Category Archives: Turkey

(Politico) Déjà vu in the UK: As a Turkish exile, I’ve seen this story before

(Politico) Turkey’s democratic backsliding began with the kind of toxic rhetoric tearing Britain apart.

Pro-Brexit supporters jostle with police during a march in central London | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

LONDON — I moved to London from Istanbul over a decade ago. As a novelist put on trial in Turkey for writing fiction, I longed for freedom of speech, and wanted to live in a place with a strong liberal democracy and stable democratic institutions. Back then, Britons were calm when they talked politics. Even when they disagreed, they seemed to remain controlled, and norms prevailed. In the post-Brexit era, that distinctive British calmness and sense of continuity is no more. Politics has become divisive, aggressive, emotionally charged. The dominant motto is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat. As my adopted country becomes increasingly polarized and drifts further away from Europe, I find myself seized by a strange sense of déjà vu: Some of what I see in the U.K. today reminds me of what I’ve seen happen in Turkey.

Democracy is far more fragile than generally assumed. It is a delicate ecosystem of checks and balances. Referendums and elections, however vital, are not enough to maintain a democracy. Let us not forget that Russia has elections. Turkey has elections. They are not democracies. In addition to the ballot box, democracy is about the rule of law, separation of powers, media freedoms, academic independence, human rights, women’s rights and minority rights.

The political trajectory of Turkey holds important lessons for progressive-minded citizens across the world. The country has gone backward — at first gradually, and then with astonishing speed. Its fledgling democracy fell to pieces under tides of populist nationalism and populist authoritarianism. The government, guided by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came to power with promises of reform, freedoms and pluralism, but delivered the exact opposite. Media diversity was crushed, academics and journalists were arrested, civil society was stifled from above. Turkey, once a resolute candidate for European Union membership, catapulted itself onto the periphery of Europe.

It all began with words: a toxic language of divisiveness, us and them, the “people” versus “the establishment.” Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party portrayed itself as the sole representative of the people. “We are the people,” said Erdoğan. “Who are you?” Criticizing the government became tantamount to criticizing the people. All opposition was stymied in the name of the people.

A similarly toxic rhetoric is taking hold in countries where populism is on the rise. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán depicts any criticism directed at his government as an attack against the people, an attack against Hungary. The right-wing populist Freedom Party in Austria claims to be the voice of the people, accusing opponents of being the voice of high society. In Poland, the leader of the conservative ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński has called opposition members “traitors.”

Once, political scientists assumed that some European countries were historically inoculated against populism. Today, we have seen that’s not the case.

Such inflammatory language is neither coincidental nor accidental. It lies at the heart of the populist strategy for electoral gain. Today in the U.K., hardcore Brexiteers call people who disagree with them “traitors” and warn of “betrayal.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been repeatedly criticized for naming a bill that would stop a no-deal Brexit as the “surrender bill” or “capitulation.”

This kind of rhetoric has a damaging effect that goes beyond pure politics. When nationalism escalates, so does sexism and misogyny. Female opposition MPs have become easy targets. They receive death threats and constant abuse, and last month Labour MP Paula Sherriff asked the prime minister to tone down his language, telling the parliament that trolls, clearly emboldened by the new political climate, were echoing his words. Johnson’s reply was that he had never heard such “humbug” in his life, though he later said it was a “misunderstanding.”

Suddenly, politics has become a war zone and people’s lives are in danger. Martial metaphors of destruction and death are used abundantly. Johnson says, “I’d rather be dead in a ditch than agree to a Brexit extension.” Meanwhile, benefiting from the chaos, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tells centrist parties, “Get Brexit done or die!

There is no doubt that the U.K. is undergoing tough and extraordinary times. European capitals are watching with concern. But it would be a historic mistake on the part of European intellectuals to forget that the U.K. is not alone in this. In truth, no country is immune to the rise of populist nationalism and tribalism. Once, political scientists assumed that some European countries were historically inoculated against such disruption. Today, from Germany to Sweden, Austria and Spain, we have seen that’s not the case.

The waves of nativism that are shaking the U.K. today are also waves that are ready to disrupt different parts of Europe tomorrow. It’s important that we remember, as world citizens, that we are all in this mess together. What happens in one country has a direct impact on what happens elsewhere, and the solutions to today’s problems — whether climate change or terrorism or the dark side of technology — can only be achieved by working together. Democracies wither away when countries feel isolated.

Elif Shafak is a novelist, public speaker and political scientist. She is the author of 17 books, 11 of them novels, including “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” (Penguin, 2019), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.

(ZH) Pence Says US, Turkey Reach Ceasefire Deal In Syria; Lira Soars On “Agreement To Withdraw Sanctions”

(ZH) update: A deal has been reached for Turkey to suspend military operations in northern Syria, as Vice President Pence has confirmed in a briefing to reporters. “A pause in military operations for 120 hours” – or 5 days – while the US facilitates an “orderly withdrawal” of its forces as well as partner SDF Kurdish forces outside a 20-mile ‘safe zone’ will take effect based on Thursday’s meeting with President Erdogan, Pence said. Meanwhile a senior Turkish official has told Middle East Eye “We got exactly what we wanted out of the meeting.”

  • POMPEO: WORK REMAINS IN REGION, DEAL SETS GROUND FOR RESOLUTION
  • PENCE: TURKEY AGREED TO CEASE OPS PERMANENTLY AFTER WITHDRAWAL
  • PENCE SAYS TRUMP VERY GRATEFUL FOR EFFORT ON CEASEFIRE

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some “tough” love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!53.9K7:03 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy23.4K people are talking about this

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this “Deal” for many years. Millions of lives will be saved. Congratulations to ALL!67.5K7:13 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy36K people are talking about this

The deal involves removal of US sanctions conditioned on the “pause” and road map to permanent ceasefire:

“Part of our understanding is that with the implementation of the ceasefire, the United States will not impose any further sanctions on Turkey,” Pence said“And once a permanent ceasefire is in effect, the President has agreed to withdraw the economic sanctions that were imposed this last Monday.”

CBS News@CBSNews

Trump on Syria ceasefire agreement: “What Turkey is getting now is, they’re not going to have to kill millions of people, and millions of people aren’t going to have to kill them” http://cbsnews.com/live 697:25 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy138 people are talking about this

Concerning the 5-day “pause” the Vice President said, “On the basis of a pause… we will not be implementing additional sanctions during that period of time.”

A copy of the printed agreement, handed out the press pool: 

Steve Herman@W7VOAReplying to @W7VOA and 4 others

Here’s a copy of the joint US-#Turkey statement via print pool reporter @EliStokols.

View image on Twitter

1107:07 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy165 people are talking about this

The Turkish Lira surged on the announcement, rallying as much as 1.15% to a session high of 5.8194, the strongest point since Oct. 10.

* * *

Visible tension pervaded the icy photo opp during Thursday’s meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara — a meeting which the latter initially rejected, saying he would only meet with Trump, amid a White House initiative to push for a ceasefire in northern Syria. 

The Pence-Pompeo-Erdogan meeting, which reports say lasted for about 90 minutes, which was significantly “longer than planned,” also came after Trump’s strange “don’t be a fool” letter to Erdogan was made public, which Turkish officials say Erdogan threw in the trash.

Ragıp Soylu@ragipsoyluReplying to @ragipsoylu

More pics from Pence, Erdogan meeting.

STILL NOT HAPPY

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

7202:04 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy326 people are talking about this

It was further less than 24 hours after Trump seemed to downplay Turkey’s invasion against US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, saying the fight was over land that “has nothing to do with us.”

Ragıp Soylu@ragipsoyluReplying to @ragipsoylu

VIDEO from Erdogan, Pence meeting

Pence and Erdogan are stiff.

“Thanks for seeing me” Pence says.

Ambassador Jeffrey addresses Erdogan in Turkish 6352:09 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy460 people are talking about this

The president told reporters in the Oval Office Wednesday, “If Turkey goes into Syria, that’s between Turkey and Syria,” and added, “It’s not between Turkey and the United States.”

Jake Sherman@JakeSherman

Here is ⁦@SecPompeo⁩ and ⁦@VP⁩ and erdogan. A US official tell us pence asked ⁦@trpresidency⁩ twice to allow media in. We were allowed in — no questions allowed — for about 45 seconds.

View image on Twitter

1303:33 PM – Oct 17, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy118 people are talking about this

All of this means that the US delegation went to Ankara with perhaps significantly less leverage (also considering Erdogan isn’t dealing with Trump directly); however, also after the White House authorized sanctions on Turkey this week, vowing that more could come. 

The US has demanded that Erdogan immediately halt his ‘Operation Peace Spring’ — to which Erdogan responded this week he’ll pursue the Turkish ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria even without international backing or support of allies. 

A Turkish official told Reuters of Trump’s now viral letter, which apparently wasn’t reviewed or proofed by his staff: “The letter Trump sent did not have the impact he expected in Turkey because it had nothing to take seriously.”

“What is clear is that Turkey does not want a terrorist organization on its border and the operation will not stop because of the reaction that has been coming.”

developing…

(CNBC) Pompeo and Pence will meet with Erdogan after Turkish leader backs off refusal

(CNBC)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite the foreign leader earlier saying he would not attend. 
  • “At this point, the vice president and I are planning to take off later this afternoon,” Pompeo said. “And we have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan. And it’s important, Maria, we need to have this conversation with him directly.”
  • Erdogan earlier told Sky News that he would not meet with the U.S. delegation led by Pence before reversing himself in comments to the Turkish press.
GP: Mike Pompeo Mike Pence

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Vice President Mike Pence listen as President Donald Trump speaks about the government shutdown on January 25, 2019, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. – Trump says will sign bill to reopen the government until February 15.Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that he and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara despite the foreign leader earlier saying he would not attend.

“At this point, the vice president and I are planning to take off later this afternoon,” Pompeo said. “And we have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan. And it’s important, Maria, we need to have this conversation with him directly.”

The comments came during an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo. They came shortly before the U.S. delegation, including Pence, Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O’Brien were scheduled to travel to Turkey in an effort to stymie the country’s military actions in neighboring Syria.

Erdogan earlier told Sky News that he would not meet with the U.S. delegation led by Pence, and would only meet with President Donald Trump, before reversing himself in comments to the Turkish press.

The U.S.-Turkey relationship is on rocky footing following a Turkish incursion into northern Syria apparently prompted by Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from the area. Following the incursion, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the country and has pushed for a ceasefire.

The president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has been widely condemned. Democratic and Republican lawmakers and security officials have cast the move as an abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies, who served as the chief ground force in the U.S. effort against the so-called Islamic State, and a “win” for Russia, Iran and the Assad regime.

Trump pledged debilitating economic retaliation against Turkey if they did anything “that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits,” though so far the financial punishment has been limited.

Nonetheless, Ankara has pledged to retaliate against the sanctions, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying he expected the U.S. Congress to walk back its “damaging approach.” A spokesperson for the Turkish president’s office said the country was preparing sanctions of its own on Wednesday, Reuters reported. 

As the American delegation heads to Turkey, the vice president is on a mission to convince Erdogan to commit to a ceasefire in northern Syria and pursue a peaceful resolution with U.S.-backed Kurdish militias governing the region that Turkey has long viewed as terrorists. Pompeo reiterated that a ceasefire was the goal of the trip on Wednesday.

“We need them to stand down. We need a cease fire. At which point, we can begin to put this all back together again,” Pompeo said in the interview.

Erdogan has said that a ceasefire is not on the table.

“They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan told reporters this week.

Turkey’s offensive in Syria, marked by airstrikes and artillery shelling, is now in its seventh day amid reports of human rights atrocities, ISIS jailbreaks and mass fleeing of civilians.

The UN says 130,000 people have already been displaced, and Kurdish forces say more than 200 have been killed. Pro-Turkish forces have cut off the main road between Syria’s east and west Kurdish-held territory, blocking the main highway to the Kurdish city of Kobani where U.S. troops are based.

Pompeo pushed back on criticism of U.S. sanctions, which have yet to make waves in Turkish financial markets.

“We have to remember, this is a complex situation Maria,” he said. “You saw the initial set of sanctions that the president chose to put on Turkey. I think, frankly, the world has underappreciated the severity of those sanctions and how much impact they will ultimately have on the Turkish economy.”

Trump on Monday signed an executive order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and “immediately” halting trade negotiations with the country. Turkish markets the following day were relatively flat, with the country’s lira actually firming against the dollar as analysts described the penalties as “not very serious” and “window dressing.”

(BBC) Turkey-Syria offensive: US sanctions Turkish ministries

(BBC)

Media captionWatch as Syrian government forces enter town of Ain Issa

The US has imposed sanctions on Turkish ministries and senior government officials in response to the country’s military offensive in northern Syria.

President Donald Trump also phoned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to demand an immediate truce, Vice-President Mike Pence said.

Mr Pence said he would travel to the region “as quickly as possible”.

The move comes after criticism of a US troop withdrawal from the region which some say gave Turkey a “green light”.

The Turkish offensive, which began last week, aims to push the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border region. Turkey considers the biggest militia in the SDF a terrorist organisation.

The Turkish government wants to create a “safe zone” in the area, where it can resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.

Many of them are not Kurds and critics warn this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

Dozens of civilians have been killed in the operation so far and at least 160,000 have fled the area, according to the UN.

A Kurdish Syrian woman cries during the funeral of five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters killed in battles against Turkey-led forces in the flashpoint town of Ras al-Ain along the border, on October 14, 2019
Image captionA Kurdish Syrian woman cries during the funeral of five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in Ras al-Ain

Some aid organisations have been forced to suspend operations and evacuate international staff over security fears.

Kurdish-led forces have been a key ally of the US in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. They described the US withdrawal, which preceded Turkish action, as a “stab in the back”.

There are fears the destabilisation could risk a resurgence of IS, as thousands of former fighters and their relatives are being detained in northern Syria. Hundreds of IS family members are said to have already escaped from one camp.

Facing immense pressure, Kurdish-led forces on Sunday announced a deal with the Syrian government for military support to help repel Turkey.

What are the US sanctions?

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the measures alongside Vice-President Pence in Washington DC on Monday evening.

Action was taken against Turkey’s defence and energy ministries, as well as the ministers of defence, energy and interior, the US Treasury said. The move freezes their assets in the US and bans transactions with them that involve the US financial system.

“The Turkish government’s actions are endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region, including undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS [Islamic State],” the statement added.

Map of northern Syria

President Donald Trump has faced mounting pressure to take action against Turkey – a Nato partner – including from Republicans usually loyal to his administration.

In a statement posted on Twitter, President Trump also said he would raise tariffs on Turkish steel back to 50% and “immediately stop” negotiations related to a “$100 billion trade deal” with Turkey.

“The United States and our partners have liberated 100 percent of ISIS’s ruthless territorial caliphate,” the statement said. “Turkey must not put these gains in jeopardy.”

Vice-President Pence warned that the sanctions would worsen “unless and until Turkey embraces an immediate ceasefire” and negotiates a long-term settlement on the border.

Mike Pence and Steven Mnuchin speaks to media outside White House
Image captionThe vice-president also reiterated that the US “did not give a green light to Turkey to invade Syria”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who leads the Democrats, said on Twitter that the sanctions fell “very short of reversing the humanitarian disaster brought about by [the president’s] own erratic decision-making”.

Earlier on Monday, European Union countries committed to suspending arms exports to Turkey but stopped short of an EU-wide arms embargo. In response, Turkey said it would examine its co-operation with the EU due to its “unlawful and biased” attitude.

Presentational grey line

Lighter than expected

Analysis by Mark Lowen, former BBC Turkey correspondent

Donald Trump is now sanctioning Turkey for an invasion that he is widely considered to have enabled. By announcing a withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, President Erdogan was given a de facto green light to move in.

The sanctions might appear hefty, targeting senior ministers and hiking steel tariffs. But in reality, they are lighter than expected – and we have been here before.

In August 2018, Donald Trump lost patience with Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor, sanctioning two ministers and imposing 50% tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel. The Turkish lira plunged to a record low of 7.2 to the dollar.

Since then, the lira has somewhat recovered – and appears to have largely shaken off today’s measures. The US represents just 5% of Turkey’s steel export market.

President Erdogan tends to dig in his heels when he feels under pressure. There is no sign of any change of tack by him – yet.

Presentational grey line

What is happening in Syria?

Following the deal with Kurdish-led forces, the Syrian army began to move towards the border on Monday.

Syrian state media said government forces had entered the strategic town of Manbij, inside the area where Turkey wants to create its “safe zone”. Turkish troops and pro-Turkish, anti-government fighters were gathering near the town.

The deal was seen as a boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as it meant his troops would return to north-eastern areas for the first time since 2012, when their withdrawal to fight rebels elsewhere allowed Kurdish militias to take control.

Media captionThe BBC’s Martin Patience explains what’s behind the conflict

Despite disagreeing with their attempts at self-rule, Mr Assad did not seek to retake the territory, especially after the Kurds became partners in the coalition against IS with US troops on the ground.

Apart from fighting IS, the Kurds were fundamental to the US in limiting the influence of rivals Russia and Iran and keeping some leverage on the ground.

For now, Syrian forces will not be deployed between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, where Turkey has focused its efforts.

The Russian government, a key Syrian ally, said it did not want to entertain the possibility of a clash between Russian and Turkish forces in Syria, and said it was in regular contact with Turkey’s authorities.

President Erdogan insists the operation will continue until Turkey’s “objectives have been achieved” despite the involvement of Syrian government forces.

“God willing, we will quickly secure the region stretching from Manbij to our border with Iraq and ensure that, in the first stage, one million, and then two million Syrian refugees return to their homes on their own free will,” he said in a televised speech on Tuesday.

The United Nations say 160,000 have fled their homes but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) say this number could be as high as 250,000 with 70 civilian deaths reported.

The UK-based monitoring group say 135 members of the SDF have died in the military operation so far along with 122 pro-Turkish fighters and eight Turkish soldiers.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency report 18 civilians have been killed over the border in southern Turkey.

On Tuesday the UN Human Rights office called on Turkey to investigate suspected war crimes being carried out by pro-Turkish forces.

“Turkey could be deemed as a state responsible for violations by their affiliated groups as long as Turkey exercises effective control of these groups or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred,” spokesman Rupert Colville said.

The warning came after footage emerged over the weekend that appeared to show summary executions of Kurds, including female politician Hevrin Khalaf.

(GUA) Turkey-Syria offensive: Kurds reach deal with Damascus to stave off assault

(GUA) Agreement to hand over border towns comes after more than 700 Isis affiliates escape camp

Smoke rises from Ras al-Ayn, Syria, during bombardment by Turkish forces on Sunday.
 Smoke rises from Ras al-Ayn, Syria, during bombardment by Turkish forces on Sunday. Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA

Kurdish-led forces in control of north-east Syria have reached a deal with the Assad regime to stave off a bloody five-day-old Turkish assault, as more than 700 people with links to Islamic State have escaped from a detention camp in the area.

Kurdish fighters controlling the region would surrender the border towns of Manbij and Kobane to Damascus in a deal brokered by Russia, officials said on Sunday night.

Syrian state media said units from President Bashar al-Assad’s army were moving north to “confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory”. Unconfirmed reports said the deal between the Kurds and the regime would be extended to apply to the whole of north-east Syria.Advertisement

“After everything, it seems that the fate of the Kurdish people [is to be abandoned]. We did everything that we could, we called upon the international community … but it did not result in a solution. We urged all Kurdish [groups] to show solidarity, but no one listened,” Ismat Sheikh Hassan, the leader of the military council in Kobane, told local television.

The deal is likely to be a bitter end to five years of semi-autonomy for Kurdish groups in north-east Syria, forced by Ankara’s offensive on the area. Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring started on Wednesday after Donald Trump’s announcement that US forces would withdraw from the region.

Trump had not specified a timeframe for the US withdrawal from Syria, but on Sunday US defence secretary Mark Esper said the remaining 1,000 special forces in the country had been ordered to leave “as safely and quickly as possible” as the fighting between Turkey and the SDF began to threaten US military positions.

The area’s Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been funded and trained by the US to combat Isis since 2015, finally defeating the militant group in March after losing 11,000 troops in the battle.

Turkey, however, says the largest unit of of the SDF, the Kurdish YPG, is a terrorist group indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.

 What does Turkey’s military action in northern Syria mean? – video explainer

Trump’s decision to abandon the SDF to an inevitable Turkish assault has been widely criticised even by his staunchest allies as a betrayal of a US military partner which has unleashed to a humanitarian disaster and threatens to sow the seeds of Isis’ resurgence amid the chaos.

On Sunday, at least 750 people with suspected links to the militant group reportedly fled a displacement camp in north-east Syria.

France voiced its concern at the report. Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told France 3 television: “I do not know, today, who exactly the people are who fled from the camp; it has been a worry for France since the beginning of this armed intervention.”

France has been hit by a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015, many claimed or inspired by Isis, and has expressed concerns that a Turkish assault would bolster the group.

On Monday, the French presidency said in a statement it was taking measures to protect its personnel inside Syria. “Measures will be taken in the coming hours to ensure the safety of French military and civilian personnel present in the zone as part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State and humanitarian action,” the statement said.

The women and children formerly part of the “caliphate” had been held in a secure annexe at the Ain Issa camp. They began to riot and scared away the guards after Turkish shelling struck close to the area on Sunday, said Abdulkader Mwahed, the joint president for humanitarian affairs in the Kurdish-held part of Syria.

The UK-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number to have escaped at 100, publishing pictures of men, women in black niqabs and small children running through yellow scrubland.

The camp was home to a total of about 13,000 people, including three suspected British orphans and a British recruiter for Isis, Tooba Gondal.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stated goal is to create a 20-mile-deep “safe zone” on its border with the SDF, enough to keep Turkish border towns out of the range of shelling and rocket fire.

However, Ain Issa and other Kurdish-held roads and towns south of the proposed safe zone have been hit by airstrikes and shelling. Syrian rebel proxies fighting on behalf of Turkey were pushing south and refused to allow the town of Manbij to fall into regime hands, a fighter with the Syrian National Army (SNA) rebel umbrella group said, reporting that Turkey had begun shelling the SDF-held town west of the Euphrates.

A convoy of 40 armoured Turkish trucks travelled into Syria from the Jarablus border crossing to reinforce the Turkish offensive, another military source said.

Speaking on Sunday, Erdoğan rejected offers for mediation with the SDF and criticised his western Nato allies for standing by what Turkey considers to be a terrorist organisation.

He also dismissed the reports of escaped Isis prisoners as “disinformation” aimed at provoking the US and other western countries.

About 130,000 people have been displaced in Syria in the five-day-old operation so far, with at least 60 civilian casualties in Syria and 18 dead in Turkey after counterattack SDF shelling of Turkish border towns.

The SNA summarily executed nine civilians including a female politician, a human rights monitor has claimed. The umbrella group said it had ordered an investigation and commanders were to “continuously supervise combatants on the frontlines to prevent any abuse”.

(ZH) EU Must Reject Turkey’s ‘Blackmail’ On Syrian Refugees, Urges Italy’s Conte

(ZH) update: Though Erdogan has been used to getting his way utilizing his well-known bullying tactics, it appears Europe is not going to fold this time.

After yesterday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared of Turkey’s push to militarily carve out a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria that“if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it,” some European leaders have pushed back against his reiterated threat to “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe if external powers don’t support his operation. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said European Union must adopt a common position against Erdogan’s threats. Conte told RAI television, as cited in Bloomberg:

“We cannot accept that there be blackmail involving the welcome given by Turkey” to refugees with European funding, and the offensive in Syria.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, via EPA/BBC

No doubt Erdogan won’t take kindly to the Italian leader charging him with an attempt the “blackmail” but Conte firmly voiced what many EU leaders are likely thinking. 

* * *

As fighting ramps up in northeastern Syria following Turkey’s armed incursion into territory held by the Kurds, President Trump made clear during a press conference Wednesday night that, while Washington has threatened to punish Turkey for attacking the Kurds, President Trump doesn’t feel any deeper loyalty to the one-time “tip of the spear” in the fight against ISIS.

But President Erdogan wants Europe to understand that if it pursues sanctions or other punitive measures against Turkey – or even if European leaders complain too loudly – he won’t hesitate to release millions of Syrian refugees and allow them to start making their way to Europe, which is still struggling with the ramifications of the last wave of Syrian refugees.

According to BBG, Erdogan said he would “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe, should his country face criticism.

Erdogan’s threat comes as Turkish troops begin their advance into northeastern Syria (Erdogan has asked European leaders not to call this an ‘invasion’). So far, he has faced intense criticism from European nations and nearby Arab states.

The Turkish lira, and Turkish assets like stocks and foreign-currency bonds, have slumped in the wake of the invasion, with the Turkish currency trading near its weakest level since August.

Ankara has said the operation, which was given the green light by the US over the weekend, is intended to force back Kurdish militants along the border area while targeting ISIS militants. But since ISIS has been stripped of all its territory in the region, many who oppose the Turkish incursion believe the claims of going after ISIS and preventing the creation of a “terror corridor” are merely a ruse.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan@RTErdogan

The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.49.9K2:16 PM – Oct 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy17.4K people are talking about this

Turkish F-16 warplanes and artillery units have struck at least 181 targets so far. At least 19 Kurdish militants have been killed since the Turkish assault began, while 38 have been wounded. Meanwhile, a group of American senators from both parties have promised to try and punish Ankara over the incursion.

(BBC) Turkey launches air strikes on Syria border area

Turkey has launched a ground and air offensive on territory held by Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria. Residents began to flee some areas, and plumes of smoke were seen rising from towns near the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation was to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias, which will also house Syrian refugees. The Kurdish-led militias have been key US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, but Ankara regards them as terrorists because of their links to Kurdish rebels inside Turkey.

(Express) Turkey’s Erdogan facing REBELLION as allies turn into enemies

(Express) TAYYIP ERDOGAN is being rounded on by former allies as the Turkish President comes under increasing domestic scrutiny for oppressive tactics.

In May 2016, former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was forced out of his role. At the time he announced his undying loyalty to Turkey’s new leader, saying: “I will sustain my faithful relationship with our president until my last breath.“No one has ever heard, and will ever hear, a single word against our president come from my mouth.”Despite this, it was well known the two influential figures in Turkish politics have not always seen eye to eye and, on September 13, Davutolgu ended three years of compliance and resigned from the ruling AK Party amid threats of expulsion being directed his way.

Davutolgu is not alone, as many who once declared themselves as Erdogan loyalists have since abandoned their leader and are now seeking to oust him from the Presidential Palace.

There are now two major political rebellions against the Turkish leader by former allies, Davutoglu is expected to launch a new party in the near future, as is Ali Babacan, a 52-year-old former economy minister and deputy prime minister, who has the backing of another one-time Erdogan ally, the former president Abdullah Gul.

Babacan has promised to start his own party in an attempt to take down the vulnerable Erdogan, having resigned from the ruling AK Party in July.

Upon his departure from the party he cited “deep differences” between himself and Erdogan who remains the figurehead of the party.

The plans to challenge Erdogan have been long in the making, but were accelerated after election disaster earlier this year.

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Erdogan (Image: getty)

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Davutoglu is one of many former loyalists to turn his back on Erdogan (Image: getty)

The major shock in June was Istanbul being won by the Republican People’s Party after 25 years of AK rule – an embarrassing defeat for the President.

Despite the defectors splintering into different factions, it appears they share similar motives, referencing the oppressive and dictatorial nature of Erdogan’s rule.

Upon his resignation, Babacan accused the AK Party of straying from its original values.

He said: “Values like human rights, freedoms, populist democracy and the rule of law are ones that we always defend and believe in.

READ MORE:Erdogan rages at Trump as missile feud rumbles on

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Babacan is also forming his own party to take on his former ally (Image: getty)

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Kaftancioglu was sentenced to over nine years for criticising Erdogan (Image: getty)

“These principles are not a periodic political preference for us.

“The government needs to provide justice and equal opportunity. Justice is the reason why governments exist.”

With the Turkish strongman still reeling from an embarrassing defeat in Istanbul in June, Canan Kaftancioglu, a member of the left wing Republican People’s Party that won the regional vote in Istanbul, was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison for ‘insulting the president’ and ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’.

Protest

Erdogan lost control of Istanbul after a shock election result (Image: getty)

The case against Kaftancioglu also accused her of inciting hatred and enmity based on tweets sent from her account between 2012 and 2017. She continues to resist Erdogan’s government and claims the charges brought against her are evidence of the President’s autocratic and restrictive regime.

Analysts suspect Erdogan can fend off the onslaught of opposition, with some even suggesting he may seek to change the system brought in last year that requires a presidential candidate to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to win.

There are no elections in Turkey until 2023, leaving Erdogan plenty more time to rule, but also leaving his rivals time to plan their strike.

(EN) Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to ‘open the gates’ for migrants to Europe

(EN)

Turkey's Erdogan threatens to 'open the gates' for migrants to Europe

CopyrightMurat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will “open the gates” for migrants to Europe if international support for a refugee safe zone in northern Syria fails to materialise.

Turkey’s president said on Thursday (September 5) he plans to resettle one million refugees in northern Syria.

The country hosts more than 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

It controls parts of northern Syria where it is setting up a “safe zone” with the United States. It says 350,000 Syrians have already returned and more could follow.

“Our goal is for at least one million of our Syrian brothers to return to the safe zone we will form along our 450 km border,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

“We are saying we should form such a safe zone that we, as Turkey, can build towns here in lieu of the tent cities here. Let’s carry them to the safe zones there.

“Give us logistical support and we can go build housing at 30 km (20 miles) depth in northern Syria. This way, we can provide them with humanitarian living conditions.

“This either happens or otherwise we will have to open the gates,” Erdogan said. “Either you will provide support, or excuse us, but we are not going to carry this weight alone. We have not been able to get help from the international community, namely the European Union.”

Turkey agreed to curb the flow of migrants to Europe, under a 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels, in return for aid amounting to billions of euros.

But renewed fighting in Idlib in recent weeks raised prospects of another wave of refugees at Turkey’s borders.

The Russian-backed Syrian army has gained a lot of ground against rebel forces, some of which are supported by Turkey after a truce failed in early August.

Nicholas Danforth, an Istanbul-based senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told Reuters that warning about refugees in the context of the safe zone allows Erdogan to simultaneously pressure Europe and the United States.

“What seems clear is that it would be impossible to settle that many refugees in any zone achieved through negotiations with the United States and the YPG,” he said.

“This looks like an attempt to build pressure for more U.S. concessions on the safe zone, where some refugees could then be resettled for purposes of domestic (Turkish) public relations.”

(AJ) Turkey to launch offensive in Kurdish-controlled area in Syria

(AJ)

Accusing the US of delaying the set up of safe zones, Erdogan announces incursion into Syria to dislodge YPG militia.14 hours ago

Turkish President Erdogan said Russia and the US have been informed of the upcoming operation [Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency]
Turkish President Erdogan said Russia and the US have been informed of the upcoming operation [Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renewed a pledge to carry out a cross-border military operation into northeastern Syria to dislodge Kurdish fighters close to its border. 

In a speech on Sunday during a motorway-opening ceremony in Bursa, Erdogan said Russia and the United States have been informed of the planned operation, but did not say when the offensive would begin.

Turkey had in the past warned of carrying out military operations east of the Euphrates River, but put them on hold after agreeing with the US to create a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

But Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up the safe zone and has demanded it sever its relations with the YPG.

The group was Washington’s main ally on the ground in Syria during the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but Turkey sees it as a “terrorist organisation” allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). 

The planned operation would mark Turkey’s third incursion into Syria in as many years. Turkey conducted two operations into northern Syria in 2016 and 2018 to clear the areas of ISIL members and the YPG. 

“We entered Afrin, Jarablus, and Al-Bab. Now we will enter the east of the Euphrates,” Erdogan said in the city of Bursa. 

Turkey has been deploying large numbers of troops to the border with Syria in recent days.

Finding common ground

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Gaziantep, Turkey, said that a new delegation is arriving in Ankara on Monday for further talks, but it is difficult to predict whether the two NATO allies will be able to find common ground.

“[Turkey] has carried out cross-border operations over the past two years, but on both occasions, the area of operations was under the sphere of influence of Russia,” Khodr said.

“Turkey and Russia cooperate on Syria. But east of the Euphrates is an area under the control of the US which is allied with the YPG.

“Deep differences remain over a planned safe zone… Turkey is insisting it is 20km deep and Turkey insists that it controls the zone which is something the US so far has not accepted,” Khodr said.

Asked about Erdogan’s comments, a US official told Reuters: “Bilateral discussions with Turkey continue on the possibility of a safe zone with US and Turkish forces that addresses Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in northern Syria.”

Overnight, three Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters were killed during clashes with the YPG, state-owned Anadolu Agency reported on Sunday.

It said the YPG tried to infiltrate the front lines in Syria’s al-Bab area, where Turkey carved out a de facto buffer zone in its 2016 “Euphrates Shield” offensive.

Clashes such as these are frequent in the area, but casualties tend to be rare.

On Thursday, the Kurdish-led administration running north and east Syria issued a statement objecting to Turkish threats to attack the area.

“These threats pose a danger on the area and on a peaceful solution in Syria, and any Turkish aggression on the area will open the way for the return of [ISIL], and that aggression will also contribute to the widening of the circle of Turkish occupation in Syria,” the statement said.

It called on the international community to take a stance that stops Turkey from carrying out its threats.

(EurActiv) German arms exports to Ankara continue despite escalating Greek-Turkish crisis

(EurActiv)

Only last year, deliveries to Turkey made up almost one-third of all German arms exports (€770.8 million) with €242.8 million. [Shutterstock]

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Tensions have escalated between Turkey and two EU member states – Greece and Cyprus. But that hasn’t stopped another EU country, Germany, to continue exporting arms to Ankara, according to official government data.

In response to a request of leftist MP Sevim Dagdelen (Die Linke), the German economy ministryrevealed that in the first four months of this year, Turkey has received armament supplies amounting €184.1 million from Germany.

Only last year, deliveries to Turkey made up almost one-third of all German arms exports (€770.8 million) with €242.8 million.

According to a government report, the weapons for Turkey are reported to be exclusively “maritime goods” meant for six class 214 submarines, which will be built in Turkey with significant involvement of the German arms concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

The German government had approved the delivery of the components already in 2009 and secured the export with a so-called Hermes guarantee amounting to €2.49 billion.

Such guarantees for arms exports to Turkey have not been re-issued since the 2016 failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which marked its third anniversary on Monday (15 July). Nevertheless, arms exports already approved in the framework of NATO commitments are still carried out on regular terms.

EU foreign ministers decided on Monday (15 July) to postpone for a few hours the announcement of sanctions against Turkey over its drilling in the sea off Cyprus, following a request by Ankara not to interfere with the third anniversary of the coup, EU officials and diplomats told EURACTIV.com.

The measures include cutting €146 million in EU funds from the pre-accession envelope, freezing the European Investment Bank’s activities in the country, halting the cooperation under the EU-Turkey aviation agreement, and cancelling high-level EU-Turkey dialogues.

The EU foreign ministers even warned about “targeted measures”, against individuals and companies, if the Turkish aggression continues.

“The provocations of Turkey are unacceptable for all of us and we are here on the side of Cyprus,” said German Minister of European Affairs Michael Roth (SPD) in Brussels.

Asked whether the German arms exports to Turkey is still appropriate in view of the EU sanction, MEP Joachim Schuster (S&D), who sits on the Subcommittee for Security and Defence (SEDE), said that “at the moment, I believe that exports should be suspended” as this is a special situation and it should be assessed accordingly.

It would be a far-reaching step to be considered, but there is also need to be cautious as “we have the problem that Turkey is a NATO member, and within NATO, arms exports are common”, he said.

Contacted by EURACTIV, New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP) said the EU foreign ministers’ decision to impose economic and political sanctions against Turkey should be respected by all member states and EU institutions.

According to Kefalogiannis, it was a “decision of solidarity” which makes it clear that the borders of Cyprus and Greece are also European, as well as their exclusive economic zones.

“Europe’s position on Turkey’s provocations and aggressiveness is clear and unequivocal. And it was expressed in the most absolute way,” the center-right MEP added.

European arms export policy

Germany recently announced that it considers banning exports of small side-arms to most countries outside the EU and NATO.

Earlier restrictions on exporting weapons systems to countries involved in the Yemen war have strained ties between Berlin and its allies in Paris and London since the presence of German components in many joint projects risked harming lucrative export deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

So far, the EU’s common position on arms exports is the only legally binding region-wide arrangement on conventional arms exports.

It technically bars sales to countries that don’t respect human rights and when “there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or assert by force a territorial claim”.

In reality, however, the scope to decide remains so far in the responsibility of member states and does not touch agreements with NATO partners.

With the increasing European cooperation on defence projects, the question of arms exports has become a pressing issue in the bloc, last surfacing during the recent inauguration of a new joint Franco-German-Spanish construction of Europe’s largest arms project.

The signed text accompanying the project referred to an agreement that Paris and Berlin are meant to finalise by the end of summer.

“I am firmly convinced that the future of exports needs to be European,” then German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said when asked about changes in export policy.

“We will have to develop a common European attitude since we will harmonise our armed forces together in the European Defence Union, we will collectively procure systems, and here, using the combat aircraft system as an example, it becomes clear,” she told reporters at the time.

(EUobserver) Erdogan: Turkey will keep pushing for EU membership

(EUobserver)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said his country would “stubbornly” continue to push for European Union membership. Speaking in Ankara, he said that “Turkey proceeds on its way persistently despite those trying to exclude it from the European family”. Erdogan accused the EU of leaving Turkey alone to shoulder the refugee burden. It is housing some 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Turkey first applied for EU membership in 1987.

(Politico) Turkish authorities cancel Istanbul mayoral election

(Politico

The decision comes after the opposition won a narrow victory in March.

Turkey’s election authorities on Monday annulled the Istanbul municipal vote more than a month after an opposition candidate was elected as the city’s mayor.

The country’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) announced that the election would be re-run on June 23, state media reported. A spokesman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called the decision an act of “plain dictatorship.”

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the CHP’s candidate, was officially declared Istanbul’s mayor by the city’s election authorities in mid-April after weeks of wrangling over the result following a partial recount.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) repeatedly called for the March 31 Istanbul election to be cancelled, alleging widespread “irregularities” in the vote.

İmamoğlu had scored a narrow victory, beating his rival Binali Yıldırım, a former prime minister, by about 13,000 votes in a city of 10 million eligible voters. Erdoğan declared that with such a small margin, “no one has the right to say they won.”

The YSK’s ruling — made under intense pressure from the government — marks a turning point for Turkey. In past years, the country’s elections were considered unfair but nevertheless competitive, an assumption now called into question by the decision to annul a previously validated opposition victory.

Yet it is not an entirely unprecedented step: in 2015, Erdoğan called a snap vote under controversial circumstances shortly after a general election in which the AKP lost its majority, although only after the breakdown of coalition negotiations.

İmamoğlu’s victory had been heralded as the end of an era, with Erdoğan’s conservative political movement losing control of Istanbul for the first time in a quarter century.

The AKP also suffered heavy losses elsewhere in the nationwide municipal elections in March, with the opposition winning in the capital Ankara and snatching several other provinces from the ruling party. The election will be re-run only in Istanbul.

The Turkish lira, already under strain, fell by more than 2.5 percent after the announcement.

(ZH) Erdogan Says Venezuelan Gold Will Be Processed In Turkey

(ZH)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum.

Speaking at a rally ahead of local elections on March 31, the president said Çorum would reach a new level in terms of gold trade amid reports that Venezuela sells most of its gold to Turkish refineries.

On Monday Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.

Trade between the two nations grew eightfold last year.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s gold program has developed in tandem with his deepening relationship with Turkey’s Erdoğan. Both leaders have been criticized internationally for cracking down on political dissent and undermining democratic norms to concentrate power.

A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela.

It does not apply to foreigners.

Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.

Venezuela in December 2016 announced a direct flight from Caracas to İstanbul on Turkish Airlines. The development was surprising given the low demand for travel between the two nations.

Trade data show those planes are carrying more than passengers. On New Year’s Day, 2018, Venezuela’s central bank began shipping gold to Turkey with a $36 million air shipment of the metal to Istanbul. It came just weeks after a visit by Maduro to Turkey.

Shipments last year reached $900 million, according to Turkish government data and trade reports.

Venezuela’s central bank has been selling its artisan gold directly to Turkish refiners, according to two senior Venezuelan officials. Proceeds go to the Venezuelan state development bank Bandes to purchase Turkish consumer goods, the officials said.

Gold buyers include Istanbul Gold Refinery, or IGR, and Sardes Kıymetli Madenler, a Turkish trading firm, according to a person who works in Turkey’s gold industry as well as a Caracas-based diplomat and the two senior Venezuelan officials.

In an interview with Reuters, IGR CEO Ayşen Esen denied the company has been involved in any Venezuelan gold deals. In a written statement, she said she met with Venezuelan and Turkish officials in İstanbul in April to offer her views on compliance with international regulations.

Esen said she advised the Turkish government that working with Venezuela “would not be right for leading institutions or the state.”

As for Sardes Kıymetli Madenler, no one at its İstanbul offices responded to inquiries from Reuters.

Turkish consumer products, meanwhile, are making their way to Venezuelan tables. In early December 54 containers of Turkish powdered milk arrived at the port of La Guaira near Caracas, according to port records seen by Reuters.

The İstanbul-based shipper, Mulberry Proje Yatırım, shares an address with Marilyns Proje Yatırım, a mining company that signed a joint venture with Venezuela’s state mining firm Minerven last year, according to filings with a Turkish trade registry gazette in September.

(EurActiv) ‘God help us’: Khashoggi’s hacked WhatsApp messages provide clues about killing

(EurActiv)

Saudi journalist and former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan Jamal Khashoggi (R) attends the the opening ceremony of 11th edition of Arab Media Forum 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 May 2012. [EPA/ALI HAIDER]

Messages obtained from the WhatsApp account of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi shine a light on the possible reasons behind his death, depicting the full extent of his animosity towards Saudi Arabia and his plans to establish an “electronic army” of activists against the regime.

“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” Khashoggi said in a message sent to Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, following a series of arrests of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. “I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”

In other messages, the Washington Post journalist referred to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “beast”.

“Cyber bees”

In later WhatsApp exchanges between Khashoggi and Abdulaziz, the pair were seen to be plotting a digital offensive against the Saudi regime by establishing an “electronic army” of activists, dubbed the “cyber bees”, who would seek to challenge Saudi propaganda on social media.

Speaking to CNN, Abdulaziz said: “Twitter is the only tool they’re using to fight and to spread their rumours. We’ve been attacked, we’ve been insulted, we’d been threatened so many times, and we decided to do something.”

Research conducted by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that military-grade spyware had been used to hack Abdulaziz’s mobile phone before Khashoggi’s death.

The EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini called Saturday (20 October) for a thorough investigation into the “deeply troubling” death of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi and full accountability for those responsible.

The plot

Khashoggi and Abdulaziz’s plot centred around plans to purchase and distribute foreign sim cards to activists in Saudi Arabia which would allow dissidents to evade being traced by authorities. Khashoggi had originally pledged to bankroll the project to the tune of $30,000.

“I sent you some ideas about the electronic army. By email,” Abdulaziz writes to Khashoggi. The latter responded: “I will try to sort out the money. We have to do something.”

However, the text messages also reveal that fears arose about a suspected espionage campaign against Abdulaziz and Khashoggi by the Saudi authorities.

After becoming aware of the fact that the Saudis were most probably tracking their plans, Khashoggi writes to Abdulaziz: “God help us.”

The journalist went on to instruct Abdulaziz to no longer speak about the subject of the ‘cyber bees’ on social media.

Lawsuit

Meanwhile, Abdulaziz, who is still exiled in Canada, has accused an Israeli software company of being behind the hacking of his phone messages, which he believes directly led to the killing of Khashoggi.

On Sunday, the Saudi national filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group, under the allegation that it assisted the Saudi regime in gaining access to the WhatsApp exchange.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdelaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.”

The European Union should halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told a German newspaper, saying such action could also help end “the terrible war in Yemen”.

EU stance

The EU has stood firm in its preference for those accountable to be held responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

At the recent G20 meeting of world leaders in Buenos Aires, EU Council President Donald Tusk announced that there was an “urgent need to establish what happened” to Khashoggi.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May highlighted the “importance of a full, credible, transparent investigation that identifies those who were involved and the importance of ensuring that those who were involved are held to account.”

In addition, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has called for a complete investigation into the “deeply troubling” death of Khashoggi.

In a joint statement published at the end of October, Germany, the UK and France also took a unified approach, saying that “nothing can justify this killing and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

(ZH) Khashoggi Remains Reportedly Discovered In Garden Of Saudi Consul General’s Home

(ZH) Hours after Turkish President Erdogan demanded that Saudi Arabia disclose the whereabouts of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s remains, body parts reportedly belonging to Khashoggi have been found, according to Sky sources, though the exact location wasn’t revealed. According to anonymous sources cited by Sky News, the writer had been “cut up” and his face “disfigured.”

One source suggested that Khashoggi’s remains had been discovered in the garden of the Saudi consul general’s home. “Why has the body of someone who was officially said to be killed not been found yet?” Erdogan asked during his speech at Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday.

He added that all 18 of the Saudi nationals arrested in connection with the killing should stand trial in Istanbul.

The circumstances surrounding the discovery of Khashoggi’s body parts both contradict Saudi Arabia’s explanation for his death. According to the Saudis, Khashoggi’s body was handed off to a local fixer after being wrapped in a rug. Though Erdogan didn’t mention Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in his speech, the kingdom and the prince have denied his involvement.

If accurate, the discovery of Khashoggi’s remains will likely unleash a new round of international pressure on the Saudis, who have seen foreign investors pull money from their stock market while Wall Street CEOs and a handful of industrialists and tech titans have pulled out of the kingdom’s “Davos in the Desert.”