Turkey to stand by Manbij roadmap regardless of US

By Zuhal Demirci

ANKARA (AA) – Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday said that Turkey will return to its previous line on Manbij if it sees "any neglect from the U.S." on the roadmap agreed upon by the two countries.

The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is in the northeast of Aleppo province in northern Syria.

After a joint press conference with Turkish Cypriot Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Kudret Ozersay in Ankara, Cavusoglu responded to the questions of journalists on Turkey's Manbij roadmap.

"If we have the feeling of any neglect from the U.S. on the Manbij issue we will return to our previous line. Either you clear or we will clear it [from the YPG/PKK terrorists]," he said.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people, including those of women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

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UPDATE 3 – US' Pompeo arrives in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi talks

*UPDATES WITH MORE STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENTS

By Viola Fahmy

RIYADH (AA) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday met Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for talks on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The discussions tackled “historic relations between the two countries and the current situation in the region and the joint efforts done towards them,” the official Saudi SPA news agency reported.

The meeting was attended by senior Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid bin Salman and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.

No further details were given but the State Department later said Pompeo "thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance."

The top U.S. diplomat also reiterated U.S. President Donald Trump's "concern with respect to" Khashoggi's disappearance when he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "as well as the President’s desire to determine what happened," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"The Secretary welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support of the Turkish authorities’ investigation," Nauert said. "The Secretary and the Crown Prince agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers."

Pompeo, who arrived in Riyadh earlier in the day, will visit Turkey on Wednesday to meet his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

On Monday, Trump dispatched Pompeo to meet the Saudi king to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for the Washington Post newspaper.

Khashoggi is feared killed at the consulate after he entered on Oct. 2 and was never seen exiting.

Trump raised the possibility that "rogue killers" could have been responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance after a telephone comversation with the king for 20 minutes Monday.

Trump said Salman "firmly denies" any knowledge of Khashoggi's disappearance.

Earlier Monday, Turkish and Saudi officials arrived at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after the start of a joint probe into the missing journalist.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of what happened to Khashoggi, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K. — are pressing for the mystery to be cleared up as soon as possible.

UPDATE 2 – US' Pompeo arrives in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi talks

*UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS

By Viola Fahmy

RIYADH (AA) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday met with Saudi King Salman in capital Riyadh for talks on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The talks tackled “historic relations between the two countries and the current situation in the region and the joint efforts done towards them,” the official SPA news agency reported.

The meeting was attended by senior Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.

No further details were given regarding to the meeting.

The top U.S. diplomat also met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi media reported, without giving details about the content of the talks.

Pompeo, who arrived in Riyadh earlier in the day, will visit Turkey on Wednesday to meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Pompeo was being dispatched to meet the Saudi king to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for the Washington Post newspaper.

Khashoggi has long been feared killed at the consulate after he entered on Oct. 2 and was never seen exiting.

Trump raised the possibility that "rogue killers" could have been responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance after speaking over the telephone with the Saudi king for 20 minutes on Monday.

Trump said Salman "firmly denies" any knowledge of Khashoggi's disappearance.

Earlier on Monday, Turkish and Saudi officials arrived at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after the start of a joint probe into the missing journalist.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of what happened to Khashoggi, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K. — are pressing for the mystery to be cleared up as soon as possible.

UPDATE – Turkish, US army chiefs meet in Washington

ADDS US STATEMENT, BACKGROUND

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler met Monday in Washington, D.C. with his U.S. counterpart Joseph Dunford and discussed regional security and the two countries' fight against terrorism.

Guler is in the U.S. to attend the Counter-Violent Extremist Organization Conference, the Turkish General Staff said on its Twitter account.

The two army chiefs discussed security and stability in the Syrian city of Manbij as well as bilateral cooperation against Daesh, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense following the meeting.

"The U.S. and Turkey enjoy a strong and continuous strategic military-to-military relationship as key members of the NATO alliance," the statement said.

The Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the city in Aleppo province, northern Syria to stabilize the region.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken 40,000 lives, including many women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

Turkish, US army chiefs meet in Washington

By Diyar Guldogan

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler met Monday in Washington, D.C. with his U.S. counterpart Joseph Dunford and discussed regional security and the two countries' fight against terrorism.

Guler is in the U.S. to attend the Counter-Violent Extremist Organization Conference, the Turkish General Staff said on its Twitter account.

Saudi vows to ‘hit back’ at sanctions over Khashoggi

RIYADH (AA) – Saudi Arabia on Sunday vowed to hit back against threats or sanctions imposed over the disappearance of veteran journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi has gone missing since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Riyadh with “severe punishment” if Khashoggi has been murdered.

“The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations,” the official SPA news agency quoted an official source as saying.

“The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action,” the source added.

On the same day Khashoggi arrived at the consulate, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the building while the journalist was also inside, police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of Khashoggi’s fate, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S., and the U.K — are pressing the case to be cleared up as soon as possible.

US seeking 'regime change' in Iran: Rouhani

ISTANBUL (AA) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday the United States was seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic.

“Their final goal is to delegitimize the Islamic establishment,” Rouhani said in a speech cited by the official IRNA news agency.

“They have started with a mental war and an economic war to delegitimize us,” he said. “There has been no government in the U.S. more hostile than the current administration against Iran and the Islamic establishment.”

The Iranian leader said Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1 group of nations — the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

“The U.S. quit the international multilateral deal without any reason,” he said. “Iran showed prudence, didn’t haste, and unhurriedly announced that we wait a few weeks to see what other countries will do.”

“We will quit the deal whenever we want. Quitting is easy, like bringing a wall down; building it is hard,” Rouhani said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has reinstated U.S. sanctions on Tehran, which had been lifted under the terms of the nuclear agreement in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The sanctions are expected to impact Iranian oil exports, which provide Tehran with the revenue needed to finance its national budget.

European Union countries along with Turkey condemned Trump’s action, vowing to find ways to bypass the re-imposed sanctions.

Turkish parliament speaker: US' only ally is the dollar

By Bayram Altug

GENEVA (AA) – The only ally the United States has is the dollar, Turkey's parliament speaker said on Saturday.

"Today, the U.S. uses the dollar as a weapon," said Binali Yildirim in Geneva, while attending a consultation meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

"The U.S., whose allies in the world grow fewer every day, hangs on a single ally, which is the dollar. Its only ally is the dollar."

Yildirim said this weapon would not help the U.S. erase the presence of Palestine.

He also decried the U.S. arming the PKK/YPG terrorist group under the pretext of fighting Daesh.

One cannot use one terrorist group to fight another, said Yildirim.

"What will you do tomorrow to wipe out that terrorist group? Will you make up another terrorist group?" he said.

Following the meeting, Yildirim met his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ahmed Omer to discuss economic and cultural relations.

US diplomat discusses regional security in Bahrain

MANAMA (AA) – Bahrain’s Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa held talks on Saturday with visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan in the capital Manama.

Discussions tackled bilateral cooperation and coordination “with a view to maintaining regional security and stability”, according to Bahrain’s official BNA news agency.

The talks also dwelt on a host of regional and international issues along with means of bolstering bilateral relations, the agency said.

Bahrain, which is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is a main ally of the U.S. in the Middle East region.

Since 1995, the U.S. Fifth Fleet has been stationed in Bahrain, from where it oversees U.S. naval operations in the Gulf region, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.

UPDATE – Turkish court releases US pastor Andrew Brunson

ADDS TRUMP TWEET IN GRAFS 7-8; UPDATES THROUGHOUT

By Meric Urer and Omer Sut

IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – A Turkish court on Friday sentenced U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson to three years and 45 days in prison, but ordered him released from custody.

The Izmir Heavy Penal Court No.2 ruled Brunson's house arrest and travel ban should be ended, crediting the American pastor for time served and allowing him to walk free.

Brunson was arrested on Dec. 9, 2016 on charges of being member of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). On July 25, citing Brunson's health problems, an Izmir court ordered him moved from jail to house arrest.

Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK — listed as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey — and FETO, the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016.

Turkey and the U.S. have faced rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions over Brunson's detention.

Political tensions between the two countries sparked worries in the markets after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use economic pressure to secure Brunson's release.

Shortly after the release, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that his "thoughts and prayers" are with Brunson, adding he hopes "to have him safely back home soon!"

"PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!" he said in a separate tweet.