President Trump
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on June 11 authorized the U.S. Air Force to modify six F-35s fighter jets that were sold to Turkey but will be used for the U.S. military. The jets were never delivered to Turkish soil because of a disagreement over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, which the Pentagon said was “incompatible” with the stealthy F-35 jets.
Faruk Loğoğlu writes: Two plane-loads of medical supplies and a sweetener letter cannot and should not be expected to cure the problem-ridden state of Turkish-American relations. It certainly will not be enough to open the doors of the Federal Reserve to the Central Bank of Turkey. The resolution of the S-400 issue, for better or worse, is the password for any progress.
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, has said that Ankara risks sanctions from Washington if it activates the Russian-made S-400s. "We made our position quite explicit to President Erdogan, to all the senior leadership of Turkey, and that is the operation of the S-400 system...exposes Turkey to the very significant possibility of Congressional sanctions, both those that invoke the CAATSA legislation, and additional freestanding legislative sanctions," he said on April 30.
Since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, Turkish Central Bank’s reserves fell nearly 20 billion dollars. Now, the thought of “Can there be a swap line opened from the U.S. Central Bank Fedreserve ?” is in question.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew to express his good wishes for Easter. Trump and Bartholomew were scheduled to meet in May, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting has been postponed to next year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to jointly manage oil fields in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zor region. Erdoğan said Putin was evaluating the offer, which the Turkish president said he made during talks in Moscow last week, adding that he could make the same offer to U.S. President Donald Trump. "Instead of terrorists benefiting here, we would have the opportunity to rebuild Syria from the revenues of this [oil field]," he said.
President Erdoğan has responded to criticism on laughing during a speech he made on the deaths of over 30 Turkish soldiers, saying that it constitutes "a diabolic campaign." During his meeting with a group of Istanbul lawmakers of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the footage of his speech was screened. "The whole conversation was ironic," Erdoğan said.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham praised Turkey's efforts in Syria's Idlib. "Very much appreciate what Turkey is doing to stand with the people of Idlib, Syria. It is time for the world, including the United States, to declare a no-fly zone over Idlib before the humanitarian crisis escalates," he said.
Pentagon Chief Mark Esper has ruled out air support for Turkey in Syria's Idlib. He also confirmed that he has spoken to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the situation in Syria and that NATO was prepared for anything that might happen. Asked what he told his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar during their recent phone call, Esper said the message was that "Russians aren't always good partners."
The Pentagon has said that it has no intent nor plans to deploy troops to Syria-Turkey border. The four-star reiterated that while the tangible components of ISIS have been destroyed, the organization remains operational. “We know that ISIS, the caliphate, the physical entity, has been eliminated, but we also know that ISIS as an organization has not yet been destroyed,” Washington Times cited Milley as saying.
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Dinçer Demirkent writes: President Erdoğan just appointed rectors to 16 universities across the country. This decision has raised “academic” concerns within universities. Questions have surfaced as to which criteria have been used and to what extent nepotism played a role in these appointments.
Serdar Korucu writes: One of the topics that comes to mind when recalling the Ottoman legacy in Lebanon is the Armenian Genocide. Among the most important symbolic structures carrying the traces of 1915 in Lebanon is the Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias.
Politics
CHP member and former presidential candidate Muharrem İnce has kicked off a new movement, as he also slammed his own party. "Our movement consists of individuals experts in their fields. We're preparing for 'victory.' We'll act in line with our vision and the people's wills. The people would finance us just like they did before the presidential elections," İnce said in a press conference on Aug. 13.
Turkish drama producer Ay Yapım has said that actor Ozan Güven has decided to leave TV series 'Babil' until the legal investigation against him over charges of beating his girlfriend is finalized. The company said that the decision belonged to the actor himself and the company “respects” it.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has downplayed Turkish Lira's sharp fall via asking "Are you getting your salaries in dollars?" "First, let me ask you this; Are you getting your salaries in dollars? Do you owe money in dollars? Do you have any business in dollars?" Albayrak responded to a question on whether the people should be concerned on Aug. 12, prompting surprise on social media.
Turkey's Council of Higher Education (YÖK) has said that it asked universities to postpone their reopenings until Oct. 1 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. The YÖK said that it will be up to universities and their faculties to decide if courses will be taught online or on campus.
Several members of Congress have been quietly blocking multiple U.S. arms sales to Turkey as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has still yet to impose mandatory sanctions on the country over its purchase of a Russian-made missile defense system, CNN cited several congressional aides as saying.
The Turkish Consulate in the German city of Nuremberg on Aug. 13 announced that it was temporarily closed as one of its staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany reached its highest level in more than three months on Aug. 12.
Several women gathered in Ankara's Kurtuluş neighborhood and wanted to march towards the Kızılay Square in an attempt to read a press statement there in protest of the government’s plan to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. The women however faced a harsh police response, with several of them having been battered or detained.
World-famed Bollywood actor Aamir Khan stopped shooting his movie Laal Singh Chaddha, an adaption of the 1994 classic Forrest Gump, due to coronavirus outbreak in India. Khan now looks for alternative locations in Turkey to shoot his movie.
Turkey's main opposition CHP has disputed the official unemployment statistics, saying that the country's actual unemployment rate stands at 30.6 percent which corresponds to over 10.5 million people. CHP spokesperson Faik Öztrak has said that this number of unemployed people is higher than the populations of 109 countries.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has said that demanding education in Kurdish shows captivity to imperialism, as he commented on Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu's remarks. "The fact that Davutoğlu talked about the Kurdish issue and mentioned education in mother tongue is a scandalous example of the extent that captivity to imperialism has reached," Bahçeli said in a written statement on Aug. 12.
İYİ Party leader Akşener on Aug. 12 paid a visit to DEVA chair Babacan to congratulate him for his new party. The two opposition leaders later held a press meeting, during which Babacan was asked if he would consider joining the People's Alliance of the AKP and MHP should such an offer come. "What we need to focus on is to complete the process of producing and [party] organization," Babacan said in response to the question.
Several human rights groups have penned a letter to the UN Human Rights Office asking the organization to urge the Turkish government not to discriminate against LGBTI+ individuals and to take necessary steps to protect the LGBTI+ community from any attacks.
Iraq cancelled on Aug. 11 Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar's visit to the country which was scheduled for Aug. 13, Iraq's foreign ministry said in a statement following the death of two Iraqi border guards as a result of a Turkish drone strike. The ministry also summoned the Turkish ambassador to hand him "a strong protest note and inform him of Iraq’s confirmed rejection of his country's attacks and violations," the statement added.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has not confirmed whether Cemil Bayık, one of the leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was killed in a drone strike. "Our anti-terror operations are ongoing. Our advice to the whole world is for them to follow Turkey in terms of the struggle against terror," Soylu told reporters in the capital Ankara on Aug. 12 when asked to comment on the issue.
The deputy governor of southern province of Hatay on Aug. 11 shot and killed his mother and his brother in a brawl concerning inherited farming land. Tolga Polat was detained by police a few hours after he fled the scene. State-run Anadolu Agency reported on Aug. 12 that the deputy governor had been arrested by a court order.
Economy
Turkish public banks have started charging clients for foreign currency withdrawals in accordance with the Central Bank's August 4 decree that aims to push down the amount of foreign cash circulating in Turkey. The 0.2 to 0.5 percent commissions for withdrawals are part of Ankara's efforts to lower the Turkish Lira's exchange rate against the dollar and the euro, which peaked to record highs earlier this month.
Rating agencies Moody's and S&P warned Ankara on Aug. 7 that they will likely need to hike interest rates as a last-resort currency intervention policy. The Central Bank had already eroded Turkey’s foreign exchange reserves this year, said from S&P Global's Maxim Rybnikov.
Turkey's banking authority lowered the mandated loan-to-assets ratio for deposit banks to 95 percent, formerly 100 percent. The relaxing of the stimulation policy follows record devaluation of the Turkish Lira against the dollar.
Luxembourg-based drink manufacturer Purple Beverages appealed to Turkey's Competition Authority to buy Doğanay Foods, the country's largest turnip juice producer. Turnip juice is a common cold beverage in Turkey, even drank with rakı.
Goldman Sachs revised its periodic forecasts for the Turkish lira, anticipating that it will continue to fall and will reach 8.25 to the dollar by next year. The lira has been the world's second-worst performing currency thus far this month, dropping four percent for a total of an 18 percent decline in 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 15 that companies involved in construction of the TurkStream pipeline will be subject to the U.S. penalties unless they stop their works. “It’s a clear warning to companies. Aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated. Get out now or risk the consequences,” he said.
Urban Beat
Main opposition Istanbul Municipality revealed that the Culture Ministry's contract workers had been destroying walls of ancient Galata Tower. The historic building had been taken away from the municipality last 2019, and forced to be evacuated in April.
Artifacts from Istanbul's ancient Hagia Sophia will be displayed in a nearby public building that will be transformed into a museum. Formerly used as a land office, the late-19th-century building in historical Sultanahmet will be converted on the president's orders.