Turkey’s Erdoğan says US trying to use Zarrab as informer

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday said the US has been trying to use jailed Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab as an informer, the t24 news website reported.

Zarrab was arrested in Miami in March 2016 as part of an investigation into the violation of US sanctions on Iran.

“You [the US] arrested my citizen [Reza Zarrab]. And you try to use him as an informer,” Erdoğan said while speaking to provincial governors at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Erdoğan also criticized the arrest of Turkey’s Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla in the US as part of the same investigation in March 2017.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Sept. 6 indicted former Turkish Economy Minister Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, former Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, Levent Bakkal and Abdullah Happani and ordered an arrest warrant for them.

The four are charged with conspiring to use the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities barred by US sanctions.

Erdoğan stated in September that he had told Washington that Turkey had never agreed to comply with its sanctions on Iran and called on the US to review the indictment. He also said US President Donald Trump had called him and agreed to follow the case more closely.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 in which with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped.

President Erdoğan has also accused the US administration at the same meeting with provincial governors on Thursday of “sacrificing a strategic partner to a presumptuous ambassador,” saying Turkey does not need America.

Erdoğan continued to criticize US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass for an ongoing visa crisis between the two countries resulting from the arrest of a Turkish staff member at the US Consulate General and a detention warrant issued for another last weekend.

“Let me be very clear, the person who caused this is the ambassador here. It is unacceptable that the US has sacrificed a strategic partner like Turkey to a presumptuous ambassador,” Erdoğan said. “It’s a shame if the great America is governed by an ambassador in Ankara,” he added.

“We are not a tribal state. We are the state of the Republic of Turkey and you will accept it. If you don’t, then sorry, but we don’t need you.”

Accusing the US of trying to besiege Turkey from the south by aiding Kurdish militant groups in Syria as if they were fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Erdoğan said: “No one should try to cheat us.”

Erdoğan also reacted to Washington over arms transfers to Kurdish militants in Syria while not approving Turkish requests: “I am ordering my minister here. From now on our police will not use SIG Sauer weapons; they should not use them. We will use weapons made here.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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