US orders non-emergency personnel out of Sudan

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – The State Department on Thursday ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees in Sudan following the ouster of longtime President Omar al-Bashir. </p>  <p>In an updated travel advisory, the department said &quot;violent crime such as kidnapping, armed robbery, home invasion and carjacking is common&quot; and warned citizens not to travel to Sudan.  </p>  <p>&quot;Terrorist groups in Sudan may harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings and kidnappings,&quot; said the department.  </p>  <p>The Sudanese military earlier Thursday announced the removal of al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, and the imposition of a two-year &quot;transitional phase&quot; following mass demonstrations calling for the president to step down.</p>  <p>Defense Minister Awad ibn Auf also announced in a televised statement the imposition of a one-month curfew -- to take effect Thursday evening -- along with a three-month nationwide state of emergency.</p>  <p>The emergency &quot;gives security forces greater arrest and incarceration powers&quot; and authority &quot;to detain and arrest anybody they deem to be undermining public order, including protestors or those suspected of supporting the protests,&quot; said the department. </p>  <p>&quot;U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization from the Sudanese government to travel outside of Khartoum,&quot; it added. </p>  <p>Ibn Auf further announced the suspension of Sudan’s 2005 Constitution and the dissolution of the Sudanese presidency, parliament and council of ministers.</p>  <p>He was sworn in Thursday as chairman of the new Military Transitional Council established to run the country’s affairs during the post-Bashir interim phase.</p>  <p>Kamal Abdul-Marouf Al-Mahi, chairman of the Joint Staff Command, was sworn in as deputy chairman.</p>  <p>Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations voiced &quot;total rejection&quot; of what they described as a &quot;military coup&quot;.</p>  <p>Al-Bashir came to power on the back of a 1989 military coup against the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. 

US backs peaceful, democratic Sudan after Bashir ouster

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. said Thursday it supports strongly &quot;a peaceful and democratic Sudan&quot; after longtime President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by the Sudanese military. </p>  <p>&quot;The United State continues to call on transitional authorities to exercise restraint, and to allow space for civilian participation within the government,&quot; State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters. </p>  <p>&quot;We commend the people of Sudan for the resiliency and their commitment to nonviolence as they express their legitimate demand for inclusive and representative government that respects and protects human rights,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>The Sudanese military earlier Thursday announced the removal of al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, and the imposition of a two-year &quot;transitional phase&quot; following mass demonstrations calling for the president to step down.</p>  <p>Defense Minister Awad ibn Auf also announced in a televised statement the imposition of a one-month curfew -- to take effect Thursday evening -- along with a three-month nationwide state of emergency.</p>  <p>Ibn Auf further announced the suspension of Sudan’s 2005 Constitution and the dissolution of the Sudanese presidency, parliament and council of ministers.</p>  <p>A military council, he said, would be drawn up to run the country’s affairs during the post-Bashir interim phase.</p>  <p>Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations voiced &quot;total rejection&quot; of what they described as a &quot;military coup&quot;.</p>  <p>Al-Bashir came to power on the back of a 1989 military coup against the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.</p>  <p>In a subsequent statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which led recent protests against al-Bashir, urged members of the Sudanese military to be wary of attempts by the deep state to &quot;steal the revolution&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;We call on all officers and soldiers of the Sudanese army… to stand with the people against attempts to steal the revolution by the regime’s old guard,&quot; the statement read.</p>  <p>The State Department emphasized it is the Sudanese people who should choose who leads them.</p>  <p>&quot;The Sudanese people have been clear that they are demanding a civilian-led transition. They should be able to do so sooner than two years from now,&quot; Palladino said.  

UPDATE 2 – US, Turkey hold constructive talks: Turkish FM

            ADDS STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT </p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. and Turkey held constructive talks Wednesday, during which they discussed challenges in their relations.</p>  <p>Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the State Department.</p>  <p>&quot;Had a constructive meeting w/@SecPompeo on challenges in our bilateral relations and issues on #Turkey-#US common agenda,&quot; Cavusoglu said on Twitter after the meeting.</p>  <p>The talks lasted 40 minutes, but neither the U.S. nor Turkey immediately released details.</p>  <p>The State Department released a statement later saying that Pompeo expressed support for ongoing negotiations regarding northeast Syria and warned of the &quot;potentially devastating consequences&quot; of Turkey's planned military operation in the region.</p>  <p>Pompeo also discussed his concerns regarding Turkey’s potential acquisition of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.</p>  <p>&quot;The potential economic opportunities between Turkey and the United States were also a focus of the discussion,&quot; said the statement. </p>  <p>Turkey's decision to procure the S-400 has led to significantly strained ties, and Washington earlier this week suspended delivery of parts and services necessary to Turkey's receipt of the F-35 stealth fighter jet. </p>  <p>U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the Russian S-400 system, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and exposes the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, including covert efforts to obtain critical information on the jet, which could then be relayed to Russia.</p>  <p>In response to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Cavusoglu said at a think tank gathering earlier Wednesday that the system would be for Turkey's own use.</p>  <p>&quot;It doesn’t have to be integrated into the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use; this is a defense system,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s, as an enemy.&quot;</p>  <p>*Umar Farooq contributed to this story

UPDATE – US, Turkey hold constructive talks: Turkish FM

            CHANGES HEAD, DECK, LEDE, ADDS TWEET FROM CAVUSOGLU IN GRAF 3</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. and Turkey held constructive talks Wednesday, during which they discussed challenges in their relations.</p>  <p>Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the State Department.</p>  <p>&quot;Had a constructive meeting w/@SecPompeo on challenges in our bilateral relations and issues on #Turkey-#US common agenda,&quot; Cavusoglu said on Twitter after the meeting.</p>  <p>The talks lasted 40 minutes, but neither the U.S. nor Turkey immediately released details. </p>  <p>They were expected to focus on an ongoing row between Washington and Ankara regarding Turkey's decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-air missile system, in addition to other topics. </p>  <p>Turkey's decision to procure the S-400 has led to significantly strained ties, and Washington earlier this week suspended delivery of parts and services necessary to Turkey's receipt of the F-35 stealth fighter jet. </p>  <p>U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the Russian S-400 system, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and exposes the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, including covert efforts to obtain critical information on the jet, which could then be relayed to Russia.</p>  <p>In response to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Cavusoglu said at a think tank gathering earlier Wednesday that the system would be for Turkey's own use.</p>  <p>&quot;It doesn’t have to be integrated into the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use; this is a defense system,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s, as an enemy.&quot;</p>  <p>*Umar Farooq contributed to this story

US, Turkish top diplomats hold State Dept. talks

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted his Turkish counterpart for talks Wednesday at the State Department.</p>  <p>The discussions Mevlut Cavusoglu lasted 40 minutes, but neither the U.S. nor Turkey immediately released details. </p>  <p>The talks were expected to focus on an ongoing row between Washington and Ankara concerning Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian S-400 anti-air missile system, in addition to other topics. </p>  <p>Turkey's decision to procure the S-400 has led to significantly strained ties, and Washington earlier this week suspended delivery of parts and services necessary to Turkey's receipt of the F-35 stealth jet fighter. </p>  <p>U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy U.S. Patriot missile systems rather than the Russian S-400, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems, and exposes the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, including covert efforts to obtain critical information on the jet, which could then be relayed to Russia.</p>  <p>In response to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Cavusoglu said at a think tank gathering earlier Wednesday that the system would be for Turkey's own use.</p>  <p>&quot;It doesn’t have to be integrated to the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use, this is a defense system,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s,&quot; the foreign minister added.  

UPDATE – Turkey warns of external meddling after local polls

            ADDS FOREIGN MINISTRY STATEMENT, BACKGROUND</p>  <p>By Sena Guler</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – Turkey called on all parties late Tuesday to refrain from taking any actions that could be seen as interfering in the country’s domestic affairs following weekend local elections.</p>  <p> “We urge all parties, including foreign governments, to respect the legal process and refrain from taking any steps that may be construed as meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs,” Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's presidential communications director, said on Twitter in response to remarks by U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino.</p>  <p>&quot;Free and fair elections are essential for any democracy. That means acceptance of legitimate election results, which is essential,” Palladino said at a press briefing.</p>  <p>“We expect nothing less from Turkey, which has a long, proud tradition in this respect,” he added.</p>  <p>Altun said Sunday’s elections took place in “an orderly and peaceful fashion”.</p>  <p> “We are confident that the electoral authorities will resolve all disputes swiftly, transparently and for good,” he stressed.</p>  <p> “Elections are the cornerstone of our nation’s democracy. The Turkish people have expressed their will through the ballot box for 70 years. The authorities have a responsibility to ensure that elections are free and fair.</p>  <p> “It is equally crucial that the vote count occurs according to the law. We are closely monitoring the situation, as multiple political parties have challenged the preliminary results due to alleged procedural errors and other irregularities,” he added.</p>  <p> “No country has the right to intervene in the election results of another country in a way that is far from law and democracy and to see itself as a source of legitimacy of the results,&quot; Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement. </p>  <p>“The source of legitimacy for the elections is the will of the nation,&quot; he noted, adding it was the Supreme Election Council that will evaluate and reach a conclusion on the objection process.</p>  <p> “It is essential that the will of the voter is fully reflected in the ballot box results, and everyone should respect the legal and democratic struggle shown in this regard,” Aksoy said, stressing that Turkey is a state of democratic law and weekend local polls were carried out in a democratic and transparent environment.</p>  <p>“Anti-democratic approaches and habits can no way overshadow Turkey's democratic maturity,” he said.</p>  <p>Aksoy also touched the 84 percent voter turnout in Sunday's local elections and said the Turkish nation showed its commitment to democracy with this move.</p>  <p>“On the other hand, the preference of the Turkish people for stability and trust is registered with the results of the polls,” he added.</p>  <p>Earlier Tuesday, the AK Party officially challenged poll results in 39 districts in the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.</p>  <p>Bayram Senocak, the party’s Istanbul provincial head, said it had found &quot;significant discrepancies&quot; in the results.</p>  <p>In the Istanbul mayor’s race, Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 48.79 percent of the votes, currently has a narrow lead over the AK Party’s Binali Yildirim, with 48.51 percent. </p>  <p>The AK Party also challenged the poll results in all 25 districts of the capital Ankara.</p>  <p>The party’s provincial head, Hakan Han Ozcan, said his party is also contesting irregularities in 3,217 ballot boxes. </p>  <p>Mansur Yavas, the CHP’s mayoral candidate in Ankara, is currently leading with 50.9 percent of votes, according to unofficial results, with the AK Party’s Mehmet Ozhaseki at 47.1 percent.</p>  <p>Millions of Turks cast their votes nationwide Sunday in elections to choose Turkey’s mayors, city council members, mukhtars (neighborhood officials) and members of elder councils for the next five years.

Turkey warns of external meddling after local polls

            By Sena Guler</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – Turkey called on all parties late Tuesday to refrain from taking any actions that could be seen as interfering in the country’s internal affairs following weekend local elections. </p>  <p> “We urge all parties, including foreign governments, to respect the legal process and refrain from taking any steps that may be construed as meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs,” Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's presidential communications director, said on Twitter in response to remarks by U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino.</p>  <p>&quot;Free and fair elections are essential for any democracy. That means acceptance of legitimate election results, which is essential,” Palladino said at a press briefing.</p>  <p>“We expect nothing less from Turkey, which has a long, proud tradition in this respect,” he added.</p>  <p>Altun said Sunday’s elections took place in “an orderly and peaceful fashion”.</p>  <p> “We are confident that the electoral authorities will resolve all disputes swiftly, transparently and for good,” he stressed.</p>  <p> “Elections are the cornerstone of our nation’s democracy. The Turkish people have expressed their will through the ballot box for 70 years. The authorities have a responsibility to ensure that elections are free and fair.</p>  <p> “It is equally crucial that the vote count occurs according to the law. We are closely monitoring the situation, as multiple political parties have challenged the preliminary results due to alleged procedural errors and other irregularities,” he added.</p>  <p>Millions of Turks cast their votes nationwide Sunday in elections to choose Turkey’s mayors, city council members, mukhtars (neighborhood officials) and members of elder councils for the next five years.

China 'at war with faith’: US envoy

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The Chinese government is engaging in an unprecedented crackdown against religious groups tantamount to a &quot;war on faith,&quot; the U.S. envoy for religious freedom said Thursday.</p>  <p>&quot;But it is a war they will not win,&quot; Ambassador Sam Brownback told reporters at the State Department. </p>  <p>&quot;The Chinese Communist Party does not trust their own people to allow them to choose their own path for their souls.&quot;</p>  <p>Brownback pointed to internment camps China has erected for its minority Uighur Muslim population, prohibiting the community from naming their children &quot;Mohammed,&quot; restrictions on Tibetan Buddhists on who they can venerate, and the destruction of churches and arrests of Christian clerics. </p>  <p>“China must end these counterproductive policies, release all those arbitrarily detained and end its repression,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>Brownback said the U.S. has confirmed reports that some Turkish individuals have been detained at the camps but did not provide additional details.  </p>  <p>In its annual human rights report, the State Department detailed alleged abuses in China's camps &quot;such as torture, repressive surveillance measures, homestays and forcible service of pork and alcohol by Chinese government officials in Muslim homes, confiscations of Qurans, and instances of sexual abuse and death&quot;.</p>  <p>Around 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in an expanding network of &quot;political re-education&quot; camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.</p>  <p>China’s Xinjiang region is home to some 13 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination. </p>  <p>Brownback said Beijing's crackdown on religious groups has intensified since the Chinese Communist Party took over the regulation of religion from the central government, calling repression &quot;much harsher&quot; after the party took control. </p>  <p>“These are horrific things that are taking place, and by a country that wants to be a global leader,” he said. </p>  <p> 

UPDATE – US tells Russia it will not 'stand idly’ on Venezuela

             ADDS DETAIL ON RUSSIAN PLANE DEPLOYMENT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON(AA) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Russian counterpart Monday that America and its allies will not stand on the sidelines as Moscow "exacerbates tensions" in Venezuela.

During a telephone call with Sergei Lavrov, Pompeo urged Russia "to cease its unconstructive behavior," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

"The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido," Palladino added.

He was likely referring to the reported arrival of two Russian military aircraft in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, over the weekend. Multiple reports suggested the planes carried dozens of troops, as well as military equipment. But the claims could not be independently verified.

Guaido, the National Assembly and opposition leader, declared himself interim president in January, and demanded President Nicolas Maduro step down from power.

The U.S. and dozens of other nations have recognized Guaido as the country’s rightful leader as Maduro insists he is the target of a U.S.-orchestrated coup.

The political stalemate comes as Venezuela grapples with a worsening economic crisis that has led to widespread shortages of goods throughout the country and which has seen Venezuela's national power grid collapse for a week.

Venezuela's economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country's main export.

Turkey, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China and Bolivia have maintained their support for Maduro.

US tells Russia it will not 'stand idly’ on Venezuela

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON(AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his Russian counterpart Monday that America and its allies will not stand on the sidelines as Moscow &quot;exacerbates tensions&quot; in Venezuela.</p>  <p>During a telephone call with Sergei Lavrov, Pompeo urged Russia &quot;to cease its unconstructive behavior,&quot; State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.</p>  <p>&quot;The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido,&quot; Palladino added.</p>  <p>Guaido, the country's National Assembly leader, declared himself interim president in January, and demanded President Nicolas Maduro step down from power. </p>  <p>The U.S. and dozens of other nations have recognized Guaido as the country’s rightful leader as Maduro insists he is the target of a U.S.-orchestrated coup. </p>  <p>The political stalemate comes as Venezuela grapples with a worsening economic crisis that has led to widespread shortages of goods throughout the country and which has seen Venezuela's national power grid collapse for a week. </p>  <p>Venezuela's economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country's main export. </p>  <p>Turkey, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China and Bolivia have maintained their support for Maduro.