Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Russia-Turkey Alliance Meeting - Changing The Landscape In The Region, S China Sea Ramp-Up With New Chinese Aircraft Carrier

In his first foreign trip after the failed coup attempt in his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the hopes of mending ties as Ankara is increasingly isolated from the West.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a public goal of reestablishing between the countries diplomatic and economic relations frayed in the wake of a Russian bomber aircraft shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, Russia contended that its bomber was over Syrian airspace, while Turkey claimed the aircraft drifted some meters into Turkish airspace for all of 16 seconds.

In the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan, Turkey is now reconsidering that decision, as well as its friends and allies around the world. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the United States, alongside his leading Turkish ministers, of playing an active role in the failed overthrow attempt or sympathizing with coup plotters. The Turkish leader at one point referred to his former ally Fethullah Gulen, now the number one candidate for Erdogan’s ire, as only "a pawn."
The United States, for its part, provided no warning to the Turkish regime, if it did indeed know prior to events that there was a threat of overthrow, and had been hesitant to provide an endorsement of the Erdogan regime, until it became clear that the government would survive the coup plot.
Turkey has similarly received a cold shoulder from European Union member states, who refuse to consider fast-tracking Ankara’s accession into the EU or providing visa-free travel to its citizens, citing what they view as the Erdogan regime’s human rights violations in the post-coup attempt purge that has led to the arrest of some 18,000 soldiers and judges and the firing of nearly 100,000 people for purportedly sympathizing with the coup from all sectors of civil service.

Scorned by those he once considered his closest foreign allies, facing growing hostility from neighboring states for supporting the US-led effort against Assad in Syria, and dealing with the difficult aftermath of conducting society after an attempted government overthrow, Erdogan now looks to Russian President Vladimir Putin as perhaps his last resort.

"Erdogan was already seeking to improve relations with Russia before the coup took place...
there can be no doubt that after the coup these plans were vastly accelerated."

Ankara and Kremlin in charm offensive

Relations between Turkey and Russia are thawing after a state visit on Tuesday (9 August) by Turkey's president to St. Petersburg.
"Turkey-Russia ties have entered into a very different and positive phase," said Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. 
Putin, for his part, said the restoration of bilateral ties "would benefit both Turkey and Russia." 
The move marks a turning point in an often fraught relationship, and a possible step away from Turkey's increasingly strained Nato allies, the United States and Europe.
Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 jet fighter near the Syrian border, killing both pilots. Russia responded with trade sanctions and suspended charter flights and package tour sales to Turkey.
The trade measures saw Turkey's exports to Russia drop by over 60 percent, some €664 million, in the first six months of this year, according to Turkey's Daily Sabah. 
The Russian ban reportedly causing around €757 million in losses in the Turkish tourism sector over the same period.
The official visit to the Russian city is an effort to smooth over tensions, part of a broader Turkish policy, pre-dating the 15 July coup, to mend relations in the neighbourhood.
The two share a disdain for the United States; Erdogan, in part, blames the Americans for harbouring his enemy Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey says Gulen — a Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1991 — masterminded the coup.
Turkey's government continues its purging his supporters throughout the country, despite denials from 75-year old Gulen of involvement in the coup.
Gulen has accused Erdogan of using the coup to further tighten his grip on power.
Around 16,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands detained or fired from their jobs.
Turkey wants him extradited from the United States.
On Tuesday, Turkey's justice minister Bekir Bozdag said in an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency that anti-Americanism in Turkey risks turning into hatred.
"It is in the hands of the United States to stop this anti-American feeling leading to hatred," he said.
The European Union, for its part, has not been spared from Turkey's criticisms, Ankara threatening to scrap the migrant swap deal signed off in March unless short-term visa restrictions on Turkish nationals are lifted.

As tensions mount in the South China Sea, the country’s state television has heralded the Liaoning aircraft carrier’s expanded lethality.

Last week, Chinese TV boasted about the "growing combat capabilities" of its Liaoning (CV-16) aircraft carrier, noting that the battle platform can carry up to 20 fighter jets, bolstering Beijing’s balance of naval and aviation power in the Pacific rim amid growing tensions.

Last Monday’s footage revealed the Liaoning carrying eight Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 fighters, along with a Z-18 and a Z-9 helicopter, the largest number of aircraft yet seen on the carrier, suggestive of plans by China to build up its aerial presence in the Pacific Ocean.

Speaking about the J-15 fighter jets during an August 4 program, Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhou said, "Once all eight aircraft fly out in formation, they have a strong combat capability." He noted that the Liaoning can carry up to 20 aircraft, prompting Chinese media to further comment that the carrier exhibits "growing combat capability."

Topping out at a speed of 1,585 mph (2551 kmh), the J-15 possesses semi-stealth capabilities, with China boasting that it is a fifth-generation weapon, with a range of 2,175 miles, providing the aircraft both the capabilities of an intercept fighter and a traditional combat warplane. Joined with the Z-18J and Z-18F helicopters, Beijing’s airpower in the Pacific is considered by some to be unrivaled.
The increased capacity of the Liaoning is substantial in the wake of a growing Chinese military presence, in response to not only the Hague arbitrational court’s ruling contrary to Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, but also demands by regional and Western governments that the administration of Xi Jinping simply rescind areas they have long held.

Dozens of stoning and firebomb attacks were aimed at Israelis over the course of the day, with another day of terror having passed in Israel.
Since the morning hours, at least 33 incidents involving stoning and Molotov cocktails in firebombing attacks took place in various regions throughout the country.
Among the events: stones hurled at passing motor vehicles near the town of Migdalim, stones thrown at Bus No. 143 as it was traveling on Highway 437 – on the Adam-Hizme road.
An incendiary bottle was thrown at a car as it passed near the town of Yitzhar. Stones and incendiary bottles were also thrown at vehicles passing the Amos junction (the T-junction).
Stonings took place near Tekoa, Atarot, eastern Jerusalem, the City of David, A-Rahm, in the area of Jelazoun and in other places as well.

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