Saudi Minister of State for African affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar.

Saudi Arabia has and will continue to support everything that guarantees Sudan’s security and stability, Al-Jubeir said at the ceremony.

“We look forward to the Sudanese fortifying the partnership agreement and combatting foreign interference.”

Al-Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia actively participated in supporting efforts to reach the agreement in Sudan.

After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.