US sanctions Turkish companies for ‘helping Russian war effort’

Special US sanctions Turkish companies for ‘helping Russian war effort’
An office block housing the office of microelectronics trading company Azu International, Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 April 2023

US sanctions Turkish companies for ‘helping Russian war effort’

US sanctions Turkish companies for ‘helping Russian war effort’
  • President Biden seeks a foreign policy win as elections loom, says analyst
  • America, however, remains ‘cautious about affecting NATO ally’s stability’

ANKARA: The recent US announcement to impose export controls on several Turkish companies for allegedly doing business with Russia has stirred debate on the effectiveness of the sanctions and whether Ankara, with elections looming, should respond in some manner to protect its rising trade relations with Moscow.

This is the first time Washington has sanctioned Turkish companies for allegedly helping Russia evade sanctions. Last year, the Turkish branch of a Russian company, called MMK, which owned two steel facilities, was sanctioned by the US.

The US Commerce Department said on Wednesday it has imposed new export controls on 28 companies based in China, Turkiye and other countries for supplying Russia’s military and defense industries with US-origin items, which it deemed violated America’s sanctions regime.

The sanctioned companies include Azu International, a Turkiye-based electronics firm that was established in March 2022, shortly after the Ukraine invasion, and which allegedly shipped to Russia foreign-origin electronics technology, including computer chips.

Also on the list is Dexias Turkiye, based in Turkiye and headed by Alim Khazishmelovich Firov, which allegedly procured US-origin electronic components as an intermediary for Radioavtomatika, a Russian defense procurement firm.

Since February 2022, there have been more than 400 entities added to the list that intends to restrict “Russia’s ability to sustain, repair and resupply its weaponry,” the US Commerce Department said in February.

“As the Kremlin seeks ways around the expansive multilateral sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia for its war against Ukraine, the United States and our allies and partners will continue to disrupt evasion schemes that support Putin on the battlefield,” said Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

“Today’s action underscores our dedication to implementing the G7 commitment to impose severe costs on third-country actors who support Russia’s war.”

This move also coincides with the latest statement by James O’Brien, head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, cautioning that Turkiye has pledged to ban the re-export of sanctioned Western goods to help Russia’s war efforts.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, thinks this is just the beginning and tougher US measures against Turkiye firms may follow.

“In the upcoming period, US sanctions will target even harder several companies doing businesses with Russia,” he told Arab News.

“This is the policy of the Biden administration ahead of the elections in the US, that aims to deliver a foreign policy win and it requires these sanctions to really work,” he said.

“So far the US government followed the path of compliance going through companies. Maybe this latest move is doubling down these efforts,” Cagaptay added.

In line with this warning, Turkiye’s government recently provided Turkish companies in the ferrous and non-ferrous metals sector with a list of foreign goods that are prohibited from being sent to Russia. In addition, Ankara has also given verbal guarantees to the European Commission that sanctioned goods will not be transited to Russia from March 1, to comply with Western sanctions.

However, experts have cautioned about the negative impact on Turkiye, a NATO member, and its repercussions for the international community.

According to Cagaptay, the US government is also acting carefully and does not want to interfere with Turkiye’s economic stability and politics in these critical times.

“But this is the tip of iceberg. In the post-elections period, the US would require more stringent demands on Turkish companies to not trade with Russia, and that will definitely have an impact on Turkiye’s trade volume with Russia,” he said.

Russia is still one of Turkiye’s major partners, with trade rising last year when Turkiye was in desperate need of foreign exchange earnings because of the currency crisis.

Trade between Turkiye and Russia has increased since the Ukraine invasion despite Western sanctions, with hundreds of Russian companies having opened branches in Turkiye — a financial haven for Russians — to circumvent sanctions.

Trade volume between the two countries climbed to $68.2 billion last year, while in March, Turkiye’s exports to Russia increased by 285 percent to $1.1 billion.

Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul think tank EDAM, thinks the recently announced US sanctions on these Turkish companies is an indication that the sanctions regime adopted by Washington can also have consequences for a NATO ally like Turkiye.

“But we have to essentially contextualize this measure. All Turkish exports to Russia will not be affected by this measure,” he told Arab News.

“The sanctioned entities have been found in violation of US sanctions for a range of critical technology products. This is indeed the area of concern of US policymakers given that these products are seen to be helping the Russian war effort,” he said.

But at the same time, Ulgen added, this measure demonstrates that there is indeed a concern about the re-export of some critical technology products.

“This is where pressure is likely to be also sustained also on Turkiye, but for this specific range of products,” he said.

According to Ulgen, so far there has been a modus vivendi between Turkish and US authorities on the implementation of sanctions.

“Turkiye has been quite cautious in not crossing some critical red lines set by the sanctions regime,” he said.

“For instance, in the past, when there were clear complaints about the Russian Mir payment system where the Turkish banking system accepted transactions based on Russian credit cards, Turkiye ultimately withdrew from this system,” he said.

“There is a good collaboration between Turkish and US authorities regarding the sanctions and this will continue,” Ulgen added.

“I think both sides would not want to find themselves in a more confrontational environment which would hurt both political relations and also Turkiye’s economic interests,” Ulgen said.

Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’

Updated 8 sec ago

Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’

Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’
TEHRAN: Iran said Saturday that attempting to revive its landmark nuclear deal with world powers that was effectively scrapped by former US president Donald Trump was increasingly “useless.”
“Today, the more we advance, the more the JCPOA becomes useless,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a speech to students at the University of Tehran, using the initials of the official name of the nuclear deal.
In 2015, Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
But while the deal was signed with several world powers — including China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — it was rendered effectively useless when the United States unilaterally withdrew under Trump in 2018.
With the US reimposing sanctions, international banks and businesses have stayed away from Iran for fear of falling foul of US regulators.
Tentative efforts to revive the deal by Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, have been at a standstill since mid-2022.
“Because (Iran’s) red lines have sometimes been ignored by the other side, we are not currently on the path to return to the agreement,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
“Of course, this does not mean that we have set the agreement aside. If the agreement serves our interests, (we will accept it) with all its flaws,” he added.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, called in October on the international community not to fail in Iran as it did in North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but since 2021 the UN body has struggled to monitor the development of its capabilities.

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’
Updated 6 min ago

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’
  • “Since October 7, the security council has become an Israel protection and defense council,” Erdogan said
  • “Is this justice?” asked Erdogan, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the UN Security Council

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday denounced the UN Security Council after the United States vetoed a cease-fire resolution for Gaza, describing the international body as the ‘Israel protection council’.
“Since October 7, the security council has become an Israel protection and defense council,” Erdogan said.
The United States on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Washington thus dashed a growing clamour for a halt to fighting that had been led by UN chief Antonio Guterres and Arab nations.
“Is this justice?” asked Erdogan, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the UN Security Council.
“Another world is possible, but without America,” the Turkish leader said.
“The United States stands by Israel with its money and military equipment. Hey, America! How much are you going to pay for that?” he added.
“Every day the Declaration of Human Rights is violated in Gaza,” he said, as the world this weekend celebrates the 75th anniversary of the declaration.
The UN resolution for a cease-fire was submitted more than two months after the start of the war in Gaza triggered by Hamas’s bloody attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which, according to the Israeli authorities, killed 1,200 people.
Since then Hamas has put the death toll in Gaza at 17,490, mostly women and children.

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict
Updated 24 min 50 sec ago

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict
  • In peacetime, visitors flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant climate and good surfing
  • For over two months, residents have been living under the threat of near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah

NAHARIYA, Israel: In the seaside haven of Nahariya, the shock still lingers on Daniel Bussidan’s face. A recent rocket attack killed his friend’s father, and now this Israeli beach town, the closest to Lebanon, stands on edge.
“I’m scared from the attack,” said the 26-year-old who works in his father’s pastry shop on the Mediterranean resort’s eucalyptus-lined main street.
His friend’s father was killed when a rocket struck his farm while he was working, Bussidan told AFP.
“He died on the spot,” Bussidan said.
In peacetime, visitors flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant climate and good surfing.
But for over two months, residents have been living under the threat of near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
The Iran-backed Shiite group says it entered the fray in support of Hamas on October 8, the day after the Palestinian militants launched their attack in Israel which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Aiming to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a military offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza says has killed 17,490 people, mostly women and children, and left the Palestinian territory in ruins.
In northern Israel, residents fear a wider conflict emerging along the border with Lebanon, which snakes along a hill in the distance from Nahariya.
More than 120 people have been killed on the Lebanese side of the border since October 7, mostly Hezbollah fighters and more than a dozen civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says six of its soldiers and four Israeli civilians have been killed in the area, and Lebanon lost its first soldier in the exchanges on Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah that if it “chooses to start a global war, then it will turn Beirut and South Lebanon... into Gaza and Khan Yunis with its own hands.”
Business has slumped along the Nahariya seafront, and many more rifles have appeared, slung over people’s shoulders.
Resident Nathalie Betito, 44, believes Hezbollah fighters could infiltrate the border. But she made a point of celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, with around 100 people at the central synagogue this week.
She and her husband Arie, 47, immigrated from France five years ago. Nahariya represents an attractive destination, with special tax breaks due to its exposed position.
Arie, who now helps new arrivals at the town hall, said residents were nonetheless living in peril.
Hezbollah has thousands of “missiles pointed at us,” he said, stressing that he did not believe in escalating the conflict into a “total” war.
“The price to pay would be huge,” he said. “Neither side wants that.”
But people in Nahariya are preparing for the worst. Efi Dayan, 60, said he “knows there’s going to be a war here.”
“We’re getting ready with food, clothes. We’re waiting for it,” he said calmly under the winter sun.
But the military job in Gaza needs to be completed first, said Bussidan, a former soldier himself.
“We have to finish Hamas and take care of all civilians on both sides,” he said.

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official
Updated 09 December 2023

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official
  • New crossing will allow trucks from Jordan into Gaza

CAIRO: A new process for inspecting aid for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing is being tested, but efforts to get permission for trucks to enter through the crossing and ramp up relief are still ongoing, a senior UN official told Reuters on Saturday.
Under the new system, trucks would come to the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt for the first time from Jordan, before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 3 km (1.86 miles) away.
But the trucks would need to be allowed to enter Gaza directly through Kerem Shalom to alleviate an increasingly desperate situation in the coastal enclave, said Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme.
Israel has so far rebuffed pleas from the United Nations and others to open Kerem Shalom, but they both signalled on Thursday that Kerem Shalom could soon help process delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
Until now, limited quantities of aid have been delivered from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, which is ill-equipped to process large numbers of trucks.
Trucks have been driving more than 40 km (24.85 miles) south to Egypt’s border with Israel before returning to Rafah, leading to bottlenecks and delays.
A process to test the inspection system at Kerem Shalom for trucks arriving from Jordan is underway, said Skau, who visited Gaza on Friday.
“It’s good, it’s useful because it would also be the first time that we can then bring in a pipeline from Jordan. But we need that entry point as well because that would make all the difference,” he said in an interview.
“If you get that open, then it’s just a matter of how much is available and how much can be absorbed on the other side in an orderly fashion, but then certainly that capacity would not be the issue,” he added.
“We have front-loaded with our internal resources so that we have food available in Egypt and in Jordan to reach some 1,000,000 people in one month. We are ready to roll. The trucks are ready to move.”
Skau said the situation inside Gaza was increasingly chaotic as people grabbed what they could from aid distribution points, with larger numbers of people displaced southwards close to the border with Egypt and aid trucks at risk of being stopped by desperate residents if they even slow down at an intersection.
“There is a question for how long this can continue, because the humanitarian operation is collapsing,” he said.
“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day. Obviously the needs are massive.”

US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ of Gaza children after UN veto: Abbas

US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ of Gaza children after UN veto: Abbas
Updated 09 December 2023

US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ of Gaza children after UN veto: Abbas

US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ of Gaza children after UN veto: Abbas
  • Abbas said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in general had reached an alarming stage that requires an international conference and guarantees by world powers

Ramallah/Palestinian Territories: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Saturday that the United States was “responsible for the bloodshed” of children in the Gaza Strip after it vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Palestinian territory at a special meeting of the UN Security Council.
“The president has described the American position as aggressive and immoral, a flagrant violation of all humanitarian principles and values, and holds the United States responsible for the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women and elderly people in the Gaza Strip,” said a statement from Abbas’s office.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and an international peace conference to work out a lasting political solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In an interview with Reuters at his office in Ramallah, Abbas, 87, said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in general had reached an alarming stage that requires an international conference and guarantees by world powers.
Besides Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, he said Israeli forces have intensified their attacks everywhere in the occupied West Bank over the past year with settlers escalating violence against Palestinian towns.
He reiterated his longstanding position in favor of negotiation rather than armed resistance to end the longstanding occupation.
“I am with peaceful resistance. I am for negotiations based on an international peace conference and under international auspices that would lead to a solution that will be protected by world powers to establish a sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” he said.
Abbas was speaking as Israel increased its strikes on Gaza. In two months of warfare, it has killed more than 17,000 people, wounded 46,000 and forced the displacement of around 1.9 million people, over half of them now sheltering in areas in central Gaza or close to the Egyptian border.
A senior US official said the idea of an international conference had been discussed among different partners but the proposal was still at a very preliminary stage.
“It’s one of many options on the table that we and others would consider with an open mind, but no decision has been made about that,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Israel launched its campaign to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules Gaza after Hamas fighters went on a rampage through Israeli towns on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Abbas said that based on a binding international agreement, he would revive the weakened Palestinian Authority, implement long-awaited reforms and hold presidential and parliamentary elections, which were suspended after Hamas won in 2006 and later pushed the PA out of Gaza.
He said the PA had abided by all the peace deals signed with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accord and the understandings that followed over the years but that Israel had reneged on its pledges to end the occupation.

Asked whether he would risk holding elections given the possibility that Hamas could win as it did in 2006, he said: “Whoever wins wins, these will be democratic elections.”
Abbas said he had planned to hold elections in April 2021 but the European Union envoy told him before the due date that Israel was objecting to voting in East Jerusalem so he was forced to call it off.
He insisted that there would not be elections without East Jerusalem, saying the PA held three rounds of elections in the past that included East Jerusalem before Israel imposed the ban.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital, a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Abbas did not give a concrete vision of a post-war plan discussed with US officials under which the PA would take over control of the strip, home for 2.3 million people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel would not accept rule over Gaza by the Palestinian Authority as it stands.
“The United States tells us that it supports a two-state solution, that Israel is not allowed to occupy Gaza, to keep security control of Gaza or to expropriate land from Gaza,” he said in reference to a plan floated by Israel to establish a security zone in Gaza after the war.
“America doesn’t force Israel to implement what it says.”
He said the PA was still present in Gaza as an institution and still pays monthly salaries and expenses estimated at $140 million for employees, pensioners and for needy families. The PA still has three ministers present in Gaza, he added.
“We need rehabilitation, we need big support to return to Gaza,” Abbas said.
“Gaza today is not the Gaza that you know. Gaza was destroyed, its hospitals, its schools, its infrastructure, its buildings, its roads and mosques were destroyed. There is nothing left. When we return we need resources, Gaza needs reconstruction.”
“The United States which fully supports Israel bears the responsibility of what is happening in the enclave,” Abbas said.
“It is the only power that is capable of ordering Israel to stop the war and fulfil its obligations, but unfortunately it doesn’t. America is an accomplice of Israel.”