Erdogan reiterates Turkiye’s expectations before Sweden becomes NATO member

Erdogan reiterates Turkiye’s expectations before Sweden becomes NATO member
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2023
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Erdogan reiterates Turkiye’s expectations before Sweden becomes NATO member

Erdogan reiterates Turkiye’s expectations before Sweden becomes NATO member
  • Sweden must deal with ‘terrorists’ on its streets, says Turkiye leader
  • Ankara hopes to break deadlock with US on purchase of F-16 fighter jets

ANKARA: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his administration’s expectations of Sweden regarding NATO membership approval, which includes the latter nation dealing with “terrorists” — a seeming reference to the country allowing protests by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Turkiye’s perceived reluctance to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession has seen the country deadlocked with the US over a deal to acquire a fleet of new F-16 fighter jets.

During a recent exclusive interview with the US broadcaster PBS in New York, Erdogan said: “We have repeatedly stated that we were ready to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO, but Sweden is supposed to rise up to the occasion and keep their promises, because, on the streets of Stockholm, we still see terrorists wandering around freely.”

The discussion also touched on Turkiye’s diplomatic relationships, including its ties with Russia and Western nations, and addressed key issues such as NATO enlargement and the F-16 deal.

Sweden’s bid to join NATO will be assessed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly for final ratification when parliament — where Erdogan’s ruling party and its allies hold a majority — returns from recess at the beginning of October.

“This is a part of the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly,” Erdogan said. “The assembly will see the situation within the framework of its own calendar.”

But Erdogan has yet to submit the Swedish accession protocol to parliament, and the ratification process is not expected to proceed quickly once the house convenes.

Sweden could also be asked to provide Turkish officials with a roadmap — as agreed in the July NATO summit — to specify its counterterrorism efforts.

“While Sweden has carried out legislative amendments, we believe that more action is needed,” Erdogan added.

According to Hakan Akbas, founder of Strategic Advisory Services, a political consulting firm based in Istanbul and Washington, there is a trust deficit in US-Turkiye relations.

“Erdogan’s foreign policy of friends-with-benefits is in play also with Sweden’s accession to NATO in return for the $20 billion sale of F-16s to Ankara. A back-channel deal has been made pending the ratification by the Turkish parliament in early October,” he told Arab News.

Several experts also underline that the absence of an invitation from the White House to the Turkiye leader increases the feeling of distrust among Ankara’s policymakers, while any further move to delay Sweden’s membership ratification is expected to infuriate the US which attaches great importance to NATO’s expansion.

Akbas expects the Joe Biden administration to write to the Senate about the sale, and US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan will need to make sure there is no veto this time.

“As the Ukraine-Russia war goes on with no end in sight, Sweden’s NATO membership is more critical than ever. On the other hand, there are US presidential elections next year. Erdogan knows how important this accession is to the US and Sweden. He appears to attempt squeezing more last-minute concessions from Sweden until the parliamentary approval,” he said.

Turkiye has long requested the jets, especially after it was removed from the F-35 warplane program in 2019 over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. But the sale of 40 new F-16s as well as kits to upgrade the jets have faced opposition from US lawmakers, and turned it into a bargaining chip.

In July, Sullivan said the Biden administration intends to move ahead with the sale to Turkiye in consultation with Congress, but rejected suggestions that Turkiye’s lifting of its opposition to Sweden’s NATO accession was linked to the deal.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reportedly been having talks with US lawmakers regarding the potential sale, some are still skeptical and want Sweden’s accession bid ratified.

For Paul T. Levin, director of Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, Erdogan’s primary objective is to secure the F-16 deal.

“For that purpose, he wants to maintain his leverage until that deal is sealed, using the claim that the Turkish parliament might still reject it as a bargaining tactic,” he told Arab News.

“In terms of what was actually agreed in NATO’s Vilnius Summit, he promised not just to submit the ratification to the Grand National Assembly for ratification, but also to work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification. However, that promise does not seem to be worth much at the moment,” Levin added.

Levin said that even if an agreement is reached with the US Congress to proceed with the F-16 deal, pro-PKK — the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party — demonstrations and Qur’an burnings in Sweden could still pose challenges to ratification.

He pointed out that Swedish law limits what the authorities can do to prevent such actions, despite ongoing investigations into Qur’an burners for hate crimes.

To alleviate Turkiye’s security concerns, NATO also committed to increasing its efforts in counter-terrorism cooperation by establishing a special coordinator.

In the PBS interview, Erdogan alluded to his close ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, by saying: “To the extent the West is reliable, Russia is equally reliable. For the last 50 years, we have been waiting at the doorstep of the EU and, at this moment in time, I trust Russia just as much as I trust the West.”

Before heading to New York, Erdogan also suggested Turkiye could end its EU membership bid.

According to Levin, the PBS interview made clear that Erdogan’s Turkiye is not a natural member of the Western alliance.

“He trusts Putin and Russia just as much as he does the West. His Turkiye wants to be an independent power, not a subservient ally. The hopes that Turkiye would turn toward the West in any meaningful way after the elections are naive,” he said.

Levin said he believes that Erdogan’s repeated references to Turkiye’s decades-long wait at Europe’s door might reflect psychological motivations for obstructing Sweden’s NATO accession.

“There is a sense of hurt pride and satisfaction of now being able to turn the tables and give Europe — with Sweden as the stand-in for the continent — the medicine it long dished out to Turkiye. That is understandable but also unfair since Sweden actually was a strong supporter of Turkiye’s EU accession,” he said.


El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
Updated 5 sec ago
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El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
  • El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity for an immediate ceasefire
  • Al-Burhan expressed his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s support

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday received Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, president of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan, at Cairo International Airport.

An official reception ceremony took place at Al-Ittihadiya Palace, at which the national anthems were played and guards of honor inspected.

The meeting focused on recent developments in Sudan and efforts to resolve its crisis.

The main goal is to restore stability while ensuring sovereignty, unity, and cohesion of the Sudanese state and its institutions.

The meeting was an attempt to meet the Sudanese people’s desire for safety and stability.

Ahmed Fahmy, the presidential spokesman, said that El-Sisi focused on the solid historic relations between the two countries, emphasizing Egypt’s support in enhancing cooperation.

The president stressed Egypt’s commitment to Sudan’s security and offered full support to achieve political, security, and economic stability.

He affirmed Egypt’s commitment to supporting Sudan’s unity and resolving ongoing conflicts.

He added that the two countries shared a close relationship, which made it necessary to ensure national security.

The president spoke of Egypt’s ongoing role in helping to alleviate the humanitarian impact of the current crisis within Sudan.

Al-Burhan expressed his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s support. He highlighted the long-standing ties between the two countries, while saying that Egypt’s role in hosting Sudanese citizens and mitigating the crisis provided evidence of its continued friendship.

The parties also discussed the situation in Gaza and regional issues of mutual concern.

El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity of an immediate ceasefire and the urgent need to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

They also agreed to continue consultations and coordination to help benefit the populations of Egypt and Sudan.

The Sudanese leader made an official visit to Egypt in August last year, his first following the start of his country’s conflict in April. Al-Burhan and El-Sisi met in the city of Alamein in northern Egypt.


Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
  • Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization
  • Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stressed “categorical Palestinian rejection” of the principles announced in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called post-war plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization.

His plan, which brings together a range of well-established Israeli positions, underlines Netanyahu’s resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state which he sees as a security threat.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has received a written message from Abbas which calls for a global conference to adopt a comprehensive peace plan with international guarantees and a timeline for implementation of the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Abbas has called on the league to support Palestine in obtaining full membership of the UN.

The message urged countries that have not yet recognized Palestine to do so.

Aboul Gheit received Ambassador Muhannad Al-Aklouk, representative of Palestine to the bloc, at the headquarters of the general secretariat, and Al-Aklouk had brought a message from Abbas.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for the Arab League chief, said that the president’s message included a categorical Palestinian rejection of the principles announced by the Israeli prime minister for the so-called “day after of the war.”

The message included a warning of the danger of those principles — especially the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and insisting on imposing Israeli sovereignty on the land extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip and perpetuate the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through plans to build thousands of settlement units.

Rushdi said that the message warned that the goal of the Israeli government was not only to undermine the chances of peace based on the two-state solution, but also to intensify ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

The president’s message included the affirmation that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority is ready to assume the responsibilities of governance in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and is prepared to work toward establishing security and peace, as well as stability, in the region within the framework of a comprehensive peace plan.

The message called on the Arab League’s chief to continue working for a ceasefire; the provision of humanitarian aid; the return of displaced people to their homes in the north; the prevention of their displacement; and a halt to Israel’s expansionist plans and practices in the Gaza Strip.

Aboul Gheit confirmed to Al-Aklouk that he would continue to work to achieve all the goals highlighted in the president’s message — most notably an immediate ceasefire, working to bring aid in urgently and sustainably, and standing with full force against the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit stressed that stopping the war remained a fundamental priority for the Arab League and its member states.

He reiterated that the Palestinians, Arabs, and the world always rejected the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit pointed out that addressing the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israeli aggression could not be achieved in isolation from a settlement aiming at the emergence of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

He emphasized that the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves.

Aboul Gheit added that the continuation of the occupation was no longer possible and that the two-state solution remained the only formula capable of achieving security, peace, and stability between Palestinians and Israelis in the region and the world.


Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
  • Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes
  • Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan

JERUSALEM: Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.
Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.
That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas’ cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.
But Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.
“The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.
He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.
A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a “capitulation to terror,” and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
Updated 29 February 2024
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Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
  • Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them

MOSUL, Iraq: A Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq on Thursday killed two fighters from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Iraqi security sources said.
Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them, two security sources told Reuters.
There has been a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK, YBS and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which are all regarded as terrorist groups by Ankara.


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 29 February 2024
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.