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30 Dec 20. Turkey, U.S. in talks to form joint working group on S-400s, sanctions – minister. Turkey and the United States have started talks to form a joint working group regarding U.S. sanctions imposed over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
Washington slapped the sanctions on NATO ally Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate (SSB), its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees this month following its acquisition of the S-400s.
The sanctions come at a delicate moment in the fraught relationship between Ankara and Washington as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden gears up to take office on Jan. 20, replacing Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
Ankara had previously proposed a working group to assess the potential impact of the S-400s on NATO systems, a suggestion initially rejected by Washington.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had now indicated interest in setting up a joint working group.
“In our meeting with Pompeo, we said our proposal still stands and the Americans said let’s work together on this issue. There are talks right now, the joint working group has not been set up yet,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey says its purchase of the S-400s was not a choice but a necessity as it was unable to procure air defence systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defence systems. Turkey rejects this and says S-400s will not be integrated into NATO.
Cavusoglu also said on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to take steps to improve ties with the United States and hoped the incoming Biden administration would do the same. (Source: Reuters)
23 Dec 20. Turkey hopes to turn new page with U.S. and EU in 2021, Erdogan says. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey hopes to “turn a new page” in its ties with the United States and European Union, and that Ankara had been subjected to double standards by both its NATO ally Washington and the bloc.
This month Washington sanctioned Turkey over its acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defences, and the EU also prepared punitive measures over Turkey’s dispute with members Greece and Cyprus over Mediterranean offshore rights. The bloc decided to postpone the measures until March.
Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, Erdogan said “artificial agendas” tested Turkey’s ties with the EU and United States in 2020, but he hoped things would improve.
“Turkey is facing double standards both over the eastern Mediterranean and the S-400s. We want to turn a new page with the EU and United States in the new year,” Erdogan said.
“We don’t see our multilateral political, economic and military cooperation as an alternative to our deep-rooted ties with the United States. And we wish for the EU to rid itself of the strategic blindness that is distancing Turkey from it,” he added.
The U.S. sanctions come at a delicate moment in the fraught relations between Ankara and Washington as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden gears up to take office on Jan. 20, replacing Republican Donald Trump.
Ankara has condemned the sanctions as “grave mistake” and said it expects Biden to be more constructive in solving issues between the allies, ranging from differences over Syria policy to the S-400s.
On Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey would not “bow down to the language of sanctions and blackmail”, but added that he believed Biden will show the “necessary importance” to Turkish-U.S. ties. (Source: Reuters)
23 Dec 20. NATO chief wades into fiery German debate on armed drones. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he supports the use of armed drones to protect soldiers’ lives, wading into a fierce debate in Germany about buying such technology for future operations.
Stoltenberg told the German press agency DPA that the alliance would use weaponized unmanned aircraft in accordance with international law and in support of deployed troops. “These drones can support forces on the ground and reduce the number of pilots we send in harm’s way,” he was quoted as saying.
His comments come as the question of arming drones has caused a major kerfuffle between the CDU and SPD parties, which form Germany’s coalition government. Specifically, the disagreement is about whether the Bundeswehr should be allowed to lease Israeli-made Heron TP drones armed with missiles. More broadly, though, the debate is about different visions for Germany as a participant in the military fabric of the West.
Earlier this month, the SPD leadership decided to reject the acquisition of armed drones in principle, arguing that a broad debate here on ethical aspects of their use had not yet taken place, as prescribed in the government’s coalition agreement.
The party’s surprise move came after defense department officials had formally studied the issue for the better part of the year as part of a public campaign, holding hearings with experts of various backgrounds and sending a final report to lawmakers.
The SPD parliamentary spokesman on defense matters, Fritz Felgentreu, who backs the use weaponized drones under limited conditions, resigned his job in protest, arguing the party leadership’s claim of a lackluster drone debate was dishonest.
Following Stoltenberg’s remarks to DPA on Wednesday, Felgentreu joked on Twitter that the secretary-general would make a “smart Social Democrat,” a reference to his own party.
Stoltenberg’s stance is unlikely to sway any opinions here, as those rejecting armed drones for the Bundeswehr are unlikely to be glowing NATO supporters to begin with.
It remains to be seen how Germany’s drone debate of seven-plus years evolves before it reaches the relevant decision-making stage for the French-German Eurodrone. One of the unmanned aircraft’s roles, besides spying and surveillance, is firing weapons in combat under certain conditions. Similarly, the Future Combat Air System, a French-German-Spanish project, is slated to include a series of so-called “remote carriers,” some of which will have kinetic effects.
The U.S. government’s counterterrorism drone wars since the Bush administration, often executed somewhere in the gray zone between military and paramilitary operations, still loom large in the collective conscience of Germany’s antiwar left.
Proponents of armed drones for the Bundeswehr have accused the SPD skeptics of mistrusting the government, and their own parliament, with a more responsible use of those weapons.
Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke, whose company manages the Heron TP lease and co-leads the Eurodrone and FCAS programs, told reporters earlier this month that he was banking on “a shift” in German public opinion to support the idea of armed drones in the end. “Our population realizes that we see higher volatility, more crises, and that the biggest economy in Europe cannot stay from the accountability and responsibility coming with that role,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
22 Dec 20. Leonardo hack targeted military plane details, arrest warrant shows. An investigation into a data theft at Leonardo has found that a hacker working inside the Italian defence group appeared to target details of Europe’s biggest unmanned fighter jet programme and aircraft used by the military and police, an arrest warrant shows.
The inquiry, which is ongoing, was undertaken by Italian police’s cybercrime divisions in Rome and Naples and Naples prosecutors. It began in January 2017 when Leonardo told police of an abnormal outflow of data from some of its computers.
Details of the parts of Leonardo’s business that the hacker allegedly targeted have not been reported before.
The warrant does not say whether the hacker was acting independently or at the behest of others, or the goal of the alleged activity.
In the 108-page warrant seen by Reuters, the judge leading the preliminary inquiry cites evidence that one of the computers which was hacked belonged to a Leonardo technician who worked on the electronic system of the nEUROn, an experimental unmanned military aircraft which was designed in 2012 under a European defence programme led by France.
Other computers belonged to Leonardo workers involved in the production of C27J military transport aircraft and ATR commercial and military turbo-prop planes used by Italy’s tax police and coastguard, the November-dated document said.
Asked about the details in the court document, Leonardo repeated that classified, strategic information was not held on the computers that were violated. Leonardo does not store top secret military data at the group’s plant in Pomigliano d’Arco, near Naples.
Leonardo said on Dec. 5 that it was the injured party and that it had first reported the hacking, adding it would continue to cooperate fully with the police.
Data security is critical for the reputation of Leonardo, which as well as offering its own cybersecurity services, is involved in several European defence programmes to produce military aircraft and equipment, defence sector analysts say.
Italian police said on Dec. 5 that at least 10 gigabytes of confidential data was stolen from Leonardo between 2015 and 2017through a malware installed on targeted machines.
The police also said on Dec. 5 they had arrested Arturo D’Elia and Antonio Rossi who had both worked at Leonardo, over their alleged role in hacking 94 computers, 33 of which were located at the group’s Pomigliano plant.
D’Elia is accused of having installed the malware on thecomputers to steal the data, while Rossi is accused of trying tothrow the subsequent inquiry off track.
In the arrest warrant for preliminary investigations against the two men, the judge cited several possible reasons behind the hacking.
These included “the use of data for industrial and commercial purposes, blackmail and military espionage activities or simply the intention to damage the image of the company by demonstrating … its organisational and IT vulnerability.”
D’Elia did not have any “intent to spy”, his lawyer, Nicola Naponiello, told Reuters, adding that the aim of the hack was “to show off his skills” and that D’Elia would cooperate with police to allow them inspect his hard disks and laptops.
A lawyer for Rossi said he had nothing to do with D’Elia, adding also that his client, who is currently under house arrest, had not damaged or destroyed any evidence of the crime.
Italy’s Review Court on Friday rejected appeals by lawyers for D’Elia and Rossi against their arrests. The two men have not been charged.
The investigation was complicated because the two men had covered up their actions, the document said.
D’Elia, who at the time of the alleged crime was a consultant for a small IT company called Open eSSe, was sent to Pomigliano as an “incident handler” to help police at the endof 2017 while working with Leonardo’s cybersecurity team.
This gave D’Elia the opportunity “to alter and conceal directly the evidence and traces of the crimes he had committed on the affected computers”, the arrest warrant said.
Open eSSe did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.
Rossi, who served as head of Leonardo’s Cyber Emergency Readiness Team, is alleged to have covered up the crime by failing to report the real quantity and importance of the stolen data. He is also accused of reformatting a computer containing evidence and data from the cyber-attack. (Source: Reuters)
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