The public agenda in Turkey has been busy discussing the latest details of the ongoing pandemic as the situation continues to worsen.
At the same time the public has been concerned with the CAATSA sanctions on Turkey, which were announced by the US State Department website on December 14.
THE US CAATSA SANCTIONS ON TURKEY
The US Treasury Department on Monday imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The sanctions, which are part of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), targeted Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), its leader and three other officials.
US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said in a statement that “Turkey knowingly engaged in a transaction with a Russian main arms exporter, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The sanctions include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries, an asset freeze and visa restrictions on the President of Defense Industries, and 3 other officers,”.
President Donald Trump said “The Obama administration said no to Turkey when they wanted to purchase Patriots and they purchased S-400,” during his closing speech at the G20 summit.
Many politicians and state officials in Turkey on the other hand, have reacted against the US sanctions.
“Turkey will not be deterred but instead will work twice as hard to improve the defense sector and make it totally independent,” Erdogan vowed.
He added “For the first time, sanctions have been imposed on our country, a NATO member. What kind of alliance is this? This decision is a blatant attack on our country’s sovereignty rights.”
“We condemn and reject the decision to impose unilateral sanctions against Turkey as announced today by the US in the context of Turkey’s acquisition of S-400 air defense systems,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated that “We condemn this decision, which does not comply with alliance, current military, or political realities, (…) This sanction decision has shaken all values of alliance between our countries, (…) Obviously, sanctions on a NATO member country will not only undermine the spirit of alliance, but will deeply undermine trust among allies.”
The main individual target of the sanctions, President of Defense Industries Ismail Demir, said that they were imposed by the US under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, because Turkey refused to “bow down to orders”.
He also highlighted that the sanctions will not create obstacles for Turkey, but will rather boost its determination.
Stressing Turkey’s duty to develop its defense industry, Demir said thanks to these efforts, it now has over 1,600 local defense firms.
Demir also highlighted that Turkey has had no problem accessing financial resources, adding: “It has not happened until now. The main contractor comes into play where a credit mechanism will be used.” Demir stressed the ultimate solution for Turkey is producing its own domestic engines.
“In this process, we are meeting with authorities, countries, and companies that are open to cooperation, joint production and development with us,” he added.
Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay said on Friday “As always, we will continue to be on the side of common sense, in line with the interests of our nation. We are not afraid of US’s unilateral sanction. Turkey does not need to be discouraged by any sanction,” in his speech of the 2021 budget in the parliament.
Alongside many government officials, many reactions also came from the other political parties of Turkey.
“The purchase of S-400s is Turkey’s sovereign right,” Unal Cevikoz, Istanbul lawmaker from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Twitter, adding that for this reason, US sanctions on Turkey for the purchase are “never acceptable.”
The head of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Wednesday condemned the US move to impose sanctions on Turkey.
Devlet Bahceli labelled the US sanctions as “scandalous, disrespectful and rude” and said that “Turkey does not need any approval from the US to purchase weapons,”.
President of Vatan Party Dogu Perincek had also reacted on US sanctions with following statements to Ulusal Kanal:
“Thanks for the sanctions, USA! We have not seen anything from the US other than their ploys under the name of ‘aid’. We are finally facing an American aid for the first time. This is not an American sanction, this is an aid! This is an aid for our nation to get our things together on our own. This is an aid for our National Defense Industry to develop. This is an aid for realizing our Revolution of Manufacturing. Because these decisions will boost our confidence; and will give even more dynamism to the revolutionary decisions of Turkey. They are strengthening our dedication to live on our own. For that reason, we say ‘Thank you USA.’ These sanctions will be against the USA itself. The impose sanctions on Turkey, Russia, People’s Republic of China, Syria, and they also even have some sanctions targeting Germany. They impose sanctions on everybody. Who is left now? It is only the US that isolates itself from the rest of the world. Now taking everyone against itself, they basically sanctioned themselves. These sanctions will hit back the USA, like boomerang. The US stings itself like a scorpion inside a ring of fire.”
Furthermore, the Turkish leader said final trials of Hisar-A+ — Turkey’s first-ever domestically produced air defense system — were concluded and a target plane was successfully downed by the system on December 11.
THE LATEST PANDEMIC MEASURES
Turkey has been following a series of lockdowns for the weekends and partial restrictions on weekdays for the past several weeks.
The weekend-long curfew in the country begins on Friday at 9 pm and ends on Monday at 5 am local time.
Some sectors, including production, supply, health, and agriculture, will be exempt from the curfews, Erdogan said.
Supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, and dried fruit shops will operate between 10 am and 5 pm over the weekend. Bakeries will also be open during the weekend curfew. The restaurants will only offer delivery service between 10 am and 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
As of Sunday, Turkey reported 20,316 new COVID-19 infections, including 3,546 symptomatic patients, and saw 246 more deaths.
Shocking news also came from the UK with the announcement of a harsher lockdown due to a new fast-spreading coronavirus strain, France, Germany, Italy and other European states rushed to limit the new strain’s reach, cutting off transport links.
A hospital in Rome has also announced that the new strain has been found on a patient who recently returned to Italy from the UK.
Turkey late Sunday joined other European countries in banning flights from the UK and other countries due to concerns.
“It has been reported that the rate of transmission has increased in the UK with the mutation of the coronavirus,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter.
“Under the directives of our President in coordination with our Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, a temporary suspension has been decided for flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Africa to our country,” Health Minister Koca said.
Late on Sunday, in a statement on Twitter, Koca said that as part of the measures, all passengers who are on flights that are still en route will be tested and quarantine rules will be applied when they arrive.
“Measures are carried out in full coordination,” the Health Minister added.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines’ CEO Bilal Eksi said on Twitter that as part of the decision of the Turkish Health Ministry to suspend flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Africa, “we kindly request that none of our passengers take a rush in ticket transactions.”
“None of our passengers will be victimized regarding ticket transactions,” he added.