Russia’s Gazprom starts building TurkStream gas pipeline under Black Sea

Russia’s Gazprom has begun construction on the TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey. Feeder lines are planned to also supply EU markets.

Ostsee Pipelineverlegeschiff Solitaire von Allseas (picture-alliance/dpa/Allseas)

Russian gas giant Gazprom said Sunday it had started construction of a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey that also aims to provide gas to the European Union.

Gazprom said its Swiss partner Allseas Group’s vessel Audacia had started laying pipes on the Russian shore of the Black Sea.

“By late 2019, our Turkish and European consumers will have a new, reliable source of Russian gas imports,” Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward the TurkStream project in 2014 after plans to build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, known as South Stream, collapsed under EU pressure during the Ukraine crisis.

The project was later put on ice after Turkey shot down a Russian jet along the Syrian border, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The plan was revived after the two sides reconciled their some of their differences in October last year.

Russland Gasförderung (Getty Images/AFP/O. Maltseva)A Nord Stream pipeline operator in northwestern Russia

From southern Russia to northwestern Turkey

TurkStream will run from near Anapa in southern Russia under the Black Sea to northwestern Turkey. A planned feeder line to Greece would then bring gas onwards to southern and southeastern Europe.  Two lines each with an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) will be built.

For Russia, which is already Turkey’s largest gas provider, the pipeline would allow it to reduce dependence on Ukraine and Eastern Europe for transporting gas while helping to further seal its dominance over European gas markets.

Turkey aims to become a regional oil and gas hub for energy from the Caucasus, Central Asia, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean in order to ensure domestic energy security and cement the country’s geostrategic importance.

Infografik Karte Gazprom Turkish Stream englisch

 

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Turkey arrests a thousand police accused of links to US-based cleric Gulen

Turkish authorities have arrested 1,000 police suspected links to the Gulen movement. Since last year’s failed coup, more than 10,000 police have been arrested.

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Turkey arrests hundreds of alleged Gulen supporters

Turkish authorities on Wednesday detained 1,009 people with suspected ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, in one of the largest recent operations against the network Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.

Some 8,500 police were involved in operations in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, which prosecutors said targeted secret Gulenists within the police force.

Since last July’s failed coup attempt, Turkey has arrested nearly 50,000 people, including 10,700 police officers and 7,400 military personnel, according to the interior ministry. Some 120,000 people have been fired or suspended from the military, police and bureaucracy for suspected ties to the Gulen movement.

Turkey accuses the Gulen movement of creating a “parallel state structure” over decades, infiltrating the military, police, judiciary, media and other institutions before attempting a coup. Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denies the charges.

The scale of the purges within the military and police have raised concerns over the capability and rising politicization of security forces. The crackdown also drawn criticism over deteriorating human rights. 

The arrests come 10 days after a referendum passed granting Erdogan expanded powers. The referendum was marked by allegations of widespread voter fraud.

Watch video04:03

Referendum – Turkey at a crossroads

German-born Kurdish politician detained, released

Separately, a parliamentarian with the pro-Kurdish HDP on Tuesday was detained by police before being released the same day, Turkish media reported.

Feleknas Uca was detained in Diyarbakir under a court order for failing to give a deposition in a court case against her.  She was released after being brought to the court to make a statement.

Türkei Feleknas Uca HDP Politikerin (Getty Images/AFP/I. Akengin)Feleknas Uca protects a woman from a plainclothes police officer during an October protest against the detention of Diyarbakir’s co-mayors.

Uca faces up to 15 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The charges against her relate to various statements and attendance at rallies.

The German-born Uca is a former member of the European Parliament for the Party of Democratic Socialism, a predecessor of Germany’s Left Party. She was the world’s first Yazidi member of parliament.

More than a dozen Kurdish parliamentarians are currently in prison on allegations of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

cw/jm (AP, Reuters)

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Turkey’s foreign minister vows revenge after Netherlands turn away plane

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says denying his plane permission to land in the Netherlands “will not go unanswered.” His address to the Turkish diaspora over Turkey’s upcoming referendum was blocked.

Turkish Mevlut Cavusoglu (picture alliance/Abaca/F. Aktas)

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at Istanbul airport on Saturday evening that the decision by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to refuse his plane landing rights was “a scandal in every way and cannot be accepted.”

The Turkish foreign minister had flown to Rotterdam to drum up support for next month’s constitutional referendum in Turkey, that will dramatically expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

Turned back

Cavusoglu boarded the flight despite the Dutch government on Friday refusing him permission to address a rally of the Turkish community in the Netherlands, which is estimated to be 500,000 strong.

Watch video05:39

Germany-Turkey: The escalating war of words

Dutch officials said on Saturday they withdrew his plane’s permission to land because of “risks to public order and security.”

Rutte added later that it was not right “for Turkish ministers to campaign in the Netherlands among Dutch people.”

Upon his return to Turkey, Cavusoglu accused the Dutch of trying to prevent Turkish officials from meeting voters, before adding: “We will give them the response they deserve.”

Niederländischer Premierminister Mark Rutte bei Wahlkampagne in Breda (picture alliance/AP Photo/P. Dejong)Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Erdogan’s comments were “crazy,” insisting that the travel ban was necessary

Earlier in the day, Erdogan responded to the flight ban at a rally in Istanbul, describing the Dutch policies as being reminiscent of the Nazi-era.

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Turkish foreign minister threatens the Netherlands over rally ban

Rotterdam has joined a number of European cities blocking Turkish campaigning for a controversial referendum. Turkey’s FM said Ankara would retaliate if his plane was denied entry to the Netherlands. (11.03.2017)

Turkey hits out as Netherlands blocks foreign minster’s flight

“They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists,” Erdogan said. “Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey,” he said, adding that any action would impact diplomats and not tourists.

Protest in Istanbul

Close to 100 people marched in Istanbul later on Saturday to protest the decision, laying a black wreath in front of the Dutch Consulate amid a heavy police presence.

The latest spat comes four days before elections in the Netherlands, where right-wing, anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is running neck and neck with Rutte’s party.

The Dutch ban follows a similar order by two German cities, who said the appearance by Turkish ministers in support of the April 16 referendum posed a security risk.

The German decision was backed up by the country’s constitutional court on Friday, but the Berlin government insisted it had no plans for a top-down ban on Turkish ministers appearing.

Watch video12:02

“I think our democracy can withstand that!”

mm,cw/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Syrian government, opposition enter first day of Astana talks

Talks between Syria’s warring sides got off to a rocky start with rebels confirming they would not negotiate face-to-face with the Syrian government. The new push to end the six-year conflict is expected to end Tuesday.

Watch video02:31

Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan

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Syria’s government and opposition forces are to meet in Kazakh capital Astana for the first time since the fall of Aleppo. But uncertainty prevails over all aspects of the talks – from the guest list to the agenda. (20.01.2017)

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Turkey softens stance towards Bashar al-Assad in Syria settlement

Representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition assembled in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday for the first talks since the United Nations-brokered negotiations in Geneva were suspended last year.

Government and opposition delegates sat together at the same round table as Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told the parties it was up to them to make the breakthrough “that the Syrian people deserve.”

During opening remarks, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called on both sides to agree to a mechanism to oversee and implement a nationwide ceasefire.

“No sustainable, long-term solution to the conflict in Syria can be attained through only military means, but through a political process,” he said.

The government and opposition representatives then held indirect talks mediated by de Mistura. The rebels also held three-way talks with Russia, Turkey and the UN to discuss a nationwide ceasefire.

Trading barbs

The meeting in Astana got off to a rocky start after the rebels confirmed that they would not negotiate face-to-face with the government representatives in the first session of the talks.

Following a one-hour closed session that de Mistura mediated, a Damascus envoy denounced a speech held by the head of the opposition factions as “provocative” and “insolent.”

The speech was “meant to provoke the attendees,” Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s UN ambassador, told reporters.

He was referring to a speech by Mohammad Alloush, the head of the opposition delegation and leader of the Army of Islam rebel group. In the speech, Alloush described Assad’s government as “terrorist.” He also said that the Syrian government forces and their allies are no different from the militant “Islamic State” (IS) group.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are sponsoring the talks, which come more than a month after the regime captured rebel-held areas of Aleppo, scoring its biggest victory since the conflict started.

Organizers played down expectations of a breakthrough in Astana as there are no senior government figures among the delegations. Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said it expected the meetings will be over by midday on Tuesday.

Syrien Schnee und Kälte in Aleppo (Getty Images/AFP/G. Ourfalian)The Syrian army’s recapture of rebel-held areas of Aleppo was seen as a turning point in the war

Conflicting goals

Opposition and government delegations also appeared to agree that the talks will involve bolstering a fragile ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey last month – but differed on what purpose the truce would serve. The ceasefire does not include IS and former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham.

The opposition has said its goals in Astana were to only talk about implementing the ceasefire and humanitarian deliveries, and not engage in political talks.

“We will not enter into any political discussions and everything revolves over abiding by the ceasefire and the humanitarian dimension of easing the suffering of Syrians under siege and release of detainees and delivery of aid,” Yahya al Aridi, a spokesman for the opposition delegation, told Reuters news agency on Monday.

The government, on the other hand, has been pushing for rebels to lay down their arms in exchange for an amnesty deal.

Complicating matters, the main Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the PYD, said they would not abide by any agreement reached in Astana because they were not invited to the talks after Turkey blocked their participation. The Syrian Kurds are at the center of the US strategy to defeat IS.

Diplomats from Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered separately on Sunday at a hotel in Astana to discuss the coming negotiations. Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides in the conflict, with Turkey providing aid to anti-Assad rebels and Russia providing military support in favor of Assad.

There are hopes that the talks in Astana could help jumpstart the UN peace negotiations in Geneva next month.

The discussions notably exclude the West, although Moscow extended a last-minute invitation to US President Donald Trump’s administration last week.

The six-year conflict has killed more than 310,000 people and displaced more than half of Syria’s population.

cw, rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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Food and water scarce in war-ravaged Aleppo

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Turkey extends state of emergency by three months

Following the New Year’s attack at an Istanbul nightclub, Turkey has extended its state of emergency for three more months. The news came as Turkish authorities continued their search for the main suspect in the attack.

Watch video00:58

Turkey extends emergency rule after Istanbul attack

The Turkish parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of extending its state of emergency, which was set to expire January 19, for an additional three months. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the extension was necessary due to recent terrorist attacks in the country, including the attack on an Istanbul nightclub during a New Year’s celebration that killed 39 people.

The state of emergency has worried the European Union, which believes emergency rule has been used to crack down against political opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and not just those believed to be behind the failed coup attempt in July. The state of emergency gives Ankara powers to fire state employees and shut down other associations, including media outlets.

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Police hunt for IS-linked New Year’s shooter

Turkish police are continuing their search for the perpetrator of a mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day, killing 39, and wounding almost 70. Tom Stevenson reports from Istanbul. (03.01.2017)

Terror attack in increasingly toxic atmosphere

Journalist charged with spreading terror propaganda

Turkey: ‘Worst country’ for media freedom in 2016

TAK claims responsibility for Istanbul bombings

More than 40,000 arrested

At least 100,000 people, including soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges and journalists have been removed from their positions over suspected ties to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government has blamed for inspiring the attempted coup on July 15.

More than 40,000 people have been arrested for their suspected ties to Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.

The state of emergency also extends the time suspects can be held in jail without being charged. Gulen has denied involvement with the coup.

Since the state of emergency was first imposed, more than 130 media outlets and publishing companies have been forced to close, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom organization based in the US.

CPJ also states that at least 81 journalists were imprisoned in Turkish prisons as of December 1.

Members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have also been arrested during the imposed state of emergency, accused of supporting the outlawed and militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kurdish militant group Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a splinter group of the PKK, claimed responsibility for a December bombing in Istanbul that killed 38 people.

Hunt for suspected attacker continues

Turkish authorities continued their manhunt for the assailant on Tuesday. Police have arrested 20 people so far with a potential link to the New Year’s attack, including two foreign nationals detained Tuesday afternoon at Istanbul’s airport.

Police are still hunting for the man they believe was responsible for the attack, who was able to escape the scene of the shooting and is still at large. They are focusing on men with Central Asian and North Caucasus nationalities.

The attack, which took place at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district shortly after midnight on Sunday, was the first on Turkish soil to have been formally claimed by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group.

Late Tuesday, US President Barack Obama called Erdogan to offer his condolences for the attack. The two leaders agreed they must “stand united” to defeat terrorism, said the White House in a statement.

Watch video02:34

Closing in on Turkey’s most wanted man

kbd/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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2 foreigners arrested at Istanbul airport in nightclub massacre probe

Story highlights

  • At least 16 people detained so far
  • Gunman still on the loose

Istanbul (CNN)Turkish authorities arrested two foreign nationals at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport Tuesday in connection with the nightclub terror attack early New Year’s Day that left 39 people dead, state-run Anadolu reported.

There were no details available on their nationalities. A total of 16 people have been arrested in connection with the investigation so far, and Turkish authorities are still on the hunt for the gunman who carried out the attack at the Reina nightclub. Dozens more were wounded.
Police released this image from a selfie video shot by the terror attack suspect.

Suspect seen in selfie video

Monday, police released a video that the suspect apparently took of himself in a market near the nightclub. Neither his name nor his nationality have been released.
Laith Alkhouri, a director at Flashpoint, an American business risk intelligence company tracking terrorist and cyber threats, told CNN the “selfie video” featuring the alleged nightclub attacker in Taksim square was first posted on a pro-ISIS Telegram account before being broadcast by Turkish media.
He said that suggests the attacker was part of a network supportive of or linked to ISIS, and that he had shared the selfie footage with them before or after the attack.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted to Twitter, but the claim cannot be independently verified by CNN. It boasted about the first major terrorist attack of 2017.
“In continuation of the blessed operations which ISIS carries out against Turkey, a soldier of the brave caliphate attacked one of the most popular nightclubs while Christians were celebrating their holiday,” the statement read.

‘I prayed that it will end soon’

New details emerged about the gunman in Turkish media Tuesday. Police told Haberturk newspaper the attacker took a taxi from Zeytinburnu, a neighborhood near the Istanbul airport, to a district near the club. Haberturk reported the attacker put his backpack in the trunk of the taxi.
Nightclub attack: Full coverage
  • Manhunt underway for shooter
  • Dozens killed when gunman opens fire
  • Turkish news agency IHA reported that according to the taxi driver, the attacker got out of the vehicle in Ortakoy, about four minutes away from the nightclub.
    Surveillance video of the gunman showed him first shooting a security guard and police officer at the entrance of the nightclub.
    Then, according to an interview with the club’s DJ in the Turkish daily Hurriyet, the gunman stood near the DJ booth and started shooting. He changed magazines in the weapon several times and fired more than 100 bullets, Hurriyet said.
    “I prayed that it will end soon, then it ended,” the DJ told Hurriyet. “He possibly changed his clothes. We heard police 5-10 minutes later.”

    PKK denies involvement

    The militant Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, distanced itself from the attack on Monday.
    “No Kurdish forces have anything to do with this attack,” the PKK said. “The Kurdish freedom fight is also the fight for democratization of Turkey. That’s why we won’t target innocent and civilian people.”
    Those killed in the attack were from 14 countries, including India, Morocco, Jordan, Canada, Russia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.