US may soon pause preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey

Seven F-35Bs are on board the USS America beginning Oct. 28 until mid-November. Two of the jets are scheduled to begin the third shipboard phase of developmental test (DT-III) and five are scheduled to conduct operational testing. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019

US may soon pause preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey

WASHINGTON: The US could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, officials told Reuters, in what would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
The US is nearing an inflection point in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a NATO ally, after so far failing to sway President Tayyip Erdogan that buying a Russian air defense system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.
“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.
While no decision has been made yet, US officials confirmed that Washington was considering halting steps now underway to ready Turkey to receive the F-35, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
“There (are) decisions that come up constantly about things being delivered in anticipation of them eventually taking custody of the planes,” said Wheelbarger. “So there’s a lot of things in train that can be paused to send signals to them (that we’re serious),” she added.
However, another US official said one of the measures the US was looking at was alternatives to an engine depot in Turkey, without giving more details. The official said any potential alternatives would likely be somewhere in Western Europe. Turkey is home to an F-35 engine overhaul depot in the western city of Eskisehir.
If Turkey was removed from the F-35 program, it would be the most serious crisis in the relationship between the two allies in decades, according to Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This (the F-35 standoff) is really a symptom, not a cause of the problem between the two countries,” Aliriza said.
Many US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, worry that Turkey is drifting away from NATO and watch improving relations between Ankara and Moscow with concern. The prospect of Russian contractors or officials on Turkish bases that also are home to the F-35 is unfathomable to many US officials.
The tensions could further escalate. If Ankara goes ahead with the Russian deal, Turkey also could face US sanctions.
Despite US hopes that Turkey may still forgo the S-400, experts say Erdogan may have already backed himself into a rhetorical corner. He has repeatedly said he would not reverse course on the S-400, saying earlier in March: “Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat.”
A decision to drop Turkey from the F-35 program would have broader repercussions, since Ankara helps manufacture parts for the aircraft, including components of the landing gear, cockpit displays and aircraft engines.


SSudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Updated 13 October 2019

SSudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

  • Hamdok will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile

JUBA: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will attend peace talks in the South Sudan capital Monday with rebel leaders from several Sudanese states, said official sources in Juba.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is to mark the launching of Sudan’s peace talks,” Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, told AFP Sunday.
Hamdok, who was only appointed in August in a deal between the army and the opposition, will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Kiir, who just a few weeks ago signed his own peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, offered to mediate between Sudan and the rebels back in November 2018.
This new set of talks follow a first round in September when both sides agreed on a road map for the negotiations.
This week’s meeting is intended to tackle the main issues, said Ateny.
Also attending will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last week won the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Their presence, said Ateny, was to give the talks more weight.
A senior Sudanese delegation arrived in Juba on Sunday.
The Sudanese delegation will meet Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Bule Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Hilu will lead the rebel delegation.
This new peace initiative comes after the fall of longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled from power by the Sudanese military in April.
Prime Minister Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end the conflicts with the rebels.
Over the years, the rebels’ conflict with Khartoum have killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.