US ambassador arrives in Turkey as Russian weapons system is delivered

In this photo taken on Friday, July 12, 2019, David M. Satterfield, the new U. S. Ambassador to Turkey, speaks with France's Ambassador Charles Fries during a reception marking the upcoming Bastille Day anniversary at the French embassy, in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)
Updated 13 July 2019

US ambassador arrives in Turkey as Russian weapons system is delivered

  • The 65 year old envoy served as acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs from 2017
  • As a fluent Arabic speaker, Satterfield also held top positions at US missions in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon

ANKARA: At a critical junction in bilateral relations, the new US ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, arrived in Ankara on Wednesday just as S-400 Russian air defense systems were delivered to Turkey. 
The American diplomat will now look to bring US-Turkey relations back on track, defusing complicated bilateral issues in Syria and derailing Russian-Turkish military cooperation. 
The 65 year old envoy served as acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs from 2017.
During George W. Bush’s presidency, he was the coordinator for Iraq and senior adviser to the secretary of state between 2006-2009. 
As a fluent Arabic speaker, Satterfield also held top positions at US missions in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.
The ambassadorial post has been vacant since October 2017, mainly due to a visa crisis between Washington and Ankara, as well as Turkey’s imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson on charges of terror propaganda.
Ali Cinar, a US-based foreign policy expert, said that having a US Ambassador in Ankara again is a positive step in the US-Turkey relations.
“The process of nominating an ambassador in the US is long and complicated. During Trump’s presidency, there have been a number of ambassador vacancies around the world, including Turkey. Despite the tension between two NATO allies, Ambassador Satterfield was able to be confirmed,” Cinar said. 
According to Cinar, Ambassador Satterfield’s posting comes at a critical time, but his diplomatic skills should help to reconcile the troubled relationship.
“Turkey now has a direct channel through Ambassador Satterfield. Syria and the eastern Mediterranean crisis are the two issues that US and Turkey are facing,” he said. 
Washington recently voiced concern over Ankara’s gas exploration activities in the Mediterranean Sea and called on the Turkish government to stop offshore drilling operations. 
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of German Marshall Fund of the United States, thinks that despite Satterfield’s extensive experience, all he can be expected to do is to contain the potential damage that may be inflicted on the US-Turkey relationship in the near future and perhaps save it from total collapse.
The first batch of S-400 systems started to arrive at Mürted Air Base in Ankara on Friday.  However, the US Department of Defense recently announced that it will remove Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program — the most sensitive US aircraft — if Ankara accepts the Russian S-400s. 
Acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper recently met with his Turkish counterpart, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, during a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Esper emphasized that Turkey will not receive the F-35 if it moves ahead with its S-400 purchase plan. 
If enacted, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act is expected to have a devastating effect on the Turkish economy and defense sector. The act will deny visas for Turkish officials or executives, freeze their assets in the US and block money transfers. 
Unluhisarcikli noted that there has not been any significant convergence between the two allies in north-east Syria. 
“The conflict between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, which Turkey doesn’t recognize, over the exploitation of the energy resources off the coast of Cyprus is a growing source of tension in the US-Turkey relationship,” he said. 
Turkey has significantly reduced oil imports from its neighbors after US waivers expired in early May.
“While Turkey is complying with the Iran sanctions, it would likely not cooperate with the US in case there is armed conflict, which could add to the frustration in Washington,” Unluhisarcikli said.


UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

Updated 22 August 2019

UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

  • Donors have pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis
  • But UN humanitarian chief Lise Grande says less than half the amount has been received so far
UNITED NATIONS: The UN humanitarian chief in Yemen warned Wednesday that unless significant new funding is received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people in the war-torn country will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut off from life-saving services.
Lise Grande said the UN was forced to suspend most vaccination campaigns in May, and without new money a “staggering” 22 life-saving programs in Yemen will close in the next two months.
At a UN pledging conference in February, donors pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis, but Grande said that to date, less than half the amount has been received.
“When money doesn’t come, people die,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has left thousands of civilians and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.
UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the Security Council on Tuesday that 12 million Yemenis have been assisted every month, “but much of this is about to stop” because only 34% of the UN’s $4.2 billion appeal for 2019 has been funded.
At this time last year, she said, 65% of the appeal was funded, including generous contributions from Yemen’s neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UN humanitarian office in New York said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE each pledged $750 million to its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019.
Grande said the UN is grateful to donors who have lived up to their promises, and in half the districts where people were facing famine “conditions have improved to the point where families are no longer at risk of starvation.”
But she said of the 34 major UN humanitarian programs in Yemen, only three are funded for the entire year. Several have been forced to close in recent weeks, Grande said, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start.
Without new funds in the coming weeks, she said, 19 million people will also lose access to health care, including 1 million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health services. In addition, Grande said, clean water programs for 5 million people will have to shut down at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.
“Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive,” she said. “All of us are ashamed by the situation. It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.”