Alarm bells in Ankara over tough new US line against Erdogan

Alarm bells in Ankara over tough new US line against Erdogan
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2020 Nominated National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan participates as US President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware. (AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2021

Alarm bells in Ankara over tough new US line against Erdogan

Alarm bells in Ankara over tough new US line against Erdogan
  • Biden’s national security adviser links Turkey with China, the No. 1 US geopolitical adversary

ANKARA: A tough new line in Washington against the Erdogan regime in Turkey has raised alarm bells in Ankara, analysts have told Arab News.

Turkey has embarked on a charm offensive toward the Western world, but US decision-makers are increasingly questioning the state of the “strategic partnership” between the traditional allies.

In talks between Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, and Bjoern Seibert, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s cabinet chief, the two men “agreed to work together on issues of mutual concern, including China and Turkey,” the White House said.

Linking Turkey with China, the main US geopolitical adversary, is a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hopes of a close relationship with the new Biden administration. The US has already imposed sanctions over Turkey’s controversial purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, and now looks likely to side with the EU over Erdogan’s adventurism in the eastern Mediterranean, including incursions into Greek territorial waters to search for oil.

At the UN on the same day, Washington called for the “immediate withdrawal” of Turkish and Russian troops from Libya. This is in line with the UN-backed cease-fire agreement signed in October last year, which required Turkey to withdraw its forces within three months. That deadline expired on Jan. 23.

During a Security Council meeting about Libya, Richard Mills, the acting US ambassador to the UN, demanded “the removal of the foreign mercenaries and military proxies that they have recruited, financed, deployed and supported in Libya.”




A Turkish Navy warship patrols next to the drilling ship "Fatih" as it sailed toward the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus in July 2019. (AFP file photo)

Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at Oxford University, said it appears the Biden administration is struggling to develop a consistent policy on Turkey.

“On the one hand, it wants a de-escalation of the eastern Mediterranean dispute, and probably welcomes efforts by Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, the UAE to ease tensions with Turkey,” he said.

“Yet on the other hand, it is siding with Greece and France on Turkey’s threat to regional stability, and trying to engage both countries around this.”

These mixed signals are a result of Biden’s desire to sit on the fence between those who want containment and those who advocate accommodation of Turkey, Ramani said, and also to appease the Democratic Party, which opposed Trump’s permissive stance on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s approach to Syria.

“The US needs to clarify its position on Turkey as soon as possible to avoid a needless escalation on Erdogan’s side,” he added.




A Russian military cargo plane unloads S-400 missile defense systems at the Murted military airbase, northwest of Ankara, on Aug. 27, 2019. (File photo?Turkish Defense Ministry via AFP)

Turkey’s controversial purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, and its claims on resources in the eastern Mediterranean are among the key concerns shared by Brussels and Washington.

On the same day as Sullivan and Seibert talked, Turkey’s National Security Council, the country’s top national security body, declared that the country will continue to assert its rights in the eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and Cyprus.

“It was stressed once again that Turkey primarily favors diplomacy and dialogue at every platform in the settlement of Aegean, eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus issues, but that it is also determined to protect its rights, relevance and interests emanating from international law and agreements,” according to an official statement.

HIGHLIGHT

These mixed signals are a result of Biden’s desire to sit on the fence between those who want containment and those who advocate accommodation of Turkey, Ramani said, and also to appease the Democratic Party, which opposed Trump’s permissive stance on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s approach to Syria.

Matthew Goldman, an expert on Turkey from the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, said that he believes the Biden administration will not be afraid to adopt a relatively tough line in dealings with Ankara.
“But the national security adviser may have grouped China and Turkey together because they want to signal that US support for the EU in its fraught relations with Turkey is to some extent contingent on the EU’s willingness to help the Americans deal with China,” he said.

Goldman said that while Turkey has become a major concern for the EU, given the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, European nations tend to view China more as an economic opportunity than a threat.
“And while the US is concerned about Turkey’s recent moves, its main security focus is China,” he added. “The Biden administration was upset by the EU’s willingness to sign a major investment deal with China in December, just before Biden became president, wishing that the Europeans had instead waited to consult the new US administration.”

While the Biden team wants to repair relations with Europe after the damage caused by the Trump administration, Goldman predicted that this will not preclude some traditional diplomatic give-and-take.
“While US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Sullivan and the rest of the Biden team will be eager to show that the transatlantic alliance is strong, they may also want to signal that if the EU coordinates with them more closely on China, they will, in turn, be more responsive to the EU as it deals with the challenge of Turkey,” he added.
During his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing last week, Blinken accused fellow NATO member Turkey of not acting like an ally. He said Washington will review the possibility of further sanctions on Ankara over its purchase of the S-400 system.
In December, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey, through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, to punish the country for its military deals with Russia and to discourage any further flirting with the Kremlin. Washington considers the presence of S-400s on Turkish soil as a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO defense systems in general.


UK risks creating ‘new Guantanamo in Syria’

Shamima Begum, a former “Daesh bride,” appealed against the stripping of her citizenship, but the UK’s Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favor on Friday. (AFP/File Photo)
Shamima Begum, a former “Daesh bride,” appealed against the stripping of her citizenship, but the UK’s Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favor on Friday. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 27 February 2021

UK risks creating ‘new Guantanamo in Syria’

Shamima Begum, a former “Daesh bride,” appealed against the stripping of her citizenship, but the UK’s Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favor on Friday. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Charity slams govt’s ‘abdication of responsibility’ over ‘Daesh bride’ Shamima Begum

LONDON: The UK risks creating a “new Guantanamo” in Syria through the practice of revoking the citizenships of Daesh accomplices, the director of a human rights charity has warned.

Shamima Begum, a former “Daesh bride,” appealed against the stripping of her citizenship, but the UK’s Supreme Court ruled in the government’s favor on Friday.

The director of human rights charity Reprieve, Maya Foa, who was involved in Begum’s case, said the ruling has left the 21-year-old in a “legal limbo,” where she cannot return to the UK or mount a legal challenge remotely.

“The court has said she can appeal against the decision, but they do not say how it can be done. It leaves her in the hands of the British government, which is unwilling to assist,” Foa added.

“That is less of a policy and more of an abdication of responsibility — unless the policy is to create a new Guantanamo in Syria.”

Supporters of Begum claim that she regrets her decision to leave the UK to join Daesh, and is remorseful about her actions.

Critics of the government decision say Begum was a minor and a victim of trafficking, who was unable to leave Syria until she was detained in the wake of Daesh’s defeat.

About 24 adults and 35 children who left the UK to join Daesh are still detained in Syrian camps, where conditions are said to be dismal. Many have been stripped of their UK citizenship.

The ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on Friday means that Begum is forbidden from entering the UK to fight her case.

She left London aged 15 with two friends to join Daesh in Syria six years ago. Despite being born in the UK, her citizenship was stripped in 2019 by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid after she was discovered living in a prison camp by a UK journalist.

British law permits the removal of a person’s citizenship if it is deemed “conducive to the public good.” However, it is illegal to remove a person’s citizenship if doing so would leave them stateless.

But Javid said Begum was eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship, where her parents were born and had citizenship.

Intelligence agencies say about 900 Britons traveled to Syria or Iraq to join Daesh. About 20 percent of them were killed and 40 percent returned home.


Academics back UK professor accused of anti-Semitism

Bristol University said: “We do not endorse the comments made by Prof. Miller about our Jewish students.” (AFP/Getty/File Photo)
Bristol University said: “We do not endorse the comments made by Prof. Miller about our Jewish students.” (AFP/Getty/File Photo)
Updated 27 February 2021

Academics back UK professor accused of anti-Semitism

Bristol University said: “We do not endorse the comments made by Prof. Miller about our Jewish students.” (AFP/Getty/File Photo)
  • Letter says David Miller ‘responded honestly’ to Israel-Palestine query

LONDON: Academics at the University of Bristol have urged it to abide by academic freedom and resist firing one of its lecturers, David Miller, who has been accused of anti-Semitism.

A professor of political sociology, Miller said Israel wants to “impose its will all over the world,” and it is “fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.”

He claimed that members of the British university’s Jewish Society who had submitted complaints regarding his comments are being used as “political pawns by a violent, racist foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.”

A letter of support for Miller has been signed by several academics who said he was “approached to provide a statement on Israel and Palestine” and “simply responded honestly to the query.”

They warned that “well-orchestrated efforts” have been made to misrepresent his response as proof of anti-Semitism, and that sacking him would “crush academic freedom.” The letter was sent to Prof. Hugh Brady, president and vice chancellor of the university.

Miller has said his aim is to end “settler colonialism in Palestine” and “end Zionism as a functioning ideology of the world.”

Jewish Society President Edward Isaacs said the university is giving Miller’s views “legitimacy and power” by refusing to take action.“Jewish students have been actively seeking to ensure they are not taught by David Miller, and when they are, they are fearful of him finding out they are Jewish or associated with the Jewish Society,” Isaacs said.

“These are dangerous conspiracy theories about dual loyalty, dishonesty and Jewish students being operatives of a foreign state.”

Miller told The Times newspaper that he takes student safety “very seriously,” and that universities are governed by laws protecting the right to espouse research “that some may find discomfiting.”

Bristol University said: “We do not endorse the comments made by Prof. Miller about our Jewish students.”

The university said it is speaking to student organizations, including the Jewish Society, and the UCU, an academic union, “about how we can address student concerns swiftly, ensuring that we also protect the rights of our staff.”


Saudi envoy to UN expresses OIC’s concern over repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

Saudi envoy to UN expresses OIC’s concern over repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi envoy to UN expresses OIC’s concern over repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

Saudi envoy to UN expresses OIC’s concern over repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Muallami, expressed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) concern on continuing “tragic events” that may hinder the process of a safe return of the Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar.
Muallami called on Myanmar to fulfill International commitments to Rohingya Muslims during a UN general assembly meeting to hear the briefing of the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Bergner.

Muallami stated that members of the OIC were “closely” following the current events and developments in Myanmar, and urged to accelerate the full implementation of all recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State to address the root causes of the crisis as well as implement other UN recommendations.
The international advisory commission – headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – was founded in 2016 to ensure the social and economic well-being of both the Buddhist and the Rohingya communities of Myanmar’s conflict-ravaged Rakhine State in the northern coastal region.
The envoy called on Myanmar to shoulder its responsibility towards the Rohingya Muslim minority and for an immediate end to all acts of violence and all violations of international law.
He calling for a full, transparent and independent investigation to report on the violations.
Muallami stressed the OIC’s position in supporting the Muslim Rohingya people, calling for ensuring their safety and security, and the recognition of their basic rights, including the right to full citizenship.
The ambassador welcomed the efforts of the international community, the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the government of Bangladesh to find a solution to the refugee crisis.


Russia reports 11,534 new COVID-19 cases, 439 deaths

Russia reports 11,534 new COVID-19 cases, 439 deaths
Updated 27 February 2021

Russia reports 11,534 new COVID-19 cases, 439 deaths

Russia reports 11,534 new COVID-19 cases, 439 deaths
  • The government coronavirus taskforce also reported 439 deaths in the last 24 hours
MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday reported 11,534 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,825 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,234,720 since the pandemic began.
The government coronavirus taskforce also reported 439 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 85,743.

UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations

UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations
Updated 27 February 2021

UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations

UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas.
The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda, from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia.
It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.”
Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.”
“This is a first step,” she stressed, and it will require further international efforts.
But Woodward said the large number of cosponsors and unanimous council approval are “a strong testament to the international commitment to seeing this happen.”
“Obviously each of these situations will require further negotiations at country and even at field and local level,” she said. “and we’ve asked the secretary-general to report back where they encounter barriers in this.”
The resolution adopted Friday recognizes “that armed conflicts can exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic, and that inversely the pandemic can exacerbate the adverse humanitarian impact of armed conflicts, as well as exacerbating inequalities.”
It also recognizes “the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing, and stopping transmission, of COVID-19 and its variant strains, in order to bring the pandemic to an end.”
The Security Council stressed that “equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines” authorized by the World Health Organization or regulatory authorities “is essential to end the pandemic.”
It also stressed “the need for solidarity, equity, and efficacy” in vaccinations.
And it called for donations of vaccines from richer developed nations to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, including through the COVAX Facility, the ambitious WHO program to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people.