United States armsmakers are re-establishing themselves in the narrower-but-still-lucrative Turkish market, where European rivals appear to have lost their competitive edge.

According to defense analysts, political disagreements with countries whose armsmakers Turkey once favored have earned U.S. contenders a "near-monopoly" position in off-the-shelf purchases.

"This is not the first time Ankara used blacklisting as a foreign policy tool," said one analyst. "Recent disputes with Israel and France and the transformation of ties with Italy from excellent to just normal dictate that U.S. firms could enjoy a favorable competition condition they have not enjoyed for several years."

U.S. companies recently won two contracts and are viewed as frontrunners in two others. In April, Sikorsky Aircraft defeated Italy's AgustaWestland in a multibillion-dollar competition to lead the co-production of more than 100 T-70 utility helicopters, a Turkish version of the U.S. company's S-70i Black Hawk International.

And earlier this month, in selecting a producer of light police helicopters, Turkey's top procurement decision-making body chose Bell Helicopter Textron over AgustaWestland and Eurocopter Deutschland, the German arm of Eurocopter.

But between 2000 and 2010, U.S. companies tried and failed to secure several Turkish contracts.
In 2000, for example, Bell Helicopter was selected for the Army's multibillion-dollar attack helicopter deal, but the deal was never signed because of disagreements over price and the mission computer's provider.

In general, U.S. companies won only U.S. foreign military sales-related contracts and single-source deals in Turkey in the 2000s.

Italy, Israel, France Lose Ground

Until 2011, units of Italy's Finmeccanica were the top foreign players in the Turkish market. In fact, Italian firms won every Turkish contract between 2006 and 2007. But the two countries' defense relationship suffered as political ties weakened between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his former Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, whose government fell last November.

Another major non-U.S. competitor was Israel. But procurement and military cooperation between Turkey and the Jewish state came to a standstill after the former allies froze their diplomatic relations last year. Turkey and Israel fell out after Israeli commandos killed nine Turks aboard an aid flotilla bound for Gaza in 2010. The last major contract that went to an Israeli company was a 2004 deal for the sale of 10 Heron UAVs.

Recently, another major player on the Turkish market, France, has fallen from grace. Last month, the French Parliament's Lower House passed a bill criminalizing the denial of World War I-era Armenian "genocide" by the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey's predecessor. In response, Turkish government officials unofficially said French bidders, and those who partnered with them, would be blacklisted in Turkish procurement competitions.

The largest upcoming Turkish contest, the procurement of long-range missile and air defense systems, is valued at about $4 billion. Competitors include U.S. partners Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, Eurosam, Russia's Rosoboronexport and China's CPMIEC. Eurosam's shareholders include MBDA – jointly owned by British BAE Systems, Italian Finmeccanica and pan-European EADS – and France's Thales.

"France can forget about this project in the event the [Armenian genocide] bill passes [in the French Senate]," a senior Turkish procurement official said. "I agree with the view that this would be very good news for the Americans."


Rick Perry Calls Turkish Leaders 'Islamic Terrorists,' Call for Expulsion from NATO

Texas governor and United States presidential hopeful Rick Perry suggested it might be time to kick Turkey out of NATO, calling the country's leaders "Islamic terrorists."

Perry made the remarks during Fox News' South Carolina debate, Mediaite.com reported Monday. Moderator Bret Baier reportedly mentioned Turkey's ruling "Islamist" Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and outlined the increasing murder rates of women, declining press freedom in the country and deteriorating relations with Israel and Greek Cyprus since the AKP came to power and asked Perry if he believed Turkey should still be a part of NATO.

"Obviously, when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it," Perry said, adding that Turkey "moved far away from the country it once was in the 1970s," when Perry was stationed there as a pilot.

The report said Perry's response "might surprise many" and mentioned Turkey's longstanding alliance with the U.S. in NATO, citing an article from the Washington Post that defined Turkey as "a critical diplomatic partner engaged in a working relationship that is one of the most important but least discussed developments shaping [2011's] change in the Arab world."


Turkey Says Russian Ship Delivery 'Dangerous Cargo' to Syria

Turkey has confirmed that a Russian ship suspected of delivering munitions to Syria in violation of a European Union arms embargo after an unscheduled stop in Greek Cyprus docked at Turkey's coast on Monday after offloading nearly 60 tons of what it called "dangerous cargo."

The Russian ship Chariot initially made its way to the Greek Cypriot port of Limassol last Tuesday after running low on fuel because of rough seas. Its arrival at the EU member country meant the vessel would be subject to the embargo the bloc imposed to protest Syria's crackdown on the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

But Greek Cypriot authorities allowed it to leave Wednesday after the ship's owners, St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd., said it would head to Turkey instead of Syria.

The ship then vanished off radar screens after apparently switching off its Automatic Identification System, or AIS, that enables the vessel to be tracked. Turkey, citing navy intelligence, said the ship made its way to Tartus after leaving Greek Cyprus.

Turkish officials said Saturday that the Russian ship anchored off the port of İskenderun. Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal told Today's Zaman that Turkish coast guard and customs officials had inspected the Chariot while at anchor off the İskenderun port before allowing it to dock at the port.

Ünal said it was clear that 59,422 tons of the "dangerous cargo" the St. Vincent and Grenadines-flagged ship had been offloaded at Tartus, but that the rest of what was offloaded was general cargo. It was not immediately clear what kind of munitions the Russian ship had delivered to Syria.

Greek Cypriot customs officials inspecting the vessel last week found that it was carrying "dangerous cargo" inside four containers that Cypriot Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias said was of a type that necessitated its seizure under EU embargo rules.

A Greek Cypriot official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told The Associated Press that the containers carried a shipment of bullets.


Turkey, Iraq Summons Countries Ambassadors as Tensions Rise

Already tense ties between Turkey and Iraq were further strained Monday as both countries summoned each other's ambassador to accuse one another of interfering in the internal affairs in the wake of growing sectarian conflict in war-torn Iraq.

The rise in tension between the neighboring countries apparently united Ankara and Arbil as Turkey's most senior diplomat held unannounced meetings with Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government, over the weekend.

The first move came Monday morning from Iraq when Deputy Foreign Minister Muhammed Jawad al-Dooreki summoned Yunus Demirer, the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, urging his government to consider the "necessity of avoiding anything that might disturb" good relations.

The Iraqi move came a week after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Iraq's neighbors should not stoke Sunni-Shiite tensions in Iraq, which he said could engulf the entire Islamic world. The same day Erdoğan held a phone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and reiterated Turkey's concerns.

"The Turkish ambassador gave assurances that Turkish officials' statements were in good faith and he will inform his government in Ankara of the Iraqi position," an Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement said Monday. In return, Demirer underlined that the situation in Iraq was a concern for all regional countries and required a holistic approach for the solution, a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Ties between Baghdad and Ankara have been strained by Turkey's position on the Shiite-led government's move to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a measure that has triggered political turmoil that risks stirring more sectarian tensions.

Hours after its envoy to Baghdad was summoned, Ankara invited Iraq's ambassador to Turkey in a move to express the Turkish government's disturbances over al-Maliki's recent statement, warning that Turkey itself would suffer if its interventions in Iraq sparked conflict in the Middle East.

"Recently we noticed their surprise interventions with statements, as if Iraq is controlled or run by them," al-Maliki said in an interview with private al-Hurra television channel late Friday. "Their latest statements interfered in domestic Iraqi affairs and we do not allow that absolutely. If it is acceptable to talk about our judicial authority, then we can talk about theirs; and if they talk about their disputes, we can talk about theirs."

In further remarks, al-Maliki warned that "Turkey is playing a role that might bring disaster and civil war to the region, and Turkey will suffer because it has different sects and ethnicities."

Al-Maliki's strongly worded statement was not left unanswered by Ankara, which invited Iraq's Ambassador to Turkey Abdul Kamil Tabikh to the Foreign Ministry late Monday, when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print. Apart from voicing criticisms about al-Maliki's statement, Ankara reiterated its policy to Iraq with calls on Iraqi officials to responsibly deal with the ongoing sectarian conflict.

In a separate reaction, Ömer Çelik, deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, slammed al-Maliki through his Twitter account.

Describing al-Maliki as the leader of an organization, rather than a state, and his statements as imprudent, Çelik said: "Words targeting Turkey are not compatible with the responsibility of the 'Iraqi Prime Minister.' He is fulfilling 'other responsibilities."

Accusing al-Maliki of aiming to run a Shiite-dominated country, Çelik warned that Iraq might be a satellite country in the future under his rule.

"From now on Iraq has a serious al-Maliki problem. Turkey has no problem with Iraq and fully supports Iraq's unity," Çelik said.

At a moment when Ankara-Baghdad ties were put into a deeper spat, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu's unannounced visit to Arbil sparked fresh thoughts about a possible Ankara-Arbil alliance in the face of ongoing internal conflict in Iraq.

Sinirlioğlu met with Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Nechirvan Barzani to discuss a variety of issues including the ongoing political crisis in Iraq, the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and other bilateral matters.

That visit came after Arbil's relations with Baghdad were also strained as Barzani refused to hand over al-Hashemi, who was accused of establishing a criminal gang in the capital.

Turkish diplomatic sources would neither confirm nor deny a potential meeting between Sinirlioğlu and al-Hashemi, who has near-perfect relations with Ankara. Al-Hashemi, who is currently holed up in Iraq's Kurdish region, has mooted the possibility of going to Turkey, even though officials have barred him from overseas travel.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi judiciary says a court in Baghdad has ruled that the Sunni vice president must stand trial on terror charges in Baghdad, not the northern city of Kirkuk, the Associated Press reported. Al-Hashemi escaped to the semi-autonomous northern Iraq, out of reach of authorities in Baghdad.


Turkish Foreign Minister Warns of Cyprus Miss

The Cyprus issue is at a crucial juncture and all parties must ensure that a chance for a solution is not wasted, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.

"We are on the threshold of an important opportunity in the Cyprus issue, and it is important not to miss this opportunity," Davutoğlu told reporters Sunday, following a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Beirut.

The foreign minister said Ban had also told him that Turkey's initiatives on the Cyprus issue were important.

The secretary-general also attached importance to making rapid progress during a critical Cyprus summit that will be held in New York next week, Davutoğlu said.

On Monday, Davutoğlu also met Ban's special adviser in Cyprus, Alexander Downer.

Ankara urged Downer to schedule a multilateral conference with the participation of guarantor states during the New York meeting. During his meeting with Downer, Davutoğlu also noted the flexible stance of Turkish Cypriots while pursuing Cyprus talks, diplomatic sources said.

Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Ban will hold their meeting in New York on Jan. 22 with the hopes of speeding up UN-sponsored talks that have been continuing since 2008. Turkey aims to accelerate the process with a conference that would increase pressure on Cypriot leaders to reach an agreement for reunification before taking the document to a referendum on both sides of the island.


Ceremony for Denktas Continuing in Nicosia

Turkey's political and military hierarchy joined thousands of residents in the northern half of divided Cyprus on Tuesday at a funeral service for former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be among mourners filing past Denktaş's coffin to pay their last respects before his burial in the Turkish Cypriot part of the island's capital.

A gun carriage will transport Dentkaş's coffin, draped with the flags of Turkey and the breakaway state that he founded, to the Selimiye Mosque for funeral prayers prior to burial.

Denktaş's final resting place is the appropriately named Park of the Republic, where he and his colleagues created the separatist Turkish Resistance Organization, or TMT, in the 1950s as a counterweight to a Greek Cypriot guerrilla campaign against the island's then colonial ruler Britain to achieve union with Greece.

Denktaş, who died Jan. 13 at the age of 87, was as much loved by Turkish Cypriots as he was reviled by Greek Cypriots for his uncompromising vision over a six-decade-long political career to forge a separate Turkish Cypriot state.

He believed that Turkish Cypriots needed a separate state to preserve peace and prevent what he called the massacres of Turkish Cypriots by the majority Greek Cypriots.


Turkey to Take Iranian Gas Price to Arbitration

International arbitration over the price of Iranian natural gas is "inevitable" due to Tehran's reluctance to provide a discount, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said Monday, a day before Iran's foreign minister comes to Turkey for economic cooperation talks.

"We have close cooperation with Iran in natural gas and we shared with them our unease about the high gas price. They did not share the same view," Yıldız told reporters. "Our demand for a discount continues. An international arbitration tribunal is inevitable. If they want to talk, we are ready."

The issue was not initially supposed to be on the agenda of the Turkey-Iran Joint Economic Commission meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, and will feature Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, an energy ministry official said.

The discount Russia recently made for Turkey had led to "quite a difference" between the prices of Russian and Iranian gas, the official said, adding that Iran also failed to deliver the promised quantities.

Turkey has already won an arbitration case against Iran over deliveries of sub-standard quality gas, he added. Turkish officials involved in the negotiations are said to be using the growing pressure on Tehran as a bargaining chip to secure a discount.


Seven KCK Suspects, BDP Officials Arrested in Operations

A court in Van ruled to arrest seven people on Monday for their ties to the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, which, prosecutors say, is a political umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist organization.

Police conducted simultaneous operations targeting the KCK and raided 123 premises in 17 provinces, detaining 49 suspects. Detainees included former Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Deputy Fatma Kurtulan, now defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party, or DEHAP, leader Tuncer Bakırhan and Dicle news agency reporter Murat Çiftçi. These suspects were later interrogated by the prosecutors and seven of the detainees were put behind bars pending trail.

The detainees include Hakkari's Esendere Mayor Hurşit Altekin, former Yüksekova Mayor Ruken Yetişkin and BDP officials Mehmet Capraz, Abdurrahman Gemicioğlu, Sıracettin Fırat, Yılmaz Gözyan and Sabri Tümen.

Police recently stepped up operations against the KCK. The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several mayors from the pro-Kurdish BDP, have been detained.

The suspects are accused of various crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy the country's unity and integrity.

BDP officials have said the investigation is the government's method of suppressing BDP politicians, denying any links between the suspects and any terrorist organizations.


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