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.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.