Turkiye’s growing military exports to Russia prompt US scrutiny, urgent diplomatic visit

Special Turkiye’s growing military exports to Russia prompt US scrutiny, urgent diplomatic visit
Flags of Turkey, Russia, the United Nations and Ukraine are seen on the day of a signing ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, July 22, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 November 2023
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Turkiye’s growing military exports to Russia prompt US scrutiny, urgent diplomatic visit

Turkiye’s growing military exports to Russia prompt US scrutiny, urgent diplomatic visit
  • US Treasury officials have been concerned that Turkiye’s export of products to Russia could serve both commercial and military purposes
  • US has imposed sanctions on Turkish electronics supplier Azint Elektronik over its alleged shipping of high-priority goods, such as electronic integrated circuits, to Russia

ANKARA: Turkiye has found itself under heightened US scrutiny over a rise in the export of potentially sanctions-busting goods to Russia.

US Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson was this week due in Ankara and Istanbul to follow up on American fears that Turkiye could inadvertently be fueling Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

Nelson, making his second visit to Turkiye this year, will investigate trade activities that may unintentionally be aiding Russia’s war efforts through third-party exports.

He was expected to hold talks with Turkish officials on preventive measures to curb the flow of dual-use goods that could indirectly benefit Russia’s military pursuits.

In a statement on its website, the US Department of the Treasury said: “In Turkiye, a NATO ally, undersecretary Nelson will also discuss efforts to prevent, disrupt, and investigate trade and financial activity that benefit the Russian effort in its war against Ukraine.”

During the first nine months of this year, Turkiye has seen record exports of 45 goods, valued at 158 million euros ($173 million), to Moscow and five ex-Soviet nations — Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The figure represents a threefold increase on the same period at the start of the Ukraine conflict.

Among the exported items were microchips classified as “high priority” by Washington.

US officials revealed instances where dual-use parts ostensibly bound for intermediary nations were, in fact, reaching Russia directly. For example, while Kazakhstan reported imports of high-priority goods from Turkiye valued at $6.1 million, Turkish official data revealed exports to Kazakhstan reaching a record $66 million during the same period.

Western assessments have indicated that some high-priority goods from Turkiye have been applied to the production of drones, helicopters, and cruise missiles.

Turkiye has strong trade and diplomatic ties with Moscow, but US Treasury officials have been recently concerned about the country’s export of products to Russia that could serve both commercial and military purposes.

Ankara has not formally joined Western sanctions against Russia for fear of damaging the Turkish economy. However, the US recently imposed sanctions on Turkish electronics supplier, Azint Elektronik, over its alleged shipping of high-priority goods, such as electronic integrated circuits, to Russia.

Rich Outzen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Arab News: “Maintaining non-military trade with Russia remains an integral part of Turkish economic diplomacy.”

Five Turkish companies were among firms faced with American sanctions in September for dispatching sensors and measuring tools to Russia, providing repair services to vessels linked to the Russian Defense Ministry, and shipping electronic components of US and European origin to Russian firms.

Outzen noted that private Turkish companies could well fall foul of US sanctions over their exports to Russia while government entities may escape them unless there was clear evidence of a coordinating role.

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and chairman of the Istanbul-based think tank EDAM, told Arab News: “The visit of Nelson will also be an opportunity for the US to iterate its concerns about the ongoing trade.

“There are a number of product groups that are under the radar of US and EU authorities where Turkiye is expected to do more in terms of curtailing trade with Russia.

“Turkish authorities will indeed take on board these concerns and examine more closely trade with Russia on these products in concern.

“Also, given that ultimately the total affected exports are around $158 million, while some of them are re-exported products, there is little value-added that remains in Turkiye, which is not a reason why Turkish authorities should actually heed the concerns of its partners in the West,” Ulgen said.

Nelson’s visit to Turkiye comes as the country continued its long-standing efforts to procure F-16 fighter jets from the US, or alternatively, source Eurofighters.

“Especially at this moment, when Turkiye tries to normalize its ties, Ankara would not want to be affected by additional sanctions from the West, even though they essentially target companies and individuals that are party to this trade.

“This visit would be an opportunity for both parties to essentially seek a convergence on trade policies with Russia,” Ulgen added.

The trade volume between Turkiye and Russia was this year expected to exceed $65 billion. It surged in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the heightened sanctions regime of the West against Moscow.

Last year, Russia was Turkiye’s main import partner with goods valued at $58.85 billion, a threefold increase on the same period in 2021.


Hamas says it launched two missile salvos from southern Lebanon into northern Israel

Hamas says it launched two missile salvos from southern Lebanon into northern Israel
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Hamas says it launched two missile salvos from southern Lebanon into northern Israel

Hamas says it launched two missile salvos from southern Lebanon into northern Israel

DUBAI: The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas on Wednesday said it launched two missile salvos consisting of 40 Grad missiles from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
Al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement on its Telegram channel it had bombed the headquarters of the 769th Eastern Brigade and the airport barracks in Beit Hilal.


Rocket fire reported off Yemen in Red Sea in a new suspected attack by Houthi rebels

A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 28 February 2024
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Rocket fire reported off Yemen in Red Sea in a new suspected attack by Houthi rebels

A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen. (REUTERS file photo)
  • The attack comes as the Houthis continue a series of assaults at sea over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and as the US and its allies launch airstrikes trying to stop them

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: A rocket exploded late Tuesday night off the side of a ship traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, authorities said, the latest suspected attack to be carried out by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The attack comes as the Houthis continue a series of assaults at sea over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and as the US and its allies launch airstrikes trying to stop them.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center, which oversees shipping in the Mideast, reported the attack happened about 110 kilometers (70 miles) off the coast of the Houthi-held port city of Hodeida. The rocket exploded several miles off the bow of the vessel, it said.
“The crew and vessel are reported to be safe and are proceeding to next port of call,” the UKMTO said.
The private security firm Ambrey reported that the vessel targeted appeared to be a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier in the area at the time. Another ship, a Panama-flagged, Emirati-owned chemical tanker was nearby as well, Ambrey said.
The Associated Press could not immediately identify the vessels involved.
The Houthis typically take several hours to claim their assaults and have not yet done so for the assault late Tuesday.
Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.
Despite over a month of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. Last week, they severely damaged a ship in a crucial strait and downed an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars. The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

 


Israelis vote for municipal councils in test of public mood

Israelis vote for municipal councils in test of public mood
Updated 28 February 2024
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Israelis vote for municipal councils in test of public mood

Israelis vote for municipal councils in test of public mood
  • Most Palestinians in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in 1967 and later annexed, have the right to vote in municipal elections but not for parliament

JERUSALEM: Israelis voted Tuesday in twice postponed municipal elections that could offer a gauge of the public mood nearly five months into the war against Hamas in Gaza.
Soldiers had already cast their ballots over the past week at special polling stations set up in army encampments in Gaza as fighting raged.
Polls opened at 7:00 am (0500 GMT) and closed at 10:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, at which point turnout stood at around 49 percent, according to election authorities.
That was down from 59.5 percent in 2018.
Turnout in Jerusalem was 30.8 percent and in Tel Aviv it was 40 percent, the authorities said.
More than seven million people were eligible to vote in the elections for local councils across most of Israel, in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in Jerusalem and in parts of the annexed Golan Heights.
No major incidents were reported.
The vote, first scheduled for October 31, has been pushed back to November 2024 in towns and villages bordering the besieged Gaza Strip or Lebanon, where Hamas ally Hezbollah has fired rockets at Israel almost daily since the start of the Gaza war.
Nearly 150,000 Israelis have been displaced by hostilities in those areas.
Amit Peretz, 32, a Jerusalem city council candidate, said Jerusalem’s diverse make-up demands that “all voices are heard in the city in order to make everything work, because it’s very complex.”
Gita Koppel, an 87-year-old resident of Jerusalem, said she turned out because voting was “the only way you can have your voice heard.”
“I hope the right people come in and do the right thing for Jerusalem,” she said.
The elections were delayed after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 29,878 people in Gaza, most of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Two candidates for council chief in Gaza border areas were killed in the October 7 attack: Ofir Libstein in Kfar Aza and Tamar Kedem Siman Tov, who was shot dead at her home in Nir Oz with her husband and three young children.
In Jerusalem and other major cities, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish candidates aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political allies were running against government critics and more moderate candidates.
Netanyahu has faced increasing public pressure over the fate of hostages still held in Gaza, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.
Tel Aviv’s mayor of 25 years, Ron Huldai, is seeking re-election in a race against former economy minister Orna Barbivai, who could become the first woman in the job.
Lawyer Amir Badran, an Arab candidate who had initially announced he would run for Tel Aviv mayor, quit the race before election day but was still vying for a city council seat.
In Jerusalem, another Arab candidate, Sondos Alhoot, was running at the head of a joint Jewish-Arab party. If elected, she would be the first Arab woman on the city council since 1967.
The elections for municipal and regional councils are largely seen as local affairs, though some races can become springboards for politicians with national ambitions.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who had a brief stint as prime minister before Netanyahu returned to power in late 2022, said Tuesday’s vote shows “there is no problem” holding elections even during the war.
In a post on social media platform X, Lapid called for a snap parliamentary election “as soon as possible” to replace Netanyahu.
Most Palestinians in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in 1967 and later annexed, have the right to vote in municipal elections but not for parliament.
Palestinian residents make up around 40 percent of the city’s population, but many of them have boycotted past elections.
Second round run-offs will be held where necessary on March 10.


One quarter of Gaza’s people one step away from famine, UN says

One quarter of Gaza’s people one step away from famine, UN says
Updated 27 February 2024
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One quarter of Gaza’s people one step away from famine, UN says

One quarter of Gaza’s people one step away from famine, UN says
  • One in six children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition
  • WFP “is ready to swiftly expand and scale up our operations if there is a ceasefire agreement,” WFP Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said

UNITED NATIONS: At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip — one quarter of the population — are one step away from famine, a senior UN aid official told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that widespread famine could be “almost inevitable” without action.
One in six children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition and wasting and practically all the 2.3 million people in the Palestinian enclave rely on “woefully inadequate” food aid to survive, Ramesh Rajasingham, director of coordination for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the council.
The World Food Programme “is ready to swiftly expand and scale up our operations if there is a ceasefire agreement,” WFP Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau told the 15-member council.
“But in the meantime, the risk of famine is being fueled by the inability to bring critical food supplies into Gaza in sufficient quantities, and the almost impossible operating conditions faced by our staff on the ground,” he said.
The war in Gaza began when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza has since killed around 30,000 Palestinians, health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say.


US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning

US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning
Updated 27 February 2024
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US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning

US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning
  • “We do not want to see either side escalate the conflict in the north,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters
  • “The government of Israel has said publicly, and they have assured us privately, that they want to achieve a diplomatic path”

WASHINGTON: The United States called Tuesday for a focus on diplomacy to resolve tensions over Lebanon, after Israel warned it would pursue Hezbollah even if it achieves a ceasefire in Gaza.
“We do not want to see either side escalate the conflict in the north,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“The government of Israel has said publicly, and they have assured us privately, that they want to achieve a diplomatic path,” he said.
“That’s what we’re going to continue to pursue and, ultimately, that would make military action unnecessary.”
Miller added that Israel faced a “real security threat” with thousands of people who have fled their homes near Lebanon, calling it a “legitimate issue that needs to be addressed.”
Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement which is backed by Iran, have been exchanging fire since October 7, when Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a major attack inside Israel.
In retaliation, Israel launched a relentless military operation in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Raising fears of all-out war, Israel this week struck Hezbollah positions deep into Lebanese territory.
On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there would be no let-up in Israeli action against Hezbollah even if ongoing diplomacy succeeds in reaching a Gaza ceasefire and the release of hostages seized on October 7.
France, with US support, has been pushing a plan in which Hezbollah and allied fighters would withdraw to around 12 kilometers (eight miles) from the border and Israel would halt attacks.