A day after Russia ramped up its air attacks in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan highlighted Turkey's recent success in turning the tide of the Libyan civil war in favor of the Government of National Accord (GNA) against the Moscow-backed Libyan National Army (LNA) and then threatened Ankara will not permit Idlib to become a conflict zone again. When Russian-backed Assad regime forces last February ignored a September 2018 Turkish-Russian demilitarization deal intended to keep the Syrian army out of Idlib, the Turkish military launched an operation that reversed some of the government's advances until Russia agreed to a new ceasefire agreement on March 5. Last week Turkey warned the rebel groups that in patronizes in Idlib of a new Syrian-Russian offensive.
After about eight years of discussions, Turkey's Treasury and Finance Ministry announced Tuesday reaching an agreement to join Euroclear, one of two principal securities clearing houses in the Eurozone. By joining the Brussels-based securities depository, which at the end of 2019 held for its clients assets valued at €31.4 trillion and last year conducted 239 million netted transactions equivalent to €837 trillion by value, Turkish bonds will be more accessible to foreign investors. Spooked by Ankara temporarily last month banning three international banks from conducting foreign-currency trades involving the lira to stem its depreciation, nonresident holdings of local government bonds dropped to $7.1 billion at the end of May from $14.8 billion at the end of 2019.
Turkey is escalating its repression of alleged members of Fethullah Gulen's Hizmet movement, which the Erdogan government blames without evidence for orchestrating the failed 2016 attempted coup and has proscribed as a terrorist organization. On Tuesday, Turkish authorities ordered the detention of 414 people, mainly military personnel, for purportedly belonging to the Hizmet movement and police across 22 provinces have already arrested 191 of the suspects. An Istanbul prosecutor separately issued arrest warrants for another 158 Hizmet suspects, including military personnel, doctors, and teachers. On Monday, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 149 people, mostly police officers, accused of affiliation with the Hizmet movement.
Despite EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy signing a joint statement Tuesday calling for a ceasefire in Libya and resumption of peace negotiations, President Erdogan seconded the GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha's assertion that political talks can only resume when Sirte and al-Jufra airbase are in GNA hands. Erdogan said, "Now the goal is to take over the whole Sirte area and get it done. These are areas with the oil wells; these are of great importance." After a Monday telephone call with President Trump, Erdogan proclaimed, "A new era between Turkey and the US may start after our phone call. We agreed on some issues." While Erdogan did not specify the areas of agreement, he said soon thereafter that "developments showed Haftar could be excluded from the peace process at any moment."
Congressional Republicans will introduce legislation Wednesday that according to Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) will impose "the toughest sanctions that have ever been proposed by Congress on Iran." The legislation would require the President to get permission from the House and Senate to issue Iran sanctions waivers, the most important being those extended to Iraq to purchase Iranian electricity. It would also impose sanctions on every Iraqi militia that participated in the 31 December 2019 – 1 January 2020 attack on the US embassy in Baghdad. The legislation's sponsors also want to cut all US aid to Lebanon, which they argue empowers Iran. With Russia set to veto a US-requested extension of 13-years-old arms embargo on Iran due to expire in October, the legislation would sanction companies selling arms to Iran, banks facilitating their sale, and those transporting the weapons. Additional sanctions would be imposed on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's assets and various sectors of the Iranian economy, from the financial to the automotive So far, 147 House Republicans and no Democratic lawmakers support the legislation. The lack of Democratic support, along with the Trump administration's commitment to continued aid to Lebanon and electricity waivers for Iraq, will likely doom this initiative.
Israel's High Court of Justice in an 8-1 decision Tuesday struck down a 2017 law that would have voided Palestinians' title to land where around 4,000 settler homes are located as long as the homes were either built "in good faith" or had government support and Palestinian owners received 125 percent financial compensation for their property. The government never applied the law and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit refused to defend it before the High Court.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Tuesday that if Israel annexes the Israeli settlements on July 1, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed, the PA will declare a Palestinian state along the 1949 armistice lines and request the international community recognize it and impose sanctions on Israel.
An Etihad Airlines plane landed in Israel Tuesday night to deliver COVID-19 medical aid to the Palestinians. This represents the second direct commercial flight from the UAE to Israel and the first by a plane decorated with the Etihad logo and UAE flag. The PA rejected the aid from the last flight, claiming that the UAE did not coordinate with them and that using Ben Gurion Airport normalized UAE relations with Israel. A PA official said that today's UAE flight was similarly not coordinated with Ramallah, suggesting that the PA will refuse this aid as well.
Aiming to triple mining's share of GDP by 2030, Riyadh approved a new law Tuesday to make more financing available to investors in that sector. The energy ministry estimates the kingdom's unused mineral resources – including bauxite, phosphate, gold, copper, and uranium – are worth $1.33 trillion.
In line with 2018 legislation allowing courts to convert jail terms into non-custodial sentences, Bahrain Tuesday released human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was serving a five-year prison term for tweets accusing Bahraini police of torture and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen of human rights violations.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum