Erdogan: US will not impose sanctions over Russian missile deal

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the US did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying Russian arms, on Saturday in Osaka, Japan. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2019

Erdogan: US will not impose sanctions over Russian missile deal

  • The NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's decision to procure the Russian S-400 missile defense systems
  • Despite the threat of sanctions, Turkey had put its hopes on the relationship between Erdogan and Trump

OSAKA, ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the United States did not plan to impose sanctions on Ankara for buying Russian defence systems, after the U.S. president said Turkey had not been treated fairly over the contract.
The NATO allies have been at odds over Turkey's decision to procure the Russian S-400 missile defence systems, with Washington warning of sanctions if the deal goes through.
Russia's Interfax agency on Saturday quoted a Kremlin spokesman as saying that the deal envisaged a partial handover of technology.
Turkey has said it would not back down before the early July delivery date, further testing relations that are already strained over a host of other issues.
But in contrast to statements by U.S. officials, Donald Trump said Turkey had been treated unfairly over its decision to buy the S-400s and blamed the "mess" on the administration of former President Barack Obama. Trump did not rule out sanctions.
Speaking shortly after bilateral talks with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan, Erdogan said that the S-400s would be delivered in the first half of July, adding he had heard directly from Trump that there would be no sanctions.
"We have heard from him personally that this would not happen," Erdogan said. "We are strategic partners with the United States. As strategic partners, nobody has the right to meddle in Turkey's sovereign rights. Everyone should know this."
Earlier, asked if the United States would impose sanctions on Turkey, Trump, sitting alongside Erdogan, said the issue was being discussed, but it was a "two-way street" and both sides were evaluating "different solutions".
The United States says the S-400s are not compatible with NATO's defence network and could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy.
Under possible U.S. sanctions, Turkey could face expulsion from the F-35 programme, a move Erdogan has dismissed. But Washington has already started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 programme, halting training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft.
"We have a payment so far of $1.4 billion to the United States," Erdogan said. "As joint producers, until now four F-35 jets have been delivered to us, but we will still receive... a total of 116 jets. We are expecting these," he added.
"What some people in lower ranks are saying absolutely do not align with Mr Trump's approach. I believe these will not harm our bilateral ties, and that is the commitment we are going on with."
'UNFAIR' TREATMENT
Despite the threat of sanctions, Turkey had put its hopes on the relationship between Erdogan and Trump, saying it expected the U.S. president to protect it from sanctions over the S-400 deal.
Ahead of Saturday's talks, the meeting between Erdogan and Trump was seen as Turkey's last push to avoid U.S. sanctions that could significantly damage its already ailing economy.
Even minor U.S. sanctions could prompt another sharp sell-off in the Turkish lira. A 30% slide in the currency drove the economy into recession last year, and the lira has lost another 10 percent this year.
Erdogan's comments also appeared to go beyond statements made by the Turkish presidency and the White House after the talks between the two leaders, which lasted around 40 minutes.
The White House said Trump "expressed concern" over the S-400 deal and "encouraged Turkey to work with the United States on defence cooperation in a way that strengthens the NATO alliance", while the Turkish presidency said Trump had voiced a desire to resolve the dispute without harming bilateral ties.
In an effort to sway Turkey, the United States has offered to supply it with Raytheon Co Patriot missiles, but Erdogan has said the U.S. offer was not as good as Russia's S-400 proposal.
Speaking at a news conference at the G20 minutes before Erdogan, Trump blamed Barack Obama's administration for placing conditions on Turkey's purchase of Patriot missiles and treating Turkey unfairly, and added Erdogan had no fault in the dispute.
"This administration previous to mine would not let him buy it (Patriots). So (Erdogan) goes out, he goes to Russia, and makes a deal for the S-400," Trump said. "He made a deal, he paid them a lot of money, put up a lot of money. And he bought it."
"As soon as he bought it (S-400), people went back to him from our country and they said, 'Listen, we don't want you to use that system because it's not the NATO system," he added. "He got treated very unfairly."
Trump also said he would visit Turkey, but added that a date had not been set yet. Erdogan said earlier this week that Trump may visit in July.


Tension between Iraq defense minister and Iranian-backed faction peaks

Updated 47 min 29 sec ago

Tension between Iraq defense minister and Iranian-backed faction peaks

  • ‘Third party’ accused of killings as documents show ministry had tear gas canisters in warehouses imported from Serbia

BAGHDAD: Tension between Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari and several Iranian-backed armed factions peaked on Thursday after documents emerged showing the Iraqi Defense Ministry had tear gas canisters in its warehouses imported from Serbia years ago.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have been witnessing anti-government demonstrations since Oct. 1.

More than 300 demonstrators have died and about 16,000 have been injured so far, mostly in Baghdad, by tear gas and live bullets used by Iraqi forces to quell the protests.

In an earlier television interview, Al-Shammari said Iraqi security forces had not shot at demonstrators and that orders since October had been clear that no live bullets should be used to deal with the protesters.

Al-Shammari also said tear gas that killed dozens of demonstrators after they were hit directly in the head and chest by canisters was not imported by the Iraqi government. 

He accused a “third party” of killing the demonstrators.

“Third parties fired (at the demonstrators) in an attempt to make the conflict seem between security forces and demonstrators,” Al-Shammari said.

“A third party has been killing protesters and security forces.”

Since the start of the protests, the majority of Iraqis have used specific words to describe the demonstrators, security forces, and armed factions supporting the government.

The “third party” is the description used to describe Iranian-backed factions to differentiate between them and security forces, often referred to as the “second party,” while describing the demonstrators as the “first party”.

“Third party” became a term of ridicule after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi unintentionally used it several times in a statements to shirk responsibility for killings, kidnappings and arrests of protesters, activists, journalists and even officials.

The defense minister’s allegations have angered a number of Iranian-backed armed factions and their associated security and military leaders.

He has also faced charges of forgery, manipulation of official records and lying.

On Thursday, the Resistance Media Network, a group of Iranian-funded channels, distributed documents revealing that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense had imported tear gas, smoke and sound bombs, rifles and other riot gear from Serbia under a contract entered into by the Ministry with Yugo Import SDPR in 2007.

Another document revealed the quantity and types of equipment and weapons used by riot police and government-affiliated forces during the past seven weeks, starting from Sept. 30 to Nov. 18, clearly indicating that the Ministry of Defense forces used thousands of tear gas canisters during that period.

Similarly damaging for the defense minister were links to press reports in the Swedish media about Al-Shammari, indicating that the minister, who has been living in Sweden since 2007 and holds  Swedish citizenship, is registered there as exempt from work and taxes, and enjoys a pension and free health care as a result of poor mental health.

Iraqi security and military figures have confirmed the involvement of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and field commander of Iranian operations in Iraq in the suppression of demonstrators.

“The minister is under tremendous pressure now,” a senior military commander told Arab News. “He revealed their (Iranian-backed factions) involvement in the killing of protesters. Although he did not name them, it was clear who was meant by the ‘third party’.

“To be honest, he (Al-Shammari) refused to use violence against demonstrators when he was asked to do so. Then these statements came out to destroy his political future.

“They (Iranian-backed factions) decided to terminate him politically, so these files began to appear both inside and outside Iraq.”