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Turkey will not succumb to ‘blackmail’
December 04, 2017
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ANKARA: Turkish President Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey would not succumb to “blackmail” by the United States in the trial of a Turkish bank executive being charged with evading US sanctions on Iran.

Already strained ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have deteriorated as Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is cooperating with US prosecutors, detailed in court a scheme to evade US sanctions.

Erdogan said Turkey’s dealings were in line with the decisions of the United Nations, adding that they were not against Ankara’s alliance with Washington.

“What have we done, for example? We bought natural gas from a country we have an agreement with so our citizens wouldn’t be cold in the winter. Like other countries, only the UN’s decisions bind us, and Turkey followed them to the dot,” he told members of his ruling AK Party in the eastern province of Mus.

Over three days of testimony, Zarrab has implicated top Turkish politicians, including Erdogan. Zarrab said on Thursday that when Erdogan was prime minister he had authorised a transaction to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Ankara has cast the testimony as an attempt to undermine Turkey and its economy, and has previously said it was a “clear plot” by the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who it alleges engineered last year’s coup attempt.

“This case is nothing more than the 17-25 December plot being carried across the ocean. Excuse us, but we will not succumb to this blackmail,” Erdogan said, referring to 2013 leaks about alleged government corruption which were blamed on his opponents.

Although he has not yet responded to the courtroom claims, Erdogan has dismissed the case as a politically motivated attempt to bring down the Turkish government, led by Gulen.

Turkey has repeatedly requested Gulen’s extradition, but US officials have said the courts require sufficient evidence before they can extradite the elderly cleric, who has denied any involvement in the coup.

Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Erdogan will travel to Greece on Dec. 7-8, Greek sources said on Friday, in the first visit by a Turkish president in decades that have seen ties at times severely strained over issues from Aegean Sea rights to ethnically-split Cyprus.

Erdogan is expected to meet his Greek counterpart and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and discuss bilateral relations, security issues and the refugee crisis, following a 2016 EU-Ankara deal aimed at reducing migrant flows to Europe.

He is also expected to visit Thrace in northern Greece, where there is a Muslim minority.

Erdogan last visited fellow NATO member Greece in 2010 in his capacity as prime minister. His visit next week will be the first by a Turkish president to Greece in 65 years.

Greece and Turkey, NATO allies, came to the brink of war in 1996 over the ownership of uninhabited Aegean islets.

Relations have improved since then but they are still at odds over issues from territorial disputes to Cyprus, which remains divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living on either side of a UN-monitored ceasefire line.

Eight Turkish soldiers commandeered a helicopter and flew it to northern Greece as a failed coup unfolded against Erdogan between July 15 and 16, 2016. Turkey has repeatedly demanded Greece hand them over but Greece’s highest court has rejected their extradition.

Greek police on Tuesday arrested nine Turkish citizens who were later charged with terrorism-related offences. They are accused of hoarding explosives and of links to an outlawed militant organisation responsible for suicide bombings in Turkey. They have denied any wrongdoing.


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