Turkey freezes assets of senior Houthi militia leaders

The ensuing conflict due to the Houthi uprising has killed around 10,000 Yemenis, according to the World Health Organization. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019

Turkey freezes assets of senior Houthi militia leaders

  • Ankara has in the past targeted assets of then Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son
  • The new sanctions targeted Houthi leader Abdulmalek Al-Houthi and two military commanders

ANKARA: Turkey has frozen the assets of three senior Houthi leaders in line with UN Security Council sanctions, the country’s official gazette said Thursday.

The decision is valid until Feb. 26, 2020, and affects Abdulmalek Al-Houthi, Abd Al-Khaliq Al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim.

The Iran-backed Houthi leadership and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were sanctioned and blacklisted by the UN in 2014 for obstructing peace, security and stability in the country.

Ankara temporarily froze the assets of Saleh and his son in Turkish banks and other financial institutions, including safes, about two years ago. It has extended the duration of this freeze.

Saleh amassed between $32 billion and $60 billion through corruption and stashed assets in at least 20 countries during his 33 years in power, according to a UN report.

Experts are divided about Ankara’s real intention. 

Selim Sazak, an analyst and doctoral researcher at Brown University, said Ankara should have carried out these actions years ago.

“I think this is an effort to remove one of the problems in the relationship while Ankara is trying to negotiate a face-saving solution for the S-400s, while ensuring some arrangement in northern Syria that would perhaps permit Turkish troops into YPG-controlled territory,” he told Arab News.

Sazak said a senior minister was in the US capital last week to meet officials and that the decision to freeze assets might be connected to that visit.

“It is known that the US Treasury hasn’t been happy about Turkey’s inaction on Yemen sanctions. I would be surprised if it didn’t come up in the diplomatic meetings. So, they’re probably patching up that rift.”

For others, the move would contribute to the further isolation of the Houthis by blocking financial resources.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Turkey-based defense analyst, said the sanctions were an important message to the Houthis.

“Until they renounce terrorism and accept a peace process with the Yemeni government, the Houthis will continue to be viewed as pariahs by the international community. This latest measure adds more pressure as Houthi resources dry up,” he told Arab News.

Earlier, the UN Security Council expressed “grave concern” that agreements reached four months ago between the warring parties in Yemen had not been carried out and called for their implementation “without delay.”

The warring parties could start withdrawing forces from Hodeidah within weeks, a move needed to pave the way for political negotiations to end the war, the UN special envoy said on Thursday. 

Martin Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the government and the Houthis to implement a first phase of troop redeployments, while discussions were still underway for the second phase.


Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Updated 25 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.