Ankara defends S-400 purchase to Washington

Ankara defends S-400 purchase to Washington
An S-400 surface-to-air missile system after its stationing at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia, March 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Ankara defends S-400 purchase to Washington

Ankara defends S-400 purchase to Washington
  • Turkey plans to use controversial Russian missile defense system in same way Greece deployed its S-300 system in late 1990s
  • US kicked Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet program, finding the S-400s were a significant threat to the stealth fighter jets

ANKARA: Turkey’s recent purchase of a Russian missile defense system has caught the attention of the US while Turkey is trying to justify its future aspirations by leaning toward an old rival. 

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated the country’s plans to use the controversial S-400 Russian missile defense system in the same way Greece deployed its S-300 system, within the NATO alliance, during a crisis between Turkey and Cyprus in the late 1990s.

According to Karol Wasilewski, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw, this is not the first time the Turkish decision-makers have used a false parallel between Greece’s S-300 and Turkey's S-400 systems. 

“I think we should be very cautious here,” he told Arab News. “If minister Akar really means that Turkey would operate S-400s exactly like Greece and outside Turkey's territory, then we may interpret his words as an initial offer of compromise directed to the American administration.”

Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, draws attention to the timing differences between the purchase of S-400s by Turkey and the installment of the S-300s on the Greek island of Crete. 

“Russia was not such a big threat to the US and American-Russian relations were better in the 1990s,” Kurc told Arab News. “However, now they are considered main rivals. Therefore, the outcome varies depending on the changes of American interests.”

Akar was referring to Greece's two S-300 PMU-1 battalions in Crete that are kept as a standalone system within NATO and implied that Greece never received such criticism for its purchase of the older S-300 missile system from Moscow. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had criticized the possession of the S-300s by Athens and claimed it is an obvious double standard. 

Greece originally acquired the S-300s from Moscow to dissuade Turkish flights over its airspace. The crisis was temporarily resolved after Cyprus transferred the systems to Greece, which deployed them on Crete, where they remain today in storage. The S-300 missile system has been used only in NATO military drills without being integrated into the Greek air defense network.  

Now the question is whether the past procurement of the S-300s is comparable with the “new generation” S-400s.

Washington stands against its NATO ally Turkey and its acquisition and operationalization of the Russian air defense system on its soil. The US kicked Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet program, finding the S-400s were a significant threat to the stealth fighter jets and would not be interoperable with the Western-built hardware.  

In response, Turkey offered a joint working group about the interoperability of the S-400s and F-35s.

Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, thinks this is the most tangible suggestion he has ever seen from the Turkish side on this issue. 

“It could be something that both sides discuss, but I think US officials will ask for more,” he told Arab News. “It is clearly a walk back from Ankara, so I guess that’s progress.”

Kurc also finds the Turkish offer as a good compromise. 

“If the US wants to continue its partnership with Turkey instead of further alienating it, the offer would be accepted,” he said. “However, it is still unclear whether Washington will endorse it absolutely without any pre-condition.”

Turkey received the first components of the S-400 in July 2019. In October 2020, Turkey tested the Russian system for the first time in the northern city of Sinop — a move that was harshly condemned by the US State Department. 

In December 2020, the US punished Ankara with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), while the issue ranks top on the agenda of the Joe Biden administration.  

“The S-300 in Crete was meant for Cyprus. It ended up in Crete because Ankara objected so vociferously to its original deployment site. The US Air Force (USAF) does train against it,” Stein said. 

“However, the USAF has lots of air defense goodies in the continental US including high-end Russian systems. It is not absolutely necessary to train in Crete to familiarize pilots with the system, nor do I expect it vital to train against a Turkish S-400,” he added. 

Wasilewski instead suggests a solution in which the S-400s are kept in storage in, for example, Northern Cyprus. 

“It would require both Turkey's willingness to compromise and very skillful diplomacy on the US side,” he said. “It would also require solving the worries of Cyprus, yet I still see this as the best solution.” 

In this way, Wasilewski thinks that on one hand, the US would get rid of a problem with its ally, and on the other, Turkish decision-makers could sell such a deal to their nationalist electorate more easily.

Ankara, however, pledged to proceed with talks for the procurement of a second batch of the missiles from Moscow despite the US opposition. However, during his phone meeting with Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin last Tuesday, Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, expressed his country’s concern about Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s that “undermines the alliance’s cohesion and effectiveness.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday, and the S-400s top the US agenda this time.


Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound, disused civilian plane damaged — police

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound, disused civilian plane damaged — police
Updated 6 sec ago

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound, disused civilian plane damaged — police

Rockets hit Baghdad airport compound, disused civilian plane damaged — police
BAGHDAD: At least three rockets landed in the Baghdad International Airport compound and near an adjacent US air base, damaging one disused civilian aeroplane, Iraqi police sources said.
The police sources did not report any other damage or any injuries. The damaged aircraft was an out of use Iraqi Airways plane, they said.
The US air base, known as Camp Victory, is located around the perimeter of Baghdad’s civilian airport.
Rocket attacks which US and some Iraqi officials blame on Iran-aligned Shiite militia groups who oppose the US military presence in the region have regularly hit the complex in recent years.

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp
Updated 28 January 2022

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp

Coalition says target in Saada airstrike was a Houthi special security camp
  • Coalition spokesman slams Houthis for peddling misleading information
  • Joint Forces Command ready to present facts to UN Humanitarian and Red Cross teams

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen on Friday denied targeting a prison in Saada and accused the Houthi militia of trying to mislead the public.

Houthi officials on Thursday claimed that coalition air strikes last week killed around 90 people and wounded more than 200 at Saada prison.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Malki said the targeted location was a Houthi special security camp, which is a "legitimate military target". 

Al-Maliki cited a report of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) dated January 27, 2022, after investigating the Houthis' claim.

The statement said there are four locations identified as prisons in the Joint Forces Command’s No Strike List (NSL) in Saada, all of which are being used by the "terrorist Houthi militia" in launching "cross-border attacks to target civilians and civilian objects."

The closest prison is located 1.8 kilometers away from the site targeted in a coalition air strike.

"What was announced and disseminated by the terrorist Houthi militia in its media outlets is a blatant attempt to mislead the public opinion regarding the true nature of the location in an attempt to garner sympathy from UN organizations and INGOs," Al-Maliki said in the statement.

He assured that the Joint Forces Command "applies the highest targeting standards."

The Coalition said it is prepared to shed light on the issue with representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Red Cross.

"The terrorist Houthi militia bears the full responsibility in case it uses civilians as human shields in its military locations," Al-Maliki said.

Fighting has escalated in recent weeks, with more air strikes on what the coalition says are Houthi military targets.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement has stepped up missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates and cross-border launches on neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The coalition had previously accused the Houthis of using civilian centers as a shield against legitimate strikes.


Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough
Updated 28 January 2022

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough

Qatari official’s Iran visit gives hope for talks breakthrough
  • Sheikh Tamim to meet US President Joe Biden on Jan. 31

DUBAI: Qatar’s top diplomat visited Iran on Thursday, days before Qatar’s emir holds talks in Washington at a crucial time for efforts by Tehran and major powers to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.
The visit by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani comes after his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Monday said Tehran is ready to consider direct talks with Washington if it feels it can get a “good nuclear deal.”
However, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the visit was not intended to help set up direct talks with Washington.
“Although Doha and Tehran are experiencing good and close relations, this visit ... has fueled some misconceptions. Some are fabricating it to facilitate direct talks with the United States,” IRNA said.
The US and Iran have held eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna since April aimed at reinstating the pact that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
After then-US President Donald Trump quit the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, Iran gradually started violating the pact’s nuclear curbs.

BACKGROUND

The US and Iran have held eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna since April aimed at reinstating the pact that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Significant gaps remain about the speed and scope of returning to the deal, including Iran’s demand for a US guarantee of no further punitive steps, and how and when to restore curbs on Iran’s atomic work.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, will hold talks with US President Joe Biden on Jan. 31. They will include efforts to salvage the pact. The minister, Sheikh Mohammed, is expected in Washington on Friday in advance of the emir’s visit.
Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized the importance of “deepening ties between regional countries” in a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, who invited the president to attend the Gas Exporting Countries Forum summit in February in Doha.
The lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday that securing the nuclear deal is unlikely unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage.
While ruling out any US preconditions, Iran said on Monday that Tehran and Washington can reach “a lasting agreement on both separate paths (the Vienna talks and the prisoner exchange) if the other party has the will.”
Iranian officials have refused to comment on the matter, but Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready for a full prisoner exchange with Washington.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons. It has accused many of the dual-nationals and foreigners in its jails of espionage.
Tehran says Iranians detained in the US, mostly for breaking sanctions, are being unjustly held.


UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state
Updated 28 January 2022

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state

UAE leading model of global human solidarity: Vatican secretary of state
  • Cardinal Pietro Parolin was speaking during a phone call with UAE foreign minister
  • He expressed his solidarity with the UAE following a terrorist attack by Yemen’s Houthi militia

LONDON: The Vatican said the UAE is a leading model of global human solidarity, and its humanitarian initiatives help promote peaceful coexistence, tolerance and peace around the world, Emirati state news agency WAM reported on Thursday.
Speaking during a phone call with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed his solidarity with the UAE following a terrorist attack by Yemen’s Houthi militia on civilian facilities in the UAE capital.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia launched a number of drones and missiles toward Abu Dhabi on Jan. 17, which were intercepted and destroyed by the UAE defense ministry, however, remnants landed in separate areas around the capital, killing three people and injuring seven.
Parolin offered his sincere condolences to the victims of the attack, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Sheikh Abdullah thanked Parolin for his sentiments, and praised the Vatican’s outstanding role in serving humanitarian issues and promoting the values of tolerance and coexistence among all peoples.
Sheikh Abdullah also affirmed the UAE’s keenness to strengthen its relations with the Vatican across various levels.
Relations between the UAE and the Vatican have witnessed continuous growth, especially at the humanitarian level, after the Emirates hosted the Human Fraternity Meeting between Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyib in 2019.
During the meeting, the “Document on Human Fraternity” was signed to promote human relations, build bridges of communication, harmony and love between peoples, and tackle extremism.


UAE medical convoy of one million COVID-19 vaccines arrives in Gaza Strip

A Palestinian security officer stands at attention during the arrival of the Sputnik V vaccine, donated by the UAE, at a cold storage warehouse in Gaza City on Jan. 26, 2022. (AFP)
A Palestinian security officer stands at attention during the arrival of the Sputnik V vaccine, donated by the UAE, at a cold storage warehouse in Gaza City on Jan. 26, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 28 January 2022

UAE medical convoy of one million COVID-19 vaccines arrives in Gaza Strip

A Palestinian security officer stands at attention during the arrival of the Sputnik V vaccine, donated by the UAE, at a cold storage warehouse in Gaza City on Jan. 26, 2022. (AFP)
  • The Sputnik vaccines will be immediately distributed to vaccination centers to encourage Gazans to get vaccinated
  • It is the largest medical support convoy from the UAE for the Gaza Strip since the pandemic began

LONDON: A UAE medical convoy of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on Wednesday to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, Emirati state news agency WAM reported on Thursday.
The convoy, containing one million Sputnik shots, “is the largest medical support convoy from the UAE for the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
The vaccines will be immediately distributed to vaccination centers to encourage Gazans to get vaccinated after the impoverished territory entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Ghazi Hamad, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development, thanked the UAE for its assistance, which comes at a critical time, and said it would enhance the health sector’s ability to effectively confront the spread of the virus.
He was speaking during a press conference at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip after the arrival of the convoy.
Former Palestinian health minister Dr. Jawad Al-Tibi said the health sector is one of the most time-consuming sectors and great efforts are required to combat this global epidemic.
“The UAE sends aid after aid to support our steadfastness and to face difficulties and diseases in the Gaza Strip,” he said, adding: “This batch of Emirati aid comes at the right time to support the health sector and vaccinate students.”