Erdogan: US proposes F-16 sales in return for Turkey’s F-35 investment

Erdogan: US proposes F-16 sales in return for Turkey’s F-35 investment
President Tayyip Erdogan said the new F-16 jets would help develop Turkey’s fleet. (Presidential Press Office via Reuters)
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Updated 17 October 2021

Erdogan: US proposes F-16 sales in return for Turkey’s F-35 investment

Erdogan: US proposes F-16 sales in return for Turkey’s F-35 investment
  • Turkey wants a return for its investment in the F-35 program and that talks on the issue are ongoing
  • Te US removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems

ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that the United States had proposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in return for its investment in the F-35 program, from which Ankara was removed after purchasing missile defense systems from Russia.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Turkey made a request to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
Speaking to reporters before departing for a trip to West Africa, Erdogan said Turkey wants a return for its investment in the F-35 program and that talks on the issue are ongoing.
“There is the payment of $1.4 billion we have made for the F-35s and the US had such a proposal in return for these payments,” Erdogan said.
“And regarding this, we said let’s take whatever steps are needed to be taken to meet the defense needs of our country,” he said, adding that the new F-16 jets would help develop its fleet.
Ankara had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, but the US removed Turkey from the program in 2019 after it acquired Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over disagreements on Syria policy, Ankara’s closer ties with Moscow, its naval ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, US charges against a state-owned Turkish bank and erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey.
Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s has also triggered US sanctions. In December 2020, Washington blacklisted Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees.
Since then the US has repeatedly warned Turkey against buying further Russian weaponry. But Erdogan has indicated Ankara still intends to buy a second batch of S-400s from Russia, a move that could deepen the rift with Washington.
The request for the jets will likely have a difficult time getting approval from the US Congress, where sentiment toward Turkey has soured deeply over recent years.
There is bipartisan support in US Congress to push the Biden administration to put further pressure on Ankara, primarily over its purchase of Russian weapons and its human rights track record.
Ankara has said it hopes for better ties under US President Joe Biden.


Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack
Updated 58 min 15 sec ago

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

KHARTOUM: Six Sudanese soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by Ethiopian forces on a Sudanese army post near the border between the countries, Sudanese military sources told Reuters.
Sudan’s army said in an earlier statement on Facebook that “groups of the Ethiopian army and militias attacked its forces in Al-Fashaga Al-sughra, which resulted in deaths ... our forces valiantly repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses in lives and equipment on the attackers.”
The army statement did not provide any details about the death toll.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a Reuters message seeking comment on the incident.


UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
Updated 28 November 2021

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE orders release of 870 prisoners ahead of National Day
  • This comes ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2

DUBAI: The President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered the release of 870 prisoners on Sunday ahead of the country’s 50th National Day on Dec. 2, according to state news agency WAM.
The prisoners, sentenced for various crimes, will also have their debts and fines paid off, the statement added.


US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 November 2021

US options when Iran nuclear deal talks resume

IAEA representative carries out in inspection at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran. (AFP file photo)
  • The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before

WASHINGTON: The United States under President Joe Biden is to resume on Monday indirect negotiations with Iran in Vienna — but is far less optimistic than in the spring about the possibility of saving the Iranian nuclear deal.
And its options to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb are limited if talks fail.

As president, Donald Trump withdrew from the international deal in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions lifted under the accord’s terms.
In response, the Islamic Republic has flouted many of the restrictions set on its nuclear program.
Biden has said he wants to return to the deal — negotiated in 2015 by then-president Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president — so long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
The indirect negotiations in Vienna resume Monday after a five-month suspension imposed by Iran.
“There is room to quickly reach and implement an understanding,” a spokesperson for the US State Department said Wednesday.
But the American envoy on Iran, Rob Malley, has said that Tehran’s attitude “doesn’t augur well for the talks.”
Washington has accused the Middle Eastern nation of dragging its feet and increasing its “radical” demands — while still making progress that would bring it significantly closer to developing a bomb.

If, when talks resume, it quickly becomes apparent to the United States that Iran only wants to buy time to step up its nuclear advances, then Washington will not “sit idly by,” Malley warned.
“We’re going to have to see other efforts — diplomatic and otherwise — to try to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” he said.
One of the diplomatic options mentioned was a possible interim agreement.
“The Biden administration could look at a short-term deal, a limited agreement that freezes some of the most proliferation-sensitive activities in Iran in exchange for some modest sanctions relief,” Kelsey Davenport, the head of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told AFP recently.
The goal is to buy some time, as Tehran is much closer to possessing a nuclear bomb than before.
But such a move risks provoking an outcry in Washington, among Republicans but also among several members of Biden’s Democratic Party, who would see it as too generous a concession to Iran.

“If Iran comes back to the negotiating table with a long list of demands outside of the JCPOA, the US could reciprocate” and present its own list about Iran’s role in regional conflicts and its ballistic missiles, said Davenport, using the official acronym for the nuclear deal.
But doing so would open up long and complex negotiations with an uncertain outcome.
And there is nothing to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear program during that time.

For Suzanne DiMaggio, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, the “options beyond restoring the deal are not great.”
“If there was a better plan out there, we would have heard it by now,” she said Friday during an exchange with reporters.
One possibility would be to increase economic sanctions, even as the Democratic administration continues to blast the Trump era “maximum pressure” approach as a failure.
Punitive measures could also target China, which continues to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. But Beijing is unlikely to change its stance.
US hawks opposed to the 2015 deal — and there are many, particularly among conservatives — argue that Washington should increase economic, diplomatic and even military pressure without waiting for the outcome of the Vienna negotiations.

Accused of weakness by proponents of a harder stance, the Biden administration began to toughen its approach in October, warning that “other options” than diplomacy were on the table to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The White House did not specify what those options were, but it has clearly hinted at the possibility of military action.
However, in a noted op-ed, former US diplomat Dennis Ross said that the “routinized” reference to “other options” had become insufficient, as “Tehran no longer takes Washington seriously.”
“The Biden administration needs to put the prospect of military escalation back on the table if it hopes to make progress on the nuclear issue,” he wrote in the essay, published October 27.
Israel, for its part, has clearly embraced this option as a possibility.
But for DiMaggio, military force “will not ultimately solve the problem.
“In fact, precedent is for the Iranians to meet pressure with pressure,” she warned.
“More aggressive steps beyond sanctions, including further sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program, run the risk of resulting in a miscalculation, mistake or an escalation that cannot be managed, potentially sparking violent conflict.”


Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over omicron

 In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2021

Israel to ban entry of foreigners from all countries over omicron

 In this file photo taken on November 01, 2021 passengers walk with their luggage upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Lod, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (AFP)
  • The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs

JERUSALEM: Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant, and said it would use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
“Our working hypotheses are that the variant is already in nearly every country,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told N12’s “Meet the Press,” “and that the vaccine is effective, although we don’t yet know to what degree.”
Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine, Bennett said. The ban will come into effect at midnight between Sunday and Monday. A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African states was imposed on Friday.
The Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others, Bennett said.
Used on and off since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they had come into contact. Israel’s Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns.
The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say such restrictions may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.
Israel has so far confirmed one case of Omicron, with seven suspected cases. The Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case was vaccinated. Three of the seven suspected cases were fully vaccinated, the ministry said on Saturday, and three had not returned from travel abroad recently.
Around 57 percent of Israel’s 9.4 million population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry, which means they have either received a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine or it has not yet been five months since they received their second dose. Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.


Lebanon judiciary stands firm despite Hezbollah allegations

Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest in front of the Justice Palace after a probe into Beirut blast was frozen, in Beirut. (Reuters)
Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest in front of the Justice Palace after a probe into Beirut blast was frozen, in Beirut. (Reuters)
Updated 28 November 2021

Lebanon judiciary stands firm despite Hezbollah allegations

Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest in front of the Justice Palace after a probe into Beirut blast was frozen, in Beirut. (Reuters)
  • Judges resigning in protest at poor conditions
  • Party has been disrupting Cabinet sessions

BEIRUT: The Beirut Bar Association has urged all officials to refrain from interfering with the judiciary and respect the law and work of institutions.

Nader Kaspar, head of the association, said: “The lawyers stand in solidarity with the judges and the Judicial Council.”

His statement came as the confrontation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese judiciary took a dangerous turn. The party has accused Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the probe into the Beirut port explosion, of “politicizing the investigation.”

In the past few days, the Justice Palace in Beirut has been abuzz with news about the resignation of several judges in protest at the poor conditions the judiciary is experiencing, due to political interference on the one hand and the economic situation on the other.

Former public prosecutor Judge Hatem Madi told Arab News: “What is happening increases the state of disgust within the judicial body. These pressures should not affect the course of the judiciary's work, but how long can the judiciary stand its ground in light of a pressing financial and economic crisis?

“Pressure has always been exerted on the judiciary. If the judiciary had surrendered, the judges would have resigned a long time ago. They want to remove Bitar at any cost. They have paralyzed the government and they want to do the same to the judiciary, but the latter has so far been steadfast.”

The president of the Fifth Chamber of the Court of Cassation Judge Jeannette Hanna, public defender Judge Carla Kassis, and president of the Court of Appeal Judge Rola Al-Husseini have submitted their resignation. 

However, the head of the Supreme Judicial Council Judge Suhail Abboud rejected these resignations, asking the judges to “hold back.”

The Coalition for an Independent Lebanese Judiciary warned that the judicial body was facing imminent danger.

It said: “These resignations serve as a warning of what the financial and economic collapse may cause within one of the most important public facilities, and of the ongoing systematic campaigns against every judge who dares to question immunities, which was evident in the Beirut port blast probe.”

It added that the resignations “reflect the feelings of helplessness and resentment of many judges regarding the financial and moral factors that prevent them from performing their judicial function properly, and put them in an embarrassing situation before public opinion.”

On Friday, in addition to demanding that Bitar be removed, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah went after the entire judicial body because it had pushed back against attempts by defendants to remove Bitar.

“Hezbollah resorted to the judiciary to confront Bitar's discretion, but the rulings show that the entire judiciary is politicized,” Nasrallah said. “This was evident over the past couple of days when the judiciary rejected all requests to dismiss Bitar.”

He once again claimed that the US, represented by its embassy in Lebanon, was supporting Bitar.

“The investigation is trying to accuse Hezbollah of being involved in the blast. The current judicial process is on a discretionary path that does not lead to any justice or truth.”

Speaking about the Tayouneh incident, which occurred when Hezbollah supporters took to the streets and clashed with residents of Ain Al-Rummaneh, Nasrallah said Hezbollah did not want personal revenge, but that many people involved had not been handed over to the judiciary and they were still in Maarab, a reference to Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea.

“The extent of recklessness, in this case, is an invitation to the families of the victims to take matters into their own hands,” Nasrallah said.

The party has been disrupting Cabinet sessions and preventing the resignation of Information Minister George Kordahi to fix Lebanon's relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.