Turkey’s top economic management sees another shakeup

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, CEO of Turkey’s Istanbul Stock Exchange (Borsa Istanbul), resigned from his post on Monday. (AFP/File Photo)
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, CEO of Turkey’s Istanbul Stock Exchange (Borsa Istanbul), resigned from his post on Monday. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 10 March 2021

Turkey’s top economic management sees another shakeup

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, CEO of Turkey’s Istanbul Stock Exchange (Borsa Istanbul), resigned from his post on Monday. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Mehmet Hakan Atilla resigned from his post at Borsa Istanbul on Monday
  • Atilla served a 28-month jail term in the US and was released in 2019

ANKARA: Mehmet Hakan Atilla, CEO of Turkey’s Istanbul Stock Exchange (Borsa Istanbul), resigned from his post on Monday, triggering doubts about the motivations behind this abrupt move at the one of key economic managerial posts of the country. 

Atilla was appointed to his post in October 2019 in a controversial decision just after being sentenced to 32 months in prison in the US for helping Iran circumvent sanctions while he was deputy executive at Turkey’s state-run Halkbank — a case Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considered a politically motivated assault against the Turkish government.  

Atilla served a 28-month jail term in the US and was released in 2019, when he was appointed as head of the stock exchange by Erdogan’s son-in-law and former Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.  

For some, the resignation may be connected to the impending Halkbank trial on May 3 in New York as a gesture to fix US-Turkey relations in the upcoming months and attract foreign investors amid rising speculations that Albayrak may return to an economic management post in the government. 

During the upcoming New York trial, Halkbank faces a fine of up to $20 billion with charges of money laundering, evasion of sanctions and fraud as the bank is accused of helping funnel over $20 billion for Iran in violation of US sanctions. 

However, for Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London, Atilla’s resignation will make no difference to the trial of Halkbank and US-Turkey relations. 

“It is a desperate move by Ankara, which highlights once again the inability of Turkish policymakers to understand how these kinds of matters are managed in the US,” he told Arab News. 

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Atilla served a 28-month jail term in the US and was released in 2019, when he was appointed as head of the stock exchange by Erdogan’s son-in-law and former Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.

According to Piccoli, looking ahead, there are two key matters for investors: the size of the fine that will be imposed if Halkbank is found guilty, as it is generally assumed, and the reaction of the Turkish authorities once the ruling and the fine are announced.

“Meanwhile, they will monitor the court proceedings to see whether the whole trial becomes politically embarrassing for senior Turkish politicians — a development that could have an adverse impact on the already uneasy Turkey-US bilateral ties,” he said. 

As per usual politics in Turkey, things came in pairs with Atilla’s resignation being followed by a bombshell presidential decision dismissing Zafer Sonmez as CEO of the Turkey Wealth Fund, which owns the Istanbul Stock Exchange. Like Atilla, Sonmez was also appointed by Albayrak. 

“I think some will link the departure of Atilla and Sonmez as clearing the decks of former Albayrak appointees. But Sonmez was more of a technocratic appointment, and I think he had done a decent job in picking the Turkish Wealth Fund from the floor after it went nowhere for the first couple of years of its existence,” Timothy Ash, a senior emerging-market strategist at London-based BlueBay Asset Management, told Arab News. 

“He was more a sovereign wealth guru rather than an Albayrak loyalist, so I don’t see why Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan and Central Bank Governor Naci Agbal would have wanted to oust him. Also, it’s notable that his replacement is a fellow board member and Albayrak nominee. So, it raises the possibility that Sonmez resigned for another reason,” he added. 

Agbal was known for his critical stance against the economic policies that were implemented by Albayrak, opting rather for more orthodox policy-making choices like fighting inflation and increasing the policy rate. 

According to Ash, the resignation of Atilla may be related to the beginning of the Halkbank trial. “And the Turkish authorities don’t want any fallout from that to damage the Istanbul Stock Exchange,” he said. 

But experts also emphasize long-standing criticisms about the nominations for the country’s top management position in line with political favoritism. 

For Piccoli, it remains to be seen whether it is a genuine shakeup at the top of these institutions or the usual giving away of jobs to friends and family members. 

“The start is not that promising, as the newly appointed head of the Turkey Wealth Fund is a classmate of President Erdogan’s son, Bilal,” he said. “As has been the case for a long time, meritocracy plays no role in key appointments made by the government.” 

Turkey’s wealth fund is considering an initial public offering of the Istanbul Stock Exchange by next year.  

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Netanyahu says Israel firmly rejects pressure not to build in Jerusalem

Netanyahu says Israel firmly rejects pressure not to build in Jerusalem
Updated 14 min 53 sec ago

Netanyahu says Israel firmly rejects pressure not to build in Jerusalem

Netanyahu says Israel firmly rejects pressure not to build in Jerusalem
  • Pope Francis has also called for an end to the violence in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: Israel “firmly rejects” pressure not to build in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday following spreading international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the city claimed by Jewish settlers.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis expressed his concern at the unrest in Jerusalem, saying: “Violence only generates violence. Let’s stop these clashes.”
“I pray so that this might be a place of encounter and not violent clashes, a place of prayer and of peace. I invite everyone to seek shared resolutions so that the multireligious identity and multiculture of the holy city might be respected and so that fraternity might prevail,” he said after reciting the Regina Caeli prayer.


Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery
Updated 09 May 2021

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery
  • The fire erupted in a distillation unit due to a leak in a pumping station
  • There was a large fire and blast at Homs in January this year
AMMAN: Syrian authorities are working on extinguishing a fire that erupted in its main Homs refinery in the west of the nation, state media said on Sunday.
The fire erupted in a distillation unit due to a leak in a pumping station, it said without elaborating.
State television showed live footage of fire engulfing parts of the refinery with black smoke plumes in the distance as firefighters tackled the flames.
There was a large fire and blast at Homs in January this year involving a nearby crude oil loading station and dozens of trucks that transport petroleum products across the country.
Both Homs refinery and Banias on the Mediterranean coast have faced supply shortages in recent months due to erratic supplies of Iranian crude oil to the sanctions-hit country that relies mainly on Tehran for its energy needs.
Syria has over the past year two years faced months of gasoline and fuel shortages, forcing it to ration supplies distributed across government-held areas and to apply several rounds of steep price hikes.

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
Updated 09 May 2021

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • UAE announced 1,735 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 534,445

DUBAI: The UAE has administered 11,126,889 COVID-19 vaccine doses so far with an additional 78,342 jabs provided to residents overnight, bringing the country’s distribution rate to 112.50 doses per 100 people.

Health officials have embarked on a rapid vaccination campaign to stem the spread of coronavirus, and the country has one of the highest proportions of the population inoculated

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said the vaccination program was in “line with plan to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to all members of society and efforts to reach acquired immunity resulting from the vaccination,” a report from state news agency WAM said.

This will help reduce the number of cases and control the COVID-19 virus, the reported added.

Meanwhile, the UAE announced 1,735 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 534,445, as well as three new deaths overnight.

The number of coronavirus-related fatalities is now at 1,610.

The MoHAP also noted that an additional 1,701 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 514,769.


Algeria remembers victims of French rule

Algeria remembers victims of French rule
Algerian youths pose beneath a street name plaque honouring an Algerian lawyer killed by the French during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence in Algiers. (AFP file photo)
Updated 08 May 2021

Algeria remembers victims of French rule

Algeria remembers victims of French rule
  • The crackdown led by French General Raymond Duval left as many as 45,000 dead, according to Algerian official figures

ALGIERS: Algeria on Saturday honored thousands killed by French forces in 1945, as the North African country waits for Paris to apologize for its colonial era crimes.
Pro-independence protests broke out after a rally on May 8, 1945 marking the allied victory over Nazi Germany.
The rioting triggered two weeks of bloody repression in which French troops massacred thousands of mostly unarmed Muslim civilians, a key chapter in Algeria’s long independence struggle.
On Saturday, thousands of people took part in a march of remembrance following the same route through the northeastern city of Setif as the May 8 rally 76 years ago, official media reported.
Led by scouts, participants laid a wreath at a monument to Bouzid Saal, a 22-year-old man shot dead by a French policeman in 1945 for refusing to lower his Algerian flag — the first casualty of the violence.
The crackdown led by French General Raymond Duval left as many as 45,000 dead, according to Algerian official figures.
French historians put the toll at up to 20,000, including 86 European civilians and 16 soldiers killed in revenge attacks.
The killings had a transformative impact on the nascent anti-colonial movement, setting the scene for a full-blown independence war nine years later that finally led to independence in 1962.
Algerian officials have continued to call for a full apology from France for its colonial era policies, and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has described the 1945 killings as “crimes against humanity.”
Government spokesman Ammar Belhimer repeated that demand on Saturday, calling for “the official, definitive and comprehensive recognition by France of its crimes (along with) repentance and fair compensation.”
He also called for help dealing with the toxic waste left behind by 17 nuclear tests France carried out in the Algerian desert in the 1960s.

 


Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters
Members of the Tripoli Protection Force, an alliance of militias from the capital city, patrol an area south of the Libyan capital. (AFP file photo)
Updated 09 May 2021

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters
  • The takeover underscored the tough road ahead for the interim government, which has been tasked with steering Libya through general elections due at the end of the year

CAIRO: In a show of force, armed militiamen briefly took over a hotel in the Libyan capital of Tripoli that serves as headquarters for the interim government, officials said Saturday.
Friday’s development came after the three-member presidential council earlier this week appointed a new chief of the intelligence agency, Libya’s version of the CIA. The militias, which control Tripoli, were apparently unhappy with the choice of Hussein Khalifa as the new spy chief.
Presidential council spokeswoman Najwa Wheba said no one was hurt in the takeover of Hotel Corinthia, in the heart of Tripoli. The hotel was mostly empty on Friday, the Muslim weekend.
After a while, the militias left the hotel, according to an official at the Interior Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations. Khalifa and the militia leaders were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.
The takeover underscored the tough road ahead for the interim government, which has been tasked with steering Libya through general elections due at the end of the year. The government has struggled to unite the conflict-stricken nation ahead of the vote.
Wheba said the presidential council has no permanent headquarters and that the hotel is one of the places where the council convenes. Videos circulating on social media show militiamen at the entrance of the hotel.
On Monday, Najla Al-Manqoush, the foreign minister of Libya’s interim government called for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries, including Turkish troops, from the oil-rich North African country. That was seen as a rebuke to Turkey and angered pro-Turkey factions in western Libya.
UN Security Council diplomats say there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Sudanese, Chadians and Russians.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed.