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Erdogan hails ruling to rerun disputed Turkey mayoral race
By Clyde Hughes
MAY 7, 2019

A new vote in late June will determine the winner of Istanbul's mayoral race. Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA-EFE


May 7 (UPI) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised a decision Tuesday by election officials to rerun a mayoral race in Istanbul that saw the narrow defeat of a candidate from his party.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, won the April voteover Erdogan's Justice and Development Party candidate Binali Yildirim. It was one of several races in large Turkish cities won by the CHP. Monday, Turkey's Supreme Election Council ruled that some election officials in Istanbul were not civil servants, as required by law, and set a new vote for June 23.

Yıldırım will run again and Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya will act as mayor until the new vote produces a winner.

"[The ruling], which will remove the shadow over Istanbul election, [is] an important step in strengthening Turkey democracy," Erdogan told membersof his party at a meeting in Ankara Tuesday.

"We sincerely believe organized corruption, utter lawlessness and irregularity occurred in the Istanbul elections."

Erdogan said the irregularities marred the Istanbul mayor's race.

"The will of nearly 15,000 people who voted for [Yildirim] has been usurped, with mistakes far greater than by any other party," Erdogan added.

The president's party has furnished proof it says shows organized corruption and irregularities.

 

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Different when we do it: Why re-voting is ‘dictatorship’ in Turkey & ‘unity’ in EU
Published time: 7 May, 2019 17:27

Different when we do it: Why re-voting is ‘dictatorship’ in Turkey & ‘unity’ in EU

(L) Turks vote at polling station in Istanbul © Reuters / Osman Orsal, (R) UK workers counting ballots in Brexit referendum © Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne

The decision to rerun a local mayoral election in Istanbul has sparked scathing criticism in Brussels — ironically, from none other than the EU’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.

Tweeting about the move, which was branded a “coup” by a Turkish opposition newspaper, Verhofstadt said it highlighted that Turkey was “drifting towards a dictatorship” and offered “full support to the Turkish people protesting for their democratic rights.” Along with the verbal slap on the wrist, he said that under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, talks on Turkey joining the EU are “impossible.”

The irony in Verhofstadt’s outrage, is that the EU itself has a long history of either totally ignoring referendum votes — or just making people vote again until the ‘correct’ result is achieved. But that, of course, does not make the EU a dictatorship. It’s still a “bastion of hope, freedom, prosperity & stability” (as per another recent Verhofstadt tweet). Twitter users wasted no time in pointing out the “irony” and “hypocrisy.”

“How dare [Erdogan] use EU tactics,”
one irritated Verhofstadt follower responded, with another saying that the UK itself was currently “battling for its democracy” — a reference to EU officials (including Verhofstadt) who have frequently voiced their personal opposition to Brexit and the ‘Remain’ factions in Britain who have been calling for a re-run of the 2016 referendum.
What like your full support for the UK battling for its democracy you mean. Hypocrite doesn't begin to describe your duplicity!#Brexit
— Adrian Archer (@speakeezie) May 7, 2019
How dare he use EU tactics
— Pieter De Mol (@Lypto) May 7, 2019
The irony.
— Gareth Icke 🇵🇸 (@garethicke) May 7, 2019
While there may be at least some merit to the idea of Brexit referendum re-run after two years of failed negotiations and with more accurate information now available to British voters, the idea of simply re-doing EU-related votes is hardly a one-off.
Maybe Verhofstadt should take a trip down memory lane.
France voted ‘no’ to accepting a proposed ‘EU Constitution’ by 54.9 percent in 2005, but the outcome was ignored. The same thing happened in the Netherlands, which rejected it by 61.5 percent. The ‘EU Constitution’ was later repackaged into the Lisbon Treaty and presented to the French parliament where it was adopted, without being put to the people this time (much easier!).

This new Lisbon Treaty was then rejected by Irish voters in 2008, once again sending Brussels into meltdown mode, as the pact needed to be ratified by all member states before taking effect. So, of course, they made some tweaks and asked people to vote again — and got the ‘right’ result the next time. It wasn’t the first time Ireland was asked to re-vote after giving the wrong answer, either. The country also rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001 and accepted it in a second vote a year later.

Greece voted overwhelmingly to reject severe austerity measures desired by the EU in 2015 in exchange for a multi-billion euro bailout. Not long after, under pressure from Brussels, the country’s government agreed to implement even harsher methods — totally ignoring the will of the Greek people.

EU Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt © Reuters / Eric Vidal
But way before all that in 1992, Danes, displeased with plans for a single currency, common European defense policies and for joint rules on crime and immigration, rejected the Maastricht Treaty — and were asked to vote again.

Ironically, many European voters voted ‘no’ to these treaties because they were worried that the EU would be turned into some kind of undemocratic superstate where the wills of individual countries and people would be ignored. Being forced to vote until you give the ‘right’ answer doesn’t exactly put those worries to bed. It’s part of the reason why the British voted for Brexit in the first place.

Then there’s Catalonia, where pro-independence leaders were thrown in jail for their role in holding an independence referendum in 2017. One tweeter scolded Verhofstadt and other EU leaders for believing that they have some “moral authority” over Turkey while abuse of pro-independence forces in Catalonia is ignored. “Our leaders are still in prison because they let citizens vote,” they wrote.
EU politicians consider they have a moral superiority over Turkey which allows to give lessons of democracy to them.
Meanwhile Spain abuse over #Catalonia is ignored and silenced.
Our leaders are still in prison because they let citizens vote.
Not in Turkey but in the EU. pic.twitter.com/AkfAGu4GEZ
— Pinxauves (@pinxauves) May 6, 2019
With a history like that, maybe it’s a bit rich for Verhofstadt to be going around lamenting the lack of democracy in other countries

 

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Turkey Opposition to Contest Istanbul Election as Re-Run Draws EU Criticism
07 May, 2019

Ousted Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

The main opposition in Turkey announced on Tuesday that it will field the same candidate in the re-rerun of the Istanbul election.

The election board ordered a re-run of the city election in a ruling that has spooked investors and drawn European criticism.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had pushed hard for the re-run after his ruling AK Party (AKP) lost control of Turkey’s biggest city in the March 31 poll and he welcomed the High Election Board’s (YSK) decision. But one opposition leader compared it to a “civilian coup” and Germany urged Ankara to respect democracy.

Highlighting the risks of a re-run for Erdogan and the AKP, several smaller opposition parties who fielded their own candidates in the March poll signaled that this time round they could back the ousted mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), a potentially significant move given the tight margin of his original victory.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the YSK of betraying voters’ trust and giving in to AKP pressure.

“Since you want to renew the elections so badly, do so as much as you want. We will emerge victorious every time,” he told CHP lawmakers in the Turkish parliament.

Meral Aksener, leader of the nationalist IYI (Good) Party, which formed an alliance with Imamoglu’s secularist CHP for the March vote, said the ruling by the seven judges of the YSK harked back to the era of Turkish military coups.

“The YSK’s decision amounts to a civilian coup which surpasses the days of the uniformed coups,” she said.

The decision helped push the lira to its weakest level since Oct. 5, when it was just emerging from last year’s currency crisis that saw 30 percent of the currency’s value wiped out. It stood at 6.1467 to the dollar at 1412 GMT.

With investors questioning Turkey’s commitment to both the rule of law and economic reforms during a recession, bonds and stocks were also sold off on Tuesday.

Erdogan brushed aside investors’ concerns, telling his AKP lawmakers on Tuesday that the YSK decision was “an important step to strengthen our democracy”.

“There was organized corruption and full illegality in the Istanbul mayoral elections,” said Erdogan, adding that former prime minister Binali Yildirim would again be the AKP candidate for the post.

Imamoglu’s surprise victory in the March poll - by a margin of just 13,000 votes, out of 10 million eligible voters - had marked the first time in 25 years that Erdogan’s AKP or its Islamist predecessors had failed to win control of Istanbul.

But Erdogan - who started his political career in the 1990s as mayor of Istanbul - said that, in such a tight race, “no one has the right to say they won” and repeatedly challenged the result.

Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said the YSK move was neither transparent nor comprehensible, adding that basic democratic principles and transparency were paramount.

"This outrageous decision highlights how Erdogan's Turkey is drifting toward a dictatorship," Guy Verhofstadt, a European Parliament lawmaker and the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, said on Twitter.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described the decision on Istanbul as a "seismic event in Turkish history."

"Turkey has been holding free and fair elections since the 1950s," he told The Associated Press. "Never before has a party refused to accept the outcome of the election... This goes against 70 years of accepted tradition."

"(Erdogan) is saying 'let's vote until the governing party wins," he added.

Manfred Weber, the leading conservative candidate seeking to head the European Union's executive branch, told n-tv television in his native Germany that he would end EU membership negotiations with Turkey if he's elected later this month.

Weber, the center-right European People's Party candidate and front-runner to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, said Turkey's decision on the Istanbul vote was "incomprehensible for many of us in Europe."

"In the past years, Turkey has unfortunately alienated itself from the values of Europe," he said. "For me, that means ending the accession talks between Turkey and the European Union."

Turkish opposition newspaper Birgun branded the decision a "coup" and argued that justice in the country has "been suspended."

The dispute over the Istanbul election and the economic uncertainty come as the United States threatens to impose sanctions on Turkey, a NATO ally, over its planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.


 

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Deposed Istanbul mayor vows ‘revolution’ for democracy: AFP interview

AFP
May 09, 2019
  • Ekrem Imamoglu said this will be a revolution once they “carry it to its conclusion”
  • Top Turkish election body annulled the results of the latest mayoral elections
ISTANBUL: Istanbul’s deposed mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who was stripped of his election victory this week, told AFP he would lead a “revolution” for democracy ahead of next month’s vote re-run.

“What we are doing now is a fight for democracy and mobilization for democracy. It will of course be a revolution once we carry it to its conclusion,” he told AFP.

Turkey’s top election body annulled the results of the March 31 mayoral vote on Monday, after the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged “serious corruption” in the count.

“The seven members (of the election body) will take their place in history like a black stain, but it is our responsibility to correct it. We keep on fighting,” said Imamoglu, who represents the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).



 

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Turkish finance minister hopes damage to economy from currency crisis will be short-lived
May 12, 2019 / Updated an hour ago

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish economy will hopefully overcome the impacts of a currency crisis last year with just two quarters of contraction, Turkey’s Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Sunday.

Speaking to broadcaster CNN Turk, Albayrak referred to Turkey’s performance during the 2008 global financial crisis when the economy contracted for four consecutive quarters.

“Turkey will get over this period hopefully with two quarters (of contraction) and with minimum negative impact,” Albayrak said.

“The first quarter data year-on-year and when compared to last quarter, technically rebalancing, recovery process will extend more than two quarters.”

The Turkish economy contracted 3.0 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2018, after a currency crisis knocked some 30 percent off the value of the lira last year. Economists expect two more quarters of contraction year-on-year.

The lira has lost as much as 15 percent against the dollar this year, with the latest weakness driven by investor concerns over Monday’s decision to re-run a mayoral election in Istanbul that had been narrowly won by the main opposition party.

Turkey’s central bank moved to tighten policy by funding the market through a higher rate and took additional liquidity steps, while state banks sold dollars to boost the local currency.

Albayrak said Turkish inflation and employment will improve this year, while the government will implement necessary reforms without hesitation.

“Turkey, especially inflation and employment, will reach a better, more balanced place till the end of 2019,” Albayrak said.

The meeting between the finance minister and U.S. President Donald Trump was constructive, hopeful and positive, Albayrak said, adding that Trump will most probably pay a visit to Turkey in July.



 

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Report: Turkey Plans to Tap 40 Bln Lira from Central Bank Reserves
Monday, 13 May, 2019


A money changer counts Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey August 2, 2018. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Turkey's Treasury ministry is working on legislation to transfer the central bank's 40 billion lira ($6.6 billion) in legal reserves to the government's budget to shore it up, three economic officials told Reuters.

The budget is deeper in deficit than expected, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

It was unclear when or whether the draft law would reach parliament, however, though one of the sources said it would happen "soon."

Turkey's economy tipped into recession last year after the lira fell sharply. The currency is under pressure again, in part due to worries over the central bank's depleted foreign exchange reserves, which would help it defend against another crisis.

Separate to foreign exchange reserves, "legal reserves" are what the central bank sets aside from profits by law to be used in extraordinary circumstances. At end-2018, they stood at 27.6 billion lira, according to the bank's balance sheet data.

A second source with knowledge of the matter said last year's "legal reserves" combined with this year's amounted to the 40-billion lira figure, which was cited by all three people who spoke to Reuters.

"The Turkish central bank has around 40 billion lira in legal reserves. The transfer of this amount to the 2019 central administration budget was seen as suitable. This step aims at improving and strengthening the budget," the second source said.

It remained unclear how much of the reserves would ultimately be transferred and what, if any, new requirements would apply to the central bank.

Central Bank and Treasury ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The transfer would mark the second recent move by Ankara to tap the central bank's funds to boost its budget. In January, the bank transferred some 37 billion lira in profits to the Treasury three months earlier than scheduled.

"I do not remember the use of legal reserves before. This method came up to stop further deterioration of the budget," the first source said.

"There needs to be a legislation to transfer the central bank's legal reserves. The new legislation is planned to be presented to the parliament soon." the source said.

Turkey's budget recorded a 36.2 billion lira deficit in the first quarter of 2019, according to Treasury and Finance Ministry data. The deficit is expected to reach 80.6 billion lira by year end.


 

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Family-owned Turkish car parts maker Teklas up for sale: sources
May 15, 2019
Arno Schuetze, Can Sezer

FRANKFURT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s Teklas Kaucuk, which supplies parts to carmakers such as General Motors and BMW, has put itself up for sale in a deal that could value the company at as much as 700 million euros ($782.9 million), two people familiar with the matter said.

The family-owned company - which makes rubber hoses and metal tubes mainly for use in air conditioning, brakes and electric vehicles - is being advised by JP Morgan on the sale.

Teklas, which also supplies parts to Daimler, FCA, Toyota and Volkswagen, was not immediately available for comment. JP Morgan declined to comment.

Teklas tried to sell itself in 2015 but the plan stalled after a diesel emissions scandal at Volkswagen prompted investors to assess the impact of the scandal on Teklas’s sales. The cars sector has seen high-profile deals in recent months including KKR’s acquisition of Magneti Marelli and ZF Friedrichhafen’s purchase of Wabco for over $7 billion.

But there has been less interest in companies producing technology tied to conventional combustion engines, which are under pressure as the industry shifts towards electric vehicles.

The auction for Teklas is expected to kick off soon with potential suitors such as Cooper Standard and Bain Capital being targeted, the sources said.
Teklas is expected to be valued at seven to eight times its annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of about 80-90 million euros, suggesting it could fetch between 600-700 million euros, the sources said. Founded in 1970s, Teklas Kaucuk is based in the western Turkish province of Kocaeli. It employs more than 4,800 people at sites in Europe, Mexico and China.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and Can Sezer in Istanbul, editing by Deepa Babington


 

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Turkey Orders Arrest of 249 Foreign Ministry Personnel over Gulen Links
Tuesday, 21 May, 2019 - 06:30
[IMG]

Turkish police guard people accused of being followers of Fethullah Gulen in Kayseri, Turkey in April 2017. Reuters

Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek

Turkish authorities ordered the arrest of 249 foreign ministry personnel over suspected links to the network of US-based Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating an attempted coup on July 15, 2016.

The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said it ordered the arrest of the 249 personnel after investigations found that they had committed irregularities in the foreign ministry’s past entrance exams.

It said 78 suspects had been detained so far in operations across 43 provinces and that police were seeking the rest. They are believed to have used ByLock, an encrypted cellphone app used for texting, that the authorities assume was a means of communication among Gulen Movement members before and during the attempted coup.

Authorities have carried out regular operations against the alleged followers of Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Gulen denies he was behind the failed coup.

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while some 175,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs as part of the post-coup purges.

In another context, the Supreme Election Council (YSK) announced Monday its final decision on annulling the election results in Istanbul’s mayoral race.

Voters will head to ballot boxes again to elect a mayor for Istanbul on June 23 after Turkey’s electoral board scrapped on May 6 the results of the March 31 polls in the country’s largest city.

YSK members ruled in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) objection to the results of the polls, ordering a re-run.

The Turkish opposition, whose candidate was stripped of victory in the mayoral race, has expressed dismay at YSK’s decision, seeing it an attempt by the ruling party to keep its grip on the municipality.


https://aawsat.com/english/home/art...9-foreign-ministry-personnel-over-gulen-links
 

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EU says Turkey distancing itself from bloc, criticizes human rights record
May 29, 2019
  • Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow
  • The EU wants to see a return to the reforms of Erdogan’s first years in power and law reforms
BRUSSELS: The European Union said on Wednesday that Turkey continues to distance itself from the bloc and its values and says sees no reason to unblock the country’s EU membership talks.

In a progress report on Turkey’s membership prospects released Wednesday, the EU’s executive commission criticizes “serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

The EU agreed last year that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession talks should be opened or closed and the report notes that “the underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.”

Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow.

The topics of concern are all areas considered central for membership by the European Union, which prides itself on being a democratic club of market economies that respect the rule of law.

“Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union,” the Commission said in its annual report on Ankara’s progress toward membership, a path formally undertaken in 2005.

“Negotiations have ... effectively come to a standstill,” the Commission said of Turkey, a member of the US-led NATO alliance which shares a border with Iraq and Syria.

Some EU countries oppose the large, relatively poor and mainly Muslim country joining. Germany, notably, would prefer an alternate kind of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.

But the office of the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back at the criticisms from the EU, saying the findings in the enlargement report reflect the EU’s own “existential crisis.”

Turkey’s deputy foreign minister said the report does not “accurately assess the current situation” in the country and that Turkey would be “carefully noting the constructive criticism” in the report.

He said he also expected Turkey’s European allies to support it in its battle against security threats.

The EU wants to see a return to the reforms of Erdogan’s first years in power as prime minister from 2003 that made it an important emerging economy.

But the Commission said in its report that even with the lifting of a state of emergency in 2018 following a failed coup in July 2016, many of its “repressive elements” became law.

 

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Turkey told by U.N. to free and compensate Gulen-linked detainees
May 29, 2019
Tom Miles


GENEVA (Reuters) - Turkey must release two men detained over suspected links to a cleric blamed for a 2016 coup attempt and pay them compensation for arbitrary detention, a U.N. body said on Wednesday.

Academic Ismet Ozcelik and school principal Turgay Karaman were deported in 2017 from Malaysia to Turkey, where they were accused of ties to the network of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Ankara says sought an uprising the previous year.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the 2016 coup attempt and widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

U.S.-based Gulen and his followers deny coup-plotting.

Saying it had violated the two Turkish men’s freedoms, the U.N. Human Rights Committee gave Turkish authorities 180 days to comply with its ruling. But it lacks any enforcement authority.

“The State party is obligated ... to release the authors (of the complaint) and provide them with adequate compensation for the violations suffered,” the committee’s report on the case said, noting that Turkey’s membership of an international rights covenant required it to act and provide “effective remedy”.


Turkey had sought an exemption due to its state of emergency and the “serious and complex” nature of the pair’s alleged crimes, but the committee rejected that, saying it failed to explain how they posed a threat.

There was no immediate reaction from Ankara to the report.

Since the failed coup attempt three years ago, Turkish authorities have demanded the extradition of various people suspected of links to Gulen’s network.

While some countries, including Kosovo and Pakistan as well as Malaysia, have complied, others have refused.

Last year, six Turkish nationals were arrested and deported from Kosovo at Ankara’s request, in a move that led to Kosovo’s prime minister sacking his interior ministry.

In Pakistan, authorities deported a former director of a chain of private Turkish schools and his family to Turkey over alleged Gulen links in 2017.

Ozcelik and Karaman had lived in Malaysia for 13 years before their deportation. The U.N. committee said Karaman was the head of Time International School, an institution inspired by Gulen’s teachings.

His Hizmet movement runs some 2,000 educational establishments worldwide. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennyslvania since 1999.

Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

 

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Turkey frees former NASA scientist from prison: ruling
May 30 2019
Ali Kucukgocmen

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has released Turkish-American, former NASA scientist Serkan Golge from jail with conditions, according to a court ruling seen by Reuters on Wednesday, in a step that could lead to an easing of tensions in Ankara’s relations with Washington.

Golge was earlier this year found guilty of being a member of an armed terrorist organization and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

His sentence was later reduced to five years by an appeals court and he was found guilty of aiding a terrorist organization instead of being a member of one.

Golge has always denied the charges against him.

Turkey’s Court of Cassation, a higher appeals court, upheld Golge’s sentence for aiding a terrorist organization, but ruled to release him due to time he has already served, according to the verdict, seen by Reuters.

He was released under judicial control, according to the ruling, meaning he is not allowed to leave the country and will have to regularly report to local authorities.

Golge was visiting family in southern Turkey when he was arrested in the sweeping crackdown that followed a failed military coup in 2016 which the government blames on supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States.

Gulen has denied any involvement.

Cases against U.S. consulate employees and citizens in Turkey on terrorism charges have been a major source of disagreement between the NATO allies.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus welcomed Golge’s conditional release. “We will continue to follow Mr. Golge’s case closely along with those involving our own locally employed staff at mission Turkey,” she said.
“We will continue to provide all appropriate consular services to Mr. Golge, including making sure he can return home as soon as possible.”

Washington had been urging Turkey to release Golge and other detainees.

His wife, Kubra Golge, said she was surprised but happy at the decision.

With the move, Golge’s unjust treatment due to the long time he spent in jail has ended, said Ali Bilgin, one of his lawyers.
“The process against the upheld verdict will be continued with the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights,” he said in a statement.

Two U.S. senators last month introduced a bipartisan bill requiring the imposition of sanctions on Turkish officials responsible for the detentions of U.S. citizens and local consulate staff in Turkey, a statement on the legislation said.

One U.S. consulate employee was sentenced to jail in January, but was released due to time served during his trial. The cases of two other consulate employees are ongoing.

Turkey and the United States are at odds over several other issues, including Ankara’s push to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems and policy differences in Syria.

Ankara has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who it accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara and David Brunnstrom in Washington; editing by Frances Kerry, Alison Williams and G Crosse

 

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EU says Turkey distancing itself from bloc, criticizes human rights record
May 29, 2019
  • Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow
  • The EU wants to see a return to the reforms of Erdogan’s first years in power and law reforms
BRUSSELS: The European Union said on Wednesday that Turkey continues to distance itself from the bloc and its values and says sees no reason to unblock the country’s EU membership talks.

In a progress report on Turkey’s membership prospects released Wednesday, the EU’s executive commission criticizes “serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

The EU agreed last year that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession talks should be opened or closed and the report notes that “the underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.”

Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow.

The topics of concern are all areas considered central for membership by the European Union, which prides itself on being a democratic club of market economies that respect the rule of law.

“Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union,” the Commission said in its annual report on Ankara’s progress toward membership, a path formally undertaken in 2005.

“Negotiations have ... effectively come to a standstill,” the Commission said of Turkey, a member of the US-led NATO alliance which shares a border with Iraq and Syria.

Some EU countries oppose the large, relatively poor and mainly Muslim country joining. Germany, notably, would prefer an alternate kind of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.

But the office of the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back at the criticisms from the EU, saying the findings in the enlargement report reflect the EU’s own “existential crisis.”

Turkey’s deputy foreign minister said the report does not “accurately assess the current situation” in the country and that Turkey would be “carefully noting the constructive criticism” in the report.

He said he also expected Turkey’s European allies to support it in its battle against security threats.

The EU wants to see a return to the reforms of Erdogan’s first years in power as prime minister from 2003 that made it an important emerging economy.

But the Commission said in its report that even with the lifting of a state of emergency in 2018 following a failed coup in July 2016, many of its “repressive elements” became law.

Erdogan: Turkey still committed to EU membership despite bloc’s failed promises
Reuters
May 30, 2019

ANKARA: Turkey maintains its commitment to a full European Union membership even though the bloc has not kept its promises, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, a day after an EU report criticized Ankara on its judiciary and economic state.

Announcing a number of judiciary reforms in Ankara, Erdogan said they would effectively ban only “problematic” sections of websites instead of
imposing a full access ban.

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since 2017 over a law that allows authorities to ban access to websites deemed a threat to national security.

Erdogan also said Turkey remained committed to its “zero tolerance” policy on torture — two days after an Ankara lawyers’ group said five foreign ministry personnel reported they had been tortured and mistreated in custody.


 

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Turkey breaks up smuggling ring that brought thousands of migrants to Europe
Reuters
May 29, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkish police said on Wednesday they had detained the leaders of what they called Europe’s biggest people-smuggling ring, which helped thousands of irregular immigrants reach Europe from the Middle East.

Twenty people, including ringleader Akbar Omar Tawfeeq, were detained in operations in four Turkish provinces after a year-long investigation into the organization, Istanbul police said.

The network mainly helped Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian nationals cross into European countries from Turkey by land and sea, police said, adding that the group had also worked with other smuggling groups in Ukraine, Italy and Greece.

As part of the operations, police detained 569 irregular immigrants and seized six vehicles and six boats, they said in a statement. The smuggling group, whose leaders are mainly from northern Iraq, earned an average 2 million euros annually.

Video footage released by police showed special operations police breaking down the door of the suspects’ residence and seizing phones, drugs and digital material.

More than a million migrants and refugees, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, arrived in the European Union in 2015. Turkey was one of the main launch points for the dangerous sea leg of their journey, on which thousands died.

Numbers declined sharply in the following year when Turkey, in exchange for 3 billion euros in European Union aid and a promise to ease visa restrictions for Turks, began to exert more control on migrants trying to cross to Europe via its territory.

Overall Mediterranean arrivals to the European Union, including migrants making the longer and more perilous crossing from north Africa to Italy, stood at 172,301 in 2017, down from 362,753 in 2016 and 1,015,078 in 2015, according to UN data.

 

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Cherry-picking through Turkey's gloom: The funds staying put while others flee
May 31, 2019
Tom Arnold


LONDON (Reuters) - While Turkey’s economy flounders, some foreign funds are buying into everything from fizzy drinks firms to automakers to banks as they winnow out likely survivors in the country’s beaten down corporate bond and equity markets.


Many overseas investors and macro-focused asset managers are pulling out, alarmed by a combination of a falling lira, high inflation, monetary policy missteps and a damaging standoff between President Tayyip Erdogan’s and the United States.

But with Turkey’s main equity index down 4% this quarter, others are cherry-picking based on a different range of criteria, including companies’ exposure to foreign markets, debt levels and relations with Erdogan.

Germany-based Union Investment, which manages around 343 billion euros ($380 billion) globally, bought into dollar bonds belonging to Coca-Cola’s Turkish bottler Icecek (CCI), and conglomerate Koc Holding. The sellers were international investment banks.

“We’ve seen the trade fears and volatility ...and usually it’s a very good opportunity to get some bonds, to do some bottom-fishing,” said Sergey Dergachev, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment, who was satisfied with the 5 to 6 percent yield offered.

“I’m a long-term investor and long term we are quite positive on Turkey because you have a young population and huge disparity between the top corporates issuing bonds with strong corporate governance (and) strong risk management.”

Many investors choosing such names cite their low levels of debt and healthy cashflow, allowing them to withstand the lira slump and a recession-plagued economy.

They’re also favored because they’re large exporters. CCI exports to several former Soviet and Middle Eastern countries.
“The overall thesis is the economy is weak and will remain weak ...and the export sector has become more competitive,” said Julian Mayo, chief investment strategist at investment management firm Fiera Capital.

He favors Turkey’s only refiner Tupras, carmaker Tofas, a joint venture of Koc Holding and Italy’s Fiat, and household appliance maker Arcelik.

Lazard Asset Management already has overweight exposure to Turkish equity and is considering adding to its holdings. “Along with Russia, Turkey is the cheapest market in the world among significant markets,” said James Donald, its managing director for emerging markets equity.

“...When you discount the risks we think there’s still value... If the currency improved we might add other names with exposure to the domestic economy.”

‘HIGHLY POLITICIZED’
Economic risks include a prolonged recession or sovereign default, while business relations with Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted AK Party constitute a political one.

Links between Koc Holding’s eponymous family owners - prominent among Turkey’s secular business elite - and the AKP have at times been testy, with some companies in its portfolio, including Tupras, in the past hit with fines.
“This a highly politicized situation where friends of the government are spared... and larger banks and larger companies (that) have a history of opposing Erdogan will probably take the brunt (of economic adjustments),” said Jan Dehn, head of research at emerging markets investment manager Ashmore Group.

Many banks have been hobbled by a build-up of bad debt linked to the slumping construction and energy sectors, while Erdogan has harangued the sector for not cutting borrowing costs.
But some see value.
“We have an acquisition in some of the private sector banks but at a senior level (that)... looks quite interesting in terms of value,” said Filippo Alloatti, senior credit analyst at Hermes Investment Management.

He declined to specify those banks but highlighted Akbank and Garanti Bank as favored names, in part due to their conservative approach to risk management.

Their senior dollar bonds offer 7-8% yield, compared to 4.5-5% for the subordinated bonds of leading Brazilian banks, he noted.
“Turkey is not Brazil. It’s in a tough spot but if you don’t think they’re going to the wall then its quite interesting as you’re well compensated.” Alloatti said.

Dergachev’s Union Investment bought Akbank dollar bonds this month. “In terms of liquidity, even assuming there’s no rollover, they (Akbank) have liquidity for at least mid to end 2020, so they have good liquidity,” he said.
But not everyone is so positive.
“We’re heavily underweight in Turkey,” said Ashmore’s Dehn. “Unless we see a significant change in the political and macroeconomic environment, we think it will continue to deteriorate, so the most likely outcome for us is to have even less exposure going forward.”

Reporting By Tom Arnold; editing by John Stonestreet


 

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Turkey orders arrest of 128 military personnel over suspected Gulen links: Anadolu
June 18, 2019
Updated 27 minutes ago


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FILE PHOTO: U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has ordered the arrest of 128 military personnel over suspected links to the network accused by Ankara of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

Police were looking for just over half of the suspects in the western coastal province of Izmir and the rest across 30 other provinces, Anadolu said.

They were suspected of being supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed putsch three years ago. Gulen has denied any role.

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 people from the civil service, military, and elsewhere have been sacked or suspended from their jobs under crackdowns since the attempted coup.

Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have criticized the scope of the crackdown, saying Erdogan has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

The government has said the security measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threat Turkey faces, and has vowed to eradicate Gulen’s network in the country.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Andrew Heavens


 

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