Turkish, Ger­man gov­ern­ments slowly bury­ing the hatchet

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

IT WAS a warm and sunny day in An­talya on Nov. 4 when pho­tos of the meet­ing be­tween For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Ger­man coun­ter­part, Sig­mar Gabriel, cir­cu­lated in the me­dia. The en­counter was un­ex­pected and in­trigu­ing. The pho­tos showed the ca­su­ally dressed for­eign min­is­ters in an in­for­mal and friendly con­ver­sa­tion with a golf green in the back­ground. “We met with Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel in An­talya, talked about the dif­fi­cult is­sues be­tween our coun­tries and the ex­pec­ta­tions,” Çavuşoğlu said on his Twit­ter ac­count. Ten min­utes later, the Ger­man For­eign Min­istry retweeted the post. At a time when ties are at a his­toric low, the meet­ing was seen as an en­cour­ag­ing step.

"We have re­it­er­ated that the re­cent de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in our bi­lat­eral ties ben­e­fits nei­ther Turkey nor the U.S.," he added, touch­ing on the visa spat ig­nited by the ar­rest of Metin Topuz, an em­ployee at the U.S. Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

"We ex­pect nor­mal­iza­tion in the visa cri­sis, and Mr. Pence has a pos­i­tive stance on find­ing a so­lu­tion," Yıldırım said, adding that he in­vited him to Turkey.

"We have re­quested a con­crete step in the ex­tra­di­tion of Gülen," he said about the fugi­tive for­mer imam who lives on a 400-acre prop­erty in Say­lors­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia, and runs a shady net­work that or­ches­trated last year's coup at­tempt that left 249 peo­ple dead and more than 2,200 in­jured. "We de­manded that at least a step to re­strict Gülen's move­ments and ac­tions be taken as a start," he said, adding that the ex­tra­di­tion process is long over­due.

"Upon my re­marks on Gülen, he brought up the ar­rests of con­sulate em­ploy­ees and pas­tor Brun­son," Yıldırım added.

Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son was ar­rested in İzmir on charges that he has links to FETÖ.

Turkish au­thor­i­ties is­sued an ar­rest war­rant on Oct. 9 for an­other em­ployee work­ing for the U.S. Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, whose wife and son were then in­ter­ro­gated by the po­lice. The Is­tan­bul Chief Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor's Of­fice said the sus­pect, iden­ti­fied by his ini­tials N.M.C. and who does not hold diplo­matic im­mu­nity, was called for tes­ti­mony. "We also re­ceived a prom­ise from Pence to keep bet­ter track of the weapons pro­vided to the YPG," Yıldırım said. Pence touched on this mat­ter as well, say­ing the U.S. un­der­stands Ankara’s con­cerns, ac­cord­ing to Yıldırım.

"Pence said the U.S. un­der­stands Turkey's sen­si­tiv­ity about the YPG. Their part­ner­ship is tem­po­rary and will last only a lit­tle longer now that the Raqqa op­er­a­tion is com­plete," he said.

"We also dis­cussed re­gional de­vel­op­ments. Mr. Pence thanked us for our stance on the [in­de­pen­dence] ref­er­en­dum in north­ern Iraq," he said, adding that the vice pres­i­dent said the U.S. ap­pre­ci­ated Turkey's at­ti­tude in not pun­ish­ing the Kur­dish peo­ple yet still op­pos­ing the “il­le­gal” ref­er­en­dum.

"We also dis­cussed the ar­rests of Reza Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla. Our del­e­ga­tion re­it­er­ated that these ar­rests are un­law­ful, as the peo­ple who pre­pared the doc­u­ments did it through il­le­gal means and are now be­ing tried in Turkey," Yıldırım said.

U.S. pros­e­cu­tors charged a for­mer Turkish econ­omy min­is­ter, for­mer gen­eral man­ager of state-owned Halk­bank Sü­ley­man As­lan and two oth­ers with con­spir­ing to evade U.S. sanc­tions on Iran.

The in­dict­ment broad­ened a case tar­get­ing Turkish-Ira­nian gold trader Reza Zarrab over sanc­tions eva­sion, which has fu­eled ten­sion be­tween the U.S. and Turkey.

Zarrab and Atilla were both ar­rested while in the U.S. in March 2016 and are sched­uled to stand trial. If con­victed, they face prison terms of up to 30 years.

Çağlayan and As­lan are charged with "con­spir­ing to use the U.S. fi­nan­cial sys­tem to con­duct hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars' worth of trans­ac­tions on be­half of the gov­ern­ment of Iran and other Ira­nian en­ti­ties, which were barred by U.S. sanc­tions" be­tween 2010 and 2015.

They were also ac­cused of ly­ing to U.S. gov­ern- ment of­fi­cials about those trans­ac­tions, laun­der­ing funds and de­fraud­ing sev­eral fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions by con­ceal­ing the true na­ture of these trans­ac­tions, the of­fice added in the fil­ing.

Later in the day, the of­fice of the vice pres­i­dent re­leased a read­out re­gard­ing the dis­cus­sion. "To­day at the White House, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence met with Turkish Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim to reaf­firm the en­dur­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the United States and Turkey," the of­fice said in the read­out.

"The lead­ers ex­pressed hope that their meet­ing would help to usher in a new chap­ter in U.S.-Turkish relations and agreed on the need for con­struc­tive di­a­logue, as friends and al­lies, on bi­lat­eral chal­lenges. They high­lighted the United States and Turkey's mu­tual in­ter­est in sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the Mid­dle East and agreed to fur­ther in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal con­sul­ta­tions to­ward that end," the of­fice added.

"The vice pres­i­dent also thanked the prime min­is­ter for Turkey's con­tri­bu­tions to global se­cu­rity and the fight to de­feat ISIS, and he un­der­scored the U.S. com­mit­ment to stand with Turkey against the PKK and other ter­ror­ist threats," Pence's of­fice said, us­ing an al­ter­na­tive acro­nym for the Daesh ter­ror­ist group.

"The vice pres­i­dent ex­pressed deep con­cern over the ar­rests of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, Mis­sion Turkey lo­cal staff, jour­nal­ists, and mem­bers of civil so­ci­ety un­der the state of emer­gency and urged trans­parency and due process in the res­o­lu­tion of their cases."

Af­ter the meet­ing, Yıldırım also met U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Jewish com­mu­nity in New York.

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