Turkey: Delivery of second S-400 missile defense system complete

A Russian military cargo plane unloads an S-400 missile defense system at the Murted military airbase, northwest of Ankara in this August 27, 2019 photo released by the Turkish Defense Ministry. (Turkish Defense Ministry/AFP)
Updated 15 September 2019

Turkey: Delivery of second S-400 missile defense system complete

  • Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems
  • US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions related to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems

ANKARA: Turkey’s defense ministry said on Sunday that the delivery of a second battery of Russian S-400 missile defense systems has been completed as of Sunday, and added that the systems would become active in April 2020.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 ‘stealth’ fighter jets.
The initial parts of the system were delivered to Ankara in July despite warnings about possible US sanctions over the purchase. The United States has also expelled Turkey from the F-35 program, but Ankara has so far dismissed the warnings.
In a statement, the defense ministry said the delivery of the second S-400 battery to Ankara was completed. Efforts to mount the systems and train personnel who will use them were continuing, it said, adding that it planned to activate the S-400s in April 2020.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu told an interview with CNN Turk on Saturday that the S-400s would be activated despite repeated US warnings.
“They (US officials) told us ‘don’t activate them and we can sort this out’, but we told them that we didn’t buy these systems as a prop,” Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey would be open to buying US Raytheon Co. Patriot systems as well.
In an interview on Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters he will discuss buying US Patriot missiles with US President Donald Trump this month, saying his personal bond with the US leader could overcome the crisis caused by the S-400s.
Though Washington has not yet announced whether it will impose sanction on Ankara, US President Donald Trump has shown sympathy toward Turkey. He has not fully ruled out sanctions.
On Monday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was considering imposing sanctions related to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made.
The dispute over the S-400 systems is one of several issues straining ties between the United States and Turkey that include the ongoing conflict in Syria, among others.


Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 4 min 50 sec ago

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.