Turkey urges U.S. to review visa suspension as lira, stocks tumble

KONFRONTASI-Turkey urged the United States on Monday to review its suspension of visa services after the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee sharply escalated tensions between the two NATO allies and drove Turkey’s currency and stocks lower.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have long been plagued by disputes over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, Turkey’s calls for the extradition of a U.S.-based cleric and the indictment of a Turkish former minister in a U.S. court.

But last week’s arrest of a Turkish employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul marked a fresh low. Turkey said the employee had links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for a failed military coup in July 2016.

The U.S. embassy in Ankara condemned those charges as baseless and announced on Sunday night it was halting all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey while it reassessed Turkey’s commitment to the security of its missions and staff.

Within hours Turkey announced it was taking the same measures against U.S. citizens.

On Monday the Turkish foreign ministry summoned a U.S. diplomat to urge the United States to lift the visa suspension, saying it was causing “unnecessary tensions”.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said that if Washington had serious security concerns about its missions in Turkey, steps would be taken to address them.

“But if it’s an issue regarding the arrest of the consulate employee, then this is a decision the Turkish judiciary has made,” Gul told A Haber television. “Trying a Turkish citizen for a crime committed in Turkey is our right.”

Turkish media reported that authorities had issued a detention warrant for a second U.S. consulate worker. Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports, which also said the employee’s wife and child were being questioned by police.

Turkey detains 44 over Istanbul terror attacks

KONFRONTASI-Turkey has detained 44 people suspected of planning terrorist attacks carried out in Istanbul last year by a militant group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an official says.

In a statement released on Thursday, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the suspects had had links to the outlawed “Kurdistan Freedom Falcons,” an offshoot of the PKK, and that they had been detained during anti-terror operations carried out in four Turkish provinces.

LGBT Activists Prevented From Assembling in Istanbul

KONFRONTASI-Turkish police stopped activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights from gathering in large numbers for LGBT pride in Istanbul on Sunday, but smaller groups made impromptu press statements defying a ban imposed by the governor.

Organizers of the 2017 Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride had vowed to march in central Taksim Square, using a Turkish hashtag for "we march," despite the ban on gay pride observances ordered by the Istanbul governor's office for the third year in a row.

Turkish MP gets 25 years in jail for exposing MIT arms aid to Syria militants

Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Enis Berberoglu

KONFRONTASI-A Turkish court has sentenced a prominent lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) to 25 years in jail for his role in leaking secret documents to a newspaper showing the country's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) shipped weapons to foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists in Syria.

On Wednesday, Istanbul’s 14th Heavy Penal Court handed down the sentence to CHP Deputy Chairman Enis Berberoglu for releasing secret documents with the purpose of political or military espionage.

Berberoglu was arrested in the courthouse after the hearing. He will remain under arrest while waiting for the appeal process to conclude.

CHP spokesman Engin Altay sharply condemned the decision, saying he saw the verdict as an attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to intimidate the opposition.

"This decision is intimidation to the opposition. This decision is intimidation to all who are displeased with the Justice and Development Party (AKP)," Altay told reporters outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul.

He said the decision was a sign that the judiciary in Turkey was under the command of government executive organs.

Back in May 2015, Cumhuriyet daily posted on its website footage showing Turkish security forces in early 2014 intercepting a convoy of trucks carrying arms for the militants in Syria.

The paper said the trucks were carrying some 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons.

Ankara denied the allegation and claimed that the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria. However, Berberoglu defended the video, saying it was genuine.

The incident triggered a huge controversy in Turkey with many bashing the government for explicitly supporting terrorism in neighboring Syria.

Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul were among other defendants in the case.

Last year, Dundar and Gul were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing what was said to be state secrets. The prosecutor is now seeking an additional 10 years in prison for the two over the report on MIT trucks.

Turkish president says Qatar isolation violates Islamic values


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan denounced the isolation of Qatar by neighboring states as a violation of Islamic values and akin to a "death penalty" imposed on Doha in a crisis that has reverberated across the Middle East and beyond.

Erdogan's comments marked the strongest intervention yet by a powerful regional ally of Doha eight days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar and imposed stringent economic sanctions on it.

Qatar denies their accusations that it supports Islamist militants and Shi'ite Iran, arch regional foe of the Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies.

"A very grave mistake is being made in Qatar, isolating a nation in all areas is inhumane and against Islamic values. It's as if a death penalty decision has been taken for Qatar," Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.

"Qatar has shown the most decisive stance against the terrorist organization Islamic State alongside Turkey. Victimizing Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose."

The measures against Qatar, a small oil and gas exporter with a population of 2.7 million people, have disrupted imports of food and other materials and caused some foreign banks to scale back business.

Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbors before the diplomatic shutdown, has been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.

The world's second largest helium producer, Qatar has also shut its two helium production plants because of the economic boycott, industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbors. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also criticized the measures imposed on Qatar, saying in Baghdad on Tuesday they were hurting the emirate's people, not its rulers.

Erdogan calls on US to reverse bid to arm Kurdish militants in Syria

KONFRONTASI-Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Washington to immediately overturn its decision to arm Kurdish militants that Ankara regards as members of a terrorist group.

"I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately," Erdogan stated on Wednesday, following an announcement by the US that it intends to supply arms to the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) in the battle against Daesh militants in Syrian territory, AFP reported.

Erdogan further emphasized that he would mention the issue in upcoming discussions with US President Donald Trump when the two are scheduled to meet in Washington on May 16 in their first formal encounter as heads of state.
File photo shows a US military officer (R) from the so-called US-led coalition, which is purportedly fighting Daesh, speaking with a YPG militant.

"I will personally express our worries in a detailed way when we talk with President Trump on May 16," said the Turkish leader, noting that he would also bring up the issue during a NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.

"We want to believe that our allies would prefer to be side by side with ourselves rather than with the terror groups," Erdogan further said, adding that whatever happens in Syria and Iraq is a matter of "national security" for Turkey.

The development came shortly after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed resentment over Washington’s plans to arm the YPG, underlining that any armaments supplied to the Kurdish forces will constitute a threat to Ankara.  

Speaking to reporters while on a visit to Montenegro on Wednesday, Cavusoglu further said that Washington is well aware of Ankara’s position on the YPG and should not take wrong steps in Syria.

Turkish police fire tear gas at May Day demonstrators in Istanbul

KONFRONTASI-Police in Istanbul fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a group of May Day demonstrators on Monday, a Reuters witness said, as authorities detained more than 200 people at protests around the city.

Protests for May Day, the international workers' holiday, are an annual occurrence in Turkey and have in the past been characterized by widespread police actions against demonstrators.

Turkey suspends 9,000 police personnel over alleged ties to failed coup

KONFRONTASI-Turkey has suspended over 9,000 members of the country’s police force as part of its post coup crackdown.

On Wednesday, CNN Turk reported that the law enforcement personnel were suspended for alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who, Ankara claims orchestrated the failed putsch last year coup.

Turkey witnessed a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country.

A few hours later, however, the coup was suppressed. Almost 250 people were killed and nearly 2,200 others wounded in the abortive coup.

Since then, Ankara has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups, who were believed to have played a role in the failed putsch.

Over 40,000 people have been arrested and 120,000 others sacked or suspended from a wide range of professions, including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups.      

Earlier in the day, Turkish authorities detained over 1,000 people over suspected ties to Gulen.

Ankara to continue military operations in Iraq, Syria: Turkish president

KONFRONTASI-Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vehemently defended Ankara's recent deadly airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, vowing that Turkey would continue its military operations in both Arab countries "until the last terrorist is eliminated."

The Turkish leader made the remarks in an interview with Reuters in the presidential palace in Ankara on Tuesday, adding that he would not allow Iraq's northwestern Sinjar Mountains area to become a "new Qandil" for the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), referring to a PKK bastion in Iraq, near the borders with Turkey and Iran.

"We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps. We shared this with the US and Russia and we are sharing it with Iraq as well," Erdogan further said.

Erdogan's comments came hours after Turkish warplanes conducted a number of overnight airstrikes against alleged positions of militants in Sinjar and northern Syria.

According to the so-called monitoring group of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkish fighter jets killed at least 18 members of the PKK-linked Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and a bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The US-supported SDF is reportedly fighting with the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria and the US's support of the group has enraged Turkey.

The airstrikes in Sinjar area, which were purportedly aimed at positions held by the PKK-supported Yazidi Protection Units (YBS), claimed the lives of five Peshmerga forces and a police officer instead, drawing condemnations from the authorities of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also lambasted the airstrikes as unacceptable.

In response, Erdogan regretted the killing of Peshmerga fighters and said that Ankara's action was "absolutely not an operation against the Peshmerga."

Opposition calls for Turkish vote annulment after Erdogan wins powers

KONFRONTASI-Turkey's main opposition party demanded on Monday that a referendum granting President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers be nullified after a narrow "Yes" vote that exposed bitter divisions and drew concern from European Union leaders.

Erdogan's supporters took to the streets to cheer, while opponents stayed indoors banging pots and pans in protest over the vote to bring the biggest overhaul in Turkish politics since the founding of the modern republic, abolishing the prime minister's post and concentrating power in the presidency.