An Istanbul court on Wednesday acquitted the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as well as two other campaigners for press freedom on trial for terrorism charges, their lawyers said. RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey president Sebnem Korur Fincanci and author Ahmet Nesin were jailed briefly in 2016 but later released as their trial continued. The defendants were accused of carrying out terrorist propaganda and incitement to crime after guest-editing Ozgur Gundem, a newspaper on Kurdish issues, and campaigning against efforts to censor it. Lawyer Meric Eyuboglu said the verdict was bittersweet because others who also guest-edited the newspaper had received jail sentences. “We were thinking that they would receive a sentence because of the verdicts in other similar cases and the political juncture we are going through,” she said. “We had a surprise today and they were acquitted,” added the lawyer, who represented Fincanci. Eyuboglu said Onderoglu also faces a separate legal case for supporting academics put on trial for signing a letter calling for an end to the conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). “GREAT VICTORY” Paris-based RSF welcomed the verdict but called for charges in the separate case against Onderoglu to be dropped. “We are deeply relieved by @ErolOnderoglu’s and his colleague’s acquittal. BUT 3 years of absurd proceedings was already a form of unjust punishment,” it said on Twitter. Ozgur Gundem was closed down under a crackdown during a state of emergency after an abortive coup
“I think Russia outsmarted U.S. in the last few years when it comes to attracting Turkey toward it,” Bakeer told CNBC. “It would be a big mistake to help Moscow achieve its goals of widening the gap between the U.S. and Turkey and create a rift within NATO by imposing sanctions on Ankara.”
The European Union will decide on Monday to symbolically punish Turkey over what it calls “illegal” drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus and threaten harsher sanctions in the future unless Ankara changes tack, German and Austrian ministers said. Foreign affairs ministers of the 28-nation bloc meeting in Brussels on Monday are due to endorse a decision to curb diplomatic contacts and funding for Ankara, retaliation for what it sees as interference with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone. In June, EU leaders warned Turkey to end drilling in waters around the island or face action from the bloc. EU member Cyprus has pressed for a tough line threatening harsher sanctions in the future but others have warned against antagonising a key ally on security and migration affairs. “The provocations of Turkey are unacceptable to all of us,” German Minister of State for Europe Michel Roth said on arriving at the talks. “We have now found a balanced language that keeps all our options open, including of course sanctions.” “I can only hope that we do not now add another crisis to the many conflicts and crises. Turkey knows what’s at stake and the European Union is united on the side of Cyprus.” An EU diplomat told Reuters Ankara could lose some 150 million euros of 400 million euros the bloc had earmarked for 2020 for everything from political reforms to agriculture projects to help Turkey prepare for eventual EU membership. The EU had been due to give Turkey 4.45 billion euros
Russia started delivering advanced missile defence equipment to NATO member Turkey on Friday, the Defence Ministry in Ankara said, setting the stage for likely U.S. sanctions on Ankara. The dispute over the Russian S-400 air defence missiles, which the United States says are incompatible with NATO military systems and could threaten U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jets which Turkey has also ordered, is one of several issues which have frayed ties between the two allies. MISSILE DEFENCE Friday’s delivery of the first parts of the S-400s to a military air base outside Ankara is likely to trigger U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Under the CAATSA legislation, which targets purchases of military equipment from Russia, U.S. President Donald Trump should select five of 12 possible sanctions ranging from banning visas and denying access to the U.S.-based Export-Import Bank, to the harsher options of blocking transactions with the U.S. financial system and denying export licenses. Despite Erdogan’s assurances after meeting Trump last month that Turkey would not face sanctions, Washington also plans to remove it from the programme to produce the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and plans to buy. SYRIA TENSIONS Turkey is furious about U.S. support in Syria for the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group. Washington is coordinating with Ankara and the YPG to establish a safe zone on Turkey’s southern border. Ankara wants YPG fighters to withdraw from the area to secure
President Bashar al-Assad’s assault in the northwest has been met with a painful rebel counterpunch that underlines Turkish resolve to keep the area out of his hands and shows why he will struggle to take back more of Syria by force. More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015. While resisting government attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey. “They’re even targeting personnel with these missiles … it means they are comfortably supplied,” a rebel source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing rebel military capabilities. Turkey’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on reports that Ankara has stepped supplies of arms to rebels. With Turkey committed to the rebels, the battle for the northwest stands in stark contrast to a campaign in the southwest a year ago, when Western and Arab states stood by as Assad and his Russian- and Iranian-backed allies took the area. Despite Russian backing in the latest fighting, questions have arisen over whether Assad and his allies are entirely on the same page when it comes to the northwest, where Turkey has deployed forces in agreement with Russia and Iran.
Turkey said on Saturday there was no setback in its plan to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems, despite U.S. opposition, and President Donald Trump expressed understanding for the decision but did not rule out sanctions in response. NATO allies Turkey and the United States have been at odds over Turkey’s decision to procure the S-400s, with the United States warning of sanctions if the deal goes through. Turkey has dismissed the warnings and said it would not back down, as already strained ties between the two countries have deteriorated further over the dispute. Speaking before talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the deal for the S-400s showed improving ties between Turkey and Russia. “Now, I believe eyes are on the delivery process of this issue, but there are no setbacks in our agreement,” Erdogan said, adding that it was a priority for Turkey that the deal includes joint production of the systems and a technology transfer. Erdogan also said it was important for Turkey to finish the first reactor in the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, its first nuclear plant, by 2023. He said non-nuclear equipment at the plant should be procured from Turkey. The plant is being built by Russia’s Rosatom at a cost of more than $20 billion. Buying military equipment from Russia leaves Turkey vulnerable to U.S. retribution under a 2017 law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The