Will Turkey abandon S-400? Trump meeting will give answer

Parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Murted Airport, known as Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2019

Will Turkey abandon S-400? Trump meeting will give answer

  • Russian S-400 system is a direct security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter jets, which serve as the core air defense system for NATO

ANKARA: During his meeting next week in Washington, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will discuss Patriot systems, F-35s and the Russian air defense system S-400 with US President Donald Trump.
“The only thing that would make Erdogan’s visit to Washington worthwhile to either side would be a breakthrough on the S-400 and F35 question,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.
“If Turkey could find a way to keep the S-400 nonoperational in return for being readmitted to the F35 program and acquiring Patriot batteries, this would be a big step toward improvement of US-Turkey relations and putting Ankara back on a Western track,” he also added.
Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate recently announced that delivery of a second batch of S-400 systems to Turkey may be delayed beyond the planned timeline, which is 2020. The reason of the delay is believed to be about talks on technology sharing and joint production.

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For Washington, the S-400 system, which is not compatible with the NATO defense system, brings a threat to its F-35 fighter jets. As Turkey started receiving its first batch of S-400s in July, Washington removed Ankara from the F-35 program, where Turkey was a significant manufacturer and buyer.
Russia offered to sell its SU-35 fighter jets to Turkey as an alternative to F-35s. Ankara is still evaluating the offer’s strategic and financial repercussions.
On the other hand, if there is no such deal on the table, Erdogan’s visit to Washington will have an unnecessary public relations cost for both leaders, Unluhisarcikli thinks.
Ali Cinar, a US-based foreign policy expert, thinks Turkey has a legitimate air defense need, however it has also been made clear by both the Pentagon and NATO officials that the Russian S-400 system is a direct security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter jets, which serve as the core air defense system for NATO.
“With Turkey purchasing the S-400 and the US imposing sanctions on Turkey for doing so, it is clear that policymakers on both sides downplayed the severity of the situation. Now, leaders of both nations must come back to the table and look for a way forward which would include Turkey taking part in the F-35 program, receiving an acceptable Patriot missile system offer and working to deactivate the S-400 system,” he told Arab News.
Cinar also noted that this is the expectation from the US side that Ankara keeps the S-400 but deactivates the system.

FASTFACT

For Washington, the S-400 system, which is not compatible with NATO defense system, brings a threat to its F-35 fighter jets.

“Even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has indicated that this would be acceptable to Congress. Turkey is very clear to use S-400 from now on; however, it is open to purchasing Patriot missiles as well,” he said.
According to Cinar, the result of the meeting between the two presidents will depend on which side will give up or convince the other side.
But, Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, thinks that Erdogan wants to acquire these Patriot missiles while keeping the S-400 deactivated, and is betting that Trump’s inclination to make lucrative deals will override the Pentagon’s veto.
“Ankara is offering both carrots and sticks to Washington, either a Patriot deal or deepening military ties with Moscow, which reflects how Erdogan has the upper hand in the relationship with Trump,” he told Arab News.
Therefore, Macaron added, if Erdogan pulls this through, it remains to be seen what preconditions the Pentagon will be able to force on this deal to make sure the S-400 is never operational.
“With US troops remaining in Syria for now based on a fragile US-Turkish cease-fire, an emboldened Erdogan has a bargaining card to use in his White House meeting next week,” he said.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”