Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank on March 31 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a federal court in Manhattan that it helped Iran evade US sanctions, in a case that has strained relations between the United States and Turkey. The plea – to charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering – was entered by the bank’s US lawyer at a hearing conducted by telephone conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran said on March 31 its natural gas exports to Turkey have stopped after an attack on a pipeline inside the neighbouring country, Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana, director of National Iranian Gas Co., told Iran's state news agency IRNA. "The pipeline has exploded several times in the past. It is also likely that the PKK group has carried out the blast," he said.
A lawmaker and human rights activist from the eastern province of Van said that immigration continues on the Iran border despite its official closure since Feb. 23, adding that the traffic might widen the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey. “They need to start placing incoming migrants under quarantine and inform the residents of border villages,” Turkey’s Human Rights Association Van Chair Murat Melet said.
Germany's leftwing political party Die Linke and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS) have hosted a conference on the Kurdish issue in the German Bundestag on March 6, with the participants discussing "the current opportunities and perspectives" with regards to the solution of the Kurdish issue in the Middle East in several panels. From Turkey, CHP Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu and HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar attended the conference.
One customs personnel was killed in a rocket attack carried out on an armored vehicle belonging to Gürbulak Customs Office near the Iranian border in the eastern province of Ağrı on March 2. "A rocket that was fired on an armored vehicle carrying Ağrı Gürbulak Customs Office personnel hit its front tire at 8:50 a.m. There are injuries," Minister Soylu said.
Iran's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of compromising the Astana peace process between Iran, Turkey and Russia in an official statement on Feb. 28. The statement also claimed that the U.S. "has always sought to create tensions in the region in an irresponsible manner" and that it justifies its presence in Syria with its interest in their oil resources.
Respiratory masks have become a street commodity in Turkey's southeastern province of Van, neighboring Iran where coronavirus has killed 15. Street vendors sell the masks at 10 times their original price, asking for 10 Turkish Liras for masks that used to be sold for 1TL, 20 TL for masks originally sold for 2 TL or 3 TL.
The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Turkish company Eren Carbon Graphite Industrial Trading Co Ltd. because of its support for Iran's missile program. "These measures underscore that Iran’s missile program remains a significant proliferation concern," the State Department said Feb. 25, adding that it is "consistent with our efforts to use all available measures to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities."
Turkish passengers and crew members on a flight from Tehran that landed after a diversion in Ankara showed no evidence of coronavirus infection, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Feb. 25. All 140 people on the plane will be kept under quarantine for 14 days in Dr. Zekai Tahir Burak Hospital.
Turkey has been on alert due to the spike in the number of coronavirus cases in neighboring Iran. Iran on Feb. 23 confirmed 15 new cases of the new coronavirus, taking the total to 43 with a death toll of eight. Most of the infections have been in the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom. Health Minister Koca said that Iranians who visited Qom in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter Turkey.
Nine people were killed in the eastern province of Van after an earthquake struck Turkey's border with Iran. The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said the quake had a depth of 5 km. Iranian officials said it had been felt in Iran but that there were no immediate reports of deaths.
Local administrators in the southeastern province of Van have decided to install thermal scanning systems at the nearby Kapıköy Border Gate to Iran, following two coronavirus-related deaths in the neighboring country. A health room will also be set up at the border gate, personnel will receive special training and pamphlets will be available in Turkish, English and Persian.
Former AKP deputy Burhan Kuzu will be investigated over the release of Iranian drug lord Naji Sharifi Zindashti from prison. Recent reports showed that Kuzu called prosecutors and judges and told them that Zindashti’s release would be “more beneficial” for Turkish-Iranian relations. Kuzu denied the allegations against him in tweets earlier this week.