Turkish FM denies being recruited by Manafort for Ukraine lobbying

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has denied claims that he took part in a Ukraine lobbying campaign and received money from Ukrainian politician Serhiy Lovochkin through the now-disgraced U.S. lobbyist Paul Manafort, the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on Thursday.

The allegations were on Monday brought forward by the European watchdog Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which said in a report based on leaked emails that Cavusoglu was one of the four politicians recruited by Manafort for the campaign.

Having worked as the chairman of U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for a time, Manafort is currently serving jail time on tax and bank fraud charges stemming from the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. elections.

According to the OCCRP, his campaign strategy included paying Cavusoglu as well as ex-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, ex-Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, and ex-Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, so that they would support an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.

The politicians were expected to convince diplomats and politicians for the free trade and association deal despite Ukraine’s jailing of a prominent opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, as part of a case widely condemned by European leaders as politically-motivated.

OCCRP said that Cavusoglu, then a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), was secretly lobbying during his duties as an observer to Ukraine’s parliamentary elections in 2012.

Cavusoglu on Ukrainian politician’s payroll?

Manafort’s efforts were funded by Lovochkin, leader of Ukraine’s largest opposition party, with “thousands of emails obtained by the OCCRP” involving a decade of correspondence starting in 2008 showing that Cavusoglu was on Lovochkin’s payroll, OCCRP said.

The leaked emails also revealed that the lobbying group occasionally had problems due to belated payments, with one email saying that the Turkish FM needed a “separate” transfer of 230,000 euros ($ 255,000), according to OCCRP.

The organization also labeled the Turkish politician’s activities “as unethical as they were lucrative,” while holding forth that the lobbying did not appear to have broken any laws.

In a written statement to AA, Turkish FM on Thursday said that the allegations brought forward in a report published by an organization funded by George Soros “have nothing to do with the reality.”

“Thank God, I have never done anything throughout my political life that is unethical and that I cannot answer for. The first time I’ve heard the name of Paul Manafort was when he was sent to jail in the United States [in 2018],” Cavusoglu explained.

Soros is a Hungarian-born Jew based in the US who is known as a financier and a philanthropist that spent a large part of his fortune funding pro-democracy and human rights groups.

The investor and his Open Society Foundation have come under fire in Hungary after right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused him and the liberal causes he backs of trying to undermine Europe’s Christian culture by promoting mass migration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blames the 88-year-old for providing financial support to the anti-government Gezi Park rallies of 2013, the biggest political challenge that then-Prime Minister Erdogan had faced against his rule.

Trump’s adviser Kushner meets Erdogan behind closed doors as various sensitive issues are discussed

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