US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

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Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchange a memorandum of understanding in Doha, Qatar, July 11, 2017. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2017

US, Qatar sign deal on combating terror financing

JEDDAH: The US and Qatar on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at combating the financing of terrorism.
The signing of the pact, during a visit to Doha by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, comes after the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt — last month imposed sanctions on Qatar for financing extremist groups.
Tillerson said the agreement signed with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani followed intensive discussions.
“The agreement which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Sheikh Mohammed.
“The memorandum lays out a series of steps that each country will take in coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally,” said Tillerson.
Tillerson said the agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable through their commitments.
“Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information and will do more to keep the region ... safe,” Tillerson said.
Fahad Nazer, a political analyst based in Washington, wondered why it took so long for Qatar to agree to stop financing terror.
He told Arab News: “The memorandum of understanding between the US and Qatar could potentially be a positive development, but it really begs a legitimate question: What took Qatar so long? Saudi Arabia and most other (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have long resolved to take similar measures, and have indeed taken concrete steps to cut off financing of extremist groups and organizations. Some of these measures were implemented 10 years ago and even earlier. In some ways, the agreement raises more questions than it answers.”
Perry Cammack, fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the symbolism of the US-Qatar memorandum of understanding on terrorist financing is more important than the content.
"By sidestepping direct reference to the list of Saudi and Emirati demands, the agreement allows Qatar to implicitly acknowledge its willingness to increase its efforts against terrorist financing, while establishing the United States as a mediator in the conflict," said Cammack.

"It remains to be seen, though, whether this agreement can be a bridge to a broader GCC political settlement, since both sides are deeply entrenched in their positions," he added.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News: “The agreement helps tone down the acrimony between the two sides and gives Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy a chance. This is a possible first step, but the bigger picture remains the same for Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain — Qatar must change.”
For its part, the ATQ issued a joint-statement saying the four countries value US efforts. However, the quartet made it clear that this step is not enough and that Qatari “seriousness in combating all forms of financing, supporting and harboring terror” will be closely monitored.
Tillerson is expected in Jeddah on Wednesday for talks with the foreign ministers of the Anti-Terror Quartet.

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.