Millions of Istanbul residents voted on Sunday in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy. In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president. But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a “coup” against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two. “It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye. “It is clear who cancelled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said. Polling stations across Istanbul opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), with 10.56 million people registered to vote in a city which makes up nearly a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million population. Voting ends at 5 p.m. Results will be announced in the evening. Real estate agent Bayram, 60, said he voted for the AKP’s candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, as he believed foreign powers the United States, Europe and Israel supported the opposition. “All of these will want a piece from Istanbul and then there will be chaos. The enemy of my enemy
A newcomer to mainstream politics, Ekrem Imamoglu’s election slogan of “Everything will be great!” has dented the dominance of Erdogan. The pro-government candidate Binali Yildirim has run a mild-mannered campaign focusing on his achievements as prime minister and transport minister. His slogan: “We did it and we’ll do it again.”
Turkey will not back down from its decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems despite U.S. warnings that it will lead to Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet programme, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. In what has become the main source of tension between Ankara and Washington, the NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s, which Washington has said could trigger U.S. sanctions. U.S. Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan last week sent his Turkish counterpart a letter warning that Ankara would be pulled out of the F-35 jet programme unless it changes course from its plans to install the defences. In what was Turkey’s first direct response to the letter, Cavusoglu said no one can give Turkey ultimatums. “Turkey will not back down from its decisions with these kinds of letters,” he said. “Turkey bought S-400, it is going to be delivered and stationed in Turkey.” The S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defence systems and Washington says they would compromise its F-35s, which Turkey also plans to buy. Turkey has proposed that the allies form a working group to asses the impact of the S-400s, but has yet to receive a response from the United States. Cavusoglu on Thursday repeated Turkey’s call for the joint working group, saying experts from both countries should come together to evaluate U.S. concerns. A day earlier, President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had completed the deal with Russia and that the systems
Turkey said on Tuesday a U.S. House of Representatives’ resolution condemning Ankara’s purchase of Russian defence systems and urging potential sanctions was unacceptably threatening. Relations between the two NATO members have been strained on several fronts including Ankara’s plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air defence systems, the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey, and conflicting strategy over Syria and Iran. The standoff threatens to bring U.S. sanctions, which would hurt Turkey’s already recession-hit economy, and raise questions over its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The resolution, introduced in May and entitled “Expressing concern for the United States-Turkey alliance”, was agreed in the House on Monday. It urges Turkey to cancel the S-400 purchase and calls for sanctions if it accepts their delivery, which may come as soon as July. That, the resolution said, would undermine the U.S.-led transatlantic defence alliance. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its foreign policy and judicial system were being maligned by “unfair” and “unfounded” allegations in the resolution. “It is unacceptable to take decisions which do not serve to increase mutual trust, to continue to keep the language of threats and sanctions on the agenda and to set various artificial deadlines,” it added.Most Popular Turkey Celebrates New UK PM Boris Johnson’s Turkish Heritage Turkish Military Ready to Push Back Kurdish Forces Turkey’s Russian S-400 Deal: The Implications You Need to Know Now EU Mulls Punishing Turkey Over ‘Illegal’ Drilling For Oil and Gas Off Cyprus Russia, Turkey Keen
Ankara and Moscow are again facing an escalation of violence in Syria’s last rebel-held territory, a development that puts their cooperation to the test even as they support opposing sides in the eight-year war that has devastated Syria. An all-out offensive by Syrian government forces to capture Idlib in northwestern Syria from insurgents could unleash an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, for the area is home to 3 million people. Turkey, which is already hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, is facing strong pressure from Syria, Iran and Russia to deliver on its pledge to control the armed rebel factions in Idlib. But Turkey also needs Russia to rein in Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent a massive outflow of refugees and to keep Turkish soldiers on the ground safe. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin “have an incentive to cooperate and ensure that nobody’s interests are totally trampled,” says Aaron Stein, the director of the Middle East program in American think-tank Foreign Policy Research Institute. In September, the two leaders brokered a cease-fire for Idlib in the Russian resort of Sochi, preventing a bloody onslaught, despite the fact that Russia has firmly backed Assad and Turkey supports opposition forces. Nine months later, the truce has failed. The agreement called for a 15-to-20 kilometer (9-to-12 mile) demilitarized zone free of insurgents and heavy weaponry and for two key highways crossing through Idlib to be reopened. The demilitarized zone has been breached and the highways are at the
Several Kurdish lawmakers and thousands of prison inmates in Turkey have ended their hunger strike after a call from jailed militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, one of the MPs said on Sunday, 200 days after the protest was launched. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Leyla Guven began a hunger strike in November in a bid to end Ocalan’s years of isolation by securing him regular access to his family and lawyers. “Comrades who have committed themselves to hunger strikes and death fasts, I expect you to end your protest,” Abdullah Ocalan said in a statement read out by one of his lawyers in Istanbul, four days after they visited him for the second time this month. One of the MPs who had been on hunger strike said at a news conference in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, that the protest was ending in response to Ocalan’s call. The resumption of lawyers’ visits came a month before a mayoral election re-run in Istanbul, prompting speculation of steps towards a new peace process four years after Ankara’s talks with Ocalan on ending conflict in the southeast of the country fell apart. However, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul has denied there is any connection. Ocalan is the founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States.Most Popular Binali Yildirim vs Ekrem Imamoglu: The Candidates Running For Mayor of Istanbul Turkish Court Sentenced Kisanak, Tuncel to Lengthy Jail Terms
Turkey and the United States have been at odds on several fronts including Ankara’s decision to buy the S-400s, which cannot be integrated into NATO systems. Washington says it would jeopardise Turkey’s role in building Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, which it says would be compromised by S-400s.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart discussed ways to reduce tension in Syria’s Idlib province, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, after the biggest military escalation in northwest Syria in nearly a year. Russia has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has backed some rebels in Syria’s eight-year civil war, but they have recently worked together to try to contain fighting in the country’s northwest. That effort has been strained by the surge in violence in Syria’s last major insurgent stronghold in recent weeks. The offensive by the Syrian army and its allies, backed by Russia, has uprooted more than 150,000 people, the United Nations says, while rescue workers and civil defence officials say more than 120 civilians have been killed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the attacks by Syrian forces a flagrant violation of a September ceasefire that had averted a government offensive. He said in a tweet on Tuesday it went counter to the spirit of Turkey’s efforts to work with Russia and Iran to reduce hostilities and casualties in Idlib and neighbouring areas. On Monday, rebels said they mounted a counterattack against government forces. A senior rebel commander said on Tuesday the offensive showed an array of rebel forces – from Turkey-backed rebels to jihadists – were still able to prevent the army from making major advances despite heavy air strikes. “We conducted this lighting offensive to show the Russians we are not easy prey and throw the