News Briefs – July 22, 2019

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Turkish jets strike Kurdish rebels after diplomat’s death

Turkey’s defense minister says the military launched aerial strikes against Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, following the killing of a Turkish diplomat there.
The state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Hulusi Akar as saying jets struck the Qandil region on July 18, where Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, leaders are reportedly based. A Defense Ministry statement said airstrikes were also conducted July 19 against Iraq’s Karajak region.
On July 17, an employee of the Turkish Consulate in the city of Idlib was killed along with an Iraqi national in a gun attack at a restaurant.
Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region is politically allied with the Turkish government, but PKK militants, who have fought a decades-long insurgency against Ankara, operate in parts of the territory. Turkey labels the group a terrorist organization. AP
 

Bulgarian lawmakers seal deal to buy 8 new F-16s from U.S.

Bulgaria’s parliament has approved the purchase of eight new American fighter jets as part of a plan to replace the Balkan country’s aging Soviet-built jets and to bring its air force in line with NATO standards.
Lawmakers voted 123-78 on July 19 in favor of a government motion to buy the eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, which will be the biggest military procurement in post-Communist Bulgaria. Two legislators abstained from the vote.
The $1.25 billion deal includes the jets, ammunition, equipment and pilot training. The six single-seat and two two-seat F-16s would be delivered by 2023.
The defense minister will sign the contract with producer Lockheed Martin.
Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union three years later. AP
 

Turkey calls on U.S. to reverse decision on F-35 exclusion

The U.S. decision to exclude Turkey from an American-led fighter jet program goes against the “spirit of alliance,” the Turkish government said Thursday, and called on its NATO ally to reverse the decision.
In a major break with a longtime ally, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on July 17 said Turkey is being kicked out of the F-35 program because it is buying the Russian S-400 air defense system. Washington says the S-400 would compromise the F-35 program and aid Russian intelligence.
In a statement, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rejected that assertion.
“This unilateral step is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and is not based on any legitimate justification,” the ministry said. “Not only is it unfair to keep Turkey out of a program of which it is a partner but the claim that the S-400 will weaken the F-35 is invalid.”
The ministry said: “We call on the United States to come back from this mistake that will cause irreparable damage to our strategic ties.”
On July 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, held a telephone conversation with White House national security adviser John Bolton, during which he expressed Turkey’s unease over the U.S. decision, according to a statement from Erdogan’s office.
During the call, Kalin said “one-sided impositions” would prevent the healthy progress of Turkish-U.S. ties. Despite the tensions, the two also discussed a possible date for Trump to visit Turkey, according to the statement.
Turkey began taking delivery of components of the Russian system last week. A Russian cargo plane carrying more parts of the system landed at an air base near Ankara for a seventh day running on July 18. Erdogan has said the system will be fully operational by April. AP