US’ top foreign policy diplomat hints at continued hardline approach to Turkey

US’ top foreign policy diplomat hints at continued hardline approach to Turkey
Antony J. Blinken, of New York, during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Capitol, Washington, D.C., U.S., Jan. 19, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 January 2021

US’ top foreign policy diplomat hints at continued hardline approach to Turkey

US’ top foreign policy diplomat hints at continued hardline approach to Turkey
  • With American-Turkish bilateral relations already strained, Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, accused Ankara of failing to act like an ally
  • Top diplomat said Washington would consider whether further sanctions on Turkey would be implemented over its controversial purchase of Russian S-400 air defense system

ANKARA: Joe Biden’s new US administration has hinted at pursuing a hardline foreign policy approach to dealing with NATO member Turkey.

With American-Turkish bilateral relations already strained, Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, on Tuesday accused Ankara of failing to act like an ally.

And the top diplomat said Washington would consider whether further sanctions on Turkey would be implemented over its controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

Addressing legislators during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, Blinken said: “The idea that a strategic — so-called strategic — partner of ours would actually be in line with one of our biggest strategic competitors in Russia is not acceptable.”

Aaron Stein, director of research at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute think tank, told Arab News: “The S-400 issue won’t magically disappear, so sanctions are likely to continue.”

He said the ball was now in Turkey’s court. “If Ankara accepts that a mechanism for verification of non-deployment is needed to re-establish trust, perhaps we can get to a better place.”

But, he added, if Turkey insisted that the terms of a reset were to simply accept everything it was doing, that would not work.

Blinken is known to be familiar with Turkey’s domestic security concerns and was the first US diplomat to visit Ankara soon after the 2016 failed coup attempt.

“The Biden administration will likely take a cautious approach to Turkey given the regional security challenges, including ongoing threats from Russia, Iran, Syria, and terrorism,” Jonathan Katz, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.

However, he said there remained deep bipartisan concerns and issues of trust related to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not only on the S-400 situation but also over democratic backsliding and corruption, and these matters would impact on how the new administration and US Congress managed America’s sensitive relationship with Turkey.

“If I were Erdogan, I would not expect an early deviation in Washington from the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions in place or on restrictions impacting Turkey’s participation in the F-35 (US stealth fighter jet) program,” Katz added.

Ali Cinar, a foreign policy expert on US-Turkey relations, told Arab News that Biden would probably adopt an approach in line with former US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and it would not be an easy relationship.

“The Biden administration has many concerns on Turkey such as the S-400s, Syria, human rights, and freedom of speech. Some new problems will be added to the current issues, but the ties will not break completely,” he said.

Cinar expected there to be more negotiations, compromises, and intense diplomacy traffic between Ankara and Washington under the Biden administration.

The appointment of Blinken followed Brett McGurk’s assignment as National Security Council senior director for Washington’s policy in the Middle East and North Africa.

His appointment was also expected to set alarm bells ringing in Ankara as Turkish leaders have previously blamed McGurk for being the mastermind behind arming the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Turkey considers a terror group.

The US recently imposed sanctions on the Turkish defense industry with the bipartisan support of the US Congress, the first time that Washington had used the CAATSA against a NATO ally.

Caroline Rose, senior analyst and head of the strategic vacuums program at the Center for Global Policy in Washington, said the fact that Blinken had referred to Turkey not necessarily as a NATO ally but as a “strategic partner” was a sign of the nadir in US-Turkish relations.

“But I think this time the US will try and interweave its Turkey policy with partners in Europe to take a more multilateral approach,” she told Arab News.

Rose added that Blinken, a trans-Atlanticist at heart, would likely focus on curbing Turkish behavior in its periphery — primarily in the Eastern Mediterranean — with greater cooperation with the EU and East Mediterranean Gas Forum.

Katz also pointed out the interactions between Turkish domestic politics and the US administration’s foreign policy moves.

“There is also a keen understanding in Washington regarding Turkey’s domestic politics that will also be a factor impacting policymakers, including the possibility of snap elections and potential new leadership in Ankara,” he said.


Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack
Updated 38 min 7 sec ago

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Wednesday he still expected to make his historic visit to Iraq in two days time, after a rocket attack on a military base hosting US-led coalition troops.
"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much," the 84-year-old Francis said in his weekly Wednesday address.
The Argentine pontiff asked for prayers for the trip, the first ever by a pope to Iraq, through which he hopes to encourage the dwindling Christian community to remain in their ancient homeland while broadening his outreach to Islam.
"I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers so that it may take place in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," the pope said.
He added: "The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful."
At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops earlier on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Francis said the pope would be travelling by armoured vehicle and that he would not be meeting crowds.
"This is a particular situation, that's why the transports will all be in a closed vehicle, meaning it will be complicated to see the pope on the streets," spokesman Matteo Brunei said.
"There will be a number of meetings but none will be more than a few hundred people," he said.


New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir
Updated 37 min 12 sec ago

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

DUBAI: Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the executive and legislative authorities in his country to cooperate as a new government took oath before him, according to state-run news agency KUNA. 

Sheikh Nawaf received at his Bayan Palace the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to swear-in as head of cabinet.
Ministers of the new government were also sworn in.

The previous government had resigned in January.
Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah were reappointed in the new cabinet.

 


COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
Updated 03 March 2021

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
  • The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data
  • It has also approved four coronavirus vaccines

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will soon be one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate most of its population against coronavirus, TV channel Al-Arabiya reported.
“With the dedicated effort of the UAE government to combat the pandemic – for which we are truly thankful for, and the willingness of the general public to support the programs led by the government, UAE may soon be the first country to vaccinate its entire population and hence, reach herd immunity,” specialist in emergency medicine at Bareen International Hospital Fouad Al-Rahal told Al-Arabiya English.
The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Oxford and the non-profit Global Change Data Lab.
According to Our World in Data, UAE has administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 60 percent of its population.
The Gulf state’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority reported that over six million vaccine doses have been administered across the seven emirates, with a rate of 60.82 doses per 100 people.
(embed tweet)
The UAE has approved four coronavirus vaccines, the Chinese Sinopharm, US-German Pfizer-BioNTech, UK-Swedish Oxford-AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V.


Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces
Updated 03 March 2021

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

BAGHDAD: A civilian contractor with the US-led coalition in Iraq died of a heart attack during a rocket attack on a western base on Wednesday, Iraqi and Western security sources said.

At least 10 rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province , which hosts United States, coalition and Iraqi forces. The sources could not confirm the contractor's nationality. 
The attack took place at 7:20 am (0420 GMT), coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto was quoted by AFP as saying.

A Baghdad Operations Command official said earlier that multiple rockets were launched from a location about 8 kilometers from the base.

It was the second rocket attack in Iraq this month and came two days ahead of Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq.

The Pope will visit despite deteriorating security in some parts of the country which has seen the first big suicide bombing in Baghdad for three years.

On Feb. 16 a rocket attack on US-led forces in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor and injured a US service member.

(with Reuters and AFP)


Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan
Updated 03 March 2021

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

JUBA: Ten people, including the two pilots, died when a plane crashed Tuesday at an airstrip in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, the region’s governor said.

“It was with great shock and horror to receive the news of the plane crash (HK-4274) of South Sudan Supreme Airline that happened today the 2nd day of March 2021 at around 5.05 PM at Pieri Airstrip,” Governor Denay Jock Chagor said in a statement sent to AFP Wednesday.

“Ten people including the two pilots lost their lives.”