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[*] posted on 5-8-2017 at 12:31 PM
TURKEY, Erdogan or not

German Magazine: German Company Rheinmetall Met with Turkish Government in 2015 to Talk Army Upgrade

(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Aug 03, 2017)

German arms firm Rheinmetall and President Tayyip Erdogan met in 2015 in Istanbul to plan fabrication of tanks in Turkey, says the German magazine Stern. The plan is now deemed "nonactive," but it had been well advanced.

Stern said Rheinmetall's plan, first exposed by a journalistic consortium last March, foresaw a joint venture in Turkey to produce 1,000 tanks worth 7 billion euros ($8.3 billion) in total.

Intended was a Turkish-designed tank, the Altay, equipped with German technology, which could be fitted with a bulldozer-like shovel, "practical" for dealing with street protests.

Stern fronted its article in this week's edition with what it said was previously secret photograph of the gathering at Istanbul's Yildiz Palace in November 2015. One of the authors of the story, Hans-Martin Tillack, tweeted the photo with the caption "Tomorrow in #Stern: How #Rheinmetall got President Erdogan's "political blessing" for a tank factory."

Visible were Erdogan, three Rheinmetall managers, and business partners from Malaysia and Turkey, including the leading Turkish vehicles firm BMC.

The photograph's emergence coincides with persistent debate in Germany about Turkey-EU links and arms exports.

Before crackdown

Chronologically, that 2015 meeting came eight months prior to last year's coup attempt that has since resulted in a massive crackdown by Erdogan's administration.

Stern said it had also obtained a 16-page Rheinmetall presentation that "sketched how the German concern could upgrade Erdogan's army."

That document indicated that in 2015 the Turkish president had already given the intended joint venture his "personal blessing," Stern said.

"The partners from Turkey and Malaysia needed Rheinmetall not so much because of the technology, but because of its [Rheinmetall's] good connections to Erdogan," Stern claimed.

One of the key figures was a Malaysian tycoon, who, according to Stern, became a stakeholder in the Turkish joint venture in the second half of 2016.

The intended joint venture's key player was the Izmir-based BMC, which largely makes Turkish trucks and buses. Rheinmetall had a 40-percent stake in the once intended venture, according to the German news agency DPA.

"Until now, [German] armaments firms need a permit from the government, if they want to export weapons or blueprints for weapons – not, however, if they send experts into countries such as Turkey to provide 'technical support'," Stern said, in a reference to German debate about the ethics of arms exports.

In May, shareholders at Rheinmetall's general meeting in Berlin elected former German defense minister Franz Josef Jung of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) to the concern's supervisory board.

Venture plan 'inactive'

The magazine said Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government had to date not criticized the envisaged project and it quoted a Rheinmetall spokesman as saying that the joint venture was "at the moment nonactive."

Last March, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall said it still planned to tender for contracts in Turkey.

"Turkey remains as before an important trading partner for Germany, a fully integrated NATO partner and as before an EU accession candidate," said Rheinmetall, adding that whether venture with BMC proceeded hinged on clearance or not from Germany's government.

A concern spokesman said Rheinmetall only planned to modernize German Leopard II tanks already in NATO-partner Turkey. "A tank factory of Rheinmetall in Turkey doesn't exist," the spokesman asserted.

In March, opposition German Left party parliamentarian Sevim Dagdelen told Stern that Rheinmetall's intended partnership was a "monstrous affair."

Opposition Greens party spokesman Omid Nouripour described the matter as "absolute madness."

Disarmament protest

In June, at Germany's Protestant church convention in Berlin, activists of the citizens group Campact displayed banners with the slogan "No tanks for Erdogan" during an speech by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Gabriel at the time called for disarmament world-wide and criticized President Donald Trump for US plans to massively boost arms supplies to Saudi Arabia.

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[*] posted on 26-9-2017 at 11:47 AM

Turkey accuses US, Germany of arms embargo

By: Burak Ege Bekdil   6 hours ago

Turkish Minister of Defence Nurettin Canikli delivers a speech during an emergency session on a government request to extend military operations in neighboring Iraq and Syria at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on Sept. 23, 2017. The minister says “several U.S. and German companies” were implementing a “covered” [indirect] arms embargo on Turkey. (Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has officially accused the United States and Germany of imposing an arms embargo against the country.

Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli has said that “several U.S. and German companies” were implementing a “covered” [indirect] arms embargo on Turkey.

He said those U.S. and German producers were either halting shipments of spare parts of weapons systems to Turkey, or deliberately delaying them.

A senior Turkish diplomat dealing with NATO matters confirmed that some Turkish requests for systems and subsystems have not been addressed by the U.S. and Germany.

“These are systems we need in our fight against terror organizations,” he said, without further elaborating.

A European industry source said that British and French manufacturers could be looking to replace U.S. and German companies in the Turkish market.

“Britain and France have a more pragmatic approach [toward Turkey] than the U.S. and Germany,” the source said. “British and French companies may soon queue up to win Turkish contracts that the Ankara government finds difficult to procure from the U.S. and German companies.”

Ankara has been at odds with Washington over U.S. support for Syrian Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey views Syrian Kurds as a terrorist group while the U.S. considers them allies in fighting radical Islamic militants in Syria.

Turkey’s ties with Germany too have been badly stained this year after several rounds of allegations against Turkey over human rights violations. Germany advocates that the European Union should stop membership talks with Turkey.
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[*] posted on 26-9-2017 at 11:50 AM

Caterpillar in talks over engine for Turkey's Altay tank

By: Burak Ege Bekdil   5 hours ago

Caterpillar and engine-maker Perkins have expressed interest in the power pack for Turkey's indigenous Altay tank program. (Seth Perlman/AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish procurement officials are in talks with the British-based European division of U.S. company Caterpillar over a plan to produce and supply an engine for the Altay, an indigenous, new-generation Turkish tank in the making.

Caterpillar and its U.K.-based partner, engine-maker Perkins, have expressed interest in the power pack for the Altay program, consisting of engine and transmission, Turkish officials said.

“The Caterpillar option is part of a broad defense industry cooperation emerging between Turkey and Britain,” one procurement official said.

Earlier in September, Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik brought together Turkish and British defense companies, including Caterpillar-Perkins.

Britain’s ambassador to Ankara, Richard Moore, said: “Our defense [industry] cooperation is further improving.”

Under the Altay program, Turkey will produce an initial batch of 250 units. The multibillion-dollar program aims to produce 1,000 tanks in total.

In August Turkey’s defense procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries invited three Turkish manufacturers to bid for the serial production of the Altay. The contenders are BMC; Otokar, which designed and produced prototypes of the Altay; and FNSS.

Turkey also is in talks with MTU, a German engine maker, and Renk, producer of transmission, for the Altay. But political tension between Turkey and Germany may block any German power solution for the Turkish tank, analysts and officials say.

In addition, Turkish authorities are looking to “nearly 20 options around the globe” for the power pack they need for the Altay, “including in Russia and China.”
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[*] posted on 27-9-2017 at 04:17 PM

US State Department denies Turkish accusations of arms embargo

By: Aaron Mehta   9 hours ago

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a May meeting at the White House. A top Turkish official has accused the U.S. of implementing a de facto arms embargo. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON ― The U.S. State Department is denying charges from Turkish officials that an unofficial arms embargo has been placed against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli recently claimed that “several U.S. and German companies” were implementing a “covered” [indirect] arms embargo on Turkey. He added that those U.S. and German producers were either halting shipments of spare parts of weapons systems to Turkey, or deliberately delaying them.

However, a State Department official, speaking on background to Defense News, flatly denied that charge.

“There is no ‘covered arms embargo’ in place for Turkey,” the official said. “We continue to review all potential arms sales on a case-by-case basis, as is consistent with the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.”

The official added that the U.S. is in “close communication” with Turkish counterparts to “address any concerns.”

While there may not be a state-driven embargo in place, the U.S. has been known to deny requests for equipment from various nations over human rights concerns. Human rights issues have driven a wedge between Turkey and Germany, also the target of Canikli’s claims.

The Trump administration last week scuttled a planned U.S. sale of small arms for Erdogan’s bodyguards amid congressional pressure. The sale attracted intense scrutiny in the wake of assaults carried out by Erdogan’s security forces against American protesters during a May visit to Washington.

In early September, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure that would ban weapon sales to that group. The House passed similar language earlier in the year, and a $1.2 million sale of handguns for Erdogan’s security forces has been shelved indefinitely as a result of those attacks.

In the wake of news the Trump administration is mulling plans to ease export rules for American small arms, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin, said Tuesday it looked like an effort to skirt congressional oversight for sales like the one to Ankara. The move would shift international non-military firearms sales from the purview of the U.S. State Department, which must seek congressional approval, to the U.S. Commerce Department.

“It does look like an end-run around Congress,” said Cardin, of Maryland, who called the move “a direct affront” to congressional oversight.

“Our strong feeling is that we want the State Department to do what we believe the regulations were intended to do, which is focus on highly-sensitive technologies where our edge or our troops would be endangered,” the State Department’s acting assistant secretary of political-military affairs, Tina Kaidanow, told Cardin at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Joe Gould in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
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[*] posted on 27-10-2017 at 07:12 PM

NATO official: Turkey faces ‘consequences’ if purchase of S-400 completed

By: Aaron Mehta   1 day ago

Turkey announced its choice to buy the Russian S-400 in September, but is yet to sign final paperwork on the deal. (Paul Gypteau/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A top NATO official has warned of “necessary consequences” for Turkey should the alliance member purchase a Russian air-defense system.

Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, said Wednesday that while each nation is free to make its own defense decisions, Turkey’s planned buy of the S-400 system would preclude Anakara from being part of any integrated air-defense system with NATO allies, and may result in other technical restrictions.

“The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in acquisition of defense equipment, but the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision,” Pavel told a group of reporters hosted by the Defense Writers Group.

While Turkey announced its choice of the S-400 in September, Ankara has yet to sign final paperwork on the deal, and until they do, Pavel said it is “fair among allies to have that discussion, to raise all concerns and potential difficulties.”

Other concerns raised by Pavel about the system were “most security” focused, noting that even if NATO missile defense systems are not integrated with the S-400, its mere presence “creates challenges for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that country.”

Notably, Turkey is both a partner nation and a sustainment hub for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, which is central to the future air power of several NATO nations, including the U.S. and the U.K. Some experts have questioned if an S-400 system active in Turkey could gain information about the stealthy jet that could have operational impact down the line.

Still, Pavel said Turkey remains a key part of NATO, even as outside groups have raised concerns that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sliding away from democracy.

“When it comes to democratic deficits, show me one single nation that is perfect. No one is perfect,” Pavel said. “No one challenges the role of Turkey as an important ally at the very difficult crossroads of challenges to the alliance.”
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[*] posted on 14-12-2017 at 11:10 PM

Turkey’s Defense Spending Hike Highlights Modernization

Turkey will receive its first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in 2018

Dec 14, 2017

Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Prickly Relations

Eighteen months after a failed coup sent ripples through both the country and its armed forces, Turkey’s relations with its Western NATO allies have cooled significantly.

While Ankara remains an important strategic partner of the North Atlantic alliance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April constitutional referendum to further strengthen his political power and the country’s recent rapprochement with Russia have alarmed NATO officials.

They are particularly concerned about Ankara’s on-and-off decision to buy the Russian S-400 air and missile defense system. Allied officials cite incompatibility with the alliance’s air and missile defense network and say they would be unwilling to integrate it because of security concerns.

But Erdogan says the purchase is necessary because the West has denied Turkey a comparable system.

Ankara also has had a fractious relationship with Europe-based nations in 2017, with both the Dutch and German governments openly criticized by Erdogan. Ankara barred German politicians from visiting German military personnel at Incirlik airbase, where they had been based supporting the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

The situation became so contentious that the German contingent pulled up stakes and moved to Jordan instead.

Turkey’s frustration, however, has been primarily vented at the U.S., which, it says, has been arming the Syrian Kurdish militia group, the YPG, as part of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State. But Ankara contends that the YPG has direct links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, against which Turkey has been fighting a bloody insurgency for decades. However, in late November, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly told Turkish officials that the transfer of equipment to the YPG was being reviewed, a move that could help stabilize the West’s relationship with Turkey.

During 2018, Turkey is planning a significant hike in defense spending, with annual expenditure set to rise from 28.7 billion Turkish lira ($7.28 billion) in 2017 to 40.2 billion lira. A significant proportion of the additional funding will be focused on defense equipment modernization.

An engine choice for Turkey’s TF-X indigenous fighter should emerge early in 2018. Credit: Turkish Aerospace Industries

Over the coming months, Turkey is expected to decide on, at the very least, the engine choice for the prototype/demonstrator of the indigenous T-FX fighter aircraft, whose development is being supported by Britain’s BAE Systems. Ankara is continuing to look for new industrial partner nations for the program. At the same time, it will also take delivery of its first Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, of which it plans to purchase around 100 to replace its McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms.

The Turkish Air Force is also set to take delivery of its first locally produced Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Anka medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs and its first TAI Hurkus turboprop trainers, while development of a light-attack derivative of that platform is ongoing. Local development of a fleet of armed UAVs will also proceed, with larger platforms now at the top of the government’s shopping list following the success of tactical platforms such as the Baykar Makina Bayraktar TB2.

Other indigenous programs include ongoing development of the Milgem corvette, which is attracting overseas interest, as well as a new amphibious assault ship, the TCG Anadolu, based on a Spanish Navantia design and being constructed in Istanbul.

Turkey has ambitions to use the ship as a light aircraft carrier potentially operating the short-takeoff-and-landing version of the F-35 from it, although no order for that version has been placed. Work is ongoing to develop the SOM-J standoff missile and to advance the Roketsan Mizrak-U (UMTAS) anti-tank and Cirit lightweight missile families. Work is also underway on the development of a family of locally designed air-to-air missiles. Development of the Altay indigenous main battle tank is also progressing.

Realistically though, Turkey’s ambitious plans for modernization will be challenged by the severe weakening of the lira on the foreign exchange markets.
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[*] posted on 28-12-2017 at 11:42 AM

Turkey’s Erdogan decrees sweeping defense procurement takeover

By: Burak Ege Bekdil   9 hours ago

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has passed new laws granting him full authority over defense procurement and control over Turkey’s top defense companies.

The Dec. 24 decree of a state of emergency forces the country’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, to directly report to Erdogan. SSM was previously under the defense minister’s authority.

According to decree No. 696, SSM’s personnel will be appointed with the president’s approval.

The decree also authorizes the president to call for and chair meetings of the Defence Industry Executive Committee, or SSIK, Turkey’s panel that oversees top procurement decisions and national arms programs. The committee’s other members are the prime minister, interior minister, defense minister and chief of the military general staff. SSM will operate the committee’s secretariat. SSIK was previously chaired by the prime minister.

Erdogan has been largely running Turkey with state of emergency decrees after a failed coup in July 2016 that aimed to topple his government. In April, the Turks narrowly voted to pass constitutional amendments that gave Erdogan almost unchecked powers in a new “executive presidential system.”

Before the April referendum, the prime minister had the executive powers, while the president had a largely ceremonial role.

After ruling Turkey for 12 years, Erdogan in 2014 was elected as Turkey’s president and has since expanded his powers.

The state of emergency decree No. 696 also brought a critical foundation under the control of Erdogan. The Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, or TSKGV, which owns majority shares in Turkey’s top defense companies, will now report to the president. Before the decree, it reported to the defense minister.

The decree empowers the president to act as chairman of TSKGV’s board. Other board members are the defense minister, deputy chief of the military general staff, undersecretary to the defense minister and SSM’s undersecretary.

Some of the Turkish companies controlled by TSKGV are military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defense company; Turkish Aerospace Industries; Tusas Engine Industries; missile-maker Roketsan; and military software specialist Havelsan. All of these companies are considered top defense companies in Turkey.

A senior government official from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party said the decree reflects the president’s notorious interest in the defense industry and indigenous programs.

“It is not a secret that our president views many of our indigenous programs as his pet projects,” he said. “It is not surprising that he has officially taken charge of these programs, as the April referendum gave him the authority to act as an executive president.”

Some industry sources think the new decree will not change much in the way Turkish programs are run.

“The decree only formalizes a de facto situation in which Erdogan was the procurement boss,” a Western company’s Turkey executive said. “From our point of view, there will not be much change.”

Other industry sources expect the decree to boost Erdogan’s involvement in procurement and programs.

“It is true that there was a de facto situation before the decree. But that was an anomaly, legally speaking. Now that that situation is de jure, I think the president will feel more liberty to personally administer critical decisions, especially in milestone programs,” an Ankara-based industry official said.

“This will further centralize decision-making in the Turkish system,” according to a London-based Turkey specialist. “With the procurement and military bureaucracy weakened, the president will run a one-man show.”

However, the government official disagreed. “The president’s decisions on major programs, local or international, will be based on skilfully crafted input and deliberations coming from the procurement and military bureaucracies, sometimes even from the Foreign [Affairs] Ministry,” he said.

Erdogan’s interest in defense procurement and indigenous programs is not new. In 2014, a draft bill empowered then-Prime Minister Erdogan to extend the terms of top brass. The bill meant that the annual reshuffle in top brass underscored a visible shift in power from the generals to civilians in controlling defense procurement.

In the 1990s, Turkish generals had the upper hand in procurement decisions. Since Erdogan rose to power in 2002, the military’s role in politics and procurement has significantly diminished.

With his new powers, Erdogan will now select a contender for the serial production of the Altay, Turkey’s first indigenous main battle tank in the making. He will finalize an emerging deal with Russia for the purchase of four S-400 systems that will make Turkey’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system.

Erdogan also will oversee Turkey’s parallel talks to co-produce a similar air defense architecture with know-how from the European Eurosam consortium, maker of the SAMP/T system.
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[*] posted on 3-1-2018 at 01:08 PM

Erdogan’s Turkey: The Role Of A Little Known Islamist Poet

By Svante Cornell

on January 02, 2018 at 3:14 PM

When President Trump announced that the US had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the region prepared for violence. Aside from a few days of sporadic protests, relatively little happened. Most Arab leaders – Saudi Arabia chief among them – took the decision in their stride. The one major exception was Turkey. This intriguing op-ed explores why the NATO ally has reacted as it has. Read on! The Editor.

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has a penchant for conspiracy. In recent years, he has frequently blamed foreign “masterminds” for all problems plaguing Turkey and the Muslim world. Following President Trump’s announcement, Erdoğan called an emergency summit of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, benefiting from his country’s rotating presidency of that organization, which enabled him to cast himself as the leader of the Muslim world.

Speaking two days later at an award ceremony, Erdoğan outdid himself: “if Jerusalem goes, we will lose Medina. If Medina goes, we will lose Mecca. If Mecca goes, we will lose the Kaaba!”
Where does this vitriol come from? Dismissing it as rhetoric from an embattled regime would be a mistake. Anti-Israel animus and a penchant for conspiracy theories involving global Jewry have been a constant in Erdoğan’s shifting domestic alliances and foreign policy initiatives.

Erdoğan’s December 15 speech was symbolic indeed: the occasion betrayed more than meets the eye. Erdoğan uttered his warning at the awards celebrating the Islamist poet and writer Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904-83), who was the intellectual mentor not only for Erdoğan, but for a large portion of the current political elite in Turkey.

Kısakürek was once a marginal figure in Turkey. While educated partially in France, Kısakürek grew to abhor the West, and to see it as the root of all evil. But like many contemporary Islamists, he incorporated European fascist ideas, two of which stand out. The first was his rejection of democracy, and his advocacy instead for a political system led by an “exalted ruler” – a totalitarian Islamist and nationalist regime built on Sunni Islam and Turkish ethnicity, which envisaged the ethnic cleansing of other, less desirable groups.

Second, Kısakürek harbored a strong hatred for Jews and their imagined sidekicks, the freemasons, who he believed were in cahoots, hell-bent on destroying Turkey. This hatred is obvious throughout his work, but was so strong that he devoted an entire book to the subject. He viewed the expulsion of Jews – and a Turkish community of Jewish converts to Islam called the dönme – as critical to the country’s survival. Once this cleansing was complete, Turkey would “shine like a diamond.”

This repulsive and once marginal figure is now widely celebrated: Turkish cabinet ministers regularly sing his praises.

Erdoğan himself once cited Kısakürek as the single person who influenced him the most, and his December 15 appearance was no exception: he makes a point out of appearing at events honoring the person he calls his “master,” and reciting his poetry.

Following the collapse of Turkey’s Middle East policies and the July 2016 failed coup, Erdoğan appeared to tone down his Islamist ideology and embrace a more nationalist persona. He also normalized relations with both Israel and Russia. And while the Turkish Jewish community has not been targeted for reprisals, the general atmosphere has led it to shrink rapidly.

In the midst of a sputtering economy, Erdoğan knows his Islamist ideology does not win elections. This is why he is in the midst of trying to co-opt the opposition Nationalist Action Party ahead of elections in coming years. While Israel-bashing will hardly cost Erdoğan any votes, it is not an issue that truly animates the Turkish public. Erdoğan’s hyperbole on Jerusalem is indicative of a broader trend: how the Islamist ideology that Kısakürek represents has become mainstream in Turkey. It is no longer marginal; in fact, it is actively propagated by many of Turkey’s media, schools and mosques. This worldview also forms the backdrop for Turkey’s central role for many Islamist organizations globally, which National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster spoke of on December 11.

Erdoğan’s reaction to the Jerusalem decision should not be construed as being only about Erdoğan. It is an indication of the country’s shifting identity. Finding ways to punish Erdoğan would not solve the deeper problem: Turkish society is rapidly slipping its western moorings. Whatever happens at the political level, it is time to take the long view, and devise ways to counter the ideological drift of this critical ally into a toxic blend of Islamism and ethnic nationalism.

Svante Cornell is director of the American Foreign Policy Council’s Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and policy advisor to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s Gemunder Center.
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[*] posted on 3-1-2018 at 02:46 PM

Does Turkish S-400 Deal Hint At New Pact With Moscow?

Jan 3, 2018

Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air defense system looks set to frustrate the relationship between Ankara and its NATO partners.

While other NATO countries are investing to free themselves of dependence on Russian defense equipment, it is unclear whether the purchase of the much-feared S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) will simply be a one-off buy or the beginning of a new defense relationship between Ankara and Moscow.

Under the $2.5 billion deal, signed on Dec. 29, Turkey will purchase two S-400 systems, although one will be optional, according to a statement from Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).

Russian Triumf in Turkey
- Turkish S-400 deal finally signed on Dec. 27; deliveries planned for 2020
- $2.5 billion deal covers two S-400 systems, although one is optional
- Deal signed mere months before Turkey receives first F-35s
- Turkey still working with Eurosam consortium to develop derivative of SAMP/T

The systems would be operated “entirely” under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces and would be used independently “without any external connection,” the SSM added, perhaps as an attempt to allay concerns that the systems would be operated by Russian advisors.

Delivery of the first system is expected in 2020, SSM added.

Signing off on such a deal with Russia just months before Turkey takes delivery of its first F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is unlikely to sit well with some U.S. lawmakers who sought to block the F-35 purchase. NATO allies will also be frustrated because they view the S-400 as being not only incompatible with, but also a potential security issue for the alliance’s wider missile defense network.

Two years ago, such a purchase would have appeared to be impossible: The two countries were at loggerheads after Turkey shot down a Russian Air Force Su-24 fighter bomber that briefly strayed into Turkish airspace during Russia’s operations in Syria.

Moscow reacted by imposing sanctions on Turkish imports, and Russian tour operators stopped selling vacation package tours to Turkey, severely impacting the tourism trade to that country.

“Ankara’s rapprochement with Moscow is real, albeit predicated on acquiescence to Russian terms,” says Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council. Along with the S-400 purchase, Turkey is also discussing two infrastructure programs with Russia—development of a gas pipeline and a nuclear power plant, he says.

Political observers suggest that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is buying the S-400s as a sop for internal consumption, showing the populace that Turkey can stand up to its NATO allies—particularly the U.S., with whom Erdogan has a particular beef.

Turkey is scheduled to take delivery of its first S-400 system in 2020. Credit: Sergey Malgavko/Sputnik

Ankara is disturbed by Washington’s support of Kurdish YPG fighters in Iraq, among other issues. Turkey says equipment handed to the YPG ended up in the hands of the Kurdish Worker’s Party. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S.’s Israel Embassy to Jerusalem also generated consternation here, as did the U.S. decision to halt issuing visas from its Turkish consulates over security concerns. This was reversed in the hours leading up to the S-400 contract signing, prompting several Turkish news outlets to make a link between the two.

Ankara is also frustrated by the U.S.’s continued unwillingness to hand over Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Islamic cleric who, Erdogan claims, was responsible for the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. And U.S. efforts to block access to key technologies, such as armed unmanned aerial systems, have led Turkey to initiate its own development program.

Turkish media reports also note that the early departure of U.S. and German Patriot batteries, deployed to the southeast of Turkey to provide protection against possible ballistic missile attacks from Syria, has exacerbated Ankara’s animosity.

One Spanish Patriot battery and an Italian SAMP/T system are continuing to hold the line, however.

The S-400 meets at least part of Turkey’s long-held desire for a missile defense system. A program to purchase such a system, called T-Loramids—Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defense System—was shelved in favor of the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp.’s HQ-9 system in late 2013. However, pressure from NATO citing incompatibility and security concerns prompted Ankara to halt that purchase. Western systems such as Patriot were deemed too expensive, as was the Russian S-300. The S-400 had never featured in the original T-Loramids offering, although Turkey had expressed an interest in the system in the past.

However, Turkey continues to pursue air defense system development via the European Eurosam consortium through a deal signed with Roketsan last July. This was further backed by an intergovernmental agreement between France, Italy and Turkey on air and missile defense, signed last November.

Eurosam hopes that a system based on the SAMP/T could still meet the T-Loramids requirements in the coming years.

But several key questions about the Turkish S-400 purchase remain, such as precise definitions of what constitutes an S-400 battalion, system or battery. Turkey’s national defense minister, Nurettin Canikli, says Turkey is purchasing two systems—four batteries in total.

A battalion/system usually comprises a command post, radar and 6-8 launchers that hold four missiles apiece. Furthermore, there are several options in terms of radars and missiles to equip those launchers, with differing capabilities and range.

Among the options is the 48N6 400-km-range (250-mi.) weapon, the missile usually associated with the system.
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[*] posted on 5-1-2018 at 01:41 PM

Will Trump Issue S-400 Waiver to Turkey? (excerpt)

(Source: Daily Sabah; posted Jan 04, 2018)

By Ragıp Soylu

In a regular visit to Washington last month, a senior Turkish opposition figure met with White House officials to talk about bilateral Turkish-American relations. Topics such as Syria and the now-resolved visa crisis were discussed, but another matter was more sensitive than he expected – Turkey's purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Öztürk Yılmaz, the deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), told journalists following his meeting that American officials, including Fiona Hill, President Trump's special assistant and senior director for Eurasia on the National Security Council, were seriously troubled by the Russian deal.

Sources in Washington, D.C. told me that the Trump administration was readying sanctions against Turkey over the sale. To solidify their message, a senior White House official told the CHP delegation that they wouldn't just stop with Turkey.

"American officials said they would also have to sanction Saudi Arabia if they go along with the preliminary deal with Moscow over a S-400 sale. They are pretty serious," the source told me.

Americans have repeatedly underlined that it is the Russia sanctions law that forces them to apply pressure on Turkey. The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, ratified by the U.S. Congress in July, mandates the U.S. president sanction people and companies that transact with Russia's defense sector.

According to the U.S. State Department, the manufacturer of S-400 systems, Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation, is among the Russian state companies that people must not deal with.

Turkey and Russia finally acknowledged last week that they have signed a deal for two batteries of S-400 missiles reportedly for $2.5 billion. So to speak, the sanctions might be on Trump's agenda within a very short time. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Daily Sabah website.

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[*] posted on 9-1-2018 at 06:22 PM

New long-range missile study may strengthen Turkey’s ties with France, Italy

By: Pierre Tran   11 hours ago

The terrain variant of the Aster 30 surface-to-air missile platform. (Michel Hans/MBDA)

PARIS — Eurosam and Turkish firms Aselsan and Roketsan have signed a contract with Turkey to study the possibility of producing a long-range missile.

“Scheduled to last 18 months, this definition study aims at preparing the development and production contract for the future system meeting the operational requirements of the Turkish Air Force,” MBDA and Thales said in a statement through their missile-based joint venture Eurosam.

Eurosam declined to comment on the value of the contract, signed Jan. 5 by Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Paris.

The contract for a definition study follows Turkey’s recent agreement with Russia for the supply of S-400 missiles, a deal that sparked concern among NATO partners.

The study will define Turkish requirements and architecture of the weapon system, which will be based on the Aster Block 1 New Technology missile and the accompanying future radar. If all goes well, the study will lead to a development and production contract for Turkey.

The study is expected to lead to cooperation between France, Italy and Turkey over a Turkish long-range air and missile defense program, with a weapon delivered around 2025, Eurosam said. The missile is intended to hit ballistic and cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and UAVs.

The planned weapon is intended to meet the partner nations’ “basic operational needs” while guaranteeing Turkey “full employment autonomy” and “sovereign choice of integration within NATO,” the joint venture said. The work is expected to support Turkey’s domestic programs and open up export prospects among France, Italy and Turkey.

Turkey has long been seen as a potential partner for the Aster missile.

France and Italy are working on development of the MBDA Aster Block 1 NT missile, seeking to extend the range of the Aster 30 and its ability to hit incoming ballistic missiles and other threats.

The NT upgrade would allow the Aster 30 to hit enemy missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers. The Block 1 model held by French and Italian forces can intercept incoming missiles with a range of 600 kilometers, such as the Scud B.

An upgraded version is on the road map for building an Aster Block 2, which would intercept weapons that have a range of 3,000 kilometers.

MBDA is a joint venture between Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo. Aselsan specializes in defense electronics, while Roketsan builds rockets and missiles.
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[*] posted on 10-1-2018 at 05:46 PM

Uncertainty Surrounds Turkey’s Air And Missile Defense Vision

Jan 10, 2018

Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Turkey’s decision to sign on the dotted line for a Russian air defense system is likely to frustrate the relationship between Ankara and its NATO allies.

While other NATO countries invest to free themselves of dependence on Russian defense equipment, Turkey’s $2.5 billion purchase of the much-feared S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) marks a radical about-face in the NATO member’s defense acquisition habits.

However, it also looks increasingly like a one-off.

- $2.5 billion deal covers two S-400 systems; one is optional
- Turkey still working with Eurosam on SAMP/T derivative

Just days after the S-400 deal was signed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, were in Paris presiding over a trinational pact that could ultimately see Turkey join with France and Italy to develop a new air and missile defense system.

As part of an 18-month-long definition study, Eurosam partners MBDA and Thales will work with Turkey’s Aselsan and Roketsan on a derivative of the SAMP/T ground-based air defense system that could enter service in the mid-2020s.

The multinational study reignites interest in the stalled Turkish Long-Range Air and Missile Defense System (T-Loramids) program—shelved when Ankara selected the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp.’s HQ-9 system in late 2013.

Turkey is scheduled to take delivery of its first S-400 system in 2020. Credit: Sergey Malgavko/Sputnik

Turkey subsequently faced pressure from NATO, which voiced incompatibility and security concerns about the HQ-9.

Western systems such as the U.S. Patriot were deemed too expensive, as was the Russian S-300.

Although it is by no means a guarantee that Turkey will proceed with the trinational program, the move may help counterbalance NATO objections against the S-400 purchase.

But signing off on such a deal with Russia just months before Turkey takes delivery of the first of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will likely rile some U.S. lawmakers who previously sought to block the F-35 purchase. NATO views the S-400 as being not only incompatible with, but also a potential security issue for, the alliance’s wider missile defense network.

The question is why Turkey opted for the S-400, particularly when a road map to the trinational study was already relatively advanced. Last July, the Eurosam consortium signed an agreement for long-term cooperation with Roketsan, backed by an intergovernmental agreement among France, Italy and Turkey signed in November.

The system had never featured in the original T-Loramids offering, although Turkey had expressed an interest in it in the past.

Some political observers say Turkey may be eager to build its own sovereign anti-ballistic missile air picture; it currently relies on U.S.-operated radars such as the AN/TPY-2, sited in Kurecik, near Malatya, for such surveillance. A two-year-delivery promise may align with a perceived urgent need.

Others suggest that the S-400 deal is merely a gesture to show its citizenry that Turkey can stand up to its NATO allies, notably the U.S., with which Erdogan has a particular beef.

Ankara has been disturbed by Washington’s support of Kurdish YPG fighters in Iraq, among other issues. Turkey says equipment given to the YPG ended up in the hands of the Kurdish Worker’s Party. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem also generated consternation, as did the U.S. decision to suspend issuing visas from its Turkish consulates, on the basis of security concerns. Visa issuance was reinstated in the hours leading up to the S-400 contract signing, prompting several Turkish news outlets to discern a link between the two.

The purchase of the S-400 has become highly politicized at the top levels of the Turkish government and has garnered considerably more media coverage in-country than the deal with France and Italy. This suggests that the S-400 may be more than just a defense program.

Indeed, it may be a form of “coup-proofing,” says Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council. Fears of another coup attempt, he says, could be driving Turkey’s military procurement decisions.

The 2016 coup attempt was led by the air force, and some defense observers see such a system, even in small numbers, as an effective deterrent. Turkey is planning to buy just two S-400 systems, although one of these is optional.

SSM, the country’s defense materiel agency, has said the S-400s would be operated “entirely” under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces. It would be used independently “without any external connection,” SSM added, perhaps as an attempt to allay concerns that the systems would be operated by Russian advisors.

Turkey’s two systems will be delivered with a combined 36 launchers for 144 missiles, the Haberturk newspaper reported on Jan. 4. The batteries will also be equipped with the 92N6E “Grave Stone” fire control radar and the 91N6E “Big Bird” search sensor.
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[*] posted on 23-1-2018 at 02:32 PM

The Entirely Rational Basis For Turkey’s Move Into Syria

By Steven A. Cook
Steven A. Cook, The Atlantic

8:53 PM ET

AP Photo

Nearly a century of mistrust of America and an obsession with defeating the Kurds sparked its operation in Afrin.

In the 19th century, Britain, France, and Russia occupied or fostered the independence of Greece, Serbia, Romania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Tunisia, and Egypt—each one part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the victors of World War I forced the Ottomans to sign the Treaty of Sèvres, which detached what would become Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel from the House of Osman. The agreement also granted the French a zone of influence in the southeastern portion of Anatolia, adjacent to its Mandate for Lebanon and Syria, while the Italians were ceded an area that included southern and central parts of Anatolian territory, including Antalya and Konya. The Greeks established a protectorate in Smyrna, now known as Izmir.

In response, an Ottoman officer named Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk, and a cadre of nationalist collaborators, raised an army and drove the Allies out of what became the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. Despite Atatürk’s triumph and Turkey’s subsequent growth into a regional power, the dissection of the empire and the attempted division of its remnant has sowed a profound and pronounced mistrust of foreign powers—even allies—in Turkey’s political culture.

Through 94 years of independence, Turkish leaders have made clear that the nightmare of post-World-War-I dismemberment can never repeat itself. But it has, despite their best efforts—albeit in an updated form, involving the United States and Syrian territory that the Kurds call Rojava, or Western Kurdistan. This explains why, last weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his army to attack a district in northwestern Syria called Afrin. The area is under the control of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its affiliated fighting force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). This force has been an effective partner of the United States in the fight against the self-declared Islamic State, but it is also a creature of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—a Turkish Kurdish group that both the United States and Turkey identify as a terrorist organization.

While Turkish officials portray this campaign as an anti-terrorism operation (awkwardly named Operation Olive Branch), Turkey has much to answer for in this department. Over the course of the conflict in Syria, the Turkish government turned a blind eye to jihadists, enabled al-Qaeda affiliates, and was (at best) ambivalent about fighting the Islamic State. Let us also stipulate that Turkey would likely be better off if it approached the grievances of many of its Kurdish citizens with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. It is also true that the rhetoric of Turkish leaders at rallies in support of Turkey’s incursion is blood curdling.

And yet the Turkish operation is entirely rational—not only in terms of how the Turks view the war in Syria and its impact on their own security, but also in terms of Turkey’s geography, identity, and problematic history with great powers. Policymakers in Washington often justify Turkey’s strategic importance based on location. The country’s capital, Ankara, sits roughly at the geographic center of many U.S. foreign policy concerns in the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. This geography also has its disadvantages for Turks. As a rump state of the Ottoman Empire, it shares long borders with threatening, unstable, or warring countries, a fact the Turks recognize. It is hard to have, in Atatürk’s famous words, “peace at home, peace in the world” when the fragmentation of countries on one’s borders threatens one’s own unity. Observers were shocked when, in October 2016, Erdogan questioned the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that defined the Republic of Turkey’s borders. At the time, the Turks were facing the possibility that Iraq’s Kurds would declare their independence at the same time their Syrian cousins were leveraging battlefield success and American support to do the same.

This geographical fate accentuates the unresolved problem of identity within Turkey’s ethno-national state. It is true that there are many Kurds who have prospered and participate in the political, social, and economic life of the country. But there are also a large number of Turkey’s approximately 15 million Kurdish citizens who are alienated from a society that, over the course of the republic’s history, has denied their identity or made it difficult to express their “Kurdishness.” These circumstances spawned separatists in the form of the PKK, raising fears among Turks that, should this group prevail in battle, it would shear off a large piece of Turkey’s southeast territory. What, from the perspective of Turks, would this mean for Armenian and Greek claims on current Turkish land? All three Anatolian minorities have strong support in the West, raising fears in Turkey—that seem unreasonable and even conspiratorial to Westerners, but reasonable to Turks—about the country’s dissolution.

Every Turkish worry about its geographic vulnerability and the ceaseless struggle over identity is wrapped up in Turkey’s unhappy history with the great powers and the current conflict in Syria. The unwillingness of the Americans to intervene in the slaughter in Syria for more than fours years posed a threat to Turkish security, and then, when the United States finally intervened after Kobani, it did so in a manner that threatened Turkish security. As the YPG rolled up the Islamic State with American help, it controlled more and more territory along the Syrian-Turkish border. Of course, Turkish reluctance to fight the Islamic State drove the United States to work with the YPG, but this point is almost always lost on the Turkish leadership, which has watched the developing relationship between its alleged strategic partner and its bitterest enemy with growing alarm.

Unlike American policymakers, the Turks (quite rightly) make no distinction between the YPG and the PKK. After working with the Syrian Kurds to defeat the Islamic State and announcing that the YPG will be part of the American military commitment in the form of some sort of “border force,” the Turks are drawing the not-unreasonable conclusion that U.S. policymakers support Kurdish territorial claims in Syria—which, from the Turkish perspective, would be a “terrorist state.”

The twists and turns in the Syrian civil war and the American determination not to get sucked into it, but to still defeat the Islamic State, have created a slew of inconsistencies in Washington’s approach to those two goals. Being the friend of your friend’s enemy contributes to outcomes like Turkey’s Afrin incursion, which both the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Trump administration oppose. It is true that Afrin is located in the northwest, far from the area east of the Euphrates that is of most concern to the Pentagon, but Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s declaration in response to Operation Olive Branch that “we’ll work this out” with the Turks are the words of a man—no matter how smart and learned—with little in the way of leverage. The United States is likely to accommodate itself to Turkey’s 20-mile security zone in Afrin, but the Turks do not trust (perhaps irreparably) the United States. Washington plays a central role in their century-old nightmare.
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[*] posted on 25-1-2018 at 01:58 PM

NATO moves to assure Turkey of its support in fighting terrorism

By: Daniel Cebul   10 hours ago

Turkish tanks are parked near the Syrian border at Hassa, Hatay province, on Jan. 24, 2018, as part of an operation to oust the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group, from its enclave of Afrin. (Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — NATO’s deputy secretary general has reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to Turkish security, telling senior students at the Turkish National Defense University in Istanbul that “NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”

Rose Gottemoller’s address on Tuesday comes a day after Turkish forces launched a new offensive against American-allied Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria.

The recent Turkish incursion into Syria to fight the Kurds, who Turkey believes pose an existential terrorist threat, is only the latest point of conflict among alliance members. Despite strong protests from NATO allies, Turkey recently finalized a deal for Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air defense system in favor of the American Patriot or Franco-Italian SAMP/T systems, and plans to borrow money in rubles instead of U.S. dollars.

Additionally, in a blunder by a Norwegian private contractor, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were included on an “enemy chart” during a NATO military exercise, leading Turkey to withdraw 40 troops from the drill.

In an attempt to cool tension, Gottemoller outlined mutual benefits Turkey and NATO receive through the country’s membership. Gottemoller specificially highlighted NATO’s contribution to Turkish air defenses.

“Today, Patriot and SAMP/T systems help to defend Turkey against the threat of missiles from across the border in Syria. This mission is important now more than ever, and the allies are committed to it,” she said.

The deputy secretary also noted the role Turkey’s Konya air base serves as a forward-operating base for NATO airborne warning and control system surveillance aircraft. With an eye to the East, Gottemoller commented on NATO’s increased naval presence in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean, the later of which has served as a common launch point for Russian cruise missiles into Syria.

Looking forward to NATO’s 2018 Brussels Summit, Gottemoller promised attendees that “terrorism will be front and center.” Other issues at the top of the summit’s agenda will be Russia, the reorganization of NATO’s command structure, and additional security cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
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[*] posted on 25-1-2018 at 04:41 PM

German Government Under Fire Over Leopard Tanks in Syria

(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Jan 23, 2018)

Opposition politicians in Germany responded with outrage to the photos of German-made Leopard tanks being used by the Turkish army in their Syrian offensive. The intervention, which entered its fourth day on Tuesday, is unpopular with the German public.

"The German government must not look away again and needs to clearly state its position on the Turkish military offensive against Kurds in Syria," said lawmaker and defense expert for Germany's Green party Agnieszka Brugger.

She also slammed Berlin's manner of dealing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the course set by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was a "disastrous failure."

"An immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue," Brugger told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper.

Senior lawmaker Jan Korte from the Left party called on Angela Merkel to provide an official explanation of her government's policy on Turkey. He added that the current caretaker cabinet needed to specify "how they mean to respond in the next weeks and months" to the Syria escalation.

Turkey has bought more than 750 German tanks since the 1980s

Tank upgrades to be canceled?

The criticism comes at an awkward moment for Germany's top officials, as Berlin recently engaged in tentative rapprochement with Ankara after a plunge in bilateral ties. Part of the thaw is the deal pushed by Foreign Minister Gabriel to provide Turkish tanks with better mine-protection gear. Other upgrades were reportedly also in store for hundreds of German-made tanks used by the Turkish army.

Even politicians from Angela Merkel's CDU party called on Gabriel to halt the deal after the publication of photos showing Leopards on the ground in Syria. Norbert Röttgen, who chairs Bundestag's foreign policy committee, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily that the Turkish attack was a violation of international law.

Turkey also wants German companies to equip their tanks with a better defensive sensor system.

Röttgen said it was "completely obvious" that Germany could not provide Turkey with tank upgrades at such a time.

Silence in Berlin

Germany has yet to condemn Ankara's offensive, despite Gabriel calling his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday to share his "concern" about escalation and possible humanitarian impact.

German officials have so far refused to provide details on the apparent Leopard deployment. A defense ministry spokesman said that it was not yet clear when the pictures were taken, while foreign ministry officials said the situation remained unclear. A spokesman dealing with weapons exports in the economy ministry was equally tight-lipped.

"Except for the images shown in the media, which you all know about, we do not have any information about the use of Leopard tanks," he said on Monday.

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[*] posted on 30-1-2018 at 04:17 PM

Germany Halts Plans to Upgrade Turkey's Leopard Tanks

(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Jan 25, 2018)

German authorities have decided to wait for the new government to take office before making any new moves on arms exports to Turkey, Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.

The magazine quoted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel as saying that the current caretaker cabinet — an alliance of the same parties currently negotiating on forming a new government — is "united" in the decision to wait for the end of talks on the next grand coalition, which is expected to take weeks.

The freeze comes amid a slew of criticism toward the government after images from northern Syria showed the Turkish army using German-made Leopard tanks in its anti-Kurd offensive.

"The government is very worried over the military conflict in northern Syria," Gabriel told Spiegel. "When it comes to the current consultations on arms exports, the government thinks it is clear that we are not supposed to deliver arms to conflict areas and we will not do it."

No upgrades for tanks, yet

Specifically, the freeze affects German companies upgrading Leopard tanks used by Turkey and providing them with better protection against mines and IEDs. Berlin was reportedly very close to approving this specific proposal after Gabriel met with his Turkish colleague Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this month, where both sides seemed eager for a thaw in relations. This meeting predated the Afrin offensive.

However, ties between Berlin and Ankara might again suffer after Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the Syria offensive last Saturday. Gabriel and his SPD party find themselves in an especially awkward position due to yesterday's reports on record-breaking arms exports under the current cabinet. Before entering the grand coalition in 2013, Gabriel repeatedly pledged to rein in weapons sales.

Turkey has bought hundreds of German-made Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks

Turkey wants Germany's 'solidarity'

While a German government spokesman confirmed the freeze on Thursday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Cavusoglu appeared to dismiss Gabriel's comments from Istanbul.

"There is no such thing as suspending or canceling the tank upgrades," he told the state run Anadolu agency.

At the same time, Cavusoglu admitted that a meeting of a commission on the tanks was postponed, and said that Turkey expected "solidarity" from Germany.

"While we fight terrorists, we expect support and solidarity from Germany. We expect them to not support terrorists, but I know they are also under pressure," Cavusoglu said.

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[*] posted on 30-1-2018 at 04:52 PM

US General to Turkey: We’re Not Pulling Back

By Kevin Baron
Executive Editor

January 29, 2018

Kevin Baron/Defense One

Gen. Votel said the U.S. recognizes its NATO ally's concerns but won't abandon the coalition of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS on the world's behalf.

AMMAN, Jordan — Gen. Joseph Votel said the United States has no intention of withdrawing coalition forces from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, as Turkish leaders had demanded this weekend. As Turkish forces continued the assault on Afrin, the lead of U.S. Central Command on Monday urged Turkey and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, to recognize each other’s legitimate security concerns but focus on the common enemy of ISIS.

Senior U.S. leaders across the government have been in constant talks with Turkish counterparts during the Afrin assault, saying that the U.S. recognizes Turkey’s problems with the Kurdish terrorist group known as PKK, but refusing to give up any territory liberated by the SDF, which include Kurds.

“It’s not our intention right now” to pull back from Manbij, Votel said in Jordan on Monday. He spoke with two reporters traveling with him through the region, including into Raqqa and other parts of northern Syria.

Meanwhile, Russia has begun hosting talks about Syria’s future. The talks, which are being held in Sochi, include representatives from the Assad regime, Iran, and the United Nations. The United States and Syria’s main opposition group declined to participate. Votel said the U.S. hopes that the Sochi talks help lead all parties back to the Geneva process. “That is where the global legitimacy comes in,” he said. “That’s the gold standard, right there: Geneva.”

With Turkish leaders threatening to push into territory protected in part by the U.S. military, Votel has walked the line between both sides but repeatedly has said the U.S. would stand by the SDF counterterrorism force of Syrian Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen that has routed ISIS on the world’s behalf.

“There’s two key objectives we have to keep in mind,” Votel said. “One is we have to address Turkey’s very real concerns about security along their border and terrorist organizations, particularly the PKK that has terrorized their country for a long, long period of time. That is a legitimate concern. We acknowledge that; we have always acknowledged that.

“The other objective we have to do is we have to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS. And the partner that we have chosen on the ground is the Syrian Democratic Forces, that includes Kurds and Arabs. There’s obviously a rub here — the Kurds that we operate with, the Turks view them as, part and parcel, as PKK.

We do not view them that way. Based on our experience with them and our close relationship with them, they have been very, very focused on the mission at hand, from the beginning. Certainly, from the beginning of our participation in 2014, up in Kobani, all the way through, all the operations that have been conducted throughout northeast Syria.”

Votel last week called on the world to come to the SDF’s aid as the coalition shifts to so-called stability operations meant to keep liberated areas safe for civilians to return. The general suggested the world owes a debt to the SDF.

“In many ways, the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the coalition, is taking on the world’s enemy, here. And remember what this enemy is: this is ISIS, this is heavy foreign fighters, from literally a hundred countries from around the world that have converged on this area and established this quasi-state that has now been largely liberated and hopefully soon will be completely liberated and defeated. And so, they have been waging a battle with the assistance of the coalition on behalf of many nations. And they have proven to be the most effective force on the ground in Syria in doing this.”

But for that same reason, outraged SDF supporters across social media have criticized the U.S. for not supporting them instead of Turkey. Votel met with SDF leaders north of Raqqa last Monday. Since then, the general said he is aware of the criticism and concerns about the political decisions on Syria’s future that are out of his hands, but he praised the SDF’s leadership for their loyalty.

“My assessment of the SDF leadership, having met with them a number of times, is they are very mature. They understand what is at stake here. They understand the relationships the United States has, and so, I think they have a very mature approach to this. And I think they do a good job of communicating that down to their forces. So, I think we’ve had a very good, trustworthy relationship with the Syrian Democratic Forces leadership. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”

With Monday dawning in Jordan, Votel offered these expectations to Turkey and the SDF:

“Certainly, Turkey should expect that we are going to do everything we can to honor and protect our relationship as NATO allies and do everything we can to address their legitimate concerns, very legitimate concerns, in that security environment. And for the Syrian Democratic Forces, they have to recognize that we have a NATO partner here. And that requires some balance.”

“Both need to understand that we have to ensure the defeat of ISIS, the lasting defeat of ISIS. That is a common objective that we all share. So, we’ve got to stay focused on that.

And hopefully we’ll have the opportunities to address the other concerns in a setting that is more, that is better accustomed for that – hopefully, a political and diplomatic setting.”
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[*] posted on 31-1-2018 at 01:58 PM

Turkey Confirms Use of German Tanks in Afrin Offensive

(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Jan 29, 2018)

The Turkish government has confirmed deploying German Leopard tanks against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. Reports of their use in the offensive on the Kurdish-held Afrin region had provoked heated debate in Germany.

Turkey has given confirmation that its troops have been using Leopard 2 tanks supplied by Germany during their offensive against Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border region of Afrin, according to a report from the German Ministry for Economic Affairs sent to parliamentarians in Berlin.

The confirmation comes amid a heated debate on German arms exports to crisis regions.

Turkey using German-made tanks in cross-border assault criticized as illegal by German lawmakers

Disputed arms exports

- Pictures of German tanks taking part in the Turkish offensive in Syria began emerging at the start of last week.

- As a result, the German government has put on hold a decision on whether to provide an upgrade to the tanks that has been requested by Turkey.

- Turkey, a NATO partner of Germany, received 354 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany in the 1990s, with the only condition being that it did not sell or give them to any third party.

High-level confirmation

Although there was no information on concrete deployments of the tanks, the Ministry for Economic Affairs did confirm that "according to the Turkish government, Leopard 2A4 tanks supplied by Germany have been used in the Turkish military operation 'Olive Branch' that began on January 20, 2018."

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said the Turkish defense minister had "not denied that German tanks could have been deployed in Syria."

Controversial offensive: Turkish armed forces launched their offensive in a bid to clear the Syrian-Turkish border region of Kurdish fighters Ankara sees as "terrorists" allied with Kurdish rebels in Turkey. The offensive has strained ties particularly with the United States, which has been backing the Kurdish YPG fighters in their efforts to combat the extremist group "Islamic State" in Syria.

How Germany has reacted: Germany has voiced concern about possible escalation and humanitarian consequences, though it has so far stopped short of condemning the Turkish operation.

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[*] posted on 3-2-2018 at 02:01 PM

Ankara uses Afrin campaign to showcase Turkish-made weapons

Zülfikar Doğan January 31, 2018

Article Summary
Amid snubs by Western arms suppliers, leaders in Ankara are eager to highlight progress in the Turkish defense industry during the military offensive on Afrin.

A Turkish-made T-155 Firtina (Storm) howitzer

ANKARA, Turkey — On Jan. 21, a day after Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch against Afrin in northern Syria, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim briefed media representatives about the campaign, putting special emphasis on one issue. The operation, he said, was being carried out with weapons and ammunition that were up to 75% Turkish made.

As the operation proceeded, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli made the same point in a series of tweets, stressing the notion of “native and national” that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come to repeat in various contexts. According to the minister, all ammunition used in the operation was Turkish produced, and the local share in Turkey’s defense industries has risen to 70% from 18% 15 years ago. He mentioned the smart HGK bombs, manufactured jointly by the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Company (MKEK) and the Military Electronics Industries (ASELSAN), multi-barrel rocket launchers made by the MKEK and the Firtina (Storm) howitzers produced in Turkish military plants. “Our ammunition stocks are so abundant that they will suffice to wipe out terrorism not only from Afrin but from the entire region, and we are continuing to produce,” Canikli wrote.

Erdogan’s son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar, whose family business produces armed and unarmed drones for the Turkish military, was also eager to announce that his company’s drones were in action in the Afrin campaign. Bayraktar’s Twitter message was accompanied with a picture of him in front of screens in the army’s drone control room. Yet, another familiar face — the president’s son Bilal Erdogan — was seen in the picture, and his presence in the control room without any official duty did not go without criticism.

Drawing on this military industry showcase, Erdogan took the opportunity to hit back at main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who often criticizes the state of Turkey’s economy and industry. He even offered to give Kilicdaroglu a Firtina howitzer barrel as a gift.

Ankara’s emphasis on the use of Turkish-made weapons in the Afrin campaign is meant to send out a dual message: to highlight the progress in the Turkish defense industry and give a gleeful response to foreign critics who advocate the halt of arms sales to Turkey or oppose the use of weapons made in their countries in the Afrin offensive.

Turkey has previously failed to acquire armed and unarmed drones from the United States due to congressional objections.

In September, the US Senate blocked the sale of Sig Sauer guns to Erdogan’s security guards after members of his security detail assaulted protesters during Erdogan's visit to Washington in May.

Israel, for its part, has refused to share technology and know-how in production and intelligence-sharing negotiations over its Heron drones.

Most recently, Germany suspended some arms sales to Turkey amid political tensions over the arrest of German nationals in the country and froze plans to upgrade the Turkish army’s German-made Leopard tanks.

Turkey and its Western arms suppliers have a long history of such wrangling, which has motivated Ankara’s drive for self-sufficiency and investment in the defense industry.

The Turkish-made armed and unarmed drones are among the products of this drive. The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), the agency responsible for military procurements, has raised the number of its projects to 553 from single-digit figures in previous years. The monetary worth of the projects stands at $41.4 billion and exceeds $60 billion, including projects that are still in tender stages.

The SSM projects include the local manufacture of tanks, ships, surveillance and fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, surveillance satellites and armored combat vehicles, among others. Some of those projects have reached the production stage; others remain in the process of preparation.

The Turkish-made weapons have been in use for some time in military operations against Kurdish militants in Turkey’s southeast, but most of them are being used for the first time in a cross-border operation.

The contributors to the defense industry drive include government agencies and enterprises owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation such as the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK), MKEK, ASELSAN, rocket manufacturer ROKETSAN and aerial electronics maker HAVELSAN as well as many private sector companies. ASELSAN, in particular, stands out with ambitious achievements in the realm of high-tech electronic warfare systems.

Since the US Senate’s blockage of the gun sale, the MKEK has accelerated a project for Turkish-made automatic guns and rifles. The project has now entered production stage. In cooperation with private companies, the MKEK has also began deliveries of the Turkish-made MPT-76 infantry rifle to various branches of the security forces, including the presidential security unit. The first exports, meanwhile, have gone to Somalia.

The government has set a target to place Turkey among the world’s top 10 defense industry exporters by 2023, the centenary of the modern Turkish republic. According to defense industry expert Dora Uzkesici, however, achieving this target requires Turkish exports to reach $25 billion per year. The country’s exports stood at $5.9 billion in 2016, and last year’s sales are estimated to be worth an approximately equal figure.

At present, the needs of the Turkish military and police appear to be the main driver of growth in the local defense industry.

According to the 2016 performance report of the Defense Industry Manufacturers Association, which brings together publicly owned and private companies, 89% of the $11.9 billion orders the sector received in 2016 stemmed from domestic demand. The 2017 data has yet to be released, but an increase in the figures would be no surprise, given the large-scale security operations in the southeast and the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in Syria.

In December, Erdogan became the sole boss of Turkey’s defense industry after the government used its emergency rule powers to issue a legislative decree that attached all defense industry institutions to the presidency.

Of note, the real owner of the “native and national” military industry notion is not Erdogan but his mentor, the late Necmettin Erbakan, who became the first voice of “moderate Islam” in Turkish politics in the 1970s and rose to the prime minister’s post in 1996.

Erdogan broke ranks with Erbakan to create the Justice and Development Party in 2001, when he famously said he had disowned his mentor’s “National View” ideology.

Before entering politics, Erbakan was a distinguished mechanical engineer whose career included a stint at a German factory involved in military research. Erbakan advocated a “heavy industry thrust,” including the local production of engines, tanks and cannons. Erdogan may have claimed to have “taken off the National View shirt,” but the ideas of his mentor loom large in his rhetoric today.

Ankara’s frequent emphasis on the use of Turkish-made weapons in Operation Olive Branch suggests that Erdogan and the government see the campaign as an important showcase for such weapons and military technology, with a view of boosting marketing and exports.

Zülfikar Doğan began his career in journalism in 1976 at the Yanki news magazine in Ankara. He has worked as a reporter, news editor, representative and columnist at Milliyet, Posta, Aksam, Finansal Forum, Star and Karsi newspapers, and as a TV programmer and commentator on the economy and politics for TRT-1, Star, NTV and CNBC-e. He is currently editor in chief and columnist at the Korhaber news site.

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[*] posted on 10-2-2018 at 04:43 PM

The US Must Stop Turkey Now

By Meghan Bodette

February 9, 2018

AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

Americans are wrong to placate Erdogan and permit his attacks on northern Syria. Here's how Washington can get it right.

The Turkish attacks on northern Syria’s Afrin canton have uncovered several hard truths for U.S. policymakers. Turkey is moving away from the U.S., Europe, and other members of NATO and the global coalition against Daesh. Its threats against Northern Syria are not only out of opposition to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, or the region’s ruling Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and but out of opposition to Kurdish autonomy itself. Turkey’s leaders are so frightened by it, they will work with jihadists if it means stopping Kurds — a prioritization that puts Turkey at odds with every other major player in Syria’s war.

U.S. officials from the president to combat field commanders have tried to strike a balanced line, calling for restraint while acknowledging that Turkey’s offensive military operation in Afrin addresses legitimate Turkish security interests. But the Americans are wrong, and this approach is counterproductive.

There is no legitimate basis for Turkey’s offensive under international law. While Turkish authorities claimed it was undertaken in self-defense, Turkey was neither responding to an attack from Afrin nor to an imminent threat of one. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has suggested that the operation aims to forcibly change Afrin’s demographics and remove its Kurdish majority. By suggesting that the war addresses real security influences, the U.S. legitimizes these questionable pretexts. Pleas for restraint, meanwhile, go unheard, as Turkish airstrikes flatten towns and non-aligned Free Syrian Army fighters involved in the operation upload videos of themselves mutilating corpses and torturing civilians.

The U.S. has nothing to gain from allowing Turkey to continue bombarding Afrin with impunity. If the invasion succeeds and Turkey’s proposed “buffer zone” is implemented, it will enable al-Qaeda and ISIS, prolong the war, and lead to the displacement of thousands — all destabilizing outcomes in which the U.S. and Europe will lose.

To prevent such losses, the U.S. should pursue a comprehensive policy that punishes Turkey for its actions, protects civilians in Afrin, and strengthens the U.S. partnership with Afrin’s SDF.

Calls for the World’s Help

There are three clear steps that can be taken to accomplish these goals.

U.S. leaders must fully condemn the attacks and make it clear that they will not tolerate further Turkish incursions into Afrin. There is little political reason to avoid a stronger condemnation.

The targeting of civilians throughout the operation is well-documented, with people hiding in caves to avoid airstrikes and entire villages left uninhabitable. According to Afrin’s Health Council, 148 civilians have been killed, 365 more have been injured, and thousands have been displaced from their homes.

The Trump administration has previously expressed concerns about civilian casualties in Syria, even launching missiles at a Syrian air base after reports of a chemical attack last April. In Manbij, where the coalition has a military presence, top U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Paul Funk warned Turkey and its partner forces that “[if] you hit us, we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves” — as just as they responded to a Russian and Syrian-aligned attack on SDF positions in Deir Ezzor where U.S. troops were located.

The condemnation must come with material consequences. The U.S. is one of the largest weapons suppliers to Turkey, selling F-4s, F-16s and Cobra helicopters that Turkish forces now use in Afrin. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the U.S. and other states responded with an arms embargo. Facing the invasion of Afrin, they should do the same. Blocking weapons to Turkey as long as it employs al-Qaeda-aligned proxies and attacks Kurdish civilians would be strategically effective abroad and politically popular at home.

The U.S. could also apply targeted sanctions to Turkish officials responsible for the planning and execution of the operation in Afrin, as it targeted specific Russian officials in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Sanctioning officials would further communicate U.S. displeasure with the invasion — without the detrimental effects on the whole Turkish population.

While cutting off arms and resources to Turkey, the U.S. must increase its aid to the SDF. Current U.S. policy does not consider the SDF near Afrin to be the same as the SDF in Kobani and Cizire — though they fight under the same flag, answer to the same command structure, and defend the same political project. This discrepancy should be corrected, and the U.S. should supply the Afrin SDF with the weapons they require to defend themselves against Turkish attacks. With TOW missiles to counter Turkish tanks and MANPADs to take down the aircraft that bomb Afrin’s people, the SDF could hold the line or push Turkey out — as they pushed ISIS out of Kobani, Raqqa, and so many other cities.

A policy like this would show Turkey that the international community sees its actions in Afrin for what they are — unjustified aggression aimed primarily at a civilian population in order to neutralize Kurdish political power. It would give the SDF a greater capability to respond to Turkish attacks and preserve the hard-won stability, democracy, and pluralism in Afrin, preventing the displacement of more people. It would stop Turkish-backed jihadists from gaining more territory from which to threaten civilians, and allow the global coalition to focus again on defeating ISIS — a security interest shared by regional and international players alike.

The U.S. has the capability to stop Operation Olive Branch and support stability in Syria. It should act now to do so.

Meghan Bodette is director of outreach at Kurdistan Aid. Her previous work has appeared in Military Times and The Region.
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[*] posted on 16-2-2018 at 12:39 PM

Has Turkey Gone Rogue?

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Ankara on Thursday, he will find Turkey unrecognizable as the ostensibly Muslim democracy and close ally that U.S. officials once held up as a model for the Islamic world. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is poised to complete his long transformation of Turkey from a raucous -- if imperfect democracy -- to an autocracy, one ruled by caprice and fear.

By James Kitfield

on February 15, 2018 at 5:38 PM

The once solid U.S.-Turkish relationship has foundered on miscalculations, grievances, and increasingly divergent worldviews.

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Ankara on Thursday, he will find Turkey unrecognizable as the ostensibly Muslim democracy and close ally that U.S. officials once held up as a model for the Islamic world. After a controversial constitutional referendum last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is poised to complete his long transformation of Turkey from a raucous — if imperfect democracy — to an autocracy, one ruled by caprice and fear. Across a wide boulevard from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Tillerson will find that the Turkish parliament building still bears the scars of the 2016 attempted military coup that pro-government media blame squarely on the United States, a narrative that Erdogan has used to whip up nationalism and anti-Americanism to unprecedented levels.

Still wielding the emergency powers established after the coup, Erdogan has fired or suspended roughly 130,000 judges, bureaucrats, academics, and journalists from their jobs for alleged connections to a coup involving a few hundred troops.

An estimated 45,000 Turks have been arrested and held indefinitely in “pre-trial detention,” many of them political opponents. Political and civil rights are so shackled that for the first time the civil society group Freedom House classified Turkey as “not free” last month in its annual “Freedom of the World” report.

Erdogan’s slow motion strangulation of democracy, however, will not top Tillerson’s contentious agenda with his Turkish counterpart. A pronounced eastern tilt in Ankara’s strategic orientation has seen this erstwhile NATO ally agree to purchase an advanced Russian air defense system, and attend Moscow-sponsored talks on the future of Syria that excluded the United States. A recent trial of a Turkish-Iranian gold trader in New York revealed that top ministers in Erdogan’s government were involved in a lucrative scheme to help Iran circumvent sanctions over its suspected nuclear weapons program to the tune of an estimated $100 billion.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s campaign of intimidation against critics at home and abroad has included the arrest of U.S. consulate workers and two U.S. citizens in Turkey; the issuance of arrest warrants targeting U.S. critics at think tanks and universities in this country; and death threats by social media trolls close to the Ankara government. Last year Erdogan’s body guards viciously attacked peaceful demonstrators in Washington, prompting the D.C. police to issue arrest warrants for a dozen members of Erdogan’s security detail.

“Much like Iran, Turkey is increasingly becoming a ‘klepto-theocracy’ where government leaders and family members profit handsomely from their positions, and both governments are united by an Islamist worldview that stands in opposition to the West,” said Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. Erdemir’s own criticism of Erdogan has led the Turkish government to seize his assets and issue a warrant for his arrest. “That’s the kind of tragedy we’re watching unfold.”

Friend of My Enemy

Remarkably, even those yawning fissures in a once solid U.S.-Turkish relationship will not top Tillerson’s agenda in Turkey. That spot is reserved for a military offensive the Turkish military recently launched targeting Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian city of Afrin. Erdogan has publicly promised to expand that offensive to nearby Manbij, where U.S. forces involved in the anti-ISIS campaign operate alongside Kurdish allies that Ankara considers terrorists. Erdogan recently called U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish forces proof that Washington “had designs against Turkey.” The Turkish offensive now raises the once unthinkable prospect that U.S. and Turkish military forces could find themselves on opposing sides on a Syrian battlefield.

“Look it’s difficult. The rhetoric is hot. The Turks are angry, and this is a difficult time to do business,” said a U.S. official briefing reporters last week on Tillerson’s visit. “But it’s our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests.”

Steven Cook is senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East. “A lot of U.S. officials still want to believe that Turkey is a stabilizing influence in the Middle East, but its destabilizing actions are getting harder and harder to ignore,” he said. Cook notes that Turkey regularly whips up anti-Israeli sentiments in the region; backed Sunni jihadists associated with Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups for years in the sectarian Syrian civil war; and has moved increasingly close to Russia and Iran.

With last year’s close and questionable vote on the constitutional amendment, Erdogan’s assault on the institutions of Turkish democracy could extend another fifteen years, Cook notes, even as the Turkish leader continues to stoke anti-Americanism. “Erdogan could ultimately be in power for nearly 30 years, meaning whole generations of Turks will have been reared on his narrative that the United States is a bad actor, which is deeply corrosive to the relationship,” said Cook. “And after each outrage Washington officials either look the other way or wonder aloud why Turkey is not acting like a NATO ally anymore. Along with structural problems in the relationship, this dynamic is making it hard to imagine that the United States and Turkey will ever be close allies again.”

A Once Strong Alliance

Turkey’s position as a strategic U.S. partner and NATO ally owes much to geography. During the Cold War, Turkey was the southern anchor of the Western alliance and a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the region. The deal to defuse the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance, required that the Soviets withdraw nuclear missiles from Cuba in exchange for the United States withdrawing its missiles from Turkey.

Even after the end of the Cold War and throughout the 1990s, Turkey’s strategic location and the massive NATO air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey proved vital. Incirlik was the epicenter of Operation Northern Watch, the U.S.-led mission to enforce a “no fly” zone over northern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. U.S. intelligence agencies reciprocated in 1999 by helping Turkey capture the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which had fought for 15 years for an autonomous Kurdish region in southern Turkey. Both the U.S. and Turkey have designated the PKK a terrorist group, and its insurgency inside Turkey has cost nearly 40,000 lives. U.S. diplomats also championed Turkey’s candidacy for long-sought membership in the European Union.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks launched a “global war against terror,” the Bush administration found in the rise of Erdogan and his openly Islamist Justice and Development Party a useful model of a supposedly moderate Muslim regime that had reconciled the tensions between Islam and democracy.

“I realize that some of the undemocratic steps Erdogan has taken are of concern from a political standpoint, but the United States and NATO should take the longer view and realize that Turkey remains of enormous strategic importance,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who previously commanded all U.S. air operations in the Middle East, and also led Operation Northern Watch out of Incirlik. As the former Joint Task Force commander for Northern Watch in the late 1990s, Deptula briefed a slide that showed the range and radius of an F-15E fighter-bomber flying out of Incirlik. “Roughly three quarters of the significant conflicts that have taken place since World War II were within that F-15’s flying radius, which gives you an idea of how important Turkey remains as a NATO ally,” he said. “Despite our political differences, the military-to-military relationship between NATO and the Turkish general staff remains good.”

Parting Ways

Like many partnerships gone bad, U.S.-Turkish relations have slowly soured. Bush administration officials were furious at Ankara for not allowing the 4th Infantry Division to launch a planned northern front from Turkish soil, for instance, as part of its 2003 invasion of Iraq. Equally indignant Turkish officials note that their dire warnings about the destabilizing impact of the Iraq invasion on the region ultimately came to pass, including a resurgence of PKK violence and a flood of Iraqi refugees into Turkey. (The Turkish embassy in Washington did not comment for this).

After Turkey sided with Syrian protesters during Arab Spring demonstrations against strongman Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Erdogan was furious that the Obama administration refused to intercede as Syria descended into a civil war that sent more than three million Syrian refugees into Turkey. The Obama administration even failed to use military action o enforce its own stated “red line” against Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.

For its part, Washington strongly objected when Turkey responded by opening its borders and turning a blind eye to Sunni jihadists who used its territory and flowed into Syria to fight Assad’s forces, often joining groups such as the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). When the Obama and Trump administrations finally did send small numbers of U.S. “train and assist” troops to Syria to counter ISIS, Ankara was upset that they chose as local proxies the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG group, an offshoot of the PKK Kurdish group based in northern Iraq that both nations consider terrorists. U.S. military leaders got around the linkage by placing the Syrian Kurdish fighters under the wider umbrella of Syrian Democratic Forces that include some Arab militias.

“Both the Obama and Trump administrations made the decision that they were not going to send U.S. combat troops back to the Middle East to intervene directly, and that forced the U.S. military to make a tactical and supposedly temporary alliance with the Kurds of the YPG. Each time the U.S. extends that temporary alliance the Turks get more worried,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and author of The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.

With the Erdogan brand increasingly defined by political Islam and nationalism, Cagaptay noted, the Turkish leader is bound to ratchet up anti-American and anti-Kurdish rhetoric to excite his base in anticipation of elections scheduled for next year. “That puts Erdogan and the Turks on a collision course with the Kurds of the PKK and YPG, with the United States in the middle,” he said. “So this triangulation Washington is conducting in allying itself both with Turkey and the Syrian Kurds is coming to a head, and may no longer be sustainable.”

Turkey’s 9/11

If the United States and Turkey eventually split over their irreconcilable differences, the single most polarizing event will likely be the attempted military coup on the night of July 15, 2016. During the attempt to overthrow Erdogan, a group of rogue soldiers used U.S.-supplied Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft to bomb and strafe the parliament building, and more than 240 mostly unarmed civilians were killed confronting the soldiers. On the night of the coup Turkish national police entered Incirlik and arrested a Turkish general there suspected of complicity. For nearly a week the power and flight operations were shut down at the base, which houses an arsenal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

The Turkish public was so traumatized by the events of July 15 that many refer to it as “Turkey’s 9/11.” When the smoke cleared, Erdogan emerged in a vengeful mood. The coup mastermind, he insisted, was former ally turned chief political rival Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania with a U.S.-government issued Green Card. The failure of the U.S. Justice Department and courts to extradite Gulen has cast a dark shadow over U.S. – Turkish relations ever since.

Eric Edelman is a former undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and U.S. ambassador to Turkey in the Bush Administration. “Erdogan has created this extremely powerful political movement under the banner of ‘Islamo-nationalism,’ and he feeds it by constantly stirring up anti-American sentiment that excites his base. In that sense Turkey is no longer interested in acting like a normal ally,” he said in an interview. The response of successive U.S. governments has been to ignore Erdogan’s bad behavior and look the other way, he said, because Incirlik makes the U.S.-Turkish relationship too big to fail.

“Now we’re seeing the moral hazard of that policy because, if something is not done to change the trajectory of our relationship, U.S. and Turkish troops could very well end up shooting at each other in Syria,” said Edelman. “Anyone who tells you the relationship could never get that bad doesn’t have a lurid enough imagination, because 30 years in government taught me that things can always get worse.”
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[*] posted on 27-2-2018 at 09:29 AM

Germany Approves 31 Arms Deals with Turkey Amid Signs of Normalization

(Source: Daily Sabah; published Feb. 26, 2018)

ANKARA --- Germany approved more than 30 defense industry deals with Turkey in December and January, a report from the German Ministry of Economy said.

According to the report by the ministry prepared due to a parliamentary inquiry by the leftist politician Sevim Dağdelen, "from 18 December to 24 January 2018, 31 permits were issued for military armaments to Turkey."

The government has said that it has approved military armaments with code numbers covering the areas of bombs, torpedoes, missiles, fire control and surveillance systems, land vehicles, ships and marine equipment, aeronautical and electronic equipment, as well as special tanks and related parts and equipment.

Arms deals between Germany and Turkey have been a source of tension after the former said last month that it would halt the modernization of Leopard 2 tanks. Ankara and Berlin have had plans to have Turkey's Leopard tanks undergo modernization by a German defense industry company. The German media claimed in late January that the modernization of the tanks was put on ice due to strained relations. According to German law, every defense industry project must be approved by the cabinet.

Despite the little predicament in the Leopard 2 deal, it was revealed with the report by the German ministry that the two countries have been doing business as usual. Also recently, Stern, a German magazine, claimed that German defense company Rheinmetall and Turkish firm BMC already sealed an agreement on Jan. 9 in Düsseldorf.

"BMC is said to have concluded an agreement with its German partners to jointly modernize Leopard tanks from German production, which are now in the service of the Turkish military. Rheinmetall will supply the technology for this and BMC will help with the work on site. The goal: To protect the tanks better from bullets and mines," the Stern article said.

Meanwhile, another German citizen has been released from Turkish detention after a number of Germans have been released over the course of recent months. "I am pleased that there has been another release. A person about whom we have not released details has been released, though with a ban on leaving the country," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a regular government news conference in Berlin.

The spokesman declined to give any details about where the person had been imprisoned, how long they had been in jail, or their gender. Four Germans remain in prison in Turkey on political grounds, he said.

The bilateral ties between Ankara and Berlin have breathed a sigh of relief after German human rights activist Peter Steudtner, translator Meşale Tolu and journalist Deniz Yücel have been released from Turkish detention since October. There have been also others whose names have not been disclosed by Turkish or German authorities.

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[*] posted on 7-3-2018 at 06:07 PM

Unmanned tech ambitions shape Turkey’s future military

By: Burak Ege Bekdil   15 hours ago

Turkey's Bayraktar TB2 system is to be stationed in Elazig close to Kurdish insurgency zones. (Bayhaluk via Wikimedia Commons)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s government and military leaders look determined to boost a multitude of unmanned vehicle programs in hopes these indigenous systems will serve as the backbone of future operations.

Officials and analysts say increasing asymmetrical threats on both sides of Turkey’s Syrian and Iraqi borders have urged the country’s military, procurement and industry officials to step up efforts to boost existing drone programs, or launch new ones.

“A new generation of [unmanned] vehicles — land, naval and aerial — will further strengthen our arsenal,” Ismail Demir, Turkey’s chief defense procurement official, told a conference on unmanned and robotic technologies on Feb. 22. “Those systems will earn the military strategic capabilities by providing it with intelligence imagery, fire support and ammunition transport.”

“They also will provide us with lower production, operational and maintenance costs,” a senior military official said. “More importantly, we aim to reduce personnel casualties in operations.”

At a meeting on Feb. 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We will carry it [indigenous drone programs] a step further. … We should attain the ability to produce unmanned tanks as well [as aerial vehicles]. We will do it.”

Erdogan’s comments came weeks after five Turkish soldiers were killed in a tank while fighting in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in neighboring Syria.

The Turkish military launched a cross-border offensive into northern Syria on Jan. 20 to fight the emergence of a “Kurdish belt” in war-torn Syria. Turkey views that possibility as a top security threat. It has listed various Kurdish groups fighting in Syria as “terrorists,” although its NATO ally the United States largely views the groups as allies on the ground.

Strategic shift

“The paradigm shift [in favor of unmanned systems] reflects two basic motives: the military’s general tendency to catch up with the most advanced technology available, and Turkey’s perceptions of threat that are increasingly asymmetrical,” according to Ozgur Eksi, a military analyst.

Eksi said Turkey’s security-threat perceptions in the last decade have visibly shifted from conventional to asymmetrical which, along with technological change in unmanned systems, has highlighted a conceptual shift.

“The military is now devoting more time and resources to systems integration and command-and-control systems involving unmanned systems to ensure a new deployment concept, while it was in the past more interested in conventional troop and systems deployment,” he said.

One aspect of increasing unmanned deployment will be the use of special forces. “The idea is to carry out surgical operations more than before, which is a natural outcome of asymmetrical warfare,” said one Gendarmerie officer. “This comes as opposed to past warfare concepts of massive troop movements in cross-border operations.”

Turkey set up a joint special forces outpost on the Turkish side of the country’s border with Syria. Special forces from both the Gendarmerie and the police gather at this camp before they are dispatched into Syria.

“It makes perfect sense to carry out operations against asymmetrical threats with fewer troops,” the Gendarmerie officer added. “The more unmanned systems should integrate into the [military] network and more [unmanned] platforms are available for deployment, the fewer soldiers will take part in cross-border operations.”

Confidence in industry

One procurement official familiar with unmanned systems said that in line with the availability of different drones, the work on integration and communications would gain importance.

“The success of various [unmanned] systems will depend on how successfully these systems will speak with each other as well as with command-and-control centers and manned systems,” he said. “This is an area we encourage local software companies to devote more of their time.”

Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli has acknowledged that one specific unmanned program — that of a remotely operated tank — is ”a challenging task and a very complex program. But he added that “there is a number of local companies that have the technology to make the ground work for this ambition. We think we can guide unmanned tanks by satellite connection.”

Katmerciler, a privately owned armored and anti-riot vehicles manufacturer, has been developing the UKAP, a remote-controlled firing platform. The UKAP’s missions include search and reconnaissance, radar-based target tracking, personnel rescue, mine sweeping, and towing.

The system can be remote-controlled from a maximum distance of 3 kilometers. It can operate for up to five hours on battery power, or eight hours with a power generator.

Military specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defense company, showcased its SARP remote-controlled weapon system at an international defense and aerospace exhibition in Istanbul in May. The SARP features computer-based firing control functions, distance measurement, ballistic calculations and automatic target tracking.

Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, or SSM in its Turkish acronym, recently posted a video showing the remote-controlled version of the Ejder Yalcin, an indigenous armored vehicle, during successful tests.

“Soon there will be a few autonomous vehicles in the field,” SSM’s chief, Demir, said. “More than 20 such vehicles will be used in Afrin.”

The Ejder Yalcin is a signature vehicle designed and developed by the privately owned armored vehicle-maker Nurol Makina.

Nurol has sold hundreds of units of the Ejder Yalcin, a heavy armored combat vehicle with conventional and ballistic protection against mines and improvised explosive devices.

In addition to a number of unspecified foreign users, the Ejder Yalcin is used by both the Turkish military and the police special forces, mostly in the country’s southeast where Kurdish militants have been fighting a violent separatist war since 1984.

SSM officials said the first field tests for the remote-controlled Ejder Yalcin were successful.

SSM recently procured and delivered to the Army a batch of 43 remote-controlled heavy construction machines for filling holes and digging trenches. Those vehicles, controlled from a maximum distance of 1 kilometer, have been widely used in the Turkish military’s operations in Syria, SSM officials said.

Another new, ambitious program is the Akinci, an advanced UAV that can carry up to four rocket or missile systems compared to only two systems currently outfitted to the Turkish fleet of armed drones.

The Turkish government officially gave its go-ahead to the Akinci program during a meeting in January of the country’s top defense procurement panel, the Defence Industry Executive Committee, chaired by Erdogan.

The Akinci is being developed by Kale-Baykar, a private drone specialist that supplies most of the armed drones in the Turkish inventory. Compared to current models, the aircraft will have a longer endurance, carry a bigger payload and be more agile, according to procurement officials. The first deliveries of the Akinci are scheduled for 2021.

In March 2017, Kale-Baykar delivered a batch of six armed drones to the Turkish military. The Bayraktar TB2 system would be stationed in Elazig close to the Kurdish insurgency zones. Two of the TB2s are armed aircraft.

The Bayraktar uses the MAM-L and MAM-C, miniature smart munitions developed and produced by state-controlled missile specialist Roketsan.

Turkey’s local industry is also developing BSI-101, a signals intelligence system, for the Bayraktar to end Turkey’s dependence on U.S.-made sigint systems for drones.

The Bayraktar can fly at a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet. Its communications range is 150 kilometers. The aircraft can carry a payload of up to 55 kilograms.

Turkey’s defense minister said the country also plans to build an indigenous unmanned fighter jet. “We are hoping to give orders for the unmanned fighter aircraft by 2027,” Canikli said.

Turkey is designing the fighter jet with know-how from BAE Systems. The program, dubbed TF-X, awaits a governmental decision to select an engine. British engine-maker Rolls-Royce and Turkish government-controlled engine specialist Tusas Engine Industries are in a two-way race to win the engine contract.

Late last year, TEI completed the development phase of a program to build the country’s first drone engine. TEI’s PD170 went through successful initial tests, the company said. TEI has been working on the PD170 since December 2012 when it signed a development contract with SSM.

The 2.1-liter, turbo-diesel PD170 can reach 170 horsepower at 20,000 feet, and 130 horsepower at 30,000 feet. It can generate power at a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet. The PD170 was designed for the Anka, Turkey’s first indigenous medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.
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[*] posted on 27-3-2018 at 06:46 PM

Israel Edges To NATO As Turkey Pivots To Russia

For a while, Turkey and Israel were the unexpected couple, the increasingly Muslim state buying the Jewish state's weapons and Israel offering Turkey a potentially strategic gas and oil pipeline. Today, Israel is reaching out to NATO and Turkish-Israeli relations are increasingly tense.

By Arie Egozi

on March 26, 2018 at 1:47 PM

NATO Secretary General with President Erdogan in Ankara two years ago.

For a while, Turkey and Israel were the unexpected couple, the increasingly Muslim state buying the Jewish state’s weapons and Israel offering Turkey a potentially strategic gas and oil pipeline.

That all changed when Israeli commandos raided the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 in international waters of the Mediterranean.

On one of the Turkish ships, the Mavi Marmara, Israeli Navy commandos faced resistance from about 40 of the 590 passengers. Some of the activists were armed with iron bars and knives.

During the struggle, nine activists were killed, including eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American, and many were wounded.

That was a turning point in the relations between the two countries. But three years later, the two sides appeared to mend relations. In a half-hour telephone exchange between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former apologized on behalf of his nation; Erdogan accepted the apology and both agreed to enter into further discussions.

On June 29, 2016 the agreement was finalized and approved by the Israeli government. Israel paid compensation to the families of the people that were killed.

But as the Syrian civil war spiraled out of control and Daesh swept across Iraq, other forces gathered to disrupt the relationship. As the US worked with Kurdish forces to help destroy Daesh, Turkey grew increasingly angry with the US and has edged closer and closer to Russia, raising fundamental questions about Turkey’s NATO membership. And, of course, Turkey has other interests in the Middle East. All this has helped poison relations between the two states. Today, distrust of Turkey is the norm among high-ranking officials in the Israel defense industries and in the defense establishment. “With Turkey’s new friends, we better stay aside,” one of them told Breaking Defense.

Another said: “We cannot trust Turkey now. Should this country be shown the way out of NATO? What is the alternative?”

In the golden years of Israeli-Turkish relations, the Israeli defense industries were sure that they were going to hit the jack pot. In April 2005, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems won a contract to supply medium endurance drones to the Turkish military. Turkey’s local industry would provide sub-systems and services amounting to 30 percent of the contract.

But at the same time Turkey tried to bolster its leadership role in the Arab world. As part of that effort Ankara decided to cut all government-based business deals with Israel – ending a formerly substantial trade in military equipment. By that time Turkey had purchased 10 Heron drones from Israel Aircraft Industries in 2010.

That was the last deal. Since then, Turkey has developed its own drone, the Anka. Experts say the design is based on the Israeli aircraft.

Other negotiations, that included the supply of a spy satellite and other systems were stopped.

Since relations with Israel grew frosty, Turkey, has appeared to treat its NATO membership with disdain.

Russia S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system

It has committed to buying Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems. Gallia Lindenstrauss and Zvi Magen, senior researchers from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, say in a recent paper that Erdogan’s advance payment to Russia for the purchase of two S-400 air defense batteries strengthens Russia’s standing in the Middle East but predict Turkey is likely to remain a nominal NATO member for the foreseeable future.

Part of the reason behind Turkey’s move to buy Russian is that when it needed improved air defenses during both Gulf Wars and the Syrian civil war, it had to rely on other NATO members stationing Patriot batteries in Turkish territory. The researchers note that Turkish officials charged that it took NATO members too long to act. Turkish officials officials also chafed at restrictions on Turkey’s use and access to them.

Another sign of Turkey’s growing estrangement from NATO: in April 2009, Turkey and Syria held a joint military exercise – the first of its kind between a NATO member and a Russian-armed and trained client state.

Another proof of the increasingly close relations with Russia, more than 50 percent of a pipeline that will supply Turkey with Russian natural gas under the Turkish Stream project has been completed. The Turkish Stream project envisages the construction of two pipelines, each 939 kilometers long. The natural gas provided by the first pipeline alone will meet 35 percent of Turkey’s natural gas consumption.

Finally, Russian companies will build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Work begins this year, Erdogan said recently.

Policymakers are now wondering, among other concerns, how a NATO ally will simultaneously operate a Russian-made air defense system and the planned, US F-35 stealth fighters.

Countries in the region are acting to counter the Turkish moves.

The defense ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Israel met in Athens late last year to discuss strengthening cooperation to promote security, stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cypriot Defence Minister, Christoforos Fokaides, said after attending the first meeting with his counterparts: “Our vision is to gradually turn the wider region from a conflict zone to an area of peace, stability and cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Israel is slowly building closer relations with NATO.

Last month Israel signed a logistics agreement with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The agreement is a breakthrough for Israeli companies in the cyber, optics, defense and software sectors. Israeli sources told Breaking Defense that they will allow Israeli companies to compete in NATO tenders and be part of NATO’s database of authorized exporters, thereby opening many doors to Israeli companies choosing to operate in this channel.

The sources added that while the tenders have great potential, NATO member countries have the right to ask that bids be restricted to defense businesses operating in NATO countries. Israel, which is not a NATO member, is a “non-NATO ally.”

Will that status change in the future ? In the fast moving geopolitical changes in this region and the wider world, it’s not impossible.
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[*] posted on 13-4-2018 at 09:21 AM

Erdogan worried by world powers' 'arm wrestling' on Syria

12th April 2018 - 18:55 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Ankara

A somewhat ironic comment considering his interference in the region..........:no:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 12 April said Turkey was worried by the ‘arm wrestling’ of world powers over Syria, as tensions soared between Washington and Moscow after threats of possible US air strikes.

Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara after Washington and Moscow traded accusations: ‘We are extremely worried that some countries confident of their military power are turning Syria into a scene for arm wrestling.’

His comments came after US President Donald Trump warned Moscow on 11 April that US missiles ‘will be coming’ to Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which reportedly killed dozens.

Erdogan said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about ‘how we stop this chemical massacre’ after the suspected attack.

A Turkish presidential source later confirmed the call had taken place but said only that the two men ‘exchanged views on the latest developments in Syria’ and agreed to maintain contact.

Ankara appears keen to keep its distance from one of the worst outbreaks of tensions since the Cold War between its NATO ally Washington and increasingly close partner Moscow.

Erdogan's comments echoed those of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who called on Russia and the US on 11 April to stop ‘street fighting’ on Syria.

While Russia, alongside Iran, has been supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey has repeatedly called for his ouster and supported Syrian rebels.

But Turkey and Russia in recent months have put their differences aside and have been working closely to find a political solution to the conflict.

In the week of 2 April, Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were hosted by Erdogan in Ankara for a tripartite summit to discuss the Syrian conflict.

The alleged chemical attack in rebel-held Douma near Damascus on 7 April sparked international outrage and warnings of possible military action.

Turkey's foreign ministry has said it strongly suspects Assad was to blame.

Erdogan vowed: ‘God willing, the (world's) collective conscience will act together to end this crisis for the sake of the innocent children massacred in the chemical attack in Douma.’

Erdogan said the Assad regime already had ‘a black mark on its track record’ after seven years of civil war in Syria.

Without naming the countries, he appeared to lash out both at Russia for backing Assad and the US for helping the Syrian Kurdish group the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers a terror group.

Erdogan said: ‘Those who support the regime of murderer Assad are making a mistake. Those who support the PYD terror group are also making a mistake. Until the end, we will fight against both these mistakes.’
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