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. 

FASTFACT

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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Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted

Israeli military: Attempt to smuggle weapons along Jordanian border thwarted
Updated 19 min 7 sec ago

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Israeli military claims it has thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons along the Jordanian border.


At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
Updated 49 min 26 sec ago

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece

At NATO, Turkey hails its revival of dialogue with Greece
  • Turkish President is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden
  • Erdogan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country

BRUSSELS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a revival of dialogue with fellow NATO member Greece to resolve long-standing disputes will serve “stability and prosperity” in the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit, Erdogan also lamented what he said was a lack of support by Turkey’s NATO allies in its fight against terrorism.
It was a veiled reference to Turkey’s disappointment with US military support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
Erdogan, who is vying to mend Turkey’s battered relations with its Western partners, is holding a series of one-on-one meetings with NATO leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
The Turkish strongman has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country, which has been troubled by a currency crisis and an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turkey is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism in all relevant international platforms, especially NATO,” Erdogan said, adding that some 4,000 Daesh group fighters were “neutralized” in Turkish cross border operations.
“Turkey is the only NATO ally which has fought face-to-face and gave its young sons as martyrs for this cause,” Erdogan said. “Unfortunately, we did not receive the support and solidarity we expected from our allies and partners in our fight against all forms of terrorism.”
Last summer, a long-standing dispute between Turkey and Greece over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.
Diplomats from the two countries have held two rounds of talks in recent months for the first time in five years, while the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey also held reciprocal visits.
“I believe that reviving the channels of dialogue between (Turkey) and our neighbor and ally, Greece, and the resolution of bilateral issues will ... serve the stability and prosperity of our region,” Erdogan said, in a video address to a think tank event on the sidelines of the summit.
Erdogan’s talks with Biden are expected to focus on US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, as well as a dispute over Ankara’s acquisition of a Russian air defense system, which led to Turkey being removed from the F-35 fighter program and sanctions on defense industry officials.
Washington says the S-400 missiles, which Turkey purchased in 2019, pose a threat to NATO’s integrated air defense and has demanded that Ankara abandons the $2.5 billion system.
In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide.” Turkey denies that the deportations and massacres that began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians amounted to genocide.
In Brussels, Erdogan met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
After his meeting with Erdogan, Macron tweeted that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey.
It was their first meeting since a dispute between the two countries reached its peak in October, after Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health.
Both men discussed Libya and Syria issues, the Elysee said. Macron has accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.
During the discussion with Johnson, the two leaders agreed to “work toward the resumption of travel between the UK and Turkey,” according to a Downing Street statement. Turkey has been pushing for a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions to allow British tourists to come to Turkey this summer.


Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
Updated 14 June 2021

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya

Macron says Turkey’s Erdogan wants foreign mercenaries out of Libya
  • Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he had received assurances from Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan that he wanted foreign mercenaries to leave Libyan territory as soon as possible.
“We agreed to work on this withdrawal (of foreign mercenaries). It doesn’t just depend on the two of us. But I can tell you President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference at the end of a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
Macron was speaking after his first face-to-face with Erdogan in more than a year as tensions between the two NATO allies worsened especially over the conflict in Libya.
Turkey deployed troops to Libya under an accord on military cooperation signed with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it repel an assault by forces from eastern Libya. It also sent thousands of Syrian fighters to Libya.


UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
Updated 14 June 2021

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine

UK Muslim charity steps up humanitarian work in Palestine
  • Penny Appeal’s goal is to ‘break the cycle of poverty at every stage,’ founder tells Arab News
  • CEO: ‘Once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response’

LONDON: A British Muslim charity has ramped up its humanitarian work in Palestine, crediting the generosity of communities of all faiths in supporting their emergency humanitarian response to last month’s fighting in Gaza.

Penny Appeal has worked in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank for close to 10 years, and maintains a range of humanitarian projects alongside partner organizations on the ground. 

Following May’s flare-up in violence — which claimed over 250 Palestinian lives, including 66 children — Penny Appeal said: “Once again the slow and painful process of rebuilding has begun.”

By providing cash support, distributed food packs, provisions for babies and women’s hygiene products, Penny Appeal has directly assisted over 77,000 people since last month’s fighting.

Its founder Adeem Younis told Arab News that the charity’s goal is to “break the cycle of poverty at every stage.”

From early-life interventions for mothers and children all the way to the end of life, Penny Appeal runs initiatives that aim to cut poverty and improve quality of life.

However, Younis said the latest round of Israeli attacks on Gaza meant that he and his team have had to focus on providing immediate humanitarian relief and support to victims and their families.

“Sadly, there has been an increase in the number of orphans we’re having to support,” he added, lamenting the cyclical nature of conflict in Gaza.

“We want to provide sustainable solutions that we can empower the community with, but our solutions are sometimes not effective because every year, every two years, it all gets destroyed again, or there’s an emergency situation that takes you back to square one,” he said.

In a statement issued to Arab News, the charity’s CEO Harris Iqbal said: “Sadly, once again we have had to pivot our efforts from long term sustainable projects to short term emergency response. We have been focusing in particular on medical treatment and supplies, working with a network of hospitals and medical organisations, as well as distributing food packs for families displaced by the bombing.”

But while Gazans continue to confront a familiar cycle of progress followed by setback, Younis said he and his team noticed that the external reaction was markedly different this time around.

“We’ve already raised over £500,000 ($705,850) for the most recent emergency. Donations have come from not just Muslims but from all faiths, from all backgrounds. Even today we still have people calling on a daily basis,” he added.

“What we’ve seen is that the compassion and support from the wider community, not just Muslims, has been very, very different.”

He said not only do those donations assist with emergency response on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, but they also make Palestinians — who are largely cut off from the outside world — realize that they have the support of countless people worldwide.

“The recipients tell us all the time that they’re very grateful for the support they receive. They can’t believe the support they receive. They can’t believe that people are thinking about them as well. It means a lot for them to receive the aid, to have that help,” Younis added.

“That gives them a sense that the world is listening … When they receive outside aid, they don’t just feel the aid but they feel the support — it keeps their spirits high.”


Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'
Updated 14 June 2021

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

BRUSSELS: NATO leaders on Monday agreed to step up their collective defence "against all threats, from all directions," according to their final statement.
NATO said it would adapt to climate-reated security challenges, called on Russia to drop its designation of two allies - the United States and the Czech Republic - as "unfriendly countries" and committed funds to the Kabul airport.
It said it would respond to Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and called on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities.
In a first for the Western military alliance, it said China was posing "systemic challenges" for the 30-nation pact.