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117 items tagged "Turkey"

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American journalist arrested in Turkey after fleeing Syria

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 07:30
Lindsey SnellAn American journalist has been arrested in Turkey and charged with "violating a military zone" after she returned from war-torn Syria, American officials said Wednesday.
 
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the journalist, Lindsey Snell, had been detained on August 6, and that U.S. consular officials had been able to visit her almost three weeks later on August 26.
 
Snell's Twitter biography identifies her as an Istanbul-based video journalist who has contributed to several western networks and news organizations including MSNBC, Vice News and ABC.
 
On Facebook, she describes herself as hailing from Daytona Beach, Florida and to have graduated from the University of Florida in 2005. She is a Muslim and wears a headscarf in pictures.
 
Her last tweets were sent on August 5, when she referred to having been imprisoned for ten days by terrorists from the Al-Nusra Front before escaping with the aid of a "brave man on a motorcycle."
 
On her Facebook page, again on August 5, she said she had been able to document her time in Nusra's captivity with her cellphone.
 
"It's a crazy story," she wrote.
 
"A cave prison (the previous tenant of my cell had marked his days in residence in blood on the walls), masked villains, motorcycle escapes and disguises. I can't wait to share the details."
 
There was no reference to her having arrived in Turkey, but the country would be the obvious first destination of anyone trying to flee the Aleppo region of Syria after escaping a kidnapping.
 
"She was detained in Turkey. As I understand it she journeyed to Turkey from Syria," Kirby told reporters in Washington. "She is currently being held at a prison facility in Hatay province.
 
"What we understand is that she has been charged with violating a military zone, but I can't speak to her reasons for being in Syria and traveling there," he added.
 
Hatay is a far southern province of Turkey that borders on Syria's Aleppo governorate, currently the scene of fierce fighting between Syrian government forces and a variety of rebel groups.
 
Turkish forces are deployed to the border area as part of efforts to control the flow of fighters and weapons to the civil war.
 
Throughout the course of the civil war in Syria, several journalists have gone missing and in some cases were killed, either by jihadist groups or as a result of the fierce fighting.
 
In June, the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group published a video showing the execution-style killing of five Syrian journalists they had kidnapped eight months earlier in the east of the war-torn country.

Iran to Turkey: Get out of Syria

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 07:16
Iran-TurkeyTurkey on Wednesday denied agreeing to a US- brokered truce with Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, saying it would not compromise with a "terrorist" group a week into an unprecedented cross-border offensive.
 
Washington said Tuesday the two sides -- both US allies -- had agreed to a cessation of hostilities between their forces in Syria after deadly clashes at the weekend.
 
Also on Tuesday, the Islamic State group's top strategist Abu Mohamed al-Adnani was killed in a US-led coalition air strike in Syria's Aleppo province, in a major blow to the jihadists, the group said.
 
While Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies kept up the fight against IS, Ankara's bombardments of Kurdish-backed positions appeared to have eased, with no reports of any such strikes since Monday.
 
Turkey however rejected Washington's claim that it had agreed to hold fire on the pro-Kurdish coalition.
 
"We do not accept in any circumstances ... a 'compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements,'" EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik told state-run Anadolu news agency.
 
"The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state," Celik said, adding Turkey could not be put on an equal footing with a "terrorist organisation," referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
 
After driving the Kurdish-backed fighters south away from the flashpoint border town of Jarabulus, the Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies on Tuesday fought Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to the town's west, Turkish media said.
 
Three Turkish soldiers were killed in a rocket attack on a tank near Jarabulus, the reports said.
 
Turkish warplanes later carried out airstrikes against "terrorist" targets nearby, state-run Anadolu news agency said, referring to IS.
 
'Loose agreement'
 
Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to clear the border area of jihadists and halt the westward advance of a US-backed Kurdish-led militia which Ankara considers a "terrorist" group.
 
After helping Syrian Arab rebels take Jarabulus from IS on the intervention's very first day, Turkey began strikes against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a YPG-dominated coalition that has been leading the fight against IS.
 
US Central Command spokesman, Colonel John Thomas, said Tuesday that the Turkish and Kurdish-led forces had reached a "loose agreement" to stop fighting each other.
 
Kurdish-backed militias said they had agreed to the truce.
 
Washington had expressed alarm after a weekend of clashes between its Turkish and Kurdish allies.
 
Ankara said it killed 25 "terrorists" in strikes on pro-Kurdish positions on Sunday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 40 dead and said the victims were mostly civilians.
 
Calling the escalation "unacceptable" the US urged the warring parties to stop fighting each other and concentrate on combatting IS.
 
Turkish media reported on Monday that Ankara summoned the US ambassador to protest the US criticism.
 
A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry, however, told AFP that there was only a "phone call" to Ambassador John Bass.
 
IS attack Turkish forces
 
Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody war against the Turkish state since 1984.
 
In the past few months Turkey has watched in alarm as the Kurdish militia advanced west to fight IS, raising the prospect of a Kurdish-controlled corridor running nearly the entire length of Turkey's border.
 
On Tuesday, Turkey again demanded guarantees from Washington on the group's promise to the US to retreat east of the Euphrates river.
 
The US-led anti-IS coalition has been backing the YPG with training and equipment to fight the jihadists.
 
On Tuesday, Turkish forces and their rebel allies came under attack in IS-held territory to the west of Jarabulus, with the jihadists claiming in a statement to have destroyed two Turkish tanks in a missile attack.
 
The group also claimed to have carried out a suicide car bombing against Turkish-backed rebels in the same area and said it had killed "dozens" of Turkish soldiers and allied fighters.
 
'Leave Syria,' Iran tells Turkey
 
Turkey's offensive has raised concerns that Ankara could be drawn even
deeper into the Syrian conflict.
 
Iran, a key backer of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, urged Turkey to quickly wrap up its campaign, saying it was a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
 
Turkey has said Syria was informed in advance of the operation by Russia.
 
"Although the fight against terrorism... is a principle for all peace-seeking governments, it cannot and must not justify military operations on another country's territory without coordination with its central government," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.

Egypt urges Israel not to normalize ties with Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 January 2016 09:18
egypt sisiEgypt recently contacted Israel requesting clarification over the rapprochement talks Jerusalem is holding with Turkey, it was revealed on Thursday.
 
Senior clerks in Jerusalem told Haaretz on condition of anonymity that the Egyptian government expressed its displeasure with the notion of Turkey being given an official role in Gaza, and further asked to clarify Israel's intentions regarding Turkey's demand to lift the naval blockade on the Hamas-run enclave.
 
According to a senior clerk cited in the report Thursday, Egypt has demanded that Israel not cave in to Turkey's demands regarding Gaza, and the strong Egyptian opposition is a key factor preventing a normalization deal from being reached with Ankara.
 
Turkey continues to firmly support Hamas, which is a Gazan offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that the Egyptian government has been cracking down on. Egypt has been imposing a siege of Gaza, having turned the southern edge of the region into a buffer zone.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly fears that any compromise he might make to Turkey regarding the terror enclave of Gaza will harm relations with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1978 following numerous failed attempts to destroy the Jewish state.
 
Netanyahu has said that Israel tried to mediate between Egypt and Turkey to reduce tensions between the rival states and allow Turkey to be more involved in Gaza, but the attempts failed.
 
Egyptian diplomats have been in touch with Israeli ambassadors and senior members of the foreign ministry to try and clarify recent reports from Turkey, according to which Israel is considering lifting its siege on Gaza which is meant to block the influx of weapons to the terrorists.
 
Turkey and Egypt have seen a crisis in relations recently, over the support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party for the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2013 a military coup saw the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi deposed as president in Egypt, and replaced by military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
 
Turkey likewise supports the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, which the Egyptian government strongly opposes.
 
Turkish defense sources revealed last month that Turkey is primarily interested in rapprochement so as to buy Israeli military hardware, with Ankara interested in buying more advanced Israeli drones as well as reconnaissance and surveillance systems for its fighter jets.
 
Senior Israeli security sources for their part said they doubt Turkey is serious about rapprochement, noting on the crisis in ties with Russia - a key gas supplier for Turkey - that apparently prompted the desire for natural gas trade with Israel.

Turkey: Normalization with Israel only if Gaza blockade lifted

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 January 2016 09:15
Normalization with IsraelA spokesman for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have ruled out any chances of a rapprochement with Israel Monday, after weeks of speculation that a deal was within reach.
 
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said any normalization with Israel would be conditioned on the lifting of the blockade on Gaza - which Israel has imposed to restrict the flow of weapons to Hamas and other terrorist organizations there - as well as providing an apology and compensation to the families of the Islamist extremists killed aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010.
 
While Israel has indicated it would be willing to fulfill the latter two conditions, despite the fact that the Islamists in question were shot while attacking IDF soldiers, lifting the blockade on Gaza is not on the cards, making the possibility of a deal now seem as distant as ever.
 
"Turkey - Israel relations will not normalize until Israel realizes the three conditions. We have not given up on these," Kalin said, according to Reuters.
 
"Turkey will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached, and the Palestinian people have their own state. There cannot be permanent peace in the region until the Palestinian problem is solved," he added.
 
The latest blow to hopes for a normalization in ties between the two former allies comes after Turkish officials revealed Israeli claims of a break in ties with Hamas were false. Speaking to Haaretz recently, a senior Turkish official said that despite Israeli reports, breaking ties with Hamas was not on the table as part of the deal.
 
As for the Israeli government's claim that Ankara was willing to expel Hamas terrorist mastermind Salah al-Arouri as part of the deal, Turkish officials revealed that al-Arouri had in fact left the country months ago as part of "internal considerations" by Hamas.

Erdogan warns: Iran 'will pay' for rumors Turkey buying ISIS oil

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 11:36
Turkeys Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkey on Sunday said it was "astonished" by Iranian accusations that Ankara is supporting Islamic State (ISIS) and involved in oil dealing with the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
 
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a statement there was nothing in Tehran's accusations to take "seriously."
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he had warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over some Iranian media reports that he and his family were involved in oil trade with ISIS jihadists.
 
Erdogan said that he spoke with Rouhani on the phone and told him: "You will pay a high price if it continues like that." He added that the Iranians later removed the news from their website.
 
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Bilgic confirmed the telephone conversation between the two presidents and said any attempts to distort its content were "not only immoral but also equal to hiding the truth from neighboring Iranian people."
 
In response to Erdogan, Iranian foreign ministry on Friday called for "mutual politeness and respect in relations," according to the Iranian media.
 
"The continuation of policies and positions that, wanted or unwanted, have led to the support of terrorism in Syria and Iraq, only escalate the current crisis in the region and increase problems for countries that continue such policies," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber-Ansari said according to IRNA.
 
Russia and Iran are major backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
 
Turkey is supporting rebels who have been fighting Assad and has joined a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria earlier this year.
 
Bilgic said Turkey pursued "principled policies" for a peaceful solution to problems in its region.
 
He said Ankara was not taking "seriously the terrorism accusations made by the states which led to the escalation of the crisis in cooperation with the Damascus regime," referring to Iran and Russia.  
 
Turkey is currently at loggerheads with Russia after downing one of Moscow's warplanes on November 24.
 
Russia has accused Erdogan and his family of involvement in oil trade - charges blasted as "slander" and "immoral" by the Turkish strongman.
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last month that Turkey's downing of the Russian fighter jet "sends the wrong message to the terrorists" in Syria.

Iraq urges Turkey to 'immediately' withdraw troops

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 10:07
Iraqi forces withdraw from TikritBaghdad demanded Saturday the immediate withdrawal of forces it said Turkey illegally deployed in Iraq, which is struggling to assert its sovereignty while receiving foreign assistance against ISIS.
 
AFP reports that a senior officer from the Kurdish forces in the region - which are allied to Ankara - downplayed the deployment as a routine training rotation but a Turkish paper said it was part of deal to set up a permanent base.
 
The Turkish troops, tanks and artillery were sent to Nineveh, a northern province largely held by ISIS, in an area currently controlled by Kurdish forces but also claimed by Baghdad.
 
Facing major political pressure as a result of statements by American officials, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has taken an increasingly hard public line on foreign forces in Iraq over the past week, terming the deployment of ground combat forces a "hostile act."
 
"The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to... immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory," a statement from his office said.
 
"We have confirmation that Turkish forces, numbering about one armored regiment with a number of tanks and artillery, entered Iraqi territory... allegedly to train Iraqi groups, without a request or authorization from Iraqi federal authorities," it said.
 
The deployment "is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty," it added.
 
Major General Nureddin Herki, the commander of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the area, said the newly-arrived Turkish troops were part of a routine rotation in a training programme accompanied by a protection force that has since returned to Turkey.
 
"Before some time, a number of Turkish officers arrived to train Hashad al-Watani forces in the Zilkan base," Herki said in a statement, referring to volunteer anti-ISIS fighters.
 
"Another team arrived to the camp to replace the previous team, and the mission of the [new] force that came was only to protect the trainers and return the previous team to Turkey," he said.
 
Herki rejected reports that a large Turkish force had deployed to take part in an operation to recapture the nearby city of Mosul from ISIS.
 
Political pressure on PM
 
But Turkish media reported much more major deployment than that described by Herki.
 
"Turkey is establishing a base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul with 600 soldiers," Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its front page.
 
The newspaper said that an agreement to do this was concluded early last month between Iraqi Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani and then Turkish foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu.
 
The Peshmerga forces deployed in the Bashiqa area are loyal to Barzani's party, which has close ties to Ankara.
 
Baghdad's relations with Turkey have improved recently but remained strained by Ankara's relationship with Barzani and differences over the Syrian civil war.
 
Abadi has repeatedly said Iraq needed all the help it could to fight ISIS but is also walking a fine line between receiving that support and projecting sovereignty.
 
The Turkish deployment is just the latest in a series of challenges he faced over the past week that have pushed him to take a hard line on foreign forces helping Iraq against ISIS, which overran large parts of Iraq last year.
 
Calls from two American senators for the number of US troops in Iraq to be tripled combined with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's announcement that Washington would send a special forces contingent to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria put Abadi under heavy pressure.
 
Shi'ite paramilitary forces dominated by Iran-backed militias came out strongly against the US, and Abadi issued his own series of increasingly strident statements on foreign forces.

Anti-ISIS activists beheaded in Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 09:27
Anti-ISIS activists beheadedThe beheaded bodies of a Syrian activist opposed to the Islamic State (ISIS) group and his friend were found early Friday in the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, his group told AFP.
 
Ibrahim Abdul Qader, 20, and his friend Fares Hamadi "were found beheaded at the friend's house this morning," Abu Mohammad, a founder of the "Raqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently" group, said via the Internet.
 
The group, which documents abuses in areas under ISIS control in Syria, accused the jihadist organization of the murders on its Facebook page.
 
If ISIS was indeed behind the attack in Turkey it would indicate their strong presence over the border from Syria, despite Turkey's alleged campaign against ISIS which has instead targeted Kurdish forces to a far higher degree, indicating the true goal of Ankara.
 
Turkey's role regarding ISIS was placed in question after documents were seized in July showing Ankara cooperated with ISIS by taking part in ISIS's cross-border black market oil sales.
 
According to Abu Mohammad, both men were from Raqa city, the de facto capital of ISIS in Syria. Hamadi was also in his early 20s.
 
Abdul Qader had escaped to Turkey a little over a year ago.
 
Members of the activist group had been killed inside Syria in the past, but this is the first time a member had been killed outside the country, Abu Mohammad added.
 
Turkey's Dohan news agency reported Friday that "two Syrian journalists were beheaded" in Sanliurfa, and that seven Syrians had been arrested by Turkish police.
 
Sanliurfa is 55 kilometers (35 miles) from Turkey's border with Syria's Raqa province, a major ISIS stronghold in the country.
 
Turkey has long been accused by Syrian opposition activists, Kurdish fighters and sometimes even Western partners of allowing ISIS members to slip back and forth across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) frontier with Syria.
 
Bloody bomb attacks in southern Turkey, including an attack in July that claimed 32 lives in Suruc, have been blamed on ISIS, though the group has never claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Nervous Erdogan Sacks Oddball MPs Amid Rating Slips

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 24 September 2015 10:47
Erdogan Sulking After Election DefeatFurther signs have surfaced showing that the crackdown on Kurdish forces by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) - which experts estimated was an elections ploy - has failed spectacularly.
 
Several analysts explained Erdogan's unofficial war on Kurdish forces launched in July was a ploy to make up for AKP's failure in June elections, and to pave the way for upcoming November 1 reelections. However, polls last month showed that instead of picking up Turkish nationalist support, the Islamist AKP has sagged even further in support from those elections, while opponents have strengthened.
 
Those opponents include AKP's main opposition, the secular CHP party, but also the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) that scored a huge victory in the recent elections, winning 13% of the poll and 80 seats thanks to support from non-Kurdish voters who they stole away from Erdogan.
 
In a new sign of AKP's slip, local media shows both Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of AKP lost out significantly in television ratings figures to CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu last week, according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News.
 
Erdogan's interview with TRT last Wednesday received a viewer rating of just 3.43, whereas Kilicdaroglu's interview on CNN Turk had a rating varying between 4.06 and 5.54, with the results published last Friday by Cumhuriyet.
 
Davutoglu's interview with NTV on the same Wednesday performed much poorer. It was rebroadcasted later and overlapped with Kilicdaroglu's interview for 15 minutes, during which time the prime minister's rating was between 0.38 and 0.52, whereas Kilicdaroglu's enjoy a rating fluctuating between 5.23 and 6.24.
 
Taking it out on oddball MPs
 
The June 7 election was the first time the AKP had lost its majority since 2002 when it came to power. Attempts to form a coalition have failed, setting the stage for a snap repeat election on November 1 - which according to recent polls will see AKP lose even more power.
 
Perhaps in response to the various polls and ratings showing its continued decline, Erdogan's Islamist AKP last Friday excluded several controversial members from its elections candidate list.
 
Among those removed is Abrurrahim Boynukalin, who was caught on film threatening Hurriyet journalists and giving a threatening speech in front of the paper's headquarters in Istanbul on September 6, around the time of two separate attacks on the building that same day.
 
Also removed was MP Ugur Isilak, who was a singer before he joined politics.
 
Before the June elections he promised "I'm not going to the parliament to sleep." Ironically, he was caught on camera doing just that, sleeping in just the third parliamentary session.
 
AKP's continued fall since elections has been accompanied by its crackdown on Kurdish forces, which analysts estimated was meant to do just the opposite.
 
After an Islamic State (ISIS) suicide bombing against Kurdish activists in Turkey two months ago, several Kurdish militants conducted attacks on police, given that Turkey has cooperated with ISIS and other anti-Kurdish Islamist groups. 
 
Erdogan leaped on the events by launching a two-pronged crackdown against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), breaking off peace talks with the militant group and leaving hundreds dead, while announcing a simultaneous campaign against ISIS that has yet to truly materialize.

Turkey Launches All-Out War: 260 Kurds Dead in a Week

Category: News
Created on Friday, 14 August 2015 12:32
260 Kurds Dead in a WeekTurkey has killed 260 Kurdish militants in a week-long air offensive on targets in northern Iraq, official media claimed Saturday, as regional Iraqi authorities said it was time the rebels pulled out with concerns growing over civilian casualties.
 
Ankara has launched a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in northern Iraq after a wave of attacks inside Turkey.
 
But so far the bombardments have focused far more on the Kurdish rebels and a report by the official Anatolia news agency of 260 alleged PKK militants killed was the first concrete indication of the scale of the casualties.
 
The Turkish strikes against Kurdish forces come as critics say Ankara is using backlash against a massive ISIS suicide bombing late last month to crack down on the Kurds, in a move that comes after Western officials revealed Turkey has been cooperating with ISIS.
 
Turkish F-16 jets carried out more air strikes Saturday morning, NTV television said.
 
On Friday, 28 Turkish F-16s destroyed 65 targets of the PKK including shelters and arms depots,  following the heaviest air strikes the day before when 80 Turkish aircraft hit 100 PKK targets, Anatolia said.
 
"For the peace and security of our people, the fight against terror organizations will continue without interruption," the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement.
 
The PKK's insurgency for greater rights and powers for Turkey's Kurdish minority, begun more than 30 years ago, has left tens of thousands dead. A ceasefire declared in 2013 has been shattered by the current violence.
 
Iraqi Kurds tell PKK to go 
 
Turkey's Kurdish militants have sought cover in neighboring northern Iraq where the presence of the PKK has long been tolerated in Iraqi Kurdish-ruled region. More fighters also crossed into the area from Turkey as part of the 2013 ceasefire.
 
Yet the PKK's relations with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish authorities in Arbil have been beset by tensions, while Iraqi Kurds have expanded economic cooperation and relations with Turkey.
 
The office of the region's president Massud Barzani said in a statement Saturday that the PKK rebels should move out of the region to prevent civilian casualties.
 
"The PKK must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdistan region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war," it said.
 
The Kurdistan Regional government issued a slightly softer statement urging the PKK to keep its "forces...away from populated areas."
 
Iraqi Kurdish officials said Saturday six people had been killed in a pre-dawn strike by Turkish war planes on the village of Zarkel and there have been reports of civilian casualties.
 
The pro-PKK Firat news agency described the attack as a "massacre" which had left at least nine civilians dead. There was no comment from the Turkish military.
 
Kifah Mahmud, a Barzani adviser, told AFP that "if the PKK did not have bases inside the region, Turkey would not be bombing civilians."
 
HDP fears party closure
 
Without citing its sources, Anatolia said that among those wounded in the northern Iraq strikes was Nurettin Demirtas, the brother of the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas.
 
"Up until now 260 terrorists have been rendered ineffective (killed) and 380-400 terrorists have been identified as injured," Anatolia said.
 
Demirtas openly acknowledges that his elder brother Nurettin had gone to the Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK's military headquarters are based.
 
But he said Sunday he could not confirm the Anatolia report as Nurettin had moved on. He is "resisting ISIS on behalf of the people," said Demirtas, without giving further details.
 
The Turkish authorities have also been upping the pressure on the HDP with prosecutors opening criminal investigations against both its co-leaders.
 
The HDP has angrily claimed that the current security crisis was provoked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call snap elections and avenge the ruling party's disappointing performance in June 7 polls.
 
Demirtas said Sunday that a legal adviser to Erdogan, Burhan Kuzu, was planning to close the party possibly "by the end of the year."
 
"We will stop this fascist approach," he said.
 
Meanwhile within Turkey at least 14 police and soldiers have been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK in the last 10 days in an escalating cycle of violence.
 
A Turkish soldier was killed Saturday in a mine attack in the Kars region of northeastern Turkey, NTV television reported.
 
In the Catak district of the Van region in the east of Turkey, two suspected PKK members were killed overnight when they tried to attack the local police headquarters, Anatolia said.
 
It said a total of 10 "terrorists" had been killed in clashes in Turkey over the last days.

Turkey Revealed to be Cooperating with ISIS

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 16:30
Davutoglu-NATO-ISISDamning evidence was found when US special forces killed Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Sayyaf in May, revealing that NATO-member Turkey has in fact been collaborating with the brutal jihadists.
 
The British Guardian reported on Sunday that when Abu Sayyaf's compound was raided in eastern Syria, it was discovered that Turkey is the main buyer of smuggled ISIS oil which was managed by Abu Sayyaf to economically prop up the terror group.
 
The report quoted a senior Western official, who told the Observer that the findings at the compound showed direct deals between Turkish officials and ISIS leaders is "undeniable."
 
"There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,” the official said. "They are being analyzed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara."
 
"We are at a phase in this war where things that have been in the shadows for a long time are now being exposed to daylight. Hezbollah is dominant in the west of Syria, and the Turkish role, however you wish to define it, is also becoming clearer. This is an important time for them. Will they now see ISIS as a threat to their own sovereignty? ...A lot of damage has been done from this."
 
ISIS was allowed to transform into a major regional power thanks to an estimated $1-4 million a day in oil sales during a period of six months beginning in late 2013.
 
While Abu Sayyaf's oil smuggling operation has been cut in scope, tankers still carry crude oil from the refineries captured by ISIS to the Turkish border.
 
One ISIS member said in the report of his group that "they need the Turks. I know of a lot of cooperation and it scares me. I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organization too hard. There are shared interests."
 
He added that the US-led airstrike campaign has done nearly nothing in limiting ISIS.
 
Strikes on ISIS - only meant to harm Kurds?
 
Turkey has openly given its support to other jihadi groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, such as Ahrar al-Sham that largely follows Al-Qaeda's ideology, as well as the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front.
 
"The distinctions they (Turkey) draw (between opposition groups - ed.) are thin indeed,” said the western official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
 
Evidence of that cooperation has come in the form of a video showing how the Turkish government smuggled weapons in to Syria to aid jihadist forces, in a botched attempt in which agents were arrested on the border.
 
Just last Thursday after a deadly suicide bombing blamed on ISIS, Turkey finally ended its long opposition to attacking ISIS, opening an airbase to US usage and launching airstrikes against the jihadists.
 
However, it also has used the opportunity to declare war on Kurdish forces in Syria and Turkey, with experts predicting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the campaign as a pretext to fight the Kurds - particularly after his party lost badly in elections to a pro-Kurdish party.
 
With the new developments in Turkey's attacks on ISIS, a European official in Ankara said Western diplomats can now talk about ISIS with the Turks "as long as we describe them as ‘those who abuse religion.'"
 
"This isn’t an overhaul of their thinking. It’s more a reaction to what they’ve been confronted with by the Americans and others. There is at least a recognition now that ISIS isn’t leverage against Assad. They have to be dealt with.”

Erdogan Declares War on the Kurds

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 16:20
Turkeys Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Ankara is ending the peace process with the Kurds in the face of attacks against Turkish targets, even as his fighter jets launched an attack on Kurdish forces.
 
"It is not possible to carry on the (peace) process with those who target our national unity and brotherhood," Erdogan told a news conference at an Ankara airport before leaving for a visit to China - in an ironic statement given his demand that Israel hold peace talks with the Palestinian Arabs despite constant terror attacks.
 
"Those who exploit the tolerance of the state and the people will receive the answer they deserve as soon as possible," he said.
 
Realizing that threat, Turkish jets on Tuesday hit Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey after the group fired on security forces, the army said.
 
"Two F-16 jets carried out air strikes at 3:10 p.m. local time against the terrorist group" in a mountainous region bordering Iraq, the army said in a statement, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). "The targets were directly hit," it said.
 
The air strikes are believed to the first on Kurdish militants inside Turkey since a 2011 botched raid by F-16 jets that killed 34 civilians near Uludere in Kurdish-majority southeast. The dead turned out to have been mainly cigarette smugglers.
 
The Turkish military has stepped up strikes against Kurdish militants inside Turkey and in northern Iraq after a series of deadly attacks blamed on the PKK, designated as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.
 
End of the peace talks, US backs Turkey
 
Turkey, launched peace negotiations with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012 when Erdogan was prime minister.
 
But the process has been left in tatters after a bombing blamed on Islamic State (ISIS) in a mainly Kurdish border town last week that killed 32 people and triggered revenge attacks by Kurdish militants against Turkish security forces they accuse of cooperating with the jihadists.
 
Those accusations come after video evidence showed how the Turkish government smuggled weapons in to Syria to aid jihadist forces, in a botched attempt in which agents were arrested on the border.
 
Since the recent bombing and Kurdish backlash, Ankara has launched strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as PKK positions in northern Iraq.
 
The PKK warned after the aerial bombardments that the truce in Turkey, which has largely been observed since March 2013, has now lost all meaning.
 
Heartened by Ankara's readiness to step up its fight against ISIS, the United States backed the right of its NATO ally to bomb the PKK which Turkey and the West categorize as a terror group.
 
The PKK launched its armed campaign for self rule in 1984 and since then tens of thousands of people have died.
 
Erdogan on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with anti-ISIS and anti-PKK operations.
 
"Any step back is out of the question. This is a process and this process will continue with the same determination."
 
NATO vowed strong support for Turkey's fight against "terrorism" at an emergency meeting Tuesday called to discuss Ankara's strikes against the ISIS fighters and Kurdish rebels.
 
Erdogan also said the formation of an "ISIS-free" safe zone in the north of war-torn Syria would help the return of many refugees.
 
"The clearance of those regions and the creation of a safe zone there will lay the ground for 1.7 million citizens here to return home," he said.
 
PKK attacks on the rise
 
After the air strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq, attacks on Turkish soil blamed on Kurdish militants have intensified.
 
The military said an army sergeant was shot dead by a Kurdish militant near the Iraqi border Tuesday - a day after gunmen killed a paramilitary police commander.
 
Erdogan won plaudits for introducing reforms for Turkey's Kurdish minority and many Kurds had backed his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
 
But in the June 7 election, the AKP lost its overall majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002 and Erdogan failed to win backing for his ambition to create a presidential system.
 
But in a breakthrough for Kurds, the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which the AKP charges is a PKK front, won 80 seats thanks to support from non-Kurdish voters, wrecking AKP hopes of a big majority.
 
The HDP is now accusing Erdogan of trying to force early elections to attract the nationalist vote and increase the AKP representation in parliament.
 
"There is no single crime that can be attributed to us. Our only crime is to win 13% of the vote," the party's co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said.
 
"One of the main objectives of the current air, land and media operations is to harm the HDP in early elections," he said.
 
Erdogan said on Tuesday he was against closing the HDP but that lawmakers linked with the PKK must be stripped of their immunity and face prosecution.

United States and Turkey to Create 'ISIS-Free Zone'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 08:28
Erdogan - ObamaThe United States and Turkey have agreed to work together to drive Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from northern Syria, senior American officials said Monday, according to the AFP news agency.
 
The announcement came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to press ahead with parallel strikes against Kurdish militants.
 
The potentially game-changing accord with the U.S. was revealed as Turkey fuelled the growing anger of its Kurdish minority by shelling a Kurdish-held village in northern Syria while its warplanes continued to pound Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.
 
Referring to Islamic State by the acronym ISIL, a senior American official told AFP that Ankara and Washington aimed "to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey's border with Syria."
 
Details of the zone "remain to be worked out", the official, who asked not to be named, said during a visit by President Barack Obama to Ethiopia, while adding that "any joint military efforts will not include the imposition of a no-fly zone" -- a long standing Turkish demand.
 
It would however entail Turkey supporting the "partners on the ground" already fighting ISIS extremists.
 
But many question whether Turkey is more interested in limiting Kurdish capabilities in Syria and Iraq than tackling ISIS.
 
Davutoglu, meanwhile, said Turkey would press ahead with military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) until the group disarmed.
 
"We will continue our fight until we obtain a certain result," he told ATV television, urging the Kurdish separatists, who have waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey, to deliver on its 2013 promise to lay down arms.
 
State Department spokesman John Kirby reiterated that Turkey had a "right to defend itself" against the PKK, which the U.S. also labels a terrorist organization
 
At the same time, Kirby said the "fight against ISIL is not in cooperation with, coordination with or communication with the PKK. Our fight against ISIL is with 62 other nations in this coalition who are helping us go after these guys."
 
Turkey has called an extraordinary NATO meeting for Tuesday over its "anti-terror" offensive against the Kurdish rebels and ISIS.
 
French President Francois Hollande, in a telephone call Monday with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "thanked his counterpart for the vigorous action against Daesh and for strengthening Turkey's engagement alongside the (anti-IS) coalition", his office said.
 
The French statement made no mention of the anti-Kurdish strikes, noted AFP.
 
The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- which routed ISIS from the flashpoint Syrian town of Kobane early this year with the help of Western air strikes -- said Turkish tanks hit its positions and those of allied Arab rebels overnight in Zur Maghar village in Aleppo province, wounding four rebels and several villagers.
 
But Turkish officials denied the military was deliberately targeting Syrian Kurds and said it was responding to fire from the Syrian side of the border.
 
Davutoglu told a group of Turkish newspaper editors that Ankara's intervention in Iraq and Syria would "change the balance" in the region, but ruled out sending ground troops into Syria.
 
Turkey has given the United States the green light to use its Incirlik air base to attack ISIS after months of tough negotiations.
 
Davutoglu said Ankara's demands for a no-fly zone were addressed "to a certain extent", according to the Hurriyet daily.
 
"Air cover is important, the air protection for the Free Syrian Army and other moderate elements fighting Daesh," he said, according to AFP.
 
"If we will not send ground forces -- and that we will not do -- then certain elements that cooperate with us on the ground must be protected," Davutoglu added.

Kurds Cut Key ISIS Supply Route in Northern Syria

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 August 2015 09:36
Kurds Cut Key ISIS Supply RouteKurdish fighters seized a key town in northern Syria from ISIS on Monday, cutting a supply lifeline from the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital, a monitor said. 
 
"The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) took full control of Sarrin on Monday after three weeks of intense clashes," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Sarrin lies along the M4 highway, which ISIS uses to transport fighters and supplies between Aleppo province and the group's de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in the east, Abdel Rahman said.
 
The town's capture cuts off ISIS's main access route to parts of Aleppo province, where the jihadists are fighting both Kurdish forces and rebel groups.
 
"Sarrin was also used as a base for IS to attack the Kurds in Aleppo province, so those attacks will probably decrease as well," he told AFP using an alternative acronym for the so-called "Islamic State" group.  
 
Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from the flashpoint town of Kobane some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Sarrin, said the YPG were still combing through the town to clear it of potential ISIS suicide bombers.
 
YPG forces began their offensive on Sarrin on July 6 with air support from the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
 
The capture of the town, which lies on the east bank of the Euphrates river, is the latest victory for Kurdish forces in Syria against ISIS.
 
They defeated IS forces in Kobane in January, expelling them with the help of coalition air strikes.
 
And on June 16, they pushed ISIS out of Tal Abyad, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border used by ISIS to bring in weapons and fighters to Raqqa.
 
The Syrian conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011, but has developed into a multi-front civil war involving Kurds and jihadists of both ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as other rebels and regime loyalists.
 
Kurdish advances come on the same day as Kurdish fighters in Syria say their positions were bombarded by the Turkish army.
 
The Turkish military denied targeting Syrian Kurds after Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said tanks shelled Kurdish-held villages in northern Syria, a Turkish government official said on Monday.
 
"The ongoing military operation seeks to neutralise imminent threats to Turkey's national security and continues to target ISIS in Syria and the PKK in Iraq," the official told AFP, referring to the Islamic State and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is linked to the YPG and its political branch, the PYD.
 
He said the Syrian Kurdish "PYD, along with others, remains outside the scope of the current military effort."
 
In a statement, the YPG said Turkish tanks hit its positions and those of allied Arab rebels in the village of Zur Maghar in Aleppo province. 
 
The "heavy tank fire" wounded four members of the allied rebel force and several villagers, the YPG said.
 
It said there was a second, later round of shelling against Zur Maghar and another village in the same area.
 
The Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said: "We are investigating claims that the Turkish military engaged positions held by forces other than ISIS."
 
Turkey has launched a two-pronged "anti-terror" cross-border offensive against jihadists and the PKK militants after a wave of violence in the country, pounding their positions with air strikes and artillery. 
 
Early on Monday, Turkish police detained 15 people with suspected links to ISIS in the Hacibayram district of the capital Ankara, the state-run news Anatolia news agency reported.
 
Eleven of the 15 detainees were foreigners, Anatolia said, adding that the operation was backed by around 500 police officers who raided several addresses.
 
The Turkish official told AFP the operations against ISIS and PKK were continuing, adding that a total of 900 people had been detained so far with links to ISIS, PKK and other leftist organisations.
 
"We are fighting against all terrorist organisations," said the official.

US Backs Turkish Strikes against Kurds

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 August 2015 08:15
U.S. Air Force graphic depicts WaveRider ReutersThe White House on Sunday backed Turkey's right to conduct airstrikes against Kurdish militants, after waves of air and artillery strikes put a fragile ceasefire in jeopardy.
 
"Turkey has a right to take action related to terrorist targets," said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes after strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).  
 
"The US of course recognizes the PKK specifically as a terrorist organization," Rhodes said, while welcoming parallel Turkish action against ISIS.
 
"You have seen of course much more assertive Turkish action in both Syria and Iraq in recent days," said Rhodes.
 
The strikes on the PKK threw into doubt a ceasefire between Kurdish separatists and Turkey in place since 2013, and could unbalance regional alliances.  
 
Two Turkish soldiers were killed by a car bomb in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country late Saturday, after separatist rebels warned they would no longer observe the truce after Ankara's air strikes.
 
While the United States has blacklisted the PKK, it has close ties with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, which is also tackling the Islamic State.
 
The main Kurdish force fighting ISIS in Syria - the People's Protection Unit (YPG) - is also closely tied to the PKK.
 
"We encourage our different partners in this fight to work together," said Rhodes.  
 
The air strikes came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey that the authorities blamed on both the PKK and ISIS. However most airstrikes have been focused on Kurdish targets, fueling accusations that the Turkish government is in cahoots with Islamists - including ISIS - in their battle against Kurdish militias in Syria.

Kurdish Assassins Kill Islamists in Revenge for ISIS Bombing

Category: News
Created on Friday, 31 July 2015 08:39
Kurdish PKK - ReutersA militant group allied to Turkey's outlawed Kurdish party has shot dead in Istanbul an alleged member of ISIS who had fought in Syria, media said Thursday.  
 
The reports come amid soaring tensions in Turkey following Monday's suicide bombing in the town of Suruc on the border with Syria that killed 32 and that the authorities blamed on ISIS.
 
The man, named as Mursel Gul, was assassinated late on Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkish media including the Hurriyet daily and state Anatolia news agency reported.
 
The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), seen as the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement, reports said.
 
The YDG-H statement said that the man had come to Istanbul seven months ago to receive treatment after being wounded while fighting with ISIS against Kurds for the flashpoint town of Kobane in Syria.
 
The group said it had been tracking his movements for three months and alleged Gul had himself been planning attacks in Istanbul.
 
"We will continue our operations against the ISIS gang and have identified many of them and will execute and punish them," it added.
 
"The Suruc murderers will be brought to account," it said.  
 
Anatolia said the the killers, posing as cleaning salesmen, had fired four bullets into Gul's body.
 
Anti-terror police launched an investigation and have found no links between Gul and ISIS, it claimed.
 
Kurds have repeatedly accused the Turkish government of aiding ISIS and other jihadist groups fighting against Kurdish forces in Syria, both by turning a blind eye to their activities in Turkey and providing them with medical and even military aid. The Turkish government has repeatedly denied the claims, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
 
The PKK's military wing had Wednesday claimed the murder of two Turkish police as revenge for the Suruc bombing, raising fears the fighting raging in Syria between Kurds and ISIS is spilling over onto Turkish territory.
 
Meanwhile, Turkish media reports said an Islamist named Ethem Turkben had been killed by masked men at his home in the southern city of Adana in a killing also suspected to have been carried out by PKK-allied militants.
 
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for self-rule for Kurds in the southeast that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
 
It declared a truce in 2013 after the government opened secret peace negotiations with its chief Abdullah Ocalan, but the current violence has put this under threat.

Turkey on the Brink?

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 30 July 2015 08:03
Turkey on the BrinkThe Turkish military on Thursday pounded positions held by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Syria after a Turkish soldier was killed by fire from an area controlled by the jihadists.
 
The clashes - the most serious yet between the Turkish army and ISIS - came after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday, blamed on ISIS, sparked an upsurge in violence.
 
A day after the fatal shooting of two police claimed by Kurdish militants as "revenge" for the suicide bombing in the town of Suruc on the Syrian border given Turkish support of Syrian jihadists, a policeman was shot dead in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
 
The soldier was killed from fire from an area controlled by ISIS in Syria in the Turkish border region of Kilis, the state Anatolia news agency said. The Dogan news agency said four soldiers had been wounded.
 
Turkish tanks from the fifth armored brigade then responded by opening fire on targets controlled by ISIS jihadists in Syria, NTV television said, adding that one ISIS terrorist had also been killed.
 
Thirty-two people - mainly young activists, one as young as 18, preparing for an aid mission to Kurds in Syria - were killed on Monday in a devastating suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
That attack marked the first time the government had explicitly blamed ISIS for a strike in the country.
 
It also inflamed tensions with Turkey's Kurdish minority, which is unhappy over the government's opposition to support of Kurdish militias fighting ISIS inside Syria.
 
Turkey has been accused of colluding in the past with ISIS extremists in the hope they might prove useful in its aim of knocking out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara has always vehemently denied the claims.
 
Another policeman killed
 
The military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claimed the killing of the two police in the border town of Ceylanpinar, accusing the two slain officers of collaborating with ISIS extremists.
 
Aged 24 and 25, they were given a funeral ceremony with full honors outside police headquarters in the regional center of Sanliurfa, their coffins draped in the Turkish flag.
 
"The martyrs never die, the people will never be divided," dozens of police chanted, using a well known patriotic slogan.
 
The state Anatolia news agency said the three suspects had been arrested in early morning raids and were being questioned, without giving further details.
 
In the latest violence one Turkish policeman was shot dead and another badly wounded in an attack Thursday by armed men during a routine traffic check in Turkey's majority Kurdish-city of Diyarbakir, hospital sources said.
 
Meanwhile the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), seen as a youth wing of the PKK, claimed it had shot dead an alleged former ISIS fighter in Istanbul late Tuesday.
 
Turkish officials have confirmed a 20-year-old Turkish man linked to ISIS carried out the suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
Media reports named the bomber as university student Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz from Adiyaman in southeastern Turkey.
 
"Measures to secure border"
 
The unrest has intensified fears that the battle raging between ISIS jihadists and Kurds inside Syria is now spilling over onto Turkish territory.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said after a cabinet meeting late Tuesday that the government had discussed an "integrated system" to secure the frontier with Syria.
 
Turkish media reported Wednesday that the measures were set to include sending zeppelins into the air several hundred meters high to monitor the border and building a concrete border wall.
 
Turkey also plans to put in place two fences separated by a military patrol road at the border, complete with observation towers at some locations, the Hurriyet daily said. A moat will also be dug at some points.
 
Turkey has long been accused by its Western partners of failing to properly control the 911-kilometer (566-mile) frontier and even of colluding with ISIS, allegations it fiercely denies.
 
In places, the border has been marked only with a crude wire-mesh fence ridden with holes that has provided easy passage to terrorists and smugglers.
 
Turkey has so far stopped short of playing a full role in the US-led coalition assisting Kurds fighting ISIS terrorists who have taken swathes of Iraq and Syria.
 
However the Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday that Ankara had finally given the green light to US forces for use of the Incirlik air base in the campaign against ISIS in Syria.
 
It said that the accord was finalized in telephone talks Wednesday between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Barack Obama.
 
The unrest comes at a critical time for Turkey following elections in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan lost its overall majority in parliament for the first time since coming to power in 2002.

Obama and Erdogan Agree to Cooperate Against ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 20:10
Obama and Erdogan0United States President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a telephone call on Wednesday night to work together to "stem the flow of foreign fighters and secure Turkey's border with Syria," the White House said in a statement, quoted by Reuters.
 
According to the statement, the two leaders also discussed deepening their cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, which has grabbed swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory and declared a caliphate.
 
Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed through Turkey, a NATO member, to join ISIS over the past few years.
 
The conversation between Obama and Erdogan took place two days after a suicide attack in Turkey, in the town of Suruc near the border with Syria, killed 32 people.
 
It was the deadliest attack in Turkey since 2013, and if ISIS involvement is confirmed, would be the group's first suicide attack on Turkish soil.
 
The Turkish government has rejected accusations from the opposition that it has in the past tacitly supported ISIS jihadists operating from Syria and had unwittingly opened the door to the suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
Turkish authorities have cracked down on ISIS networks, arresting dozens of suspects in recent weeks, and the country beefed up its border with Syria with tanks and anti-aircraft missiles as well as additional troops.
 
The White House said Obama had condemned Monday's bombing.
 
"He conveyed condolences on behalf of the American people to the families of the victims, and the two leaders affirmed that the United States and Turkey stand united in the fight against terrorism," the statement said, according to Reuters.
 
It is unclear as of yet how Washington and Ankara will cooperate against ISIS. Turkey has hesitated to join the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
 
American intelligence chief James Clapper recently said Turkey does not place a high priority on fighting ISIS, and added he was not optimistic that Turkey would take a more active role in the war against the jihadist group.

Turkey Starts Fighting ISIS - In Order to Fight Kurds

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 16:58
Turkey Starts Fighting ISISTurkey is stepping up its role in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) extremists after realizing the threats to its own security from jihadists and responding to pressure from its Western partners, analysts say.
 
Turkish security forces have over the last week arrested dozens of ISIS terrorists and sympathizers, in its most significant raids since the group began to seize swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria in 2014.
 
Turkey has faced bitter accusations it was not doing enough to halt the rise of ISIS and even secretly colluding with the group - allegations Ankara vehemently denies, but which were strengthened by video showing how Turkish intelligence bungled an arms shipment to Syrian jihadists.
 
But analysts say the Turkish authorities have now clearly understood the domestic threat posed by ISIS, which rules its territory under strict Islamic law exceptional for its brutality.
 
Ankara will also get nowhere in trying to prevent the Kurds, who have been battling ISIS in northern Syria, from establishing their own autonomous region there unless it supports the Western coalition against the jihadists. The US has likewise said it won't support an autonomous region for the Kurds.
 
Turkey sees the main Syrian Kurdish political group the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in its southeast.
 
"Turkey has realized that it would not receive any support from its allies...to prevent the creation of an autonomous Kurdish area on its border if it failed to respond to their harsh criticism on the fight against ISIS," said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM.
 
Ankara in the past used ISIS as a tool to achieve its goals in the region, from battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to containing Kurdish influence, the former Turkish diplomat told AFP.
 
But Turks now see that "they are in the frontline, risking retaliation from the jihadists themselves," said Ulgen, adding: "They still cannot control their borders and fear ISIS members may slip through its soil among refugees."
 
"Upgraded the threat"
 
Turkish authorities have always pointed to the challenge of controlling a 911 kilometer (566 mile) border with Syria while remaining open to the refugees fleeing the fighting, as well as 38 million tourists a year.
 
But its failure to halt many ISIS recruits traveling to Syria through Turkish soil - including Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of one of the gunmen in January Paris shootings - has piled pressure on Ankara.
 
In recent weeks, Turkey launched a series of raids against ISIS suspects in cities across the country, from Izmir on the Aegean to Gaziantep close to the Syrian border.
 
A Turkish official told AFP the raids targeted the group's sleeper cells and networks inside the country.
 
Last Friday, police arrested 29 suspected ISIS members in Istanbul and other cities for "directing citizens of European countries seeking to join Daesh operations to Syria and Iraq," said the official, using another name for ISIS.
 
The raids came just after a senior US delegation visited Turkey, NATO's only majority Muslim member, to demand more cooperation from Ankara in its campaign against ISIS.
 
"It's now obvious that the Turkish government has upgraded the threat posed by ISIS to among the top ones it is facing, roughly at the same level as the PYD/YPG one," a senior Western diplomat told AFP.
 
"It's a reassessment we've been expecting for a long time."
 
But the Turkish official denied any policy change, saying that Ankara "has successfully curbed the influx of foreign terrorist fighters into the region" as a result of army measures to secure the border and by sharing more intelligence with allies.
 
Turkey has deported more than 1,500 ISIS suspects and banned nearly 15,000 individuals from 98 countries from entering the country, according to the official, who added that Ankara had categorized ISIS as a terrorist group since October 2013.
 
"Too little, too late"
 
Some sources, however, cast doubt over the significance of the latest steps.
 
Turkey has still not given the United States the green light to use the Incirlik air base in the south of the country as a launchpad for bombings against ISIS targets.
 
"This is not a fundamental policy shift, it is mainly circumstantial," another Western source familiar with the matter told AFP.
 
The source argued the raids "targeted only very low-profile ISIS members" and came at a time when "the US is putting a lot of pressure" on Turkey to cooperate more.
 
Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and a member at the US Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said Turkey's latest steps were "welcome" but also "way too little, way too late."
 
"From the US perspective, Turkey has been a massive disappointment in helping to combat Islamic State," he said in emailed comments.

Turkey Arrests 45 ISIS Recruits in Southeast

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:56
Turkey Arrests ISIS RecruitsTurkish security forces have over the last three days detained 45 foreign nationals seeking to cross into Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, AFP reported Sunday, citing the Turkish Dogan news agency.
 
If confirmed, the detentions would mark a stepping up of pressure on ISIS by the Turkish authorities after the arrest of 21 suspected members of the group in Istanbul and elsewhere on Friday.
 
Gaziantep has long been seen as a staging post for ISIS recruits who travel to the city by bus after flying from their countries to Istanbul. They then make the short illegal journey over the border to Syria.
 
The Dogan news agency said that on Sunday alone, 25 foreign nationals, mainly citizens of Tajikistan, had been arrested at Gaziantep bus station.
 
It said that police units had been working  intensively at the bus station since Friday and had in total detained 45 people who wanted to cross into Syria to join ISIS.
 
Many would-be jihadists had also brought their families with them, it added.
 
The suspects have undergone health checks and are being interrogated, after which they will likely be deported.
 
In a separate operation, Turkey had on Friday detained 21 suspected members of ISIS, of whom three were foreigners, in several cities including Istanbul, state media said.
 
Turkey has been embroiled in controversy since a video was published in late May showing state intelligence smuggling weapons in to jihadists in Syria. Turkish police have also been revealed to have pro-ISIS sympathies in the past.
 
Western states have repeatedly accused Turkey of not doing enough to halt the flow of jihadists across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria.
 
Ankara was especially criticized over its failure to stop three British teenage girls who crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS in February. The three teens, Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are now feared to have reached the conflict zone and are believed to be staying at a house in the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS.
 
Turkey fiercely rejects the accusations, saying it is making every effort to secure a long border. In turn, it has accused the West of not playing its part to shoulder the burden of hosting 1.8 million refugees from Syria.
 
In an apparent bid to deflect criticism, Turkish authorities have arrested a number of suspected jihadists in recent months.

Turkey Arrests 45 ISIS Recruits in Southeast (2)

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:56
Turkey Arrests ISIS RecruitsTurkish security forces have over the last three days detained 45 foreign nationals seeking to cross into Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, AFP reported Sunday, citing the Turkish Dogan news agency.
 
If confirmed, the detentions would mark a stepping up of pressure on ISIS by the Turkish authorities after the arrest of 21 suspected members of the group in Istanbul and elsewhere on Friday.
 
Gaziantep has long been seen as a staging post for ISIS recruits who travel to the city by bus after flying from their countries to Istanbul. They then make the short illegal journey over the border to Syria.
 
The Dogan news agency said that on Sunday alone, 25 foreign nationals, mainly citizens of Tajikistan, had been arrested at Gaziantep bus station.
 
It said that police units had been working  intensively at the bus station since Friday and had in total detained 45 people who wanted to cross into Syria to join ISIS.
 
Many would-be jihadists had also brought their families with them, it added.
 
The suspects have undergone health checks and are being interrogated, after which they will likely be deported.
 
In a separate operation, Turkey had on Friday detained 21 suspected members of ISIS, of whom three were foreigners, in several cities including Istanbul, state media said.
 
Turkey has been embroiled in controversy since a video was published in late May showing state intelligence smuggling weapons in to jihadists in Syria. Turkish police have also been revealed to have pro-ISIS sympathies in the past.
 
Western states have repeatedly accused Turkey of not doing enough to halt the flow of jihadists across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria.
 
Ankara was especially criticized over its failure to stop three British teenage girls who crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS in February. The three teens, Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are now feared to have reached the conflict zone and are believed to be staying at a house in the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS.
 
Turkey fiercely rejects the accusations, saying it is making every effort to secure a long border. In turn, it has accused the West of not playing its part to shoulder the burden of hosting 1.8 million refugees from Syria.
 
In an apparent bid to deflect criticism, Turkish authorities have arrested a number of suspected jihadists in recent months.

Turkey Detains German Reporters for Asking Too Many Questions

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 18 June 2015 04:09
ReportersTurkey on Tuesday briefly detained four journalists covering the seizure by Kurdish forces of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, reportedly because they asked the local governor a tricky question on Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists.
 
Hasan Akbas of the daily Evrensel, Cumhuriyet reporter Pinar Ogunc, Ozlem Topcu of German weekly Die Zeit and Deniz Yucel of German daily Die Welt were all detained, the reporters announced on Twitter.
 
They were held briefly and then released after an identity check, they said.
 
The journalists were working at Turkey's Akcakale border crossing, which saw a huge influx of refugees in the last days due to the fighting between Kurds and ISIS.
 
Turkish media reports, including in Cumhuriyet, said they had been detained at an outdoor briefing for asking the local Sanliurfa governor Izzettin Kucuk a question which he disliked.
 
Akbas and Yucel asked Kucuk if he had a statement on reports that the inhabitants of Akcakale had safety concerns over the alleged presence of ISIS jihadists in their town.
 
"Finished!" Kucuk was quoted as saying, before telling the police to "Take them!"
 
A Turkish official told AFP the journalists had not been arrested but briefly taken for routine identity checks before being released.
 
The incident caused a wave of outrage on Twitter, with users including Cumhuriyet's editor Can Dundar tweeting under the hashtag #nesoriymvalime (What do I ask my governor?).
 
Turkey has repeatedly been accused of collusion with ISIS, allegations it vehemently denies.
 
Cumhuriyet had led the accusations with repeated stories that it says show proof that Turkey delivered arms and even jihadists to ISIS.
 
Media rights groups - which have long criticized Turkey for locking up journalists - have expressed concern over a further decline in press freedoms under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with dozens facing legal proceedings on charges of insulting him.

Intense Border Fighting Has Turkey Rethink Refugee Policy

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:08
Syrian refugees near Turkish border - file -ReutersTurkey on Thursday said it was taking measures to limit the flow of Syrian refugees onto its territory after an influx of thousands more over the last days due to fighting between Kurds and jihadists.
 
Under an "open-door" policy championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has taken in 1.8 million Syrian refugees since the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011.
 
A Turkish official told AFP that in the last week 7,000 refugees had fled to Turkey to escape the fighting and another 6,600 had joined them since Wednesday.
 
Kurdish forces are currently locked in bitter clashes with Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists for the area bordering Turkey.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus visited on Wednesday the Akcakale border crossing in southern Turkey, where the main influx has been concentrated.
 
"Turkey will not accept entries onto its territory from Syria except in case of a humanitarian tragedy," he said, quoted by local media.
 
However, the Turkish official told AFP that these measures did not put in question Turkey's open door-policy towards Syrian refugees.
 
"The restrictions formulated by the local authorities are temporary and local," the official said.
 
Kurtulmus also reaffirmed the government's anger against EU countries that have only accepted a handful of refugees while Turkey has taken the lion's share of the burden.
 
"These states mobilize when just five refugees arrive at their borders but continue to be mere spectators at the efforts employed by Turkey," he said.
 
The Kurdish forces aim to wrest control of Tel Abyad - opposite Akcakale - in order to free up passage from Kobane, on the Turkish frontier, to Qamishli which is close to the Iraqi border.
 
Formerly an ally of Damascus, Ankara broke off its relationship with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad as a 2011 uprising escalated from peaceful demonstrations to a bloody civil war.
 
The Turkish government said in April it has spent almost $5.5 billion to provide for Syrian refugees.

Turkey: Erdogan Ends Unusual Media Silence, Lashes Out at West

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 10:37
Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called for the swift formation of a new coalition government, ending almost four days of unusual silence after legislative polls seen as a blow to his authority.
 
Erdogan's comments added weight to expectations of a coalition government in Turkey after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) he co-founded lost its majority in Sunday's dramatic polls.
 
"Everyone should put their egos aside and a government must be formed as soon as possible, within the constitutional process," Erdogan said in his first public comments since Sunday's vote.
 
In a message to investors rattled by the political uncertainty, Erdogan insisted that the election result "certainly does not mean Turkey will remain without a government."
 
He said he hoped political parties will "prefer a solution rather than crisis."
 
"We cannot leave Turkey without a government, without a head. Those who are condemned to their egos will neither be able to give account to history, nor to our people."
 
Although the AKP won the biggest share of the vote in the elections, it lost its majority for the first time since it came to power since 2002.
 
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that the AKP would lead coalition talks with other parties but warned that snap elections were not ruled out should the discussions fail.
 
The elections were also seen as a huge personal blow to Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey first as premier from 2003-2014 and now as president.  
 
Erdogan wanted the AKP to win a super majority to push through a new constitution that would give him reinforced powers as president. But this plan has now been scuttled for the foreseeable future.
 
Erdogan said the election result was "the people's will" and must be respected.
 
"Nobody, no matter which politician, has the right to say 'I'. We must say 'We,'" he said.
 
Lashes out at West
 
The president - known for his raucous speeches and omnipresence on Turkish television news channels - had not spoken in public since he cast his vote in Sunday's polls.
 
According to a "ticking clock" set up by bloggers, he had been "off air" for three days, 22 hours and one minute.
 
Reports have suggested that some in the AKP were unhappy with Erdogan's aggressive conduct of the campaign, where he lashed out at enemies in all directions.
 
However in Thursday's speech, the combative leader showed no sign of retreating into a corner.
 
He lashed out at the Western media following a series of "ugly" articles critical of his conduct as president.
 
"It is hard to understand their intolerance. It means, thank God, we are on the right path. I would doubt about myself if they had praised (me)," Erdogan said.
 
Erdogan also lashed out at Western foreign policy in Syria, saying while war planes bombed Arabs and Turkmen the West allowed "a terrorist organisation" like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to move in.
 
"How can we look at this positively? How can we look to the West sincerely?" he asked.
 
He also accused the West of leaving refugees to "drown" in the Mediterranean. "We cannot allow this," he said.
 
The election results meant the AKP will have 258 seats in the hung 550-seat parliament, the Republican People's Party (CHP) 132, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Kurdish HDP 80 apiece.
 
Analysts have said an AKP-MHP coalition is the most likely option, with the AKP sharing a conservative and nationalist voter base with the MHP.
 
But such a partnership could also spell trouble for the peace process with Turkey's Kurds, which is opposed by the MHP.
 
Erdogan warned that all those "who pinned their hopes on Turkey entering into a climate of crisis or chaos will be disappointed once again."

Turkish PM Resigns After Election Disappointment

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 June 2015 14:40
Ahmet DavutogluTurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu resigned on Tuesday, in a procedural move after his AK Party lost its majority in parliamentary elections earlier this week.
 
According to the BBC, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted Davutoglu's gesture but asked him to stay in the post until a new government was formed.
 
Erdogan is expected to give Davutoglu the difficult task of forming a new coalition government, the report added.
 
The two men met on Tuesday in the capital, Ankara, to discuss the future of the government after the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party lost its majority in parliament for the first time in 13 years.
 
It secured 41%, a sharp drop from 2011, and is now likely to try to form a coalition, although no party has yet indicated it is willing to join forces with the AKP.
 
In accepting Davutoglu's resignation, Erdogan expressed his thanks for his services and asked him to continue to serve until a new government was established, according to a statement posted on the president's website.
 
The BBC noted that the move is a political formality, and Davutoglu's future remains unclear.
 
Erdogan had been seeking a two-thirds majority to turn Turkey into a presidential republic, but his Islamist-rooted AK Party fell short and the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) upset his ambitions by crossing the 10% threshold, securing seats in parliament for the first time.
 
Erdogan wanted to change the constitution to grant him greater powers than he currently wields but the entry of HDP into parliament will likely make that impossible.
 
On Sunday night, two days before he resigned, Davutoglu put on a brave face and hailed the election results as a "victory" for AKP. Erdogan himself waited more than 24 hours after the results were announced before issuing a statement on the election.

Turkey Recalls Brazil Ambassador Over Armenian Genocide

Category: News
Created on Friday, 12 June 2015 23:15
genocide-cross-seaThe Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Monday it had recalled its ambassador to Brazil for consultation, Reuters reports.
 
The move came after the Brazilian Senate passed legislation recognizing the massacre of Armenians during World War I as genocide.
 
The ministry in Ankara also summoned Brazil's ambassador on June 3 over the matter, it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
 
"We view the decision by the Brazilian Senate that distorts reality and overlooks the law as irresponsible and we condemn it," the Foreign Ministry said.
 
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide.
 
Turkey has been on a diplomatic offensive in recent months to ensure the minimum recognition by parliaments of the genocide.
 
The offensive began when Pope Francis drew Turkey's wrath after describing the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century".
 
Turkey summoned the Vatican's ambassador in Ankara over the remarks and recalled the Turkish envoy to the Vatican. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with anger to the Pope’s remarks, warning him not to repeat such a “mistake” again.
 
Similar steps were taken by Turkey when Austria and Luxembourg recognized the Armenian genocide.
 
More than 20 nations have recognized the Armenian genocide. President Barack Obama, however, stopped short of using the word genocide when he addressed the issue, to the relief of Turkey, while Russian President Vladimir Putin angered Ankara by referring to “genocide” during commemorations of the mass killings.

Publicity-Hungry Erdogan Sulking After Election Defeat?

Category: News
Created on Friday, 12 June 2015 20:56
Erdogan Sulking After Election DefeatTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP party received a heavy blow Monday, after learning it had lost its overall majority in Turkey's parliament after 13 years of undisputed - and increasingly autocratic - rule.
 
After his prime minister initially attempting to put on a brave face and hail the emerging results as a "victory," Erdogan himself appears to have opted for a different track: sulking.
 
According to Hurriyet Daily, as of Monday afternoon the notoriously publicity-hungry Erdogan has not appeared on TV for more than 24 hours. That may not sound like much, but given that Erdogan has appeared on TV sometimes as many as three times a day in the months leading up to the general elections it is a notably long absence.
 
Gleeful anti-AKP Turks have even created an online ticker counting the number of hours Erdogan has been absent from their TV screens.
 
Erdogan did finally issue a response to the election results Monday afternoon.
 
In a written statement posted on his presidential website, he said: "I believe that the current situation, which did not permit any party to form a government on its own, will be evaluated healthily and realistically by all parties that have taken part in the race," adding that the result and record voter turnout of 86% demonstrated Turkey's "determination for democracy and for reflecting its will at the ballot box."
 
46 million voters took part in the election to determine the makeup of Turkey's 550-seat parliament on Sunday.
 
The AKP party lost its majority on the back of growing corruption scandals, as well as alarm by many - particularly young, secular Turks and members of the country's Kurdish minority - over Erdogan's attempts to alter the constitution to give himself even greater powers. The AKP party would have needed a two-thirds majority to have enacted the sweeping changes Erdogan was seeking.
 
The Islamist party - modeled on the Arab Muslim Brotherhood - has also been fiercely criticized for promoting extremist Islam, including by arming jihadists in neighboring Syria.
 
It also comes as Turkey's previously strong economy has seen something of a decline since the previous elections in 2011.
 
Erdogan's party received just over 40% of the vote (258 seats), making it the single-largest party but no longer holding an overall majority.
 
Part of the reason for the election upset was the strong showing by the Kurdish HDP party, which passed the 10% voter threshold and secured 80 seats, with a little over 13% of the vote.
 
Being the largest single party, AKP's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu still has 45 days to form a coalition government, but for now the other parties - bitter after more than a decade under an increasingly authoritarian AKP rule - are holding out. The HDP has already ruled out entering any coalition with the AKP.
 
As a result, the country is heading into a period of unusual political uncertainty - the Turkish lira fell to near-record lows against the dollar on Monday, and shares dropped by more than 8% soon after the Istanbul stock exchange opened, according to the BBC.

Turkish PM Declares 'Victory' Despite Setback

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 11 June 2015 14:52
Ahmet DavutogluTurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday night emphasized his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) "victory" in the elections, despite the party suffering a serious setback by not achieving the required majority for passing reforms in the Turkish constitution.
 
During the traditional balcony speech at the party’s headquarters in Ankara, Davutoglu stressed the significance of the “national will,” the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
 
“Everyone should know that the AKP is the winner of this election. No one should take a victory from an election it lost. We sent deputies to the parliament from 76 provinces, and the first from six regions is the AKP,” he said, according to the report.
 
“The main opposition party, whose leader just declared a victory, could not find representation in 37 provinces while the third [had nothing] in 32 provinces. The fourth party, which claimed to have a landslide victory, is non-existent in 56 provinces,” added Davutoglu.
 
“No one should worry. We will take every precaution within this political framework to maintain stability and the comfort that AKP cadres have provided in the last 12-13 years,” he said.
 
Davutgolu said the election had proved that the AKP was the “backbone” of Turkey.
 
“This election has shown that the backbone of Turkey is the AKP. The AKP is the only party that is in all of the regions, all provinces and embraces all of the citizens,” said Davutoglu, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
 
With 99.9% of the votes counted, the AKP got 40.8 percent the votes, while the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) won 25 percent, according to the Anatolia news agency.
 
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) secured 16.3 percent of the votes, while the Kurdish HDP party won 13.1 percent.
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to change the constitution to grant him greater powers than he currently wields. If HDP enters parliament, however, this will apparently be impossible.

Exposé: Turkey Smuggled Jihadist Fighters into Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 10:08
Turkey Smuggled Jihadist Fighters into SyriaA Turkish daily on Friday published images it said showed the Turkish spy agency helping to smuggle jihadists into Syria, the latest allegations by the newspaper accusing the authorities of aiding extremist groups across the border.
 
The government had last week lambasted the Cumhuriyet daily for publishing video footage the paper said showed the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) helping send weapons to Syria early last year.
 
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said its editor Can Dundar would pay a "heavy price" and promptly filed a criminal complaint demanding he serves multiple life sentences.
 
But Friday's story showed the staunchly secular Cumhuriyet is not giving any ground in an increasingly tense standoff with Erdogan's Islamist government ahead of Sunday's legislative elections.
 
Cumhuriyet said that a group of jihadists were first brought to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli on January 9, 2014 from Atme refugee camp in Syria in a clandestine operation.
 
From there, they were smuggled into Tal Abyad, a border town used by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) as a gateway from Turkey, on two buses rented by the MIT, Cumhuriyet claimed.
 
The daily showed images of the buses, which it said were stopped by police a day after the operation following a tip-off that they were smuggling drugs into Syria.
 
Erdogan's fury
 
It was revealed that the buses had been used to smuggle jihadists after investigators found bullets, weapons and ammunition abandoned in the buses, the paper said.
 
The drivers of the buses, who were briefly arrested, said in their testimony they were told that they were carrying Syrian refugees and the vehicles were rented by the MIT.
 
Last week Cumhuriyet published footage from January 19, 2014 showing Turkish security forces discovering boxes of what it described as weapons and ammunition being sent to Syria on MIT trucks intercepted near the Syrian border.
 
The story touched a nerve as it accused Erdogan of covering up arms shipments to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, a claim the president vehemently denies.
 
Turkey's Islamist AKP government has long been accused of directly supporting jihadist rebels in Syria, including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front, and even turning a blind eye to ISIS advances, in order to quash Kurdish hopes for autonomy in Syria.
 
In his complaint to prosecutors, Erdogan demanded Dundar serves two life sentences and 42 years in prison for espionage and publishing false information, sparking outrage at home and abroad.
 
Tensions are running high in Turkey in the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary elections where Erdogan wants his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to secure a commanding majority in parliament.
 
This would allow the party to rewrite the constitution and create the powerful executive-style presidency Erdogan yearns for.

Video Shows Turkey Smuggling Arms to Syrian Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 30 May 2015 10:14
isis-apImages and video footage allegedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey's state intelligence service carrying weapons en route to jihadist rebels in Syria were published Friday in a Turkish daily.
 
The Turkish government has vehemently denied earlier claims that it is arming rebels fighting in Syria and accused dozens of prosecutors, soldiers and security officers involved in the searching of trucks of attempting to bring it down by suggesting that it is doing so.
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Earlier this month, Turkey arrested four prosecutors who ordered searches in a similar incident in January 2014 and they are now in prison pending trial.
 
More than 30 security officers involved in that interception also face charges including military espionage and attempting to overthrow the government.
 
The footage published on opposition Cumhuriyet daily's website on Friday shows inspectors searching a metallic container watched by security officers, a prosecutor and sniffer dogs.
 
The officials first open cardboard boxes marked as "fragile" and full of antibiotics. But under those boxes they find dozens of mortar shells, the video, shot by an anonymous bystander, appears to show.
 
Cumhuriyet, which also published a series of still images, said the weapons were of Russian origin and had been supplied from ex-Soviet countries.
 
The daily claimed the trucks were carrying a total of 1,000 mortar shells, 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons as well as hundreds of grenade launchers.
 
The Turkish authorities have sought to link the affair to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of running a parallel state through supporters in the judiciary and police with the aim of usurping him.
 
Turkey has vehemently denied aiding jihadists in Syria such as the Islamic State (ISIS) group, although it wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled.
 
Tensions are running high in Turkey ahead of June 7 parliamentary elections, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeking to hold on to the dominance it has maintained since it first swept to power in 2002.

Iran and Turkey Spar over Syria No-fly Zone

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 May 2015 07:27
Syria No-fly ZoneA senior Iranian official Thursday rejected the idea of a Syria no-fly zone, which Turkey wants, saying it would be "a mistake" and would not restore security to the region.
 
"Talk of the establishment of a buffer and no-fly zone is the repetition of previous mistakes and will not help with security and stability in the region," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, according to AFP.
 
Before it will join a US-led coalition staging air strikes on Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists, Ankara wants an air exclusion zone and also a buffer zone along its border with Syria.
 
Turkey also wants moderate Syrian rebel groups to be trained in order to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
 
At the end of last year, the United States said a no-fly zone would not work because of the presence of more than a million Syrian refugees along the frontier.
 
Iran is the Damascus regime's main regional ally, and provides Assad's government with both financial and military help.
 
The Islamic republic also accuses Turkey of allowing the free movement of rebels and weapons across the border, an allegation Ankara denies.
 
Amir-Abdollahian, in comments reported by the website of Iran's state television channel, said that for a political solution in Syria to be reached, neighboring countries must control their borders and prevent insurgents from crossing.
 
He was speaking in Kuwait, on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting.
 
The Syria conflict erupted in 2011 with a popular uprising that descended into a complex civil war in which more than 220,000 people have been killed.

Poll Shows Erdogan is Losing his Grip

Category: News
Created on Monday, 25 May 2015 22:40
Turkeys presidentWith two weeks to go before a general election in Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been losing steam in polls. According to a poll released over the weekend by the Konda research organization, AKP's support has fallen from 49.8% to 40.5%.
 
The poll also showed positive results for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The party is polling at 11.5% of all voters, above the 10% threshold needed to take seats in parliament. The leading opposition is expected to garner around 30% of the vote.
 
The polls indicate that although AKP may turn out to be the largest party, it will, unlike in the current government, have to bring in coalition partners – a prospect that has shaken the Turkish economy in recent days, with stock prices gyrating.
 
Konda is a very respected research group in Turkey, and previous polls have proven accurate.
 
Meanwhile, the Erdogan government continued its practice of using the law to silence opponents. Reports on Friday said that 43 supporters of Erdogan's main political opponent, Fethullah Gulen, were arrested.
 
The detainees, who are mostly former teachers and police officials, are accused of trying to set up a "parallel state" in order to remove Erdogan from power.

Erdogan Condemns Egypt Over Morsi Death Sentence

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 10:17
Erdogan R Mohamed Mursi  AFPTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday night blasted Egypt for sentencing ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death, AFP reported.
 
"The popularly elected president of Egypt, chosen with 52 percent of the vote, has unfortunately been sentenced to death," he said at a rally in Istanbul, to howls of protest from the crowd.
 
"Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt," Erdogan charged, referring to the old Pharaonic rule of the land that ended over two millennia ago.
 
"The West, unfortunately, is still turning a blind eye to Sisi's coup," he continued, referring to current President and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president after winning elections last year.
 
"While they (the West) abolished the death penalty in their own countries, they just look on as spectators at this execution in Egypt," charged Erdogan, according to AFP.
 
Erdogan, at the time Turkey’s Prime Minister, was a strong supporter of the Islamist Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, after Morsi won the 2012 elections.
 
He later condemned the military intervention that toppled Morsi as a “coup” and an enemy of democracy. Egypt’s foreign ministry  responded to Erdogan’s crticism by summoning Turkey’s ambassador to Cairo in protest against “Ankara’s interference in Egyptian affairs.”
 
Erdogan has continued to attack Sisi since his election, including last summer when Egypt was trying to broker a ceasefire between Egypt and Hamas.
 
Erdogan said at the time that Sisi was an “illegitimate tyrant” and added Cairo could not be relied upon to negotiate a truce with Israel.

Turkey Recalls Luxembourg Envoy Over Armenian Genocide

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 19:34
genocide-cross-seaTurkey on Thursday recalled its envoy to Luxembourg to Ankara for consultations, after that country’s parliament recognized the mass killings of Armenians in World War I as genocide, AFP reported.
 
The recall of the envoy is the latest such move by Ankara after it withdrew its ambassadors to the Vatican and Austria over the same controversy last month.
 
“We condemn and strongly reject the unfair resolution the Luxembourg parliament has adopted by distorting the historical facts and the law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement quoted by AFP.
 
It said it had summoned the Luxembourg ambassador to Ankara to protest the resolution, which it said was “far from understanding” the role of parliaments in such issues.
 
Meanwhile, Turkey’s ambassador to Luxembourg Levent Sahinkaya “has been recalled to Ankara for consultations,” it added.
 
Turkey has been on a diplomatic offensive in recent weeks, leading up to the 100th anniversary of the start of the killings of April 24, to ensure the minimum recognition by parliaments.
 
The offensive began when Pope Francis drew Turkey's wrath after describing the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century".
 
Turkey summoned the Vatican's ambassador in Ankara over the remarks and recalled the Turkish envoy to the Vatican. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with anger to the Pope’s remarks, warning him not to repeat such a “mistake” again.
 
At the same time, President Barack Obama stopped short of using the word genocide when he addressed the issue, to the relief of Turkey, while Russian President Vladimir Putin angered Ankara by referring to “genocide” during commemorations of the mass killings.
 
Ahead of the vote, Sahinkaya had already warned Luxembourg deputies in a letter that passing such a motion “would not serve the excellence of our relations.”

Erdogan: Armenian Claims of Genocide Are 'Baseless'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 23:23
Prime Minister Tayyip ErdoganTurkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisted on Thursday that the massacre of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks a century ago was not a “genocide”.
 
Speaking at an international peace summit, Erdogan dismissed Armenian claims of genocide in 1915 were baseless, adding that he was willing to open the Turkish military archives to prove this.
 
"The Armenian claims on the 1915 events, and especially the numbers put forward, are all baseless and groundless," he said, according to the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman.
 
"I say, we're ready to open our military archives. We have no fear, no worries on this subject. Our ancestors did not persecute," declared Erdogan.
 
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide.
 
The issue has made headlines in recent days, as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the massacre.
 
Pope Francis recently publicly recognized the genocide, causing Turkey to recall its ambassador from the Vatican and raising the ire of Erdogan, who warned the Pope not to repeat such a "mistake" again.
 
On Wednesday, parties in the Austrian parliament signed a declaration recognizing the massacre as genocide, and Turkey reacted by recalling its ambassador from Vienna.
 
Last Thursday the EU Parliament also voted to recognize the genocide, which prompted a clarification from Parliament President Martin Schulz, who told Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that he "understands" Ankara's negative reaction to the vote.
 
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has chosen not to recognize the genocide, despite an election promise he made during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Erdogan: ISIS is a 'Virus' Working to Destroy Muslims

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 22:22
Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday referred to the Islamic State (ISIS) group as a “virus” working to destroy the Muslim community, in one of his strongest attacks yet against the jihadist group.
 
Ankara has been repeatedly criticized in recent months for not doing enough to halt the advance of ISIS to its borders, but Erdogan said after meeting Iraqi President Fuad Masum that the ultra-radical group had to be confronted, according to the AFP news agency.
 
ISIS “is an important virus that is working to divide and destroy the Ummah,” Erdogan told reporters, using the term for the global community of Muslims.
 
He added that said other groups had followed the same path but that ISIS had proved more adept at using its resources.
 
“An international strategy is essential to drain this swamp. Even if Daesh [ISIS] is destroyed something will emerge under a different name,” Erdogan was quoted as having said. “Where do its weapons and financing come from? We need to focus on this.”
 
Masum, whose forces are battling to win back swaths of territory that were lost to ISIS including its second city Mosul, echoed Erdogan’s description of the group as a disease.
 
“This virus can pass from this region to other regions. The countries in the region have serious responsibilities,” Masum said, according to AFP.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Ankara had done all it could to close its borders to jihadists but had to remain open to refugees as well as “30-40 million tourists” a year.
 
Davutoglu said ISIS emerged as a result of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s policies and added that the group “carried more risk to Turkey than anyone else.”
 
Indeed, Turkey has come under fire from Western countries for not doing enough to halt the flow across Turkish territory of European nationals seeking to join ISIS jihadists in Syria.
 
However, it has made a number of arrests in recent months and insists it is doing all it can to control the border.
 
Several weeks ago, a British woman was detained by Turkish police on suspicion of seeking to join Islamic State terrorists in Syria, and was later deported back to Britain.
 
Previously, three British teenager boys suspected of trying to travel to Syria were detained by Turkey and later deported to Britain.
 
Earlier this week Turkey appealed for more help in cracking down on foreign fighters flooding to join terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey Blocks Access to Social Media Sites

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 18:18
face bookThe Turkish government has launched what appears to be its most comprehensive crackdown on social media Monday, in response to pictures and videos posted online showing a prosecutor taken hostage by leftist terrorists in Istanbul last week.
 
Hostage Mehmet Selim Kiraz was fatally wounded last Tuesday during a shootout between his two captors - who were also killed - and Turkish security forces.
 
On Wednesday, a female terrorist from the same group - the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) - was shot dead as she attempted to attack Istanbul's police headquarters.
 
The deadly attacks sparked fears by rights groups in Turkey that the Islamist government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would use them as an excuse to further crack down on dissent. Under Erdogan's AKP party Turkey has gained notoriety as the country with the highest number of imprisoned journalists, and protests against the government by opposition groups are regularly put down forcefully by police. Activists are regularly jailed simply for criticizing Erdogan.
 
Those fears appear to have been realized Monday as Turkish internet users found themselves unable to access Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. The blanket ban is being billed as a response to disturbing images of Kiraz being held bound, blindfolded and at gunpoint during the hostage standoff, which were posted online by his captors as they issued their demands for his release.
 
Soon after their publication, a court order demanded authorities block 166 websites which allowed the images to be published, according to the Turkish Hurriyet daily.
 
On Monday, Hurriyet cited the head of the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), as saying that the ban on Facebook had been liftted soon after its implementation after the social networking giant removed the offending images.
 
Although the most comprehensive to date, this isn't the first ban on social media imposed by Turkey's AKP government.
 
In January, it blocked access to all sites which carried the front page of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of Mohammed following the massacre at the magazine's office by Muslim terrorists. That same month the government reportedly ordered the closure of all websites which published details of alleged Turkish arms transfers to Sunni Islamist rebels in Syria.
 
Last year, after briefly banning all access to Twitter, Erdogan himselfvowed to "eradicate" the social media site.

Turkish Army Chief Visits Ottoman Tomb in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 March 2015 14:39
General OzelTurkey's army chief General Necdet Ozel and top commanders have for the first time visited the new location of an historic tomb inside Syrian territory, the military said on Friday.
 
Army chief of staff Ozel and the land and air forces commanders on Thursday went inside Syria to visit the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I.
 
The tomb lies in the settlement of Eshme, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the Turkish border and easily visible from Turkish territory.
 
The visit had not been announced in advance. Images on state media showed Ozel paying his respects at the tomb and then exiting the small brick-built mausoleum.
 
The visit came just over a month after hundreds of Turkish soldiers staged an unprecedented incursion deep inside Syrian territory to move the tomb from its previous location, retreating from approach Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.
 
The complex, which is considered sovereign Turkish territory, had been located some 37 kilometers (23 miles) inside Syrian territory.
 
But the government ordered the tomb, which has a permanent honor guard of Turkish troops, to be moved due to security fears as it was located in territory controlled by ISIS.
 
The army said that Ozel inspected the new situation of the tomb and talked to Turkish and Syrian residents in the area.
 
Turkey has already reburied Suleyman Shah on the site and hastily constructed the new mausoleum.
 
The figure of Suleyman Shah is a key figure in the still-hazy history of the emergence of the Ottoman empire, which according to tradition was founded by Osman in 1299 with Turkic tribes who had swept through Anatolia from Asia.
 
The tomb of Suleyman Shah, who is said to have died in 1236, is considered Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish authorities and France, which then controlled French-mandated Syria.

Erdogan: Iran is Trying to Dominate the Middle East

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 March 2015 13:35
Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday lashed out at Iran, accusing it of trying to dominate the Middle East and saying its efforts have begun annoying Ankara.
 
The comments, quoted by Reuters, came hours after Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies launched a military operation in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels threatening the government there.
 
Turkey said it supports the Saudi-led military operation against the rebels in Yemen and called on the militia group and its "foreign supporters" to abandon acts which threaten peace and security in the region.
 
"Iran is trying to dominate the region," said Erdogan, who is due to visit Tehran in early April, according to Reuters.
 
"Could this be allowed? This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this," he added in a press conference.
 
Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck at Houthi forces in Yemen, who have taken over much of the country in their campaign to oust President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
 
The Saudi-led intervention marked a major escalation of the Yemen crisis, in which Shiite Muslim Iran supports the Shiite Houthis, and Sunni Muslim monarchies in the Gulf back Hadi and his fellow Sunni loyalists in Yemen's south.
 
Erdogan said the conflict has evolved into a sectarian one and urged Iran to withdraw. "Iran has to change its view. It has to withdraw any forces, whatever it has in Yemen, as well as Syria and Iraq and respect their territorial integrity," he was quoted as having said.
 
Erdogan's plans to visit Iran had not changed, his spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told journalists earlier on Thursday without giving a specific date.
 
Earlier Thursday, Iran threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.
 
The Saudi “aggression,” said Iran's Foreign Ministry, would “complicate the crisis in the country and kill opportunities for peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Arab country. The smoke of the war in Yemen will reach the eyes of the Saudis."

'Turkey is Backing ISIS'

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 08:17
ISISProf. Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Arutz Sheva that Turkey has been supportive of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, as it pursues greater influence in the Middle East.
 
Some experts have called it a "Neo-Ottoman" foreign policy, to regain influence in places that were once backwater provinces to the Ottoman Empire. 
 
But plans to expand that influence have run into trouble. The relationships with both Israel and Syria have totally collapsed, but Turkey is now looking at influence through the Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.
 
"The Islamic Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and ISIS – Turkey does not distinguish between them," says Inbar. "They are helping ISIS with its wounded by treating them in Turkey and with weapons, and turning a blind eye to people coming (to Syria) from Europe. It has become a staging ground."
 
Professor Inbar asserts the controversial proposition that not only is Turkey neglecting the threat of ISIS in the Middle East or remaining passive to it, but actively encouraging it, a position supported by reports of Turkish sympathy to ISIS. Others on the ground do not go so far.
 
According to a report by the Kurdish Rudaw news site, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein said at a conference Thursday, “the Turkish priority is different. The Turkish priority is to remove the regime of (President Bashar al-Assad) in Syria, not ISIS."
 
In Inbar's mind, the way Turkey approached the battle of Kobane – ultimately won by Syrian and Iraqi Kurds - was fully indicative of their attitude toward Islamic State. If they had wanted to do more to liberate the city, they could have.
 
"They were going to allow Kobane to fall. It was only because of Western pressure that they let Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in from Iraq," Inbar said.
 
Changing ties with Kurds?
 
Asked if Turkey's attempts to make a breakthrough in the government's conflict with its Kurdish citizens might be a sign it is growing closer to the Kurds in Iraq and cooling its stance toward Kurdish militias fighting in Syria, Inbar was certain that they absolutely were not.
 
Regardless, Turkey has been making efforts to prop up the government in the Kurdish region of Iraq. A reported $500 million loan from Turkey is a sign they want the region stable, but Inbar says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants one thing out of Kurdistan.
 
"They want energy from the Kurdish area," he says. "This government is less afraid of Kurdish nationalism only because it is more focused on religious Islamic identity and not the ethnic Turkish identity that makes the conflict with Kurds so difficult."
 
Regardless, the money is not a sign they want a strong ally in Iraq to counter Iran - much less ISIS - but merely out of the stability that allows the Kurdish oil to flow. When asked about reports that Turkey has also sent weapons to the Kurdish region, he downplayed their significance while still being surprised that they delivered such aid to the Peshmerga.
 
"They do not want a strong Kurdish movement or government," asserts Inbar, while implying that any such aid would be out of character for Turkey. "Any weapons going to the Kurds would be surprising also because the Kurds have their own."
 
The claims that Turkey has sent small arms to Kurdistan were made by the same Kurdish Presidential Chief of Staff cited above, Fuad Hussein. No one has doubted the aid was sent, though as Hussein himself noted last November, Turkey had until then balked at the chance to send "heavy weapons."
 
Worries about Iran
 
While Saudi Arabia and Israel are concerned about both Iran and ISIS, a Turkey that might secretly be supportive of Islamic State would certainly be troubled by the speed with which Iran's proxies in Iraq are advancing in the ISIS-held Iraqi city of Tikrit.
 
"They do not say it openly, but they are also apprehensive about growing Iranian influence in the Middle East," said the professor. "It is not clear to what extent they're ready to do something on their own, but they might continue to strengthen anti-Assad forces." 
 
Turkey is certainly considering getting more invested in the emerging anti-Iran bloc. Recent visits to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf show that at the least the Arab states "want to use Turkey to help balance things out to Iran, at least to some extent."
 
But if Turkey wants to continue on its more assertive foreign policy path that emphasizes Turkish ambition and a Sunni Islamic identity, it might be inevitable they throw themselves into the enmity between the Iranians and the Saudis.
 
"Growing Turkish involvement is a clear departure from old Kamalist policies and they will certainly incur a cost for Turkey. But that is just another facet of the Islamization of the country," said Inbar.

Qatar Emir Meets Erdogan in Surprise Visit to Turkey

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 March 2015 09:35
Qatar Emir -ErdoganThe emir of Qatar on Thursday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for surprise talks in the capital Ankara, a Turkish presidential official said.
 
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was holding closed-door talks at Erdogan's newly built presidential palace in Ankara, the official told AFP, without elaborating further.
 
The meeting, which was not on Erdogan's official daily schedule, comes amid renewed tensions stemming from the presence of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.
 
Turkey and Qatar, both overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, have emerged as close allies in the last years during the conflict in Syria and Arab Spring uprisings.
 
They have closely aligned their policies on Syria and have also both intensively engaged with Palestinian terror organization Hamas.
 
Qatar has been one of the main supporters of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has allowed demonstrations against him to be held in its capital, Doha.
 
However, some have accused the country of backing jihadists, a charge denied on several occasions by officials in the oil rich Gulf state, which joined the US-led coalition against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
 
Vocal against the regime in Damascus, Turkey has similarly backed opposition rebels fighting to topple Assad and plays host to nearly two million refugees.
 
But it has remained reluctant to take robust action against the ISIS threat in a US-led coalition, further straining ties with Washington, its NATO ally.
 
United States special envoy John Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against ISIS, is due to travel to Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials after a visit to Italy, the US State Department said in a statement.

US, Turkey Agree to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:36
Syrian RebelsThe United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" on a deal to train and equip Syrian rebel forces, the State Department said Tuesday.
 
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
 
"We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," she said, without providing any further details about the train-and-equip program, which is expected to begin next month.
 
The announcement puts an end to months of difficult negotiations between allies Washington and Ankara on how to train Syrian rebel forces to eventually take on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last month, the Pentagon said it would send nearly 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as part of the effort.  
 
More than 400 trainers would be backed by a similar number of support troops that will provide help with logistics, communications and intelligence, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. 
 
The total troop number "for this mission could approach 1,000," Kirby said on January 16. "It might even exceed that."  
 
The US government hopes the effort can begin by late March, so the first rebel forces trained can be operational by year's end, according to the Pentagon.   
 
The goal is to train more than 5,000 Syrians in the first year of the program.
 
But such a deal with Turkey specifically raises some difficult questions about its own murky role in the Syrian conflict.
 
Turkey's Sunni Islamist government openly backs the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime, and has repeatedly called for international intervention to remove the Syrian dictator. 
 
But many - including Turkey's Kurdish community - says Ankara's support for the rebels is also geared towards a more sinister objective of snuffing-out Kurdish hopes for self-determination in the region. They accuse Turkey of directly supporting Islamist rebels including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and even ISIS in their battles against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
 
Turkey denies those charges, but has failed to explain how Islamist fighters and weapons destined for jihadists are able to flow freely through its borders into Syria.

Erdogan Slams Obama's Silence Over North Carolina Murders

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 14:42
obama-without-a-clueTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday criticized U.S. President Barack Obama over his silence following the killings of three young Muslims in North Carolina this week, Reuters reported.
 
Speaking alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a state visit to Mexico, Erdogan said the silence of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry was "telling" and they should take a position following such acts.
 
"If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you," Erdogan charged, according to Reuters.
 
The three Muslims were shot dead on Tuesday near the University of North Carolina campus in an incident police said was possibly a hate crime. The White House said on Wednesday it would await the results of the police investigation before commenting.
 
Newlywed Deah Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were gunned down on Tuesday.
 
Police charged the couple's neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, with murder. Investigators say initial findings indicate a dispute over parking prompted the shooting but they are looking into whether Hicks was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim.
 
Erdogan has been in “attack mode” recently as he becomes increasingly outspoken about what he sees as rising Islamophobia in the West.
 
In December, Erdogan slammed European countries for criticizing deteriorating press freedom in Turkey, saying they should instead try to find a solution for the increasing Islamophobia in Europe.
 
"We are not Europe's scapegoat," Erdogan said at the time, adding, "We are definitely not a country that Europe can point its finger at and scold. Instead of criticizing us, Europe should find a solution to increasing racism and Islamophobia.”
 
Erdogan became president in August after more than a decade as prime minister, but the opposition accuses him of transforming the state by imposing a gradual Islamization and riding roughshod over democracy.
 
Throughout his time in power there have been more signs of Turkey turning more extremist. In 2013, for example, the Turkish Parliament tightened restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages.
 
A year earlier, a Turkish court formally charged internationally known pianist and composer Fazil Say with insulting Islamic religious values, in comments he made on Twitter.
 
In December, Erdogan vowed to make lessons in the Arabic-alphabet Ottoman language compulsory in high schools, despite objections from secularists.
 
Last year, noted Reuters, Erdogan said his relations with Obama had become strained and that he no longer spoke directly with him as he was disappointed by a lack of U.S. action over the war in neighboring Syria. Erdogan said he instead spoke with Biden over issues such as Iraq.
 
Washington, for its part, has been critical of Erdogan at times, particularly over his continuous verbal attacks on Israel, and has also expressed concern over the growing anti-Semitism in Turkey.

Betrayer of Mossad to be Next Turkish Foreign Minister?

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 09:32
Hakan Fidan L Ahmet Davutoglu -ReutersTurkey's powerful intelligence chief, one of the most steadfast allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the man who exposed a Mossad network causing major fallout with Israel, has resigned to stand for election as a lawmaker in upcoming elections.
 
The resignation of Hakan Fidan, who has headed the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) since 2010, could herald a major reshuffle of the Turkish government after June 7 legislative elections, the official Anatolia news agency said Saturday.
 
Turkey's press have in recent days speculated feverishly that Fidan's standing as an MP would set him up to become the new foreign minister, reports AFP. His resignation has been accepted by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and will take effect on Tuesday.
 
Fidan has been in the driving seat of peace talks with Kurdish rebels as well as Turkey's campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The spy chief, now in his late 40s, was appointed to the head of the MIT by Erdogan in May 2010 after serving as his foreign policy adviser for three years.
 
"He is my secret-keeper, he is the state's secret-keeper," Erdogan said in 2012, describing Fidan as a "very well-trained bureaucrat."
 
Fidan is a hostile figure to Israel, having taken an action that soured relations between Turkey and the Jewish state even further than they were after the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which "humanitarian" activists tried to breach Israel's legal blockade of Gaza and then used lethal weapons to assault IDF soldiers.
 
A US media report in 2013 revealed that Fidan had blown the cover of a network of Mossad-run Iranians operating on Turkish soil, in what Israel termed a clear "act of betrayal" by the erstwhile ally.
 
Who is Fidan?
 
The spy chief previously has served in the Turkish armed forces as a non-commissioned officer and also worked at NATO's Germany-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.
 
A married father-of-three, he has a bachelor's degree in political science and government from the University of Maryland University College in the United States. He also earned a master's and a doctoral degree at Ankara's private Bilkent University.
 
He headed a public agency for development known as TIKA, which is active in the Turkic states and Africa but also in other Muslim countries, where an increasingly Islamic Turkey under Erdogan's lead has been trying to gain a foothold as part of its strategy to become a
regional power.
 
Before he was appointed to MIT, Fidan worked in Erdogan's office as a deputy undersecretary and is also known to have worked closely with Davutoglu.
 
Analysts have long speculated that Erdogan is grooming his protege for a top role in government, even up to the post of prime minister, and that path seems to be developing with a likely appointment as foreign minister.
 
Fidan held several hours of closed door meetings with Erdogan and Davutoglu in Ankara last week before resigning as spy chief to enter Turkish politics.
 
Up until the election, Fidan will work as an adviser to Davutoglu, the Radikal online daily said.
 
Marc Pierini, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Center, said Fidan could boast links with the president, a powerful past as head of MIT and also sheer name recognition.
 
"Hakan Fidan, if elected, will rank among the very top names of the ruling party in the new legislature and will be part of the closest circle of power," he told AFP.
 
Fidan was also instrumental in controversial talks that secured the release in September of almost 50 Turkish diplomats, staff and their families who were kidnapped by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists at the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq.
 
They were reportedly released in exchange for jihadist prisoners but the details have remained unclear due to a media blackout typical of Fidan's covert behavior.
 
A Turkish prosecutor sought to summon him in February 2012 for holding secret talks with Kurdish rebels in Oslo, an episode that started Erdogan's long running battle with US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
 
Dawn of Turkish dictatorship?
 
Under Turkish law, state officials wishing to stand in the elections must resign their posts by February 10.
 
The election is seen as a critical moment in Turkish modern political history, with Erdogan seeking a crushing majority for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded.
 
This would allow the AKP to change the constitution to give Erdogan, who became president in August after over a decade as premier, sweeping new powers as head of state.
 
Erdogan said on Friday that he wanted 400 supportive lawmakers in the 550-MP parliament to create the "new Turkey" that he plans.
 
In a curious sign of dissent at Fidan's entering politics, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc questioned the need for Fidan to leave the MIT, saying he had been doing the work of a "superman."
 
"Personally, I think seeing a person, who was assigned the duty of superman, entering the parliament to become an MP is a waste," he told the CNN-Turk television channel, quoted by Anatolia.
 
Should Fidan become foreign minister, it is likely the post would gain far greater prominence than it has under incumbent Mevlut Cavusoglu, something that could trouble the West at a time of prickly ties with Ankara.
 
But Pierini of the Carnegie Centre cautioned: "It is too early to say if his eventual presence in a future government will have a decisive influence on Turkey's foreign policy."

Turkey's FM Won't Attend Germany Conference 'Because of Israel'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:23
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut CavusogluTurkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Friday said he had cancelled a plan to attend the Munich security conference in protest at the inclusion of Israeli representatives in a session on the Middle East.
 
"I was going to participate in the conference but we decided not to after they included the Israeli representatives in the Middle East session," Cavusoglu told the Anatolia news agency from Berlin.
 
He emphasized that the decision should not be seen as a move against Germany, stressing, "Our relationship with Germany is not limited with the Munich conference.”
 
Cavusoglu’s announcement is the latest step in the deterioration in Israel-Turkey relations, which have steadily deteriorated over the past several years and reached their lowest point following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
 
The Marmara ship, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.
 
The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 
 
When Israel refused Turkey’s demand that it apologize for the incident and compensate the victims’ families, Turkey cut ties with the Jewish state.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later apologized to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister who has since been elected President, over the Marmara incident at the urging of the United States, and the sides were supposed to enter talks on compensation for the victims, but those seem to have stalled.
 
Erdogan, however, has never stopped his verbal attacks against Israel.  He recently blasted Netanyahu for "daring" to attend an anti-terror solidarity march in Paris after the attacks in that city.
 
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, followed suit, first claiming that Netanyahu had committed crimes against humanity and following that up by accusing him of terrorism.
 
Responding to Cavusoglu’s announcement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Friday evening that Turkey’s latest move is proof that apologizing to it over the Marmara incident was the wrong thing to do.
 
"The statement proves once again how big a mistake the decision to apologize to Turkey was," Liberman wrote on his Facebook page.
 
“As long as current leadership headed by Erdogan and his friends controls Turkey, there is no chance for rehabilitation of relations between the two countries since Erdogan's Turkey is a country that only wants to attack and bash Israel, and we must conduct ourselves in accordance with and protect Israel’s interests,” he added.

Turkish Official Uses Holocaust Ceremony to Attack Israel

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 29 January 2015 22:48
Ergenekon networkThe speaker of the Turkish parliament took advantage of a ceremony honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day to attack Israel over its “massacres” in Gaza.
 
Tuesday’s ceremony in Ankara marked the first time that Turkey marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was recognized by the UN in a 2005 resolution.
 
According to the Hurriyet newspaper, the speaker, Cemil Cicek, said at the ceremony that commemorating the tragedies of the past, particularly the Holocaust, does not mean the killings of more than 2,000 children and women by Israeli security forces should be ignored.
 
“I hope the pain suffered during this war will never be repeated and will constitute a lesson for future generations. Humanity, unfortunately, was not able to prevent such an atrocity at that time. I believe everyone and every country will draw conscientious lessons from this and will exert efforts in order to not experience such inhumane tragedies again,” he said.
 
Cicek said that it would be “impossible” to bring peace to the Middle East “unless this conflict is settled and an independent Palestine is formed.”
 
“In these days when we commemorate the pains of the past, nobody can ignore the massacring of more than 2,000 children and women during the latest Gaza attack. Therefore, I want to say that we should seek a holistic settlement to the problem if we are to find a solution, by looking at the greater picture,” he added.
 
Cicek also touched on the aftermath of the recent Paris terror attacks, saying that hate speech and Islamophobia were a great danger and describing as "unacceptable" statements that incriminate all Muslims for the attacks.
 
“Members of a certain religion cannot be blamed because of the names or symbols that terrorists use,” he said, calling on "intellectuals, politicians and academics" to draw attention to this point.
 
“Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other sorts of racism, discrimination and xenophobia are maladies that are fed from the same swamp. It is not possible to fight against any of them without drying the swamp itself,” he added.
 
Responding to Cicek’s attacks on Israel during the ceremony, Israel said the Turkish speaker had “misused” the commemoration.
 
Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told Reuters that Cicek "unjustly and harshly criticized (Israel) at a moment that is absolutely inappropriate."
 
"Israel expresses its disappointment that a solemn event of an international nature dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust victims was misused in order to criticize Israeli policies," Nahshon said.
 
The Holocaust commemoration ceremony - and Cicek’s remarks - come amid continuing tensions and concerns over anti-Semitism in Turkey.
 
American officials expressed deep concern in recent months over the rising levels of anti-Semitism in Turkey. A report late last year revealed that young Turkish Jews were leaving the country in droves as a result of the anti-Semitism.
 
Turkey has seen a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes since the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP party. Although violent attacks are still relatively rare, anti-Jewish incitement has become commonplace.
 
Most recently, the governor of the northwestern province of Edirne was accused of inciting hatred towards the country's Jewish community, after suggesting a synagogue be turned into a museum as a reprisal for Israel's policies over the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
 
Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both recently verbally attacked Israel, with Davutoglu even accusing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of committing crimes against humanity comparable to those behind the Paris attacks.

Turkey to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:29
Holocaust memorial0For the first time, Turkey will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, scheduled for next Tuesday.
 
The English-language Turkish BGNNews reported on Thursday that a ceremony marking the day will be held at the Bilkent University in Ankara and will be attended by the chairman of the Turkish Parliament, Cemil Çiçek.
 
The program will feature Turkish photographer Alberto Modiano’s exhibition entitled “Holocaust Icons”, the report said.
 
January 27 was recognized as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in a resolution in the United Nations in 2005.
 
News that Turkey will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day comes amid continuing tensions and concerns over anti-Semitism in Turkey.
 
American officials expressed deep concern in recent months over the rising levels of anti-Semitism in Turkey. A report late last year revealed that young Turkish Jews were leaving the country in droves as a result of the anti-Semitism.
 
Turkey has seen a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes since the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP party. Although violent attacks are still relatively rare, anti-Jewish incitement has become commonplace.
 
Most recently, the governor of the northwestern province of Edirne was accused of inciting hatred towards the country's Jewish community, after suggesting a synagogue be turned into a museum as a reprisal for Israel's policies over the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
 
Amid all those concerns, however, Erdogan took the time last month to send Turkish Jews a greeting for the holiday of Hanukkah.
 
The Turkish president said Turkey would carefully preserve its rich cultural and historical heritage, while highlighting that Turkey’s Jewish citizens were “the fundamental elements of Turkey.”

3,000 in Turkey Linked to ISIS

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 11:42
Jihadis from ISIS in Mosul Iraq fileAround 3,000 people in Turkey are believed to be linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, a Turkish intelligence report said on Saturday, warning of possible attacks by extremists.  
 
The report called for enhanced surveillance of the 3,000 people, including identifying their rank within the extremist group or whether they were active within it, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.
 
A "red alert" had also been sent to security units warning of possible attacks on the embassies of Western countries by ISIS terrorists following last week's deadly Islamist attacks in France, the report said.
 
Security at the diplomatic missions had been increased to the maximum level, the report said, adding that NATO facilities and Western nationals were also potential targets.
 
And it warned of possible bomb attacks "anywhere and anytime" in Turkey by "sleeper cells."
 
Most vehicles stolen in Turkey ended up in the hands of ISIS jihadists, it said, warning that they could be used in car bomb attacks in the country.  
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said up to 700 Turkish nationals had joined ISIS.
 
He added that Turkey had barred entry to around 7,250 people from abroad who were planning to join ISIS and said 1,160 would-be jihadists were also deported.  
 
Turkey has long been accused of not doing enough to stem the flow of jihadists seeking to join ISIS, which has captured large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. It has also been accused of actively aiding Al Qaeda's Nusra Front.
 
The Turkish government said on Monday that Hayat Boumeddiene, the wanted partner of one of the  gunmen involved in last week's Paris attacks, crossed into Syria via Turkey days before the assaults, amid reports that she may have joined ISIS.
 
A female suicide bomber killed herself and a policeman last week in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district, home to the city's greatest concentration of historical monuments.
 
Turkish authorities have so far refrained from naming the suicide bomber but reports in Turkey and Russia on Friday identified her as Diana Ramazanova, 18, from the northern Caucasus region of Dagestan.
 
She was said to have been the widow of a Norwegian jihadist who died fighting for IS in Syria.

Turkish PM: Israel's 'Provocations' Cause Muslim Radicalization

Category: News
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 23:06
Ahmet DavutogluTurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is not letting up with his verbal attacks against Israel.
 
A day after he said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had committed crimes against humanity comparable to those behind the Paris attacks, Davutgolu on Friday accused his Israeli counterpart of terrorism and further said that Israeli "provocations" such as the bombardment of Gaza were contributing to radicalization in the Muslim world.
 
"He himself killed, his army killed children in the playground. They killed our citizens and an American citizen in international waters. This is terrorism. Nobody can argue about Israeli aggression in Jerusalem in the al-Aqsa mosque," Davutoglu told Reuters in an interview.
 
"These provocations create frustration in the Muslim world and are becoming one of the reasons why these radical trends are emerging," he charged.
 
Davutoglu’s verbal assault on Israel came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Netanyahu for "daring" to attend the weekend's anti-terror solidarity march in Paris after the attacks.
 
Netanyahu shot back Wednesday that Erdogan's "shameful remarks must be repudiated by the international community."
 
Turkey's relations with Israel - once a key partnership for the Jewish state with a Muslim nation - have steadily deteriorated under Erdogan's rule.
 
The Turkish president is known for his angry, and oftentimes anti-Semitic outbursts at the Jewish state, declaring in July that Israel had "surpassed Hitler in barbarism."
 
He has also been accused of inciting against Jews in general; anti-Semitism in Turkey has risen considerably in the years since his Islamist AKP party took power, prompting many young Turkish Jews to leave the country - often to Israel.
 
Erdogan stepped his verbal attacks on Israel after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when the Marmara ship, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.
 
The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 

Syria: Turkey is Allowing Terrorists to Freely Cross the Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 05:34
IHH 00The Syrian government on Monday accused Turkey of allowing "terrorists" to freely cross the border, after Ankara said the wife of one of the Paris attackers entered Syria from Turkey earlier this month, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
 
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that the woman, Hayat Boumedienne, arrived in Turkey from Madrid on January 2 before crossing into Syria on January 8, the day after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that Turkey had aided terrorists who "shed the blood of Syrians and innocent people worldwide".
 
Damascus called on the international community "to stop Turkey's destructive policy," as it put it.
 
Boumeddiene, 26, is the lone remaining suspect wanted in connection with the France terrorism spree, which included a shooting rampage at the Charlie Hebdo satirical news magazine on Wednesday, the killing of a French policewoman Thursday, and a dual hostage crisis in a printing company and a kosher supermarket Friday. 
 
CCTV footage which surfaced on Monday corroborates remarks from Turkish officials Saturday night, who said that Boumeddiene had arrived in Turkey and then made her way to Syria - and that during routine screening of passengers, the couple were flagged by Turkey's Risk Assessment Center and a decision made to maintain surveillance on their movements after landing. 
 
Syria’s comments are a reflection of the deterioration of ties between Syria and Turkey ever since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
 
Turkey is a strong backer of Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad, whose government views all of its armed opponents as "terrorists."
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has several times called on Assad to resign. In August of 2013 Erdogan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the goal of any military intervention in Syria should be to topple Assad’s regime.
 
The heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria have led to several cross-border incidents, including the explosion of a Syrian mortar in Turkish territory, which killed five civilians.
 
The Turkish army responded by attacking several targets in Syria. Turkey's parliament later gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.
 
In another incident, Turkey intercepted a Syrian Airbus A320 flying from Moscow to Damascus and escorted it to the Esenboga Airport in Ankara.
 
Turkey later claimed it had seized "objectionable cargo" aboard the Syrian passenger plane. Syria, in turn, accused Turkey of lying.

Turkish PM: There Should Also be a Rally Against 'Islamophobia'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:04
Ahmet DavutogluTurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday hailed the unprecedented rally against terror in Paris as a strong message to the world, but added he would expect a similar reaction to attacks on Muslims and “Islamophobia”, according to AFP.
 
Davutoglu joined dozens of other world leaders at the march in Paris to mourn the victims of the three days of terror by Islamists that began with the slaughter of 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
“It is a message to the whole world that everyone must confront the threat of terror,” Davutoglu was quoted as having told reporters at the Turkish embassy in Paris in televised comments.
 
“We would expect the same sensitivities to be shown to attacks on mosque or Islamophobia,” he added after attending the rally which mobilized over a million people in Paris alone.
 
He praised a comment by French President Francois Hollande that “these fanatics (who carried out the attacks) have nothing to do with Muslim religion” as being of the “utmost importance”.
 
He said that the attackers had not grown up in Muslim countries but “in Paris” and it was this environment that should be examined, according to AFP.
 
“Turkey’s stance is principled and we will keep up this attitude,” he said. “Turkey has the same values around the world as far as terror is concerned. There can be no double standards.”
 
He added that Turkey would continue to raise its voice against terrorism of all forms including what he described as “state terrorism” against the Palestinians and in Syria.
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in the past slammed European countries for criticizing deteriorating press freedom in Turkey, saying that they should instead try to find a solution for what he claimed was “the increasing Islamophobia” in Europe.
 
A staunch supporter of the Islamist Hamas terrorist group, Erdogan has often blasted the Jewish state over its military operations against terrorists based in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.
 
Under Erdogan's rule, and particularly in recent years, Turkey has become home to one of the most active Hamas branches in the world. Among the Hamas terrorist masterminds currently based there is Salah al-Arouri, who claimed responsibility for ordering the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June of this year
 
AFP noted that there had been controversy on social media over Davutoglu’s attendance at the rally in Paris, with critics saying Turkey’s record on press freedom meant his attendance was far from welcome.
 
The presence of Davutoglu, one of the top Muslim leaders to attend the rally, was seen in Turkey as hugely symbolic given that Charlie Hebdo had often lampooned the Prophet Mohammed.

Hamas Calls United States 'Rude and Racist'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 05:26
Obama HamasThe United States last week expressed its dissatisfaction over Turkey’s contacts with Hamas, and the terror group took exception.
 
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in her daily press briefing on Thursday that Washington's position on Hamas has not changed and classified the group as a "designated foreign terrorist organization that continues to engage in terrorist activity."
 
Psaki's remarks came after she was asked about a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is welcome to Turkey whenever he wants.
 
Cavusoglu’s comments came after it was reported that Qatar had expelled Mashaal and that he was considering moving to Turkey instaed.
 
Hamas condemned the State Department’s criticism as "rude and racist," expressing its belief that Ankara would not be affected by such positions.
 
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated, according to Hamas’s website, that the U.S. position was proof that Washington is "the archenemy of the nation's issues."
 
Mashaal recently visited Turkey where he praised the country as a "source of power" for all Muslims.
 
"A democratic, stable and developed Turkey is a source of power for all Muslims," he said in an address to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) annual congress in the conservative central Anatolian city of Konya.
 
Mashaal said a "strong Turkey means a strong Jerusalem, a strong Palestine," voicing hopes to "liberate Palestine and Jerusalem."
 
Under Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, and particularly in recent years, Turkey has become home to one of the most active Hamas branches in the world.
 
Among the Hamas terrorist masterminds currently based there is Salah al-Arouri, who claimed responsibility for ordering the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June of this year.

Hamas Leader Praises Turkey for Support

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 December 2014 19:45
Khaled Meshaal0Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on Saturday praised Turkey as a "source of power" for all Muslims in gratitude to Turkey's leaders for supporting the "Palestinian cause".
 
"A democratic, stable and developed Turkey is a source of power for all Muslims," Meshaal said in an address to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) annual congress in the conservative central Anatolian city of Konya.
 
Meshaal said a "strong Turkey means a strong Jerusalem, a strong Palestine," voicing hopes to "liberate Palestine and Jerusalem," according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
 
His brief address was interrupted repeatedly by cheering crowds in the hall waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting: "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)" and "Down with Israel!"
 
The Hamas chief often shows up at the ruling party's events. He also attended the AKP's congress in 2012 when Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was serving as prime minister.  
 
Current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in his speech said Turkey's red flag featuring a crescent with a star was a "symbol of the innocent in the world."  
 
"God is witness... we will make this red flag a symbol of the innocent. This red flag will fly side by side with the flags of Palestine, free Syria and all other innocents' flags anywhere in the world," he told the congress. 
 
Turkey's leaders, in particular Erdogan, are known for their angry outbursts against Israel. A staunch supporter of the Islamist Hamas terrorist group, Erdogan has often blasted the Jewish state over its military operations against terrorists based in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.
 
Under Erdogan's rule, and particularly in recent years, Turkey has become home to one of the most active Hamas branches in the world. Among the Hamas terrorist masterminds currently based there is Salah al-Arouri, who claimed responsibility for ordering the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June of this year.
 
In response, Israel has turned to NATO - which Turkey is a member of - to take steps against Ankara for its open support for terrorism.
 
AFP contributed to this report.

Erdogan to Europe: Don't Criticize Us, Fight Islamophobia

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 27 December 2014 19:20
Erdogan and Hamas leader MashaalTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday slammed European countries for criticizing deteriorating press freedom in Turkey, Reuters reported, saying they should instead try to find a solution for what the increasing Islamophobia in Europe.
 
Turkish police earlier this month raided media outlets close to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of forming a 'parallel state' to undermine his rule and orchestrating a graft scandal targeting his inner circle.
 
The European Union, which Turkey has been seeking to join for decades, said the media raids ran counter to European values, a criticism already dismissed by Erdogan. On Friday, the President repeated his discontent, with a visibly harsher tone.
 
"We are not Europe's scapegoat," Erdogan told a symposium of civil servants.
 
"We are definitely not a country that Europe can point its finger at and scold. Instead of criticizing us, Europe should find a solution to increasing racism and Islamophobia," he charged.
 
Erdogan made reference to an incident in the German city of Dormagen, where ultra nationalists drew Nazi signs on the walls of a mosque construction, according to reports in Turkish local media earlier this week.
 
Erdogan, whose AK Party was elected in 2002, introduced many democratic reforms in his first years in power and curbed army involvement in politics.
 
NATO allies often cited Turkey as an example of a successful Muslim democracy, but more recently critics have accused Erdogan of intolerance of dissent.
 
The crackdown came almost a year to the day after Erdogan's government was rocked by stunning corruption allegations that the authorities denied and blamed on Gulen.
 
The corruption probe, opened on December 17, 2013, saw the arrests of dozens of leading businessmen and political figures close to Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time.
 
Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came under mounting pressure during that time, especially when audio recordings were leaked in which Erdogan and his son allegedly discuss how to hide vast sums of money.
 
In response to the leaked recordings, Erdogan threatened to ban websites such as YouTube and Facebook.
 
His rant against Europe came two days after police in Turkey arrested a 16-year-old student on charges of insulting Erdogan.
 
The teen was arrested on Wednesday after criticizing the AKP during a speech at a student protest in the central Anatolian city of Konya. However, reports on Friday indicatedhe had been released.

Erdogan Vows to Make Ottoman Turkish Compulsory in Schools

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 11:07
Erdogan and Hamas leader MashaalTurkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to make lessons in the Arabic-alphabet Ottoman language compulsory in high schools, despite objections from secularists, AFP reports.
 
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, abolished the Ottoman language in 1928, replacing its Arabic alphabet with a Latin one.
 
He also purged the language of many of its Arabic, Persian and Greek words to create a new "pure" Turkish closer to the language people spoke.
 
Critics claimed Erdogan's vow to reintroduce teaching of the language "no matter what they say" was another bid to roll back Ataturk's secular reforms, which were based on a strict separation between religion and state.
 
Turkey's National Education Council, largely made up of members backed by Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, voted over the weekend to make classes compulsory at religious high schools and an option at regular high schools, noted AFP.
 
The council also voted to ban bartending classes at tourism training high schools.
 
Erdogan argued the lessons were necessary to restore Turks' severed ties with "our roots", with most unable to read the tombstones of their ancestors.
 
"There are those who do not want this to be taught. This is a great danger. Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language will be learnt and taught in this country," Erdogan told a religious council meeting in Ankara.
 
"It's not a foreign language. It's a form of Turkish that will never age. Therefore it will be taught no matter what they say," he declared.
 
And in one particularly emotive phrase, Erdogan compared Ataturk's abolition of the language to cutting Turkey's "jugular".
 
"History rests in those gravestones. Can there be a bigger weakness than not knowing this? This (departure from the Ottoman language) was equal to the severing of our jugular veins," Erdogan said, according to AFP.
 
Ottoman Turkish evolved as the administrative language of the 600-year-old multi-ethnic Ottoman empire, on whose ruins Ataturk created Turkey's modern republic.
 
But even at the time of the empire's collapse after WWI, it was mostly unintelligible to all but a tiny ruling elite.
 
"Hans in Germany can learn it and study the works (in the Ottoman language)," Erdogan said, citing a typical German male name. "But unfortunately this isn't the case here."
 
In comments which will give ammunition to critics who claim he is becoming more overtly Islamist, Erdogan added, "This religion has a guardian. And this guardian will protect this religion till the end."
 
Supporters of compulsory Ottoman language lessons say they are necessary so Turks can maintain their links to the past after the brutal cleavage of Ataturk's radical reforms.
 
The decisions need the approval of the education ministry to take effect, but the ministry has in the past implemented the majority of them.
 
Erdogan, who took over Turkey's presidency in August after serving as prime minister for more than a decade, has long been accused of seeking to impose religion on Turkey's mainly Muslim but officially secular society, as well as Islamizing the education system.
 
Throughout his time in power there have been more signs of Turkey turning more extremist. In 2013, the Turkish Parliament tightened restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages.
 
A year earlier, a Turkish court formally charged internationally known pianist and composer Fazil Say with insulting Islamic religious values, in comments he made on Twitter.
 
Previously, Turkey's Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians, under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity. The government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.
 
In another incident in 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.
 
Two weeks ago Erdogan stirred up controversy when he said women cannot be treated as equal to men.
 
"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," he told a women’s conference in Istanbul, adding, "It is against nature."
 
Women cannot do all the work done by men, he added, because it was against their "delicate nature".
 
"Our religion regards motherhood very highly. Feminists don't understand that, they reject motherhood," he charged, adding that women needed equal respect rather than equality.

Iran Warns Turkey Against Fighting ISIS

Category: News
Created on Friday, 03 October 2014 21:40
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad ZarifIran on Thursday warned neighboring Turkey against doing anything that might aggravate tensions in the region, AFP reports.
 
The warning came after the parliament in Ankara voted to authorize military intervention in Syria and Iraq.
 
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke by telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and "criticized the method chosen to fight terrorism, expressing concern about any action that might aggravate the situation," state news agency IRNA reported.
 
"In the current situation, the countries of the region must act with responsibility and avoid aggravating" matters, he added.
 
Earlier Thursday, Turkish MPs voted to allow the use of armed forces against jihadists of the “Islamic State” (IS or ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq, both of which border Turkey.
 
However, the one-year mandate is very broad in scope and in no way commits Turkey to sending troops into Syria and Iraq.
 
The government has said it will decide on concrete steps after winning authorization, with many analysts expecting a cautious approach.
 
Iran supports President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria's more than three-year-old civil war, while Turkey backs rebels seeking to overthrow him.
 
A coalition led by the United States, having already launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, has also begun airstrikes against the group’s targets in Syria.
 
ISIS, for its part, has been eagerly uploading to the internet footage of interviews with its fighters saying they remain unfazed by the bombing - and vowing revenge against the U.S.

Egypt Set to Boycott Turkey Over Muslim Brotherhood Support

Category: News
Created on Monday, 29 September 2014 12:36
Erdogan R Mohamed Mursi  AFPOfficials in Egypt are demanding an immediate and total boycott of Turkish goods, and even a breakoff of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Egyptian media reports said. The call is the latest chapter in the steady and ongoing decline in relations between the two countries, with Turkey accusing Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of everything to “illegitimacy” to “terrorism” to “war crimes.”
 
The sour relations between the two countries have their roots in the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi by the al-Sisi led Egyptian army several years ago. Since then, Turkey has slammed al-Sisi as being a “dictator” who is “persecuting Muslims.” Just last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would welcome seven top Muslim Brotherhood figures being forced to leave Qatar, indicating his strong ties with the Islamist group - and by extension with its Gaza offshoot Hamas.
 
"In the event that they request to come to Turkey, then necessary investigations will be carried out. ...If there are no obstacles, the mandatory convenience provided to everyone will also be provided to them," Erdogan said on returning from an official trip to Qatar, reports the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
 
"They can come to Turkey just like any other foreign visitor, if there are no problems," added Erdogan, in a position contrary to that of most Arab states which have supported Egypt's crackdown on the group.
 
Tensions between the two countries were exacerbated during Operation Protective Edge, when, according to Turkey, Egypt took an active role against Hamas, assisting Israel in battling the Gaza terror group, and saying he could not be relied upon to negotiate a truce with Israel. "Is Sisi a party (to a ceasefire)? Sisi is a tyrant himself," Erdogan was quoted by the AFP news agency as having told reporters. "He is not different from the others," he said, adding that it was Egypt's current rulers who were blocking humanitarian aid channels to Gaza.
 
Egypt, for its part, has had enough, reports in the Egyptian media said Monday, and the government was seriously considering a total economic boycott of Turkey. In a statement, Egypt's Foreign Ministry slammed a speech by Erdogan at the World Economic Forum last week, in which he repeated many of his accusations against al-Sisi and his government.
 
Turkey, the statement said, “has been suffering over the past 12 years of Erdogan's rule of non-democratic practices with all disregard to human rights.” The statement also denounced Erdogan's restrictions on freedom of expression “as well as the use of excessive force against political activists and peaceful protesters, citing the closure of social networks such as Twitter in a flagrant breach of the freedom of opinion as well as restrictions on press and judiciary, corruption charges as well as unjust sentences against journalists and writers.
 
“Such recurrent practices and non-democratic acts could never give Erdogan any ethical or political justification for speaking about democracy, but they only reflect a personal ideology for the Turkish leader who has illusions about restoring the glory of the Ottoman Empire away from the national interests of his country and people,” it added.

Erdogan: Turkey Can't Stay Out of Fight Against IS

Category: News
Created on Monday, 29 September 2014 11:37
Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that his country cannot stay out of the international coalition fighting the “Islamic State” (IS), AFP reported.
 
Turkey has for months frustrated the West with its cautious position against IS, but there appears to have been a sea change in its policy following Erdogan's trip last week to the United States, the report noted.
 
"We will hold discussions with our relevant institutions this week. We will definitely be where we need to be," Erdogan said in a keynote address to a World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul.
 
"We cannot stay out of this," he added.
 
IS terrorists have now advanced in Syria to just a few kilometers from Turkey, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing across the border.
 
Turkey has so far taken in over 160,000 refugees who fled the IS assault around the town of Ain al-Arab, but Erdogan said it would be better if they could live safely in their own country.
 
He also reaffirmed his call for a buffer zone and no-fly zone within Syria to protect Turkey's borders and the refugees. He also indicated ground forces could be needed.
 
"It is not possible only from the air, there is also a ground dimension," he said, according to AFP.
 
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced on Sunday that the government would send motions requesting extended mandates for military action in Iraq and Syria on Monday.
 
In a hugely rare intervention, Turkey's top general, Necdet Ozel, will speak to the cabinet on Tuesday, Davutoglu added. Parliament will then debate the mandates on Thursday, paving the way for military action, although what that will involve is still not clear.
 
U.S. and allied forces from Arab states have been bombing IS positions in Syria since last week, after the U.S. expanded its air campaign against the terrorist group; until then the operation had been focused on blunting the Islamists' advances in only Iraq.
 
Erdogan, who has long pressed for the ouster of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad, indicated that he did not think military action would be enough to thwart IS and long-term solutions were needed to solve political problems in Syria and Iraq.
 
"Dropping bombs from the air only brings a temporary solution," he said, adding that coordinated action needs to be taken against IS in both Syria and Iraq, attacking Britain for only planning strikes on targets inside Iraq.
 
"Instead of handling it this way, we should send our Syrian brothers to their own country through a safe zone," Erdogan said, according to AFP.
 
Ankara has justified its low-key role in the fight against IS by saying its hands were tied by concerns over the fate of dozens of Turkish hostages abducted by IS in Iraq.
 
These hostages were freed last weekend, prompting what Erdogan has acknowledged as a major change in Turkish policy.
 
While airstrikes in Iraq - coupled with a ground coalition made up of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iranian-backed Shia militias and the Iraqi army - have succeeded in slowing down and even halting IS's advances there, airstrikes in Syria appear to have been ineffective thus far.
 
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Unit (YPG) are fighting tooth-and-nail to keep IS from seizing the Kurdish town of Kobane, which sits on the Syrian-Turkish border. Coalition airstrikes in Syria have targeted both IS's de facto capital of Raqqa, as well as the IS front lines with the YPG, but those latter strikes appear to have had no noticeable effect on the battle, with IS now moving to within just three miles of the town.
 
Kurdish leaders have warned of a renewed threat of genocide should IS gain control of Kobane.

European Court: Mandatory Islam Classes 'Coercive'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:16
Crown-Hills-madrasaPrime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday denounced a European court ruling against Turkey's compulsory religion courses, calling them a necessary tool to fight Islamic radicalization.
 
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that compulsory religion courses in Turkish public schools violated educational freedoms, and called on Turkey to reform its school curriculum.
 
"If proper religion is not taught, it produces unhealthy and incorrect religious information that leads to the radicalization seen in our
neighboring countries," Davutoglu said during a joint conference with the education minister in Ankara.
 
Davutoglu was apparently referring to the extremist Islamic State group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria and is holding 49 Turks abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq in June.
 
He rejected claims that his Islamic-rooted government was using religion courses as a tool of coercion on children whose parents do not practice Turkey's dominant Sunni Islam.
 
"In some countries students are even taken to church as part of religion and morality classes. It's impossible for us to ignore this," he said. "Just like I should know about Marxism despite the fact that I am not a Marxist, it is necessary for an atheist to have knowledge of religious culture."
 
He said, however, that Ankara would review the European court ruling.
 
The case reviewed at the Strasbourg involved a complaint from members of Turkey's Alevi minority, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
 
The Alevi parents of a student argued that the compulsory religious courses promoted a Sunni understanding of Islam.
 
"The Turkish education system was still inadequately equipped to ensure respect for parents' convictions," the court said, ordering that Ankara "remedy the situation without delay".
 
The ECHR told Turkey to allow students to "be exempted from religion and ethics classes without their parents having to disclose their own religious or philosophical conviction."
 
Alevis, who follow a moderate form of Islam and make up around a quarter of Turkey's 76 million citizens, have been strong supporters of Turkey's secular system, even though they frequently complain of official discrimination.
 
In Turkey, only Christian and Jewish students can be exempted from religion and morality classes.

Islamic State Conquering Syria's Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 19:09
Islamic State terroristThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has been conquering massive swathes of Syria and Iraq, and recently extended a foothold in Lebanon - now the push of the group's over 30,000 jihadsts has brought them to the very gates of Turkey in Syria's north.
 
Fierce fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces Thursday night ended with the jihadists conquering 21 northern Syrian villages in 24 hours.
 
The ISIS fighters also beseiged the Kurdish city Ayn al-Arab (Kobani in Kurdish) located a mere 12 miles from the Turkish border, reports Al Jazeera as cited by Walla!.
 
The reported added that ISIS conquered large parts of the nearby city Jarabulus, also located right by the Turkish border on the Euphrates River.
 
In conquering the villages IS reportedly attacked with heavy weaponry including tanks, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
In response to the encroaching ISIS jihadists around 3,000 Syrian Kurds, mostly women and children, fled to the Turkish border on Thursday night, where they were left waiting Friday on the Syrian side opposite the Turkish village of Dikmetas near Ayn al-Arab, reports Reuters.
 
Their fears of the approaching ISIS terrorists are well founded, given the brutal torture the terrorists have been subjecting women and children to in the region.
 
"We're ready to help our brothers who are building up at the borders regardless of their ethnicity, religion and sect. But our priority is to deliver aid within Syria's borders," said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday night, noting his aversion to letting in the Kurdish refugees.
 
Hours later on Friday Turkey finally relented, letting hundreds of Syrian Kurdish refugees into the country. Their entry was reportedly broadcast on Turkish TV.
 
The decision to temporarily keep out the Kurds may raise eyebrows given the fact that Turkey reportedly let 21 Gaza residents wounded in Operation Protective Edge into the country Thursday night for medical treatment, according to the Turkish Anatol as cited by Walla!.
 
Several senior Turkish officials reportedly were presented at the airport in Turkey to greet the wounded.
 
Some of Turkey's opposition to letting in the Syrian Kurds may be due to the fact that Kurds in Turkey have been at odds with the government, pushing for their own state through the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which Turkey has labelled a terrorist organization.
 
On Thursday night the PKK called for Turkish Kurds to help defending the Kurdish towns in northern Syria, but apparently they were denied access on the border as well.
 
It is worth noting that Turkey has recently been mulling a buffer zone with Syria so as to prevent ISIS incursions.

IHH Confirms New Gaza Flotilla

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 August 2014 08:00
WeaponsThe Turkish group IHH said on Monday it would send a new flotilla of ships to “break Israel's siege of Gaza”, four years after the deadly storming of its vessel by Israeli commandos, according to AFP.
 
IHH, which organized the first flotilla, said in a statement quoted by the news agency that activists from 12 countries had met in Istanbul and taken the decision to send the ships "in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza."
 
"As most governments are complicit, the responsibility falls on civil society to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza," it said.
 
The IHH would hold a press conference on Tuesday, it added. The group is considered to be close to the Turkish government.
 
Monday’s statement comes several weeks after the head of the IHH announced that his organization is planning a new flotilla and has embarked on legal procedures and paperwork required to obtain a permit for the trip.
 
In the 2010 flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.
 
The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the IHH members on board.
 
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 
 
That incident caused a breakdown in Israel’s relations with Turkey, as Turkey demanded an apology and compensation from Israel, which refused.
 
Since the 2010 flotilla, the IHH has been accused of secretly funding the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. In January, the offices of the IHH were raided by the Turkish anti-terror police.

Abbas, in Turkey, Urges Approval of Gaza Ceasefire

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 19 July 2014 12:03
Abbas in TurkeyPalestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas on Friday urged support for an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal in Gaza, as he held talks with Turkey's leaders on a brief stopover after a visit to Cairo.
 
"Israel accepted the ceasefire proposal. We (the Palestinians) must also accept it so that we can put the Israeli side at unease," Abbas told a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul in comments translated from Arabic into Turkish.
 
Egypt-mediated talks to end the escalating Gaza Strip conflict have faltered amid Israeli plans to widen its ground operation Gaza, a Palestinian territory ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.
 
Abbas voiced support for the ceasefire proposal which he said was floated by "our Egyptian brothers at our request".
 
Turkey, a staunch critic of the Israeli assaults in Gaza, is pressing for involvement of Hamas in any negotiations for a ceasefire.
 
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood from power last year, has sought to isolate Hamas and initially demanded that the militants unconditionally accept its truce.

Turkey Threatens Retaliation if Citizens in Iraq Are Harmed

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 15 June 2014 09:28
Prime Minister Tayyip ErdoganTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Wednesday that Ankara will retaliate if any of its citizens and diplomats held in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are harmed.
 
"Right now we are engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens' security. This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation," Davutoglu was quoted by Reuters as having told reporters in New York.
 
On Tuesday, Islamists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul, in Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province, prompting some 150,000 panic-stricken refugees to flee to the nearby autonomous Kurdish region.
 
The Islamists attacked the Turkish embassy in the city, taking at least 49 people hostage.
 
On Wednesday, ISIS also attacked the central Iraqi city of Tikrit, located in Salaheddin province, just 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad.
 
In a desperate attempt to fend off the threat posed by the group - who will now surely be eyeing further territorial gains - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called a state of emergency and has offered to arm local tribes and citizens opposed to ISIS.
 
The Al-Qaeda-linked ISIS also has a presence in Syria, where its jihadist rebels are fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
Since joining the civil war in Syria, ISIS has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.

Turkey Condemns Israeli Construction Plans

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 June 2014 16:22
Judea and SamariaTurkey’s Foreign Ministry on Friday joined those condemning Israel's announced construction of roughly 3,300 new housing units in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
 
“Israel's move to establish settlements, which clearly violates international law and harms the vision of a two-state solution, is unacceptable,” said a Foreign Ministry statement quoted by the Today’s Zaman daily.
 
 The statement claimed that in a period where a significant step has been taken to establish peace with the formation of the unity government between Hamas and Fatah, Israel's “insistence on new settlements” raises questions on its willingness to ensure a lasting peace.
 
Turkey also called on Israel to put an end to its approach, which it said had drawn strong criticism from the international community.
 
Plans to build 1,800 housing units in the ten separate communities in the region were unfrozen on Thursday, after tenders for roughly 1,500 new homes in the region were announced Wednesday night.
 
The moves were part of Israel's response to the establishment of the unity government between Fatah and the terrorist organization Hamas.
 
The European Union (EU) was quick to condemn the Israeli announcements, saying it is "deeply disappointed" by the Israeli plans to build more Jewish homes in the Biblical heartland of Israel.
 
"We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision and to direct all their efforts towards an early resumption of the peace talks," the EU said in a statement.
 
United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also joined the condemnation of Israel's announced construction, saying he was "deeply concerned" about it.
 
"As the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions, the building of settlements on occupied territory is illegal under international law," said Ban’s spokeswoman. It is worth noting that the 2012 Levy Report found that Judea and Samaria are not "occupied territory" under international law.

Marmara Victim Dies 4 Years Later

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 May 2014 09:50
Mavi Marmara -Flash 90One of the people who were wounded on the Mavi Marmara vessel during the 2010 flotilla passed away on Friday, four years after the incident, Turkish media reported.
 
The man was identified as 51-year-old Ugur Suleyman Soylemez, who was in a coma over the past four years.
 
The Mavi Marmara, which claimed to international media to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," was the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010.
 
The ship defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.
 
The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine activists on board. Soylemez’s death brings the death toll to 10.
 
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 
 
The incident caused a strain in the relations between Turkey and Israel, as Turkey demanded that Israel apologize for the raid and pay compensation to the families of those killed. Israel refused, and Turkey responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Israel and expelling the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.
 
It was under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized last March to Erdogan for the deaths of the activists on the Marmara and talks began on the compensation agreement.
 
The sides have reportedly made progress in the talks, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu having recently said that “problems have been substantially overcome.”
 
News of Soylemez’s death comes a day after IHH, the organization behind the flotilla, declared it would oppose an Israeli offer to pay compensation to the victims of the Mavi Marmara incident in exchange for the group dropping lawsuits over the attack.

Six Killed as Turkish Government Accused of Vote-Rigging

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 20:19
Turkey clashesAt least six people have been killed and dozens more wounded in Turkey during clashes between rival village leaders, also known as muhtars, as local elections get underway Sunday.
 
The poll is seen as a test of Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan's weakening grip on power, as corruption scandals and accusations of authoritarianism rock his once-secure administration.
 
Four of the fatalities were in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, and the two others were killed in the Kırıkhan district of the southern province of Hatay, according to Hurriyet Daily. At least nine others were injured in the brawls which broke out between rival candidates, involving clubs, knives and arms" according to the Turkish news agency.
 
Five other people were seriously injured in clashes between prominent families in the Hilvan district, according to Doğan News Agency.
 
The deadly clashes come amid tension and chaos as over 50 million Turks head to the polls. 
 
Opposition and rights groups have already accused Erdogan's government of working hard to rig the elections. Social media outlets have been flooded with pictures of opposition supporters allegedly beaten by security forces, while other activists have posted what appears to be bags of pre-stamped ballot papers for the AKP - the Islamist party of Prime Minister Erdogan - in Istanbul.
 
Meanwhile, controversial women's activist group Femen enraged conservative Muslims by staging a topless anti-Erdogan protest in the heart of the Prime Minister's own constituency in Istanbul's Üsküdar district.
 
Two female activists were arrested by police in that incident, but the group has pledged further protests against what it says are attacks on free speech by the government, including bans on social media platforms Twitter and YouTube.

Jordan, Israel Strike Natural Gas Deal

Category: News
Created on Friday, 21 February 2014 17:12
Jordan king Abdullah and PA chairman Abbas - ReutersJordan is turning to Israel for its natural gas supplies, according to Al-Ahram, after Egyptian pipelines have become unreliable. 
 
Noble Energy, the United States based company that runs the Tamar natural gas field off the coast of Israel, signed a $771 million deal with Jordanian gas suppliers on Wednesday. The Arab Potash company and the Jordan Bromine company will receive the supply over a 15-year period.
 
Projected revenues from the deal are expected to be high - at least $500 million, according to the most recent reports. 
 
"The supply will start in the coming two years. The project will reduce the total production cost for Arab Potash by $357 million and for Jordan Bromine by $7.5 million in the first stage of the project," Arab Potash chairman Jamal Sarairah stated to Arabic-language newspaper Al-Ghad. 
 
Jordan relied heavily on Egypt's gas pipeline for its energy supply until now, despite ongoing political instability in Cairo.
 
The gas pipeline in Egypt has been attacked more than a dozen times since the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011; constant terror attacks in the Sinai have only escalated since the Egyptian army ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July.
 
The instability has become so great that the Jordanian government began holding talks with Israel this summer to become the first Arab country to purchase natural gas from Israel
 
Earlier this month, Jordanian officials said the disruptions in gas supplies cost Amman at least $1 million per day. According to the Egyptian Cabinet Information Centre (IDSC), Egypt’s natural gas production shrank in December 2013 to 3.3 million tons - down 11.8 percent from December 2012.
 
"We are aware of the situation in Egypt and they [Egyptians] are aware of our situation in Jordan,” Jordan Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour during a meeting with an Egyptian delegation in Amman, according to Al-Ahram.  “Egypt is to begin gas mega-projects and Jordan has already commenced implementing a natural gas terminal that is expected to be completed by the end of this year to import and store liquefied gas. Egypt then can export its surplus gas from Jordan." 
 
Israel's natural gas pipeline may also bring other international deals. AFP noted Tuesday that ongoing peace talks in Cyprus, if successful, could lead to an energy deal between Israel and Turkey. 

Protests Rage in Turkey over Internet Censorship, Corruption

Category: News
Created on Monday, 10 February 2014 13:20
Anti-censorship protests IstanbulRiots broke out in Istanbul's Taksim Square Saturday, prompting riot police to use tear gas and water cannon to secure the area.
 
The reason: Turkey's new internet censorship laws, which allow the government to block websites for privacy violations without a court decision, and pressure internet providers to keep tabs on the populace's web history, according to BBC News. 
 
Over 2,000 protestors flooded into Taksim Square for the mass demonstration, the cumulative effect of ongoing frustration with the Islamist government, which is cracking down on dissidents after December's corruption scandal, according to Al-Jazeera.
 
"Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," protestors chanted, in a translation provided by Reuters. 
 
Chaos ensued as riot police descended on the square, wearing full body armor and sporting water cannon, plastic bullets, and tear gas; demonstrators threw fireworks and stones at police forces and responded by vandalizing public buildings in the vicinity. 
 
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Erdogan Corruption Scandal Snowballs
 
The corruption scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and three ministers' sons. In the wake of the scandal, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar resigned; calls were made for Erdogan to step down after an 11-year rule; and Turkey has been thrown into a state of unrest. 
 
Erdogan's crackdown began almost immediately afterward. In under three months, Erdogan's government has replaced half its cabinet,  purged hundreds of police, sought tighter control of the courts and fired executives from banks, communications networks and national television stations.
 
BBC News notes that internet access is already restricted in Turkey, with thousands of websites blocked. Erdogan has publicly condemned social media, calling it "the worst menace to society" after Twitter and Facebook were used to organize anti-government protests last year. 
 
The new law passed Wednesday, and has already become wildly unpopular; there is intense pressure against President Abdullah Gul not to ratify the legislation, according to Al-Jazeera. 
 
Frustration intensified as the government acted quickly to flex its muscles with the new law, according to local news source Today's Zaman; Azerbaijani journalist Mahir Zenylov was booted from Turkey Friday, one month after the Prime Minister's office filed a complaint against him for posting anti-government statements on Twitter. 
 
Opposition leaders and human rights groups link the censorship laws with the scandal, and say that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been enacting more and more measures to prevent the truth from reaching the eyes of the populace. 
 
"[A] defensive government is seeking to increase its power to silence critics and to arbitrarily limit politically damaging material online," a representative from Human Rights Watch stated Saturday. 
 
Martin Schulz, EU parliament chief, called the move "a step back in an already suffocating environment for media freedom."
 
Erdogan defended the law Saturday, assuring a crowd of supporters in the capital city that censorship would deem the internet "more safe and free." 
 
"These regulations do not impose any censorship at all on the internet. On the contrary, they make it safer and freer," he declared. "It is out of the question that people's private data will be recorded."  

Turkey: Senior Ministers Resign Over Corruption Scandal

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 26 December 2013 07:23
Prime Minister Tayyip ErdoganThree senior Turkish ministers have resigned as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist government continued to reel from the fallout of an ongoing and controversial corruption scandal.
 
Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar all officially announced their resignations today.
 
Urbanization Minister Bayraktar called on Erdogan to resign, according to Today's Zaman.
 
Interior Minister Güler said in a statement that he had already resigned "verbally" to the Prime Minister on December 17 - the day his son was arrested as part of a police investigation which saw twenty three others detained as well, including the CEO of the state-owned banked Halkbank.
 
The ongoing investigation is being seen as part of a power struggle between Erdogan and influential Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. The two men used to be close allies, but have fallen out in recent years. Gülen wield considerable influence in Turkey, and his followers - sometimes known as "Gulenists" - are said to occupy key positions in the police, judiciary and secret services. 
 
Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan hinted at those claims in a written statement.
 
"It is clear that the operation that was launched on Dec. 17 is a dirty [game] against our government, our party and our country.
 
"I have left my duty as the economy minster to spoil this ugly game in which my son and my close aides were implicated and to allow the facts come out."
 
Prime Minister Erdogan has been feeling the pressure over the scandal.
 
On Saturday, he issued a veiled threat to expel the American ambassador, over comments attributed to the latter criticizing Halkbank CEO Suleyman Aslan.
 
"Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions... Do your job. We don't have to keep you in our country," Erdogan said in a televised interview.
 
The Prime Minister and head of the Islamist AKP party was until recently enjoying a position of unprecedented stability, but has since been battered by a series of domestic and foreign policy crises, including the popular Gezi Park protests and a break with one-time allies Damascus and Tehran over the Syrian civil war.

Muslim Brotherhood "Rabaa" channel launches in Turkey

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 22 December 2013 14:58
The station logo is the four-fingered Rabaa signA Muslim Brotherhood-backed new channel called “Rabaa” launched on Friday from Turkey, promising to be a “platform for freedom” focused on the Muslim world’s affairs, according to Egyptian daily al-Ahram.
 
The channel is named after the Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo, where as many as 2,000 supporters of former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi were killed in August after security forces dispersed a protest against the new interim government.
 
The station, whose logo is the four-fingered Rabaa sign, a symbol now associated with Brotherhood and Mursi supporters, is hosted by Egyptian cleric Yousef al-Qaradawi, an outspoken opponent of Mursi's ouster.
 
Qaradawi appeared on the channel saying that the military-backed ouster of Mursi was a “coup that raped the office of the Egyptian president.”
 
A newspaper published by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said the station’s goal is to become a “platform for freedom” that will be “focused on political issues in the Muslim world.”
 
The Brotherhood’s former channel, which aired from Egypt, was shut down after Mursi’s ouster, on charges that the station was inciting violence.
 
Vocal support
 
Turkey, which welcomed the Brotherhood station's presence in the country, has been vocal of its support of Egypt's former Islamist president, who was ousted in July following mass protests after just one year in office.
 
Relations between Egypt and Turkey deteriorated shortly after Mursi's ouster, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the Rabaa sign and voiced his disapproval at the new military-backed government.
 
Opponents of the Brotherhood said that they expected the station to fail.
 
Former Brotherhood member Kamal al-Helbawy told Al Arabiya News that the channel's launch will only add to the group’s failures, and that it is fighting a losing battle.
 
Abdallah Kamal, an Egyptian journalist and political analyst, said the station would not succeed due to the demise of other Islamist channels, as well as the lack of well-known and professional media personalities in the religious media segment.
 
“The Brotherhood’s rhetoric is provocative, and has nothing to do with the professionalism required for TV. It isn’t offering any political solution to gain back public support or to help rethink its failure in politics,” Kamal told Al Arabiya News.

Syria: Turkey Supplied 47 Tons of Weapons to Islamist Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 December 2013 08:55
Turkey Supplied Weapons to Islamist RebelsThe Turkish government has supplied Syrian rebel forces with more than 47 tons of weapons in the past few months it has been revealed - this despite the Islamist government strenuously denying such charges in the past.
 
According to official documents filed under UN Comtrade (the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database), Turkish arms have been flowing into Syria since June. Recent months have seen the highest volume of traffic, with almost 29 tons of weaponry transferred in September alone. 
 
After initially denying the report, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Levent Gümrükçü eventually confirmed the UN figures, admitting to Turkey's Hürriyet daily that they were based on previous records from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK),
 
The weaponry was reportedly filed as "guns without military uses" - a category which includes shotguns and hunting rifles, but excludes assault weaponry such as AK-47s, and allows states to bypass the Syrian weapons embargo. It is not clear, however, what the deliveries actually contained.
 
Turkey has been regularly accused of supplying Sunni Islamist rebels in Syria with advanced weaponry. Kurdish factions in particular have charged that the Turkish government is using Islamist militias as proxies to target Syria's emboldened Kurdish population, which recently alarmed Ankara by setting up an autonomous region which abuts the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
Other Syrian opposition forces have also alleged that the AKP government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided military and logistical support for Islamist brigades inside Syria, citing the free movement of Islamist fighters both to and from Turkey - sometimes even being openly bused through the border in broad daylight.

Erdogan: 'Syria's Assad is a Terrorist, Not a Politician'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 08:02
Nazi flag hoisted by Turkish flotilla supportIn an interview with a Turkish newspaper on Monday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a jab at Bashar Assad, saying the Syrian president is a terrorist and no longer a political figure.
 
“I don’t regard Bashar al-Assad as a politician any more. Assad is a terrorist who uses state terror," Erdogan told Hurriyet after a meeting with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in Ankara. "A person who has killed 110,000 of his own people is a terrorist."
 
Erdogan also told reporters that "There is state terrorism [in Syria] - I’m speaking frankly. I’m having difficulty understanding those in the Turkish media who defend this [state terrorism].”
 
Erdogan has been one of Assad’s harshest critics since Syria’s uprising erupted in March 2011.
 
During Monday's interview, Erdogan also denounced US Secretary of State John Kerry for praising Syria’s compliance with the international community in relinquishing its chemical weapons.
 
“You are a human being and me, too,” said Erdogan. “How can we appreciate the behavior of a person who killed 110,000 people, I ask you. The result of either chemical or other types of weapons is death. Then how can we appreciate this? I cannot imagine a person who appreciates this."
 
The media reported that Kerry said earlier on Monday that Assad could take "credit" for quickly starting the process of destroying his government chemical weapons arsenal while thanking Moscow for its help. "I don't think Mr. Kerry made a statement like this," said Erdogan."If he did, he has run into a contradiction with himself."
 
Erdogan’s comments came only days after his country was harshly criticized by Assad. 
 
In an interview with Turkey’s private Halk TV last Thursday, the Syrian president warned that Ankara would pay “a high price” for allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria from its territory and join rebel forces. Assad also called Erdogan "bigoted" and "a liar," and accused him of supporting terrorists.
 
Assad made no mention of his government’s role in the civil war that has killed at least 100,000 people so far, instead blaming foreign fighters and governments, including Turkey’s, for the bloodshed.
 
“This government, represented by Erdogan, is responsible for the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians, and is responsible for the destruction of Syria’s infrastructure,” Assad said. It is also “responsible for endangering security of the region, not only Syria.”
 
“You cannot hide terrorists in your pocket. They are like a scorpion, which will eventually sting you,” Assad added, saying Muslim extremists from more than 80 countries are coming to Syria by sneaking across the border with Turkey.
 
Erdogan has long advocated the removal of Assad from power.
 
On August 31, the Turkish leader said a limited military response to the reported use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime was not enough, and any kind of intervention should aim to topple him.
 
“It can’t be a 24 hours hit-and-run,” Erdogan told reporters at the presidential palace in Ankara. “What matters is stopping the bloodshed in Syria and weakening the regime to the point where it gives up.”
 
There are currently some 500,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey. 
 
Erdogan, a former ally of the Syrian president, turned against him several months after the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Turkey Guilty of 'Mass Human Rights Violations'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 20:11
woman appears to be attacked by police aiming a teargas canister at her Twitter
 
Amnesty International has released a report condemning "mass human rights violations" by Turkish authorities over the handling of the Gezi Park protest movement.
 
The report, released on Wednesday and entitled Gezi Park protests: Brutal denial of the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey, is a damning indictment of officially-sanctioned police brutality, including beatings, sexual assaults and the firing of live ammunition against peaceful protesters.
 
Back in May, plans by the Turkish government to build a replica of an Ottoman-style barracks and a mall in the only green space left in the city, Gezi Park, triggered weeks of angry protests on the streets of Turkey. Local residents opposed to the move joined forces with Turkish opposition activists, who saw the move as another alarming manifestation of the "authoritarian" tendencies of Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party.
 
Police quickly moved in and violently suppressed the protest movement, provoking a violent backlash from some protesters. 
 
The plan has since been scrapped, and protests largely died down after the government reportedly compromised on protesters’ demands.
 
But resentment against AKP policies is still simmering, particularly among Turkey's secular population. Last month an anti-government protester died after allegedly being struck in the head by a teargas canister fired by police.
 
Also last month, a soccer match between the Besiktas and Galatasaray clubs was abandoned after political demonstrations by fans escalated into a full-scale pitch-invasion.
 
According to the 70-page Amnesty report, Turkish police regularly used teargas canisters as a weapon against peaceful protesters. It cited eyewitness reports of at least one other death - that of Abdullah Cömert - who was mortally wounded after being struck in the head "by a tear gas canister fired at close range by a police officer in Antakya on 3 June." Cömert died of his injuries on the next day.
 
Other abuses cited in the report include: firing plastic bullets at the heads and upper bodies of protesters; sexual abuse of female detainees; adding chemical substances to water cannons, causing burning sensations and rashes on those affected; the use of live ammunition, resulting in the death of at least one protester; severe beatings of demonstrators and others, resulting in at least one death.
 
In response to these and other human rights abuses, Amnesty has called on "governments and suppliers of riot control equipment to impose an immediate export or transfer ban on Turkey."
 
“The determination of the Turkish authorities to end the Gezi Park protests – and discourage their recurrence is clear. Their tactics of choice have been force, threats, insults and prosecution,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.
 
“Hundreds of people are facing prosecution solely for their participation in the demonstrations without evidence that they themselves participated in any violent act.”
 
“The Turkish government must learn to tolerate the dissenting opinions expressed through street protests and ensure that police are equipped, trained and instructed to police them lawfully.”
 
More than 8,000 protesters were injured and at least 3 killed by police violence during the height of the protests, according to the report. It also dismisses Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-awaited “democratization package,” issued on Monday, as "failing to address these violations or to take any serious steps to ensure that they will not occur in the future."
 
Opposition groups have already expressed their disappointment with the package, claiming it completely ignores the rights of the country's minorities - in particular the Alevi and Kurdish communities.
 
The Turkish government has lashed out at those behind the protests, claiming they are part of a "foreign conspiracy" led by Israel.

Turkey Warns Syria Against Retaliating for Downed Helicopter

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 September 2013 08:44
Nazi flag hoisted by Turkish flotilla supportTurkey warned Damascus on Wednesday it would "face the consequences" if it sought to avenge the downing of a Syrian military chopper this week, AFP reported.
 
At the same time, Turkey said it did not believe a border attack was a retaliatory strike.
 
A car bomb exploded at Syria's rebel-held Bab al-Hawa border crossing into Turkey on Tuesday, wounding at least 12 people, according to a monitoring group.
 
The attack came a day after Turkish warplanes shot down a Syrian helicopter which Ankara claimed violated its airspace, but Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday's bombing did not appear to be a revenge attack.
 
"Our security and intelligence units have been working on this but one should not reach an early conclusion that it was a retaliation," Davutoglu told a press conference in Ankara, according to AFP.
 
"Such a retaliation against us within the Syrian territory cannot be considered," he said, warning, "The Syrian regime should know that it will face the consequences even if it thinks of a retaliation."
 
Relations have deteriorated between once close allies Damascus and Ankara since the outbreak of the deadly conflict in Syria in March 2011.
 
Turkey has lobbied for the ouster of President Bashar Al-Assad and provided shelter for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow him.
 
In response, the Syrian regime has threatened Turkey with the publication of a list of “targets” that could be hit if Western armies were to intervene in Assad’s battle against rebel armies. Among the targets were strategic positions in Turkey, along with sites in Israel and Cyprus.
 
In mid-2012 Syria shot down a Turkish plane. Syrian officials later said that the shooting was an accident, and explained that troops may have mistaken the plane for an Israeli one.
 
Syria's army blasted Turkey for shooting down the Syrian helicopter this week, saying that Turkey had been "hasty" in its decision and accusing Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government of trying to escalate tensions along the border.

Turkish Planes Shoot Down Syrian Helicopter

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 15:18
Turkish Planes Shoot Down Syrian HelicopterTurkish warplanes shot down a Syrian helicopter on Monday, AFP reports. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was quoted as confirming the incident.
 
The Syrian helicopter was detected two kilometers within Turkish airspace, Arinc said.
 
“It was continuously warned by our air defense but as the violation continued, it fell on Syrian soil, having been hit by missiles from our planes,” he said.
 
Turkish officials said they would provide the UN and NATO with details of the incident.
 
The incident comes just one week after Syrian warplanes headed toward the main British base in Cyprus, causing British pilots to scramble to mount a hasty response. The showdown ended without injury.
 
Tensions have been high between Turkey and Syria for some time. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has been highly critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Turkey has provided support to factions within the rebel Free Syrian Army, and has supported military intervention in Syria.
 
In response, Syrian regime has threatened Turkey with the publication of a list of “targets” that could be hit if Western armies were to intervene in Assad’s battle against rebel armies. Among the targets were strategic positions in Turkey, along with sites in Israel and Cyprus.
 
In mid-2012 Syria shot down a Turkish plane. Syrian officials later said that the shooting was an accident, and explained that troops may have mistaken the plane for an Israeli one.

Turkey: Sixth Anti-Government Protester Dies

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 22:53
turkey-protestA sixth protester has been killed in Turkey in connection to the "Gezi Park" protest movement.
 
22 year old Ahmet Atakan died in the southern province of Hatay, after reportedly being struck in the head by a teargas canister fired by Turkish police. 
 
There have been conflicting reports regarding the nature of the protest.
 
According to the Hurriyet Daily website, Atakan had been taking part in a solidarity march at the time, held in support of activists in the capital Ankara who oppose the construction of a road through the Middle Eastern Technical University. The march was also in commemoration of Abdullah Comert, who was killed at the start of the "Gezi protests" in early June.
 
At the time, plans by the Turkish government to build a replica of an Ottoman-style barracks and a mall in the only green space left in the city, Gezi Park, triggered weeks of angry protests on the streets of Turkey. Local residents opposed to the move joined forces with Turkish opposition activists, who saw the move as another alarming manifestation of the "authoritarian" tendencies of Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party.
 
The plan has since been scrapped, and protests largely died down after the government reportedly compromised on protesters’ demands.
 
But resentment against AKP policies is still simmering, particularly among Turkey's secular population - and this latest death threatens to trigger renewed protests.
 
However, CNN later reported that the dead man had been participating in demonstrations against foreign military intervention in Syria.
 
Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into the death.

Syrian Kurds Capture Al Qaeda Head in Syria

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 21 July 2013 13:57
Kurdish YPG fightersSyrian Kurdish rebels say they’ve captured the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – the merged organization representing the jihadist Syrian rebel groups linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
 
A photo of the captured leader was posted on the Twitter mini-social networking site by the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), one of two Syrian Kurdish rebel groups which is preparing to declare autonomy in Syria.
 
Mutlu Civiroglue, a Washington-based Kurdish journalist, posted the announcement, along with the tweet: “Captured Amir of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) Abu Musab is currently under YPG custody! 
 
For more than a year, Syrian Kurds have been threatened by the Islamic extremists who long ago split from the more secular and so-called “moderate” National Syrian Council opposition forces.
 
The Kurdish National Council, a pro-opposition umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish parties, in January condemned what it said was an ongoing assault “against unarmed civilians” by jihadist insurgents on the city of Ras al-Ain along Syria’s border with Turkey. The Kurds called on the Free Syrian Army to “pressure these militants to stop this criminal war which is detrimental to the Syrian revolution,” AFP reported at the time.
 
Clashes between the Al Qaeda-linked jihadists and the Kurdish forces have continued for nearly a year, with ISIS having seized the town months ago. 
 
Last week, Kurdish forces ousted them in a bloody battle, retaking parts of the city that for months had been under control of the Islamists who intended to declare an independent Islamic state in northern Syria, to be divided into emirates.
 
But YPG has been joined by PYD, Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, and Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization both in Turkey and the United States. And linked together, the three are now planning to declare an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, with a transitional administration for the next three months, to be followed by elections for a “permanent” government within six months.
 
PKK issues "final warning" to Ankara
 
Once that is accomplished, it is not clear what the implications will be for Turkey across the border. On Friday, Kurdish rebels issued what they said was a “final warning” to Ankara to take concrete steps to advance a peace settlement or be responsible for what follows after 30 years of tensions.
 
Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was engaged in talks with the Turkish government last October to halt the conflict, which has so far left 40,000 dead and many more wounded in Turkey’s southeastern region, where there is a high Kurdish population.
 
Ocalan, known by his followers as APO, suffers from an eye ailment and is imprisoned on the island of Imrali, south of Istanbul.
 
Turkey is calling on the PKK to withdraw its fighters to the Iraqi Kurdistan side of the border before it will launch reforms set out under the talks. The PKK is demanding the AK Party-led government abolish an anti-terrorism law under which thousands were jailed for having links to the PKK, as well as grant full Kurdish-language education, and lower the threshold of votes needed by parties to enter the parliament.
 
The Kurdish nation is the largest people without a state in the Middle East. The region of Kurdistan is occupied by Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, though the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq has a large degree of autonomy from the Iraqi central government.

Anti-Jewish Chants At Turkish Rally Elicit Concern

Category: News
Created on Monday, 15 July 2013 08:43
Turkish protests -ReutersThe American Jewish Committee (AJC) is calling on authorities in a German state to investigate threatening anti-Israel rhetoric, including chants of “Down with Israel” and “Israel be cursed” at a rally last week in support of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
 
“We are horrified that supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan are using political protests in Germany to fan anti-Israel sentiment,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Stoking the flames of anti-Semitism through denunciations of Israeli policies is dangerous.”
 
The organization called on state authorities in North Rhine Westphalia to investigate the degree to which the anti-Israel rhetoric at the pro-Erdogan rally was public incitement. “We call on German politicians and civil society leaders to speak out and condemn the anti-Israel agitation, which can only complicate current attempts to improve strained Israeli-Turkish relations,” Berger said.
 
The Turkish-language chants at the rally were brought to public attention by Lale Akgun, a former member of the German parliament, who witnessed the demonstration and reported it on her Facebook page. German television confirmed the report, adding that the anti-Israel chants were loud and frequent.
 
Tens of thousands of the estimated 3.5 million German residents of Turkish descent, the largest such community outside of Turkey, have participated in large demonstrations in recent weeks regarding the current disturbances in Istanbul.
 
At a June 22 rally in Cologne an estimated 40,000 demonstrators protested the Turkish government’s response to the peaceful protests against a building project in Gezi Park. In Duesseldorf on July 7 an estimated 25,000 demonstrators voiced support for Erdogan’s policies.
 
German government officials have criticized Erdogan, a frequent visitor to Germany, for making appeals to the Turkish-speaking community in Germany to maintain close ties with Turkey.
 
The demonstration in Duesseldorf follows public remarks in Turkey by representatives of Erdogan’s AKP party, who blamed “Jewish interests” for the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay claimed that the Jewish Diaspora is behind the demonstrations in Turkey and that Jews are responsible for negative media reports about Turkey. Istanbul Mayor Ybrahim Melih Gökcek tweeted that the protests in Turkey are “a game of the Jewish lobby.”
 
The AJC hascondemned the anti-Semitic remarks of senior Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and called on responsible world leaders to speak out.

Turkey’s Ruling Party, Opposition Unite to Condemn Egypt Coup

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 04 July 2013 09:10
Tayyip Erdogan and Egypts President Mohammed MorsiIn a rare show of unity, both Turkey’s ruling AK Party and its opposition Republican People's Party have condemned Wednesday's overthrow of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi following protests by millions that led to a military coup d'etat.
 
AKP spokesperson Huseyin Celik told reporters that the coup was a sign of "backwardness," and accused some Western nations of having supported the overthrow.
 
"Morsi deservedly won by his own efforts the elections organized by a bureaucracy inherited from [former President] Hosni Mubarak’s era and that took weeks to come to a conclusion," Celik said, according to the Turkish Hurriyet daily newspaper.
 
"This coup has also received foreign support," he charged. "Some Western countries have not accepted Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. They have mobilized the streets, then issued a memorandum, and are now staging the coup."
 
Turkey, he said, is concerned about the bloodshed that may now follow such a coup, having experienced similar overthrows in 1960 and 1980. "If Morsi’s supporters fight with his opponents, blood will be spilled. We will not approve that."
 
Turkey’s opposition, leadership, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), also criticized Egypt’s military over the coup. CHP leader Kemal Kililcdaroglu said flatly, "Military coups cannot be accepted. I hope democracy will be accepted soon.
 
"We see that people who assume that democracy consists only of the ballot box are mistaken," he said. "There is a concept called pluralism. The rulers of the state must listen to everybody’s demands. Being deaf or ignoring demands, saying ‘I have the majority of the votes, so I will do what I want,’ is no longer valid these days."
 
The opposition leader added that " Above all, staging a military coup to design societies is not a correct thing in the 21st century and it shouldn’t be accepted."
 
An Israeli official meanwhile has told the AFP news agency that the government is following Egyptian events closely, but that he currently cannot predict what path events will take next. He added that the situation in Egypt is sending "shockwaves" to the Arab world, and has raised some concern in Israel.

Turkish Police Clear Taksim Square Using Tear Gas

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 16 June 2013 07:51
Anti-government protests in TurkeyRiot police on Saturday used tear gas to clear a central Istanbul square and park that had formed the heart of a broad challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Washington Post reported.
 
Within an hour of a warning from Erdogan that central Istanbul would be cleared by Sunday whether or not protesters left voluntarily, security forces using loudspeakers told people in Taksim and Gezi Park to leave, the report said.
 
Hundreds of black-clad riot police wearing gas masks started to rush the park, using tear gas and water cannons to chase protesters from the area. Remaining was a mess of soggy tents, banners and debris that sanitation workers quickly moved to clear.
 
Opposition leaders said Saturday that Erdogan had destroyed his chances for a dialogue, according to the Washington Post. Erdogan had invited a delegation of protesters into his Ankara home Friday and made concessions substantial enough that some organizers appeared to be considering standing down Saturday and leaving only a symbolic tent behind.
 
But as thousands of protesters on Saturday crowded the streets that feed into Taksim Square, the crossroads of Istanbul, they were defiant even after having lost the physical emblem of their movement.
 
The assault on protesters came hours after Erdogan gave a fiery speech in Ankara to tens of thousands of cheering supporters.
 
“I am putting it very clearly: Taksim Square is vacated or else. If not, this country’s security forces know how to vacate,” Erdogan said, according to the Washington Post.
 
Earlier in the day, those in Gezi Park appeared to be taking small steps toward compromise. Organized political groups and unions had decided Saturday to unite their previously fractured demands under the banner of a single umbrella group, called Taksim Solidarity, and to try to open the park to ordinary Istanbul residents, as well. They cleared away many of the barricades of debris that they had placed at park entrances to protect themselves from police. Some demonstrators said it was only a matter of time before the protests quieted.
 
Erdogan on Friday offered protesters the outline of a plan to quell the demonstrations. He announced that he would not push forward with the demolition of Gezi Park while a court reviewed the legality of the plans. And even if the court approved his efforts, Erdogan said he would put the choice to a referendum in Istanbul.
 
The status of that offer was not clear Saturday after police entered Gezi Park. But, according to the Washington Post, many protesters rejected it, saying that their demands had long ago moved beyond the survival of the park and were instead about basic freedoms under what they think is an increasingly authoritarian conservative Islamist rule.
 
The riots against Erdogan erupted after police cracked down heavily on May 31 on a campaign to save Gezi Park from redevelopment.
 
Erdogan, whose AKP party first took power in 2002, has accused the main opposition Republican People's Party of having a hand in the protests.
 
The prime minister has rejected claims that he is a “dictator” and has also accused social media of playing a major part in the protests against his government.

Turkey Arrests 13 Over Twitter Provocation

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 08:12
Anti-government protests in TurkeyThirteen suspects in Turkey have been sent to court on Monday after being accused of provoking riots through their social media posts, according to Dogan news agency. 
 
The suspects were accused of provoking protesters through posts on Twitter and Facebook during the Gezi Park protests in Ankara, and of organizing crowds to cause damage to their surroundings and throw stones at the police forces, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
 
 
Meanwhile Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his patience "has a limit" amid increasing anti-government protests.
 
Thousands of protesters gathered in Istanbul's central Taksim Square and Ankara's Kizilay Square on Sunday.

Tens of Thousands Hit Turkey's Streets as Protests Continue

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 09 June 2013 11:03
Protestors ReutersTens of thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of Turkish cities on Saturday, challenging Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call to end their civil uprising with a chorus of angry chants and a shower of red flares, AFP reported.
 
The government said the protests were “under control” even as the largest crowds yet packed every inch of Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the epicenter of nine days of nationwide unrest.
 
As the sun set over Taksim, fans from rival soccer teams Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray united in the square. They set off red flares to loud cheers from the crowd, according to AFP.
 
In the capital Ankara, hundreds of riot police used tear gas and water cannon late Saturday to disperse some 5,000 demonstrators from the central Kizilay Square, the news agency reported.
 
The police pursued the protesters who took refuge in side streets off the square, which is the nerve center of the Turkish capital. Several people were injured, local television reported.
 
The political turmoil erupted after police cracked down heavily on a small campaign to save Gezi Park from demolition, spiraling into nationwide protests against Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian.
 
Police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators in clashes that have left three dead and thousands injured, tarnishing Turkey's image as a model of Islamic democracy.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Huseyin Celik, speaking after a meeting between the premier and top AKP officials, downplayed the rallies that flew in the face of Erdogan’s demand on Friday to immediately end the protests.
 
“The process is under the control of the government, and is becoming normalized and increasingly in line with common sense,” he told reporters in Istanbul, according to AFP.
 
He also dismissed any talk of calling early elections to resolve the crisis. “You don’t decide on early elections because people are marching on the streets.”
 
In a bid to calm tensions, Istanbul’s mayor Kadir Topbas on Saturday said the park would not be turned into a shopping mall, as some feared.
 
But the reconstruction of Ottoman-era military barracks at the site would go ahead because it “was part of our election promises,” he said, echoing earlier comments by the premier.
 
The protesters in Gezi Park, who say they have seen their civil rights and freedoms steadily erode under Erdogan, rejected the olive branch.
 
“A week ago, I could never imagine myself sleeping out on the streets of Istanbul,” 22-year-old Aleyna, wrapped up under a blanket with a stray kitten and pointing to her dirty clothes, told AFP. “Now I don’t know how I can ever go back.”
 
Erdogan has faced international condemnation for his handling of the unrest in Turkey, a NATO member and key strategic partner in the region for the United States and other Western allies.
 
The EU on Friday called for a “swift” probe into police violence in the clashes, but Erdogan hit back, saying those involved in a similar protest would in any European country “face a harsher response.”
 
The national doctors’ union says the civil unrest has left two protesters and a policeman dead while almost 4,800 people have been injured across Turkey.
 
Erdogan, whose AKP party first took power in 2002, has accused the main opposition Republican People's Party of having a hand in the protests.
 
The prime minister has rejected claims that he is a “dictator” and has also accused social media of playing a major part in the protests against his government.

Erdogan Remains Defiant After a Week of Protests

Category: News
Created on Friday, 07 June 2013 21:17
ErdoganTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to his country overnight Thursday from a North African tour, facing thousands of supporters who welcomed him back at the airport, a show of strength after a week of violent anti-government demonstrations across the country.
 
Addressing the crowds at the airport in a speech also broadcast live on television, Erdogan remained defiant, saying, "We stood strong, but we were never stubborn ... We are together, we are unified, we are brothers.”
 
He added, "These protests that are bordering on illegality must come to an end immediately."
 
The wave of protests broke out last Friday after police tear-gassed demonstrators at a peaceful rally against plans to build on an Istanbul park and have continued all week.
 
Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) first took power in 2002, has accused the main opposition Republican People's Party of having a hand in the protests.
 
Meanwhile, anti-government protesters gathered in their thousands in central Istanbul and Ankara, with some of the demonstrators in Istanbul's Taksim Square chanting "Tayyip resign", according to reports in news agencies. In Ankara's Kugulu Park, thousands chanted anti-government slogans, sang the national anthem and swigged on beer.
 
Speaking in Tunisia earlier Thursday, Erdogan said that his government has expressed its sorrow for those hurt by repeated police attacks in the early stages of the Istanbul protests, but vowed to go ahead with his plans to destroy the park in Taksim Square.
 
“The sensitivities of people for environmental issues have been abused. We already expressed our sorrow for the excessive use of force,” he was quoted by the Hurriyet daily as having said at a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Ali al-Urayyid.
 
He was referring to a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on June 4, in which Arinc had said, “In that first event, the excessive demonstration of violence against those acting with environmental sensitivity was wrong and unfair. I apologize to those citizens. I can easily say that, but I do not think we owe an apology to those who destroyed the streets.”
 
At the same time, Erdogan said, “Our Taksim project is a plant that unites history and nature. And this project will produce a very beautiful environment in Istanbul.”
 
The government also will build a “beautiful and strong” opera house, replacing the existing cultural center in Taksim Square, said Erdogan.
 
He then claimed that those who caused damage as part of the Taksim protests were the same as those who staged the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, in which one security guard and one attacker were killed and a journalist was wounded.
 
On Sunday, Erdogan rejected claims that he is a “dictator” and pointed to the opposition and social media as being responsible for the protests against his government.
 
Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar predicted on Tuesday that despite the large scale protests, Erdogan was not facing an “Arab Spring” type rebellion.
 
Dr. Kedar told Arutz Sheva that the events in Turkey “are far from being what happened in Egypt, Libya or Syria.”
 
The primary difference, he said, is the character of the groups currently protesting against Erdogan. The protesters are “greens,” leftists and others who are not motivated by extremist Islam, he said.

Istanbul: Violence in Large Protest; Erdogan Defiant

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 21:35
Turkey Police 06-13Police in the Turkish city of Istanbul have pulled out of Taksim square, where the largest anti-government protests in years are taking place.
 
Thousands of people are gathered in the square after days of violence sparked by plans to redevelop a nearby park. Police have fired tear gas and water cannon several times to break up the riots, and rioters have thrown rocks at police.
 
Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has called for “common sense” to prevail, admitting that the Taksim square protests had reached a “worrisome level”. He called on all sides to be "mature", urging police to "act in proportion.”
 
The clashes subsided Saturday afternoon, according to CNN, but protests spread to several other cities, including the capital Ankara and the port city of Izmir.Clashes 06-2013
 
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said police may have used excessive force but that the park development will go ahead. "Those who have a problem with the government's policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy," he said in a speech broadcast on television. "I am asking the protesters to immediately end these actions. Police were there yesterday, they'll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild."
 
ErdoganErdogan said that he, too, could arrange for supporters of his party to come to the square and demonstrate in large numbers.
 
In a defiant speech to the exporters' union, he insisted plans to reconstruct an Ottoman era military barracks on the Gezi Park site would go ahead. In addition, he said, a shopping mall "might be built on the ground floor or a city museum".
 
The protesters say the park is one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul, and that the government is ignoring their appeals for it to be saved. The protest began as a sit-in in the park, but turned violent Friday as police fired tear gas .Protestors on 06-13
 
The BBC quotes correspondents who say that “what was initially a local issue has spiraled into widespread anti-government unrest and anger over the perceived 'Islamization' of Turkey.”
 
One woman told Agence France-Presse: "They want to turn this country into an Islamist state, they want to impose their vision all the while pretending to respect democracy."
 
According to Al Arabiya, “what started as an outcry against a local development project has snowballed into widespread anger against what critics say is the government’s increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.”
 
“We have become one fist,” 33-year-old Ataman Bet said as he swept up shattered glass outside his small coffee shop near Taksim. “This has been everybody -- leftist, rightist, even supporters of Erdogan. People are angry, I am so proud of them” he said, calling the damage to his shop a “necessary sacrifice.”

Turkey needs an Israeli/Saudi Alliance ASAP

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 20:54

Flag-Pins-Israel-Saudi-ArabiaMemo to Erdogan: NATO was meant as an anti-Soviet alliance, not an anti-Iranian alliance.

On May 5, 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reacted angrily to the pro-Assad militia’s massacre of at least 62 Sunni civilians and as many as 200 in the Syrian coastal towns of Banias and Baida. (May they rest in peace.)
 
PM Erdogan stated “If God permits, we will see this criminal, this murderer [Assad], receive his judgment in this world, and we will be grateful to [G-d] for it,” "Hear me, Bashar Assad. You will give an account for this. You will pay a very, very heavy price for [only] showing the courage you cannot show others to the babies in the cradle with soothers in their mouths. G-d willing, the lamentations of these children will fall upon you as blessed revenge. For our Syrian brothers who are asking when G-d’s help will come, I want to say: G-d’s help is near.”
 
On May 11, 2013, twin car bombs exploded in the Turkish border areas near Syria murdering over 46 Turkish civilians.(May they rest in peace.) The Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler was quoted on public TV TRT as saying the perpetrators “were linked to the Syria regime and intelligence agency.”
 
Turkish PM Erdogan has a really big problem. Instead of working with both Israel and Saudi Arabia on common ground in Syria, he appears to be destroying the nascent partnership by supporting an Islamic-Muslim Brotherhood Post-Assad Syria. In his stupidity, Erdogan is creating a problem from nothing, and insuring Assad murders another 100,000 Sunnis. To turn things around, Erdogan has got to recognize 3 things.
 
First, PM Erdogan has to understand that President Obama isn’t going to lift a single finger to do Turkey’s “dirty work,” and take out Assad. Erdogan is under a delusion that Obama will repeat his Libyan decapitation attack, and “no fly” zone, and Erdogan will just ’innocently’ sit there, and pick up the Syrian chips. An Obama Syrian attack will never happen because Obama already promised Iran, in the nuclear talks, that he won’t ever touch Syria. The Erdogan takeaway: Turkey needs Israel and the Gulf countries, and fast!
 
Second, a Post-Assad Syria has to be a win for everybody including the Syrian people, all of Syria’s neighbors, and especially for Israel and Saudi Arabia. Only a Turkish coalition with Israel and Saudi Arabia enabling a moderately secular post-Assad Syria (or a three-canton Syria) will be able to quickly remove Assad without significant direct American military help. The problem has been: Erdogan wants an Islamic Syria, and the Israelis and Saudis want a secular Syria.
 
 
What’s Erdogan’s game? It’s simple words: Oil and gas pipelines. Money, money, money. Cash, cash, cash. Turkey is oil/gas resource poor, and oil/gas pipeline rich. And, Turkey wants to keep it that way.
 
Erdogan knows an Islamic Syria will insure wars in Syria forever against all the ethic groups. Erdogan wants Syria to be a permanent low-level battlefield because otherwise a Syrian westward vector hydrocarbon pipeline will be a natural competition against Turkey’s parallel westward vectoring hydrocarbon pipeline just to the north. So, a post-Assad-Syria-at-war represents a ka-ching, ka-ching for Turkey. In practicality, a post-Assad-Syria-at-peace means Turkey’s pipeline will go begging for gas transit fees.
 
Erdogan has to decide: does he want peace and a pretty valuable Turkish pipeline, or war and a super-valuable Turkish pipeline. He should choose peace because whatever extra added-value Turkey’s pipeline will garner on the front-end with endless post-Assad Syrian fighting, Turkey will lose on the back-end because of all the fighting.
 
Third, most importantly, Erdogan has got to understand that Turkey needs Israel and Saudi Arabia, not only against Syria, but also against Iran. Erdogan should ask himself a simple question: “If Obama is afraid of his shadow with Assad, Obama will run like the dickens away from Iran.” Therefore, if Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t get their act together, Turkey will have a nuclear Iran on its doorstep by 2014. Does Erdogan see the mostly bankrupt countries of NATO rushing to deploy to fight with Turkey against Syria; does he? No! They’re not there now with Turkey against Syria, and they certainly won’t ever be there with Turkey against a nuclear Iran.
 
Memo to Erdogan: NATO was meant as an anti-Soviet alliance, not an anti-Iranian alliance.
 
And with an Iranian nuke, all of Saudi Persian Gulf oil is immediately opposite Iran to the south, not near Turkey, way to the north. And, a nuclear Iran will be totally cash-strapped because of the sanctions. So, Turkey might find itself all alone with an Iranian nuclear-superpower who has seized all of the Persian Gulf oil for itself. Turkey could never survive such a neighboring threat, let alone survive as a self-imagined regional Neo-Ottoman superpower. Therefore, if a nuclear Iran gains the Trans-Mesopotamian-Iraq-Syria pipeline to the Mediterranean it covets, Erdogan hopes for exporting Iranian gas westward will die anyway.
 
 
In conclusion, PM Erdogan should forget his delusions about being a modern-day Ottoman pasha, and get back to the reality of stopping a nuclear Iran. Only an alliance between the big 3-Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel will produce decades of peace and prosperity for the region. Erdogan better understand “G-d’s help is near” with Assad if, and only if, he recognizes everybody has got to work together to rid the Middle East of the current Shiite crazies, and not replace them with newer Sunni crazies.
 
mark langfanMark Langfan
The writer, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com

 

Turkey,Twin Car Bombs Kill 41

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 11 May 2013 20:19
Car Bomb 05-1-13Twin car bombs in Turkey killed 41 people and injured 100 others Saturday.
 
The double blast occurred in a crowded area of the small town of Reyhanli in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, just a few kilometers from the main border crossing into Syria.
 
Al Jazeera quoted Bulent Arinc, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, as saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government were the "usual suspects" behind the car bombs.
 
Arinc added, however, that Turkey must wait for the results of an investigation before deciding on any response.car bomb
 
The town is home to many of the more than 300,000 refugees who have sought shelter from the uprising against Assad that began over two years ago.

Turkish Police Foil Al-Qaeda Plot to Bomb US Embassy, Synagogue

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 13 April 2013 19:22
US Embassy in AnkaraTurkish police have uncovered and foiled an alleged plot by Al-Qaeda to bomb the United States embassy in Ankara, as well as a synagogue and other targets in Istanbul, Turkish media reported on Friday.
 
As a result of a February raid in Istanbul and the northeastern city of Corlu, police had arrested 12 people, including eight Turks, two Azeris and two Chechens, and seized 22 kilograms of explosives, CNNTurk reported.
 
Police also found documents that allegedly revealed plans by the group, which they described as a Turkish cell of Al-Qaeda, to attack a synagogue and a museum in Istanbul.
 
The embassy in Ankara was the target of a suicide bombing on February 1, which killed a Turkish security guard. That attack was claimed by a radical Marxist and anti-US armed group, The Revolutionary People's Liberation Front (DHKP-C), blacklisted by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Turkey gold exports to Iran resume despite tough U.S. sanctions

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 09:12
Turkish gold exports ReutersTurkey exported almost $120million worth of gold to Iran in February, data showed, suggesting the two countries’ trade of gold for natural gas has resumed despite tighter U.S. sanctions, though at levels below last year’s peaks.
 
U.S. officials have sought to prevent Turkish gold exports from providing a financial lifeline to Tehran, which has been largely frozen out of the global banking system by Western sanctions over its nuclear program.
 
Turkey sold no gold to Iran in January, according to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK), as banks and dealers eyed the Feb. 6 implementation of U.S. sanctions that tightened control over precious metal sales.
 
The United States has given Turkey a six-month waiver exempting it from sanctions on trade with Iran, which is due to expire in July, but banks and dealers still have been cautious.
 
Turkey sold $117.9 million worth of gold to Iran last month, while exports to the United Arab Emirates, which has served in the past as a transit route to Tehran, rose to $402.3 million from $371 million in January, TUIK data showed.
 
“Due to the sanctions, nobody wants to attract attention. That may be the reason why exports stopped to Iran in January,” said one Istanbul gold trader, asking not to be named.
 
“However, trade with Iran continues; there will always be transfers. Looking at this year’s figures, the February exports to Iran are quite low, so it shouldn’t cause issues.”
 
Turkey’s monthly gold sales to Iran peaked last July at $1.8billion, more than 10 times the amount exported to Tehran last month.
 
Turkey, Iran’s biggest natural gas customer, has been paying Iran for energy imports with Turkish lira, because sanctions prevent it from paying in dollars or euros.
 
Iranians then use those lira, held in Halkbank accounts, to buy gold in Turkey, and couriers carry bullion worth millions of dollars in hand luggage to Dubai, where it can be sold for foreign currency or shipped to Iran.
 
Turkey is heavily dependent on imported energy and, while it has cut back on oil purchases from Iran, has made clear it cannot simply stop buying Iranian oil and gas.
 
Iran is refining uranium to a fissile concentration that Western experts say is a relatively short technical step from the level that would be suitable for atomic bombs. Tehran says its enrichment program is solely for civilian energy purposes.
 
Turkey’s total gold exports rose 18 percent to $551.6million in February from $466 million in January.
 
Turkey, which is not a major gold producer, was a net importer of gold, jewelry and precious metals in 2011 but swung to being a net exporter last year.
 
Its gold exports to Iran rose to $6.5 billion in 2012, more than 10 times the level of 2011, while its exports to the United Arab Emirates - much of it for onward shipment to Iran or conversion to hard currency - rose to $4.6 billion from $280million.

After Israeli Apology, Erdogan Plans Gaza Visit

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 24 March 2013 19:28
ErdoganA day after Israel apologized to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident, its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that he will visit Gaza.
 
 “I may eventually visit Gaza and the West Bank in April. This visit would take place in the context of a general effort to contribute to the resolution process,” Erdogan told reporters, according to a report in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
 
Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, had already announced on Friday that Erdogan would visit Gaza in the near future, the report said.
 
Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu had confirmed that "Recep Tayyip Erdogan will soon visit the Gaza Strip where he will meet with Prime Minister (Haniyeh)," according to the Hurriyet.
 
Nunu reportedly said that Erdogan had called Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal "to tell him Israel had accepted Turkey's conditions: apologies for the murder of the Turkish militants, recognition of (Israel's) responsibility and the lifting of the embargo.”
 
Erdogan also said that the reconciliation with Israel and the prospect of a resolution of the conflict between Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah party could accelerate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fall.
 
According to the Hurriyet, Erdogan emphasized the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Binymain Netanyahu had used the word “apology” and not “regret” in the formal document, adding that the statement was issued in accordance with Turkey’s expectations.
 
He explained that after Netanyahu’s phone call, they had agreed that the first statement would come from Israel.
 
“In the end the United States made it public, then Israel confirmed and we announced that we accepted the apology,” he said, adding that Israel had shown willingness to issue an apology and compensation in the past but that Turkey had insisted on the abolishment of the Gaza blockade.
 
At the same the Turkish leader was cautious regarding the restoration of diplomatic ties by the appointment of ambassadors. 
 
“We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” he said, adding that the amount of the compensation would be determined by the competent bodies.
 
"We took a stand but we managed to resolve the process without being [overly] intractable," he concluded. "We are at the beginning of a process of elevating Turkey to a position so that it will again have a say, initiative and power, as it did in the past."
 
On Friday, Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan for the 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, during which nine Turks were killed after they attacked IDF soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara which attempted to break the naval blockade on Gaza.
 
Netanyahu, in addition to the apology, has reportedly agreed to compensate the families of the nine Turks who were killed and to ease some of the restrictions on Gaza.
 
Erdogan, for his part, has promised to cancel the legal proceedings his country launched against IDF officials, including former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and stop his constant verbal attacks against Israel.
 
On Saturday night, Netanyahu explained in his Facebook page why he chose to apologize to Erdogan, saying that the deteriorating situation in Syria was the main reason.
 
"After three years of a disconnect in Israeli-Turkish relations," he wrote, "I decided that this is the time to rebuild them."
 
The reparation of relations between Israel and Turkey was hailed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as a vital factor in developing peace and stability in the Middle East.

'Erdogan Uses Denigration of Israel to Walk Islamist Street'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 02 March 2013 12:25
Erdogan and Hamas leader MashaalThe Simon Wiesenthal Center decried UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s silence at a UN conclave in Vienna as Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan charged that Zionism is "a crime against humanity," lumping it together with racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
 
“We witness very frequently the alienation of the ‘other’ in various countries instead of efforts to understand the culture and beliefs of the ‘other,’” Erdogan said. “Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity.”
 
“Certain politicians’ defamation of a religion or a sect by mass communication tools only makes pre-conceived notions bigger and deepens the gap,” he added.
 
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish International Human Rights organization, responded to the outrageous remarks saying, “Erdogan is exactly the type of bigoted politician he bemoaned in his speech.”
 
“It has been clear for some time that Prime Minister Erdogan has chosen to walk in the hateful footsteps of Iranian President Ahmadinejad and use the denigration of Israel and the millions of proud Zionists around the world to establish his credentials with the Islamist street,” Cooper said. “His anti-Semitic bombast is degrading 500 years of relations with the Jewish people and putting Turkey's Jewish community at risk of attack from extremists."
 
"Frankly however, we are deeply disappointed that the UN Secretary General, the world's leading diplomat sat through the attack in silence. We note that the US, UK, Canada and Australia declined to attend in the first place, but that both Germany and France were in attendance. We urge the leaders of those two countries along with all NATO members to publicly denounce this hate-mongering," he added.
 
"With the upsurge of anti-Semitism raging across Europe, such a slander, left unchallenged will only further embolden anti-Semites everywhere," Cooper concluded.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayahu responded Thursday, calling Erdogan’s remarks “sinister and mendacious.”
 
"This is a dark and libelous statement the likes of which we thought had disappeared from the world," the prime minister said.

Turkey detains Bin Laden’s son-in-law Abu Gheith

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 02 February 2013 16:49
Osama bin Ladens son-in-law Suleiman Abu Gheith  Photo aawsat.comTurkish security forces have detained Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Suleiman Abu Gheith in Ankara following a tipoff from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Turkish media reported on Saturday. 
 
The former spokesman of the terror network reportedly escaped Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and settled in a camp in Iran.
 
The U.S. intelligence learned that he entered Turkey on a false passport and informed the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) about his location. He was detained at a hotel in Çankaya district of Ankara, Hurryiet Daily News reported, quoting the Daily Milliyet. 
 
The London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted a source close to Abu Gheith's family as saying that he intended to seek political asylum in Turkey.
 
The man is the husband of Fatima Bin Laden who currently lives in Saudi Arabia. Abu Gheith is a Kuwaiti national who had citizenship revoked. 
 
Asharq al-Awsat quoted a statement by the London-based Islamic Observatory, specialized in the news of Islamist movements, as saying that “Turkish authorities arrested the Kuwait national Suleiman Jassim Abu Gheith” adding that “his Kuwaiti nationality had been stripped from him.”
 
The arrest of Abu Gheith came a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up at the U.S. embassy in Ankara killing a Turkish security guard and wounding three other people.
 
The bombing at the entrance to the highly-fortified embassy in an upmarket area of the capital on Friday was the latest in a series of attacks on missions in the Muslim world, highlighting the vulnerability of the country's 70,000 diplomats.
 
The White House strongly condemned the bombing, saying it was "clearly an act of terror" while saying it did not know yet who was responsible.
 
However Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front (DHKP-C), a radical left-wing group blamed for several attacks since the late 1970s including suicide bombings and attacks on prominent figures.

Turkey Denies Probing Jews Over Mavi Marmara

Category: News
Created on Monday, 24 December 2012 08:35
Nazi flag hoisted by Turkish flotilla supportTurkey has strongly denied reports that it had launched a probe into some of the country's Jewish citizens on the grounds that they had collaborated with Israel in the deadly 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla which killed nine Turks, Today's Zaman reports.
 
"There has never been anti-Semitism in any part of our history and there will never be. Racism does not exist in the culture and the tradition of the Turkish nation. Turkey has repeatedly said it considers anti-Semitism and racism as crimes against humanity, " Selçuk Ünal, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, said, according to the report.
 
Ünal said legal procedures are underway to identify possible perpetrators of the Mavi Marmara incident, adding that those legal procedures had nothing to do with Turkey's "Jewish community who are equal citizens and an integral part of our society."
 
The Turkish media claimed last week that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) identified five Turkish citizens who were allegedly either among the Israeli troops who raided the Mavi Marmara or among those who interrogated the victims following the raid on the ship in May 2010.
 
According to reports, the names and addresses of the five have been identified, at the request of the prosecutor's office, thanks to the efforts of the MİT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
The MİT conducted an investigation into all Turkish citizens leaving Turkey for Israel at least two weeks before and returning up to two weeks after the Mavi Marmara incident, and sent the information regarding these five Turkish citizens who are allegedly part of the elite Israeli naval commando Shayetet 13, to the Istanbul 7th High Criminal Court.
 
The Marmara incident involved nine armed terror activists who attacked Israeli commandos in a clash aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship. The vessel, owned by the Turkish IHH group, was one of six sent to illegally breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza as a “humanitarian flotilla” but was found to be carrying nothing. 
 
When the vessels ignored repeated Israeli navy requests to redirect their boats to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to force them to port, where the humanitarian aid they were allegedly carrying could be off-loaded and carried to Gaza through the land crossings with Israel.
 
In the case of the Mavi Marmara, however, the Israeli soldiers – armed only with pistols and paint-ball training guns -- were brutally attacked by the “activists” as they boarded, with several critically injured. The commandos who followed them shot and killed their attackers, leaving nine dead.
 
The incident caused Israel’s relationship with Turkey, already strained, to break down completely. Turkish leaders demanded an apology, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.
 
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has emphasized them Israel is ready to solve any outstanding disputes with Turkey, but it will not apologize to Ankara for the raid on the Mavi Marmara.
 
“We are ready to discuss [our problems with Turkey] in high-level or low-level open meetings,” said Lieberman. “We’re really ready to discuss not only this issue but also the Iranian problem, the Gaza issue or the support for Hamas. But [we’re not ready] to discuss in what way we will protect our citizens.”
 
“[The Mavi Marmara mission] was a clear provocation and it was our right to protect the lives of our soldiers. Frankly speaking, Israel has no reason to apologize,” he added.
 
Turkey plans to try four top IDF commanders for the Marmara raid.
 
The accused officials are: Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy Chief Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former Air Force Intelligence Chief Avishai Levy.
 
The trial was due to start in November, but it has been adjourned until February.

EU Hypocrisy

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Monday, 17 December 2012 06:58
images 06-08-09The leniency with which the European Union (EU) judges Palestinians’ reforms compared to the strictness of EU demands for reform by the Turks reveal Europeans’ duplicity and lack of integrity, and should disqualify the European Union from playing any significant role in the Middle East peace process, under the guise of being an honest broker.
 
EU hypocrisy is undoubtedly noticed when one examines and compares the own benchmarks of the EU as applied to a country-candidate [for example Turkey] waiting to join the European Union on the one-hand, and the benchmarks the EU is applying toward the Palestinians who seek to have a state, on the other hand.
 
European yardsticks for Palestinians, a hostile society, joining the Family of Nations amounts to praise for fabricated non-existent reforms and calls to drop the required incremental progress from the Roadmap. An end to violence and democratic reform that Palestinians have not even begun is tolerable. All of this in order to forge the way for immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, one which will endanger the very survival of a free and democratic Israel.
 
The historic decision of the European Commission in mid-December 2004 that Turkey is now ready to begin full negotiations on joining the European Union is an excellent opportunity to benchmark the way Europeans, members of the quartet, judge Turks, and how they judge Palestinians.
 
Keep in mind the goals and the ramifications of each: The Turks’ goal is membership in the European Union – a political union that the Europeans already say will have an iron-clad reversibility clause for Turkey if it fails to live up to its promises.
 
The Palestinians’ goal is sovereignty as a State – status for which there is no reversibility mechanism if Palestine turns into a rogue state. Logically, the yardsticks of judging readiness should be at least equal, if not more stringent for Palestinians, a society that consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage, with a leadership that champions and praises suicide bombers.
 
For 50 years – since 1963, Turkey has knocked on Europe’s door requesting membership in the EU. The Europeans, however, have been in no rush to invite a Muslim country into their midst, even if it is the most westernized and most democratic Muslim country in the Middle East. Although Turkey is already a strategic partner in NATO and some 4 million of its citizens are peaceful and productive guest workers in Europe, these facts seem not to persuade the European Union.
 
Only 36 years later, in 1999, was Turkey accepted as a candidate, with no timeframe for actual negotiations. At the close of 2004, after five years of far-reaching Turkish constitutional and legal reform, the EU concluded that Turkey had reached a point where negotiations could even commence “under certain conditions.”But it is far too premature to break out the champagne.
 
Negotiations are expected to take ten to fifteen years, and even then “the outcome is not a foregone conclusion,” declared Romano Prodi, then President of the European Commission.
 
The first yardstick for progress is to meet the Copenhagen Political Criteria adopted in June 1993 by the EU, which states:
 
“Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.”
 
Olli Rehn, then the member of the European Commission responsible for EU Enlargement, made it clear in an address to the European Parliament that there are no ‘discounts’ for Turkey.
 
“These criteria, the fundamental values on which the European Union is based, are not subject to negotiation” and [there will be] “a suspension mechanism in case of serious and persistent breach of democratic principles.”
 
The fundamental freedoms Rehn cites include “women’s rights, trade union rights, minority rights, and problems faced by non-Muslim religious communities” and “consolidation and broadening” of legal reforms including “alignment of law enforcement and judicial practice with the spirit of the reforms” and a host of other demands. In fact, Europe demands a complete ‘makeover,’ from women’s rights to recycling of trash.
 
Like Turkey’s appeal for EU membership, realization of Palestinian aspirations was supposed to be performance-based. The timetable embedded in the Oslo Accords for establishment of limited Palestinian self-determination – internal self-rule – was five years (envisioned to be consummated in 1999). The Oslo Process hinged on the Palestinian leadership abandoning armed struggle and negotiating an end to the conflict, and establishing the infrastructure for enlightened self-rule.
 
This proviso was never met. The latest scheme – the three-phase Roadmap plan adopted by the Quartet in May 2003 – speaks of full independence for Palestinians within three years (envisioned by 2005). Stage II, which supported establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty within a 6 month period hinged on compliance with Stage I, which demands “unconditional stoppage of violence” and steps towards comprehensive reform of the Palestinian Authority.
 
Romano Prodi’s plea for:
 
“Profound reflection and clear precautions” in Europe, saying it is imperative for Europeans to prevent Turks from “weakening the structure we have been building for over 50 years.”
 
The same sensitivity and prudence that the EU takes toward the Turks, and their effect on European safety and stability is hardly evidenced when it comes to dangers that the Palestinians pose towards weakening the structure that Israel has built for nearly 64 years, a structure that has propelled it from the “developing nation” status it held in the early 1950s, to membership among the “important emerging economies” today.
 
Turks have been scrutinized by the EU to evaluate Turkey’s readiness for membership in the European Union – that is, its ability to live side-by-side with England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU members without Turks being a detriment to their neighbors.
Parallel to this process, the EU has been evaluating the Palestinian Authority’s readiness for statehood – that is, Palestinians’ ability to live side-by-side with Israel without being jeopardy to their neighbor.
While the goals are different, the EU has declared in both cases that the realization of the two goals both require the respective Middle Eastern society to undergo far-reaching reform, to adopt western values and western standards of conduct.
 
Eli E. HertzEli E. Hertz
Eli E. Hertz is the president of Myths and Facts, an organization devoted to research and publication of information regarding US interests in the world and particularly in the Middle East. Mr. Hertz served as Chairman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.

Ahmadinejad to Cancel Turkey Trip After 'WWIII Threat'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 16 December 2012 14:39
Ahmadinejad at UN - ReutersAfter threatening that Ankara could set off “World War III” if it allows the U.S. to deploy Patriot missiles on its border with Syria, a report Sunday said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not be visiting Turkey, as had been scheduled. Turkey's Hurriyet daily newspaper said that the cancellation of Ahmadinejad's visit had raised Turkish-Iranian tensions to new heights.
 
Earlier this year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had invited Ahmadinejad in honor of the 739th anniversary of the birth of Rumi, the originator of Sufi Islam, who had lived most of his life in Persia, and died in Turkey. The two had been set to discuss regional issues, especially Turkey's decision to cut Iranian oil imports in the wake of international sanctions. Israeli officials said that it was certain that Israel would be high on the agenda, since besides being Iran's sworn enemy, Israel's relations with Turkey are poor.
 
The Hurriyet report attributed the cancellation to the increased tension with Iran in the wake of Tehran's threat that deploying the missiles could “"create a world war.” Speaking to the ISNA news agency, Iranian General Hassan Firouzabadi said that “the Patriot (missiles) are threatening. Each one of them is a black dot on the map, (setting the stage) to create a world war.
 
"The Western countries seeking to deploy the missile batteries on the Turkey-Syria border are devising plans for a world war,” Firouzabadi said. "This is very dangerous for everyone, and even for the future of Europe. A veteran military man and analyst can easily see this and predict the future."
 
There was no comment on the report from official sources in Turkey or Iran.

Turkey and Iran accuse Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 09:21
Turkey and Iran flagsEarlier this week, Iran and Turkey accused Israel of committing “war crimes” after denying to consider the Israeli airstrike to be used for self-defense. 
 
AFP reported Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemning Israel of “ethnic cleansing” towards Palestinians. 
 
“Israel is committing ethnic cleansing by ignoring peace in this region and violating international law,” Erdogan said. “It is occupying the Palestinian territory step by step.”
 
Erdogan said Israeli air raids against Gaza could not be deemed self-defense, accusing Western countries of aiding what it called a "terrorist state" by condoning its violence in the Middle East.
 
“Sooner or later, Israel will answer for the innocent blood it has shed so far,” he said.
 
Erdogan said the United Nations “turned a blind eye” on Israeli attacks against Palestinians, accusing the international body of double standards against Muslims.
 
Iran echoed its voice with Erdogan on Tuesday stressing the importance to provide Palestinians with arms to defend themselves. 
 
“Neither Iran nor Hamas seek conflict or war, or aim to endanger the lives of innocent people,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly briefing.
 
The guilty party is “the criminal Zionist (Israeli) regime, which should be tried for war crimes,” he said.
 
He made the remarks in response to comments by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who accused Iran of encouraging the Palestinians to continue rocket attacks on Israel rather than negotiate a ceasefire.
 
“The unpleasant one is the Iranians. They are trying again to encourage the Hamas to continue the shooting, the bombing, they are trying to send them arms,” Peres said in an interview on CNN Monday.
 
“We are not going to make a war with Iran. But we are trying to prevent the shipping of long range missiles which Iran is sending to Hamas,” Peres said referring to Iranian-made Fajr 5 rockets used by Hamas militants to target Tel Aviv.
 
A top Iranian lawmaker, Aladin Borujerdi, had earlier denied Iran was sending missiles to Hamas.
 
Mehmanparast also denied any rift with Hamas, saying Iran has “always supported and will support the people of Palestine and Palestinian fighters, in particular Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.”
 
He said supporting the Palestinians was “one of the fundamental cornerstones shaping Iran's foreign policy” since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
 
Iran in recent days has urged regional Muslim countries to send weapons to the Palestinians, with Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi encouraging them to close ranks and retaliate against Israel over the attacks on Gaza.
 
The Jewish state launched a major air offensive on Gaza on November 14 with a missile strike that killed the military commander of the Islamist movement Hamas which rules the territory. More than 110 Palestinians have been killed since, while three Israelis have died in rocket fire.

Israel Mocks Turkey’s ‘Show Trial’ for '18,000 Years in Jail'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 07:07
Weapons from the MarmaraA Turkish court on Tuesday began what Israel calls an in absentia "show trial" of former IDF Chief of Gabi Ashkenazi and three other former senior military officers over the 2010 clash with the terror-linked IHH organization.
 
The prosecutors are demanding multiple life sentences that would amount to 18,000 years in jail for the four officers over the clash that plunged relations between Israel and Turkey into deep crisis. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Istanbul court waving Palestinian Authority flags and chanting "Damn Israel" as the trial opened, AFP reported
 
Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched by the IHH, ostensibly a relief agency but which has been proven to include terrorists. Their ship presumably was headed to Hamas-controlled Gaza with humanitarian aid in an effort to break the maritime embargo against the smuggling of terrorists and arms into Gaza. After the Mavi Mamara ship was led to the post in Ashdod, it was discovered there was no aid on board.Flotilla Terrorists
 
Nine IHH terror activists were killed in the clash after they brutally clubbed IDF Navy commandos who had boarded the ship virtually unarmed. Reinforcements were sent in after the IHH kidnapped, shot and knifed commandos, kidnapping three of them until their rescue.
 
"This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP, saying the defendants had not even been informed about the nature of the charges.
 
"They haven't been given even a symbolic chance to have legal representation," he added. "It's a propaganda showcase. The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel."
 
The defendants in the trial are Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.
 
Israel ruled that those who took part in the raid did nothing wrong, and one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expected the court to issue an arrest warrant for the men.
 
Last year, an Israeli probe ruled that the raid did not violate international law, and a United Nations report said that although the IDF used “excessive force,” the flotilla organizers acted “recklessly” and that the maritime blockade was legal.
 
In May, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon had said he was expecting foreign diplomatic pressure on Turkey to stop the trial, saying it could have "wide-ranging implications for NATO and US forces," which frequently board ships suspected of terror activity.
 
Turkey insists ties will not return to normal unless Israel offers a formal apology, compensates the victims and lifts the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Erdogan Warns EU Might Lose Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 10:00
turkey eu flagsTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday the European Union will lose his nation if it is not accepted as a member by 2023. At that time, Turkey will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a republic, created following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.
 
Erdogan's comment was the first indication of how much longer the country is willing to wait for an answer on its EU membership before finally tossing in the towel.
 
During a panel discussion Tuesday night in Berlin, Erdogan responded to a question on the subject by saying, “They probably won't string us along that long. But if they do... then the European Union will lose out, and at the very least they will lose Turkey.”
 
An overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 74 million people that has until recently been mostly secular, Turkey has pursued membership in the EU since 2005.
 
Its entry has consistently been blocked primarily by France and also Germany, where some 3 million Turkish nationals currently reside. Another 3 million Turkish citizens live in other areas of the EU as well.
 
The European Commission, which functions as the executive arm of the EU, has said that Turkey does not yet meet the required standards on human rights and freedom of speech. In addition, Turkey has completed only one of 35 policy “chapters” each candidate must finish, according to the EU.
 
Earlier this month, a trial began in Istanbul against internationally-renowned Turkish jazz and classical pianist Fazil Say on charges of "publicly insulting religious values adopted by a part of the nation." If convicted in the suit over Twitter messages that had references to Islam, brought by individual citizens, the Turkish musician could face up to 18 months in prison.

Muslim Brotherhood Lacks The Patience Of Turkish AKP Party

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 October 2012 23:24
mo-bro-leaderEgypt and Turkey are united on the Syrian issue, Egypt has pushed back against the Turkish AKP that wanted to teach the Egyptians how to establish a successful and enduring Muslim regime. These offers have been rebuffed because Arabs refuse to be tutored by Turks.
 
What characterized the rule of the Turkish Justice and Development party (AKP ) was its gradualist approach to consolidating power. During its first term, the party tried to project an aura of moderation. This helped mislead President George W. Bush and his successor Barack Obama, who salivated over the prospects of a moderate Islamic government whose example could be propagated through the entire Muslim world. Once it had gotten two terms under its belt, the AKP began showing the Army and the judiciary who was the boss and instituting a more Islamist policy.
 
The clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square between the Muslim Brotherhood supporters and liberal Egyptians are an example that the Turkish model has not been embraced.
 
Muslim demonstrators simply destroyed a stage that had been set up for the liberal elements and pelted them with stones. 120 were wounded. Realizing how bad the reports were for its image, the Muslim Brotherhood quickly distanced itself from the thugs who had attacked the liberals - but the damage was done.
 
The call for a jihad against Israel to liberate Jerusalem, issued by the supreme Muslim Brotherhood Guide Mohammed Badie, and laced with gutter anti-Semitism, was also politically premature.
 
Egypt's behavior will not help to endow the country with a business-friendly image and some US congressmen, even before the events of this weekend, were calling for cuts in aid to Egypt.
 
The Muslim Brotherhood will be expected to demonstrate economic success and Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi is trying to roll out the red carpet for investors, but he has to keep his own followers from providing a distraction. One of the keys to the AKP's political success, it should be recalled, in Turkey was the country's stellar economic growth rate.
 
In fairness to the Muslim Brotherhood, it developed in a climate of political dictatorship, while postwar Turkey was characterized by more competitive politics. This allowed AKP politicians to hone political skills and sensitivities that the Muslim Brotherhood  lacks.

UAE may join Turkey nuclear power plant project

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 11 October 2012 08:59
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Abu Dhabi. ReutersThe United Arab Emirates could join a project to build Turkey’s second nuclear power plant if South Korea is involved, Turkish energy minister said on Thursday.
 
“Officials from the United Arab Emirates said they could be a partner in the project if South Korea undertakes the building of the nuclear power plant,” in northern Turkey, Taner Yildiz was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.
 
The government plans to build three nuclear power plants within five years in hopes of preventing a possible energy shortage and reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies.
 
Turkey struck a deal with Russia in 2010 to build the country’s first power plant at Akkuyu in the southern Mersin province.
 
The government plans to build a second reactor in northern Turkey, near the Black Sea city of Sinop. But it has not yet announced a location for a third reactor.
 
Ankara is negotiating with a number of countries including South Korea, China and Japan for the second power plant.

Turkey Forces Down Syrian Passenger Plane

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 20:48
Turkey Down Syrian Passenger PlaneA Syrian Airbus A320 flying from Moscow to Damascus was intercepted by Turkish F-16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace and escorted to the capital's Esenboga Airport, Turkey's TRT television said Wednesday.
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the plane was forced to land because of information that it may be carrying "certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules".
 
"We received information that the plane's cargo did not comply with rules of civil aviation," he said.
 
Lebanese newspaper Daily Star quoted Davutoglu as saying that international law would apply if weapons were found on the Syrian aircraft. He did not elaborate further.
 
Private NTV television said there were 35 passengers on board the plane and that it was intercepted by Turkish authorities at around 1430 GMT.
 
Meanwhile, Turkish authorities declared Syrian airspace to be unsafe and began stopping Turkish aircraft from flying over the country.
 
TRT said a Turkish plane that had already taken off for Saudi Arabia made a detour and landed at a Turkish airport.

Turkey, Iran and the West Entangled in the Syrian Civil War

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 06 October 2012 20:29
Turkey has retaliated against Syria - ReutersFighting in Syria between Damascus and the rebel militias continues to drag on and the violent rebellion has now come to involve Turkey, Iran and the West. 
 
The civil war continues to entangle Turkey in violence, as Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day in which Syrian shells fired by the rebels landed in the neighboring country. In reponse, Turkey again fired back at Syria Saturday after a Syrian bomb landed in a field in southern Turkey. 
 
The response comes only one day after the Turkish Prime Minister warned Syria it would not hesitate to retaliate if further provoked. 
 
Meanwhile, rebels have warned that the West's inaction in the crisis will only cause trouble down the road. As reported by the New York Times, Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian militia, slammed the West for not trying to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from massacring his own people, saying the Syrian people are being radicalized because of the intensity of the conflict and the fact that the entire world is doing nothing to stop the killings. 
 
Al-Muhammad claimed the frustration caused by the West turning its back on the people of Syria will cause the Syrian people to turn their back on the West once the civil war comes to an end. 
 
“We are now at a very critical juncture,” wrote a journalist in one Turkish newspaper, “We are not only facing Syria, but Iran, Iraq, Russia and China behind it as well. Behind us, we have nothing but the provocative stance and empty promises of the U.S.”
 
“The United Nations and international community are making a big mistake,” said Ghassan Abdul Wahib, 43, a truck driver and now a leader in Kafr Takharim, a village in the north. “By letting this be a long war, they are dragging Syria toward radicalism, and they will suffer from this for a long time.”
 
Iran continues to be entangled in the crisis, as Syrian rebels said they will begin executing the 48 Iranian hostages they have if Iran does not stop sending weapons to the Syria government and are calling on Iran to withdraw their military from the Eastern Ghuta area of Damascus. Among the 48 are several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  

Turkish Army Attacks Targets in Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 04 October 2012 10:36
Turkish army artillery vehiclesThe Turkish army attacked several targets in Syria on Wednesday evening, officials in Ankara confirmed.
 
The incident, the first of its kind since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad began in March of 2011, came several hours after a mortar shell fired from Syria exploded on Turkish territory and killed five people.
 
“Our military forces, operating in the border area, responded this evening to the criminal attack that took place earlier today,” said a statement from the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
“We used artillery fire against the targets and a hit was detected,” said the statement.
 
Meanwhile, AFP reported that NATO, in an emergency meeting Wednesday, backed Turkey and called on Syria to respect international law.
 
"The Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally and urges the Syrian regime to end flagrant violations of international law," a statement said after the meeting was called at Ankara's request.
 
Erdogan has openly backed the rebels trying to bring down Assad’s regime, straining Ankara’s relations with Damascus.
 
Classified documents published Saturday by the Al-Arabiya network indicated that two Turkish pilots killed in Syria after Syrian forces shot down their plane were deliberately executed following consultation between Damascus and Moscow.
 
A senior adviser to Erdogan responded to the report on Sunday, saying that the documents were fake and adding, “It is well known that intelligence documents do not look like this.”

Morsi in Turkey, Calls for Support for Syria and 'Palestine'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 30 September 2012 16:38
Morsi speaks in Turkey - ReutersEgyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday discussed several pressing regional issues in an address delivered at an annual conference of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party.
 
"Our history, hopes and goals bind us together to achieve the freedom and justice that all nations are struggling for," Morsi said during a short visit to Ankara, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.
 
Morsi, on his first visit to Turkey as Egypt's president, urged members of the audience to support "the nations that are aspiring to freedom and independence."
 
“The Arab world and the Arab Spring need you and your support to achieve sought-for stability,” he said, according to Al-Ahram.
 
Egypt, he went on, "supports the demand of the people for freedom from oppression and occupation in both Syria and Palestine," stressing Turkey's role as an "important element" in issues of concern to the region.
 
Morsi also condemned the "misery" imposed on the Syrian people and the "bloodshed caused by the Syrian regime."
 
"The Syrian people have the right to choose their leaders," said the Egyptian president. "And this can only be achieved when they obtain their full freedom on their own soil and have our full support."
 
Morsi also expressed his hope for the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, urging his listeners to support “the Palestinian national cause.”
 
He also stressed that the border between Egypt and Hamas-run Gaza remained open "to meet our obligations to our brothers in Gaza."
 
Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal also attended the conference in Turkey, along with several members of the Gaza government, Al-Ahram reported.
 
"In Egypt, we aspire for stability, security and productivity," Morsi declared in his speech. "The Egyptian people are now on the path towards national revival and the establishment of a true civilization for the nation."
 
He went on to reject any outside interference in Egypt's domestic affairs.
 
The speech comes amid reports earlier on Sunday that Morsi has expressed willingness to meet top Israeli officials. According to the Yisrael Hayom newspaper which published the report, his preference would be to meet with President Shimon Peres.
 
The report said that if such a meeting takes place it would occur in Washington, shortly after the U.S. election. During the meeting, the two officials would attempt to set a new basis for the sour relations between Israel and Egypt, which nearly fell apart after an Egyptian mob stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo last year.
 
Last week, in his address to the United Nations, Morsi hit out at Israel over its veiled threats to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.
 
Morsi said the Middle East "no longer tolerates" any country's refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty "especially if this is coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats."
 
"The acceptance by the international community of the principle of pre-emptiveness or the attempt to legitimize it is in itself a serious matter and must be firmly confronted to avoid the prevalence of the law of the jungle," he said.
 
Morsi also put the Israel-Arab conflict ahead of the Syria war in the list of priorities he laid out before the General Assembly.
 
"The first issue which the world must exert all its efforts in resolving, on the basis of justice and dignity, is the Palestinian cause," Morsi said.
 
He said that UN resolutions on the conflict had not been implemented and that Palestinian Authority Arabs "must also taste the fruits of freedom and dignity" that other countries in the Arab region have won in the past year.

Turkey closes border gates with Syria to all traffic as security conditions worsens

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:18
Turkey border with Syria. (Reuters)All Turkey’s border gates with Syria are to be closed from Wednesday, an official from the Turkish Customs and Trade Ministry told Reuters, in response to worsening security conditions.
 
Syrian rebels seized control of several gates on the Syrian side of the frontier over the last week in their 16-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
The closure will halt the passage of vehicles between Turkey and Syria. Refugees from Syria, who have been fleeing into Turkey in their thousands to escape the conflict, cross the border through smuggling routes.
 
Tensions along the border were fuelled by the shooting down last month of a Turkish military reconnaissance jet by Syrian air defenses.
 
Ankara, which previously had close ties with Damascus, subsequently increased its military presence, sending anti-aircraft missiles to the border and scrambling planes when Syrian aircraft came close to Turkish territory.
 
Wednesday’s move will close the only three border gates that were still open, at Cilvegozu, Oncupinar and Karkamis, the unnamed official said.
 
The official said Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazici would make an announcement on the decision at 0800 GMT.
 
Crossing the border had become increasingly hazardous for truck drivers involved in trade between the two countries. They faced the constant risk of being targeted by combatants or caught in the crossfire between the two sides.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said this week the uprising against Assad was “closer than ever to victory” and warned Turkey will respond firmly to any hostility from Syria.
 
Turkey has called for Assad to quit after he failed to heed calls for reform and the country has harbored Syrian rebels and tens of thousands of refugees along its border with Syria.
 
Syria’s uprising started when political protests in March 2011 met a harsh government crackdown. As dissent spread and the death toll rose, many in the opposition took up arms and the conflict transformed into a civil war.
 
Syria’s position as a geographic and political crossroads for the Middle East and beyond has given its conflict resonance far beyond its borders.
 
The U.S. and many Western nations have said that Assad must go, while Russia and China have stood by the regime and protected it from international condemnation by the United Nations Security Council.
 
Iran also counts Assad as a close ally and a bridge to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which it funds and arms. On Tuesday, the commander of the Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Masoud Jayazeri, warned of retaliation if any Arab countries intervened in Syria, The Associated Press reported.
 
Despite rising condemnation of Assad, no country appears ready to intervene militarily to push him from power. Still, a Syrian official on Monday threatened that Syria could use chemical or biological weapons if it were attacked from outside.
 
Russia on Tuesday rebuked Syria for the threat, reminding Damascus that it had ratified a global convention banning the use of chemical weapons. A foreign ministry statement said Syria must “unfailingly honor its international obligations.”
 
In Israel, which shares a closed and hostile border with Syria, the military chief warned his own government that an Israeli attack on Syria's chemical weapons depots could drag the Jewish state into a broader war.
 
Israeli officials have expressed fears that chaos in Syria could allow non-conventional weapons to reach those who would use them against Israel.
 
Israel must move cautiously to avoid “a broader offensive than we planned,” Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said, according to the army’s website.

Syrian Tanks Gather on Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Friday, 29 June 2012 20:44
Syrian Tanks Near DamascusThe Syrian army has gathered roughly 170 tanks near the Turkish border, Syrian rebels said Friday. Rebels told international media that forces are gathering north of Aleppo.
 
“The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They're either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious (Syrian) towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” General Mustafa al-Sheikh told Reuters.
 
Al-Sheikh is head of the Higher Military Council, a group of senior officers who defected from the Syrian army.
 
On Tuesday, Turkish media reported that Turkey had deployed a large number of military vehicles to its border with Syria. The move followed Syria’s shooting of a Turkish jet in international airspace last week.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan said Turkey is not seeking to fight Syria, but “will not stay silent” in light of the attack.

NATO Backs Turkey Against Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:03
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Reuters)NATO on Tuesday firmly backed Turkey saying Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish jet was “unacceptable,:
 
NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the incident saying, "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms…It is another example of the Syrian authorities' disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life." 
 
"We discussed the shooting down of a Turkish aircraft by Syria. All allies have approved a statement setting out our firm position, "said Rasmussen following the meeting of North Atlantic Council of NATO. 
 
The Turkish-Syrian alliance has turned increasingly sour during Syrian President Bashar al-Assad`s brutal 14-month crackdown on a popular uprising against his rule. 
 
However, last Friday when a Turkish jet F4 Phantom was shot down by Syria, relations between Ankara and Damascus turned potentially hot.  
 
Turkey claims the jet was in the international space when it was fired on, but Syria says the plane was in their airspace. 
 
Protesting the downing of its jet in vigorious terms, Turkey invoked article 4 of NATO's founding treaty and requested a meeting of NATO members to decide on the response. 
 
As a result, the twenty eight member states of NATO met Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the incident,  before Rassmussen released his statement.
 
"Let me make this clear. The security of the alliance is indivisible. We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity," the alliance Secretary General said. 
 
Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan - known for his bellicose rhetoric - warned Syria of Ankara's furor saying, "Everybody should know that Turkey's wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable." 
 
"Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb," he said. 
 
Turkey also sent a letter to the UN Security Council saying that the incident posed “a serious threat to peace and security in the region." 
 
The letter further condemned the "hostile act by the Syrian authorities against Turkey's national security". 
 
Despite NATO's strong statement in support of Turkey, analysts say there is little chance the alliance will intervene to oust Assad as it did against late strongman Muammar Qaddafi in Libya.

Turkey accuses Syria of shooting at rescue plane following ‘hostile act’

Category: News
Created on Monday, 25 June 2012 21:27
Turkish military jetsTurkey said on Monday that Syrian forces had fired at a second Turkish plane which was searching for an F-4 reconnaissance jet shot down by Syria last week, but the second plane was not brought down. 
 
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference that Turkey would protect itself, within the framework of international law, against what it called Syria’s “hostile action” of downing its warplane last week, according to Reuters.
 
He said at the end of a seven-hour cabinet meeting on the incident that Syria’s downing of the reconnaissance jet would “not go unpunished” and then threatened that Turkey may cut electricity exports to Syria.
 
“We have considered that for humanitarian reasons one should supply electricity to Syria so that the daily lives of the people are not affected,” Arinc said. “For the moment we will continue with this... but in one or two days there will be a declaration whether we will continue or not.”
 
He also accused Syria of intentionally shooting down the fighter jet in international airspace with a missile.
 
“There is no doubt that the Syrians intentionally shot down our plane in international airspace,” he told the cabinet, speaking of Friday’s incident. “The facts in our possession show that our plane was hit by a heat-seeking guided laser missile.”
 
“To target an aircraft in this fashion without any warning is a hostile act of the highest order,” he said at a press conference following a cabinet meeting to discuss Friday’s incident over the Mediterranean.
 
The official also said that Turkey had no intention of going to war with anyone after one the jet was shot down by Syria and said it would only act in accordance with international law.
 
“Whatever is needed to be done will definitely be done within the framework of international law. We have no intention of going to war with anyone. We have no such intent,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference Turkey after a seven-hour cabinet meeting on the incident.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government said it downed the F-4 Phantom on Friday after the Turkish jet violated Syrian airspace.
 
NATO has said it will discuss Turkey’s accusations, while Britain, another member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has offered support for “robust” international action.
 
Turkey-Syria relations have already been strained by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s outspoken condemnation of the Assad’s regime’s bloody crackdown, which rights activists say has killed more than 15,000 people since March 2011.
 
The United States said on Monday it would work with NATO ally Turkey to hold Syria accountable for what U.S. officials believe was a deliberate act of shooting down the Turkish fighter jet.
 
But White House spokesman Jay Carney sidestepped questions about what an appropriate response might be to the incident.
 
“We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable,” Carney told reporters on board Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to New Hampshire.
 
“We are in close contact with Turkish officials as they investigate,” Carney said, noting that Turkey was expected to make a presentation about the incident at a NATO meeting on Tuesday.
 
“Turkey has been a leader in the international community’s effort to address the Syrian regime’s violence against its own people,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Sunday.
 
“We will continue our close cooperation with Turkey as part of our broader efforts to promote a democratic transition in Syria,” she said.

Turkey confirms Syria shot down F-4 military jet, search for pilots ongoing

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 June 2012 21:01
Turkey military aircraftSyria shot down a Turkish military fighter jet in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement, amid earlier ambiguity over whether the plane had been downed by Syrian defense forces or had crashed. 
 
“As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria,” Erdogan’s office said.
 
Turkey would decide on its response to the incident once all of the details became clear, it said in the statement, issued after a two-hour meeting between Erdogan, members of his cabinet and the military.
 
His office also said that search and rescue operations were continuing for two missing pilots.
 
Following Erdogan's statement, the Syrian military said it shot down the Turkish military aircraft "over Syrian territorial waters."
 
"Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane," a statement by the military circulated on state media said.
 
Earlier on Friday, Erdogan said he could not confirm whether Syria had admitted to shooting down a Turkish warplane in the Mediterranean. 
 
While reports had circulated that Syria had apologized for the incident, claiming it was a mistake, Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara that he had no firm information on the apology.
 
He had also said he could not confirm whether the plane had been shot down or crashed. 
 
Earlier, the Turkish army said it lost radar and radio contact with one of its aircrafts on the Mediterranean near neighboring Syria, and a television station said it had crashed in Syrian territorial waters.
 
The conflicting, or perhaps extra cautious, statements from the Turkish PM came after Erdogan was reportedly quoted by Haberturk daily newspaper earlier on Friday as saying: "Syria immediately offered a very serious apology for the incident and admitted it was a mistake."
 
He had also been quoted by the paper as saying the two pilots of the Turkish F-4 fighter jet were alive after the incident.
 
“At this moment the air force and navy are conducting search and rescue operations in the western Mediterranean and luckily our pilots are alive, we have just lost a plane,” he told journalists while travelling back from Brazil.
 
In Ankara, Erdogan told reporters there is no news on the pilots and Turkish ships and helicopters were searching for the missing pilots together with Syrian ships.
 
The senior adviser to the Turkish president, Arshad Harmozlo, had said that the statement from the Turkish news report was baseless, and instead reiterated Erdogan’s comments. 
 
“We have no confirmation surrounding the Syrian apology or even that Syria has shot down the jet … The rescue operation to find the pilots continues,” he told Al Arabiya in a telephone interview. 
 
He also said he has no information on claims Turkish jet pilots have been captured by Syria.
 
Shortly after, Erdogan met military and intelligence chiefs and key ministers for a security meeting, after which he released a statement confirming Syria had downed the plane. 
 
Earlier on Friday, Lebanon’s Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station had already confirmed this. The channel said that Syrian air defenses shot down the Turkish military aircraft, quoting Syrian security sources. 
 
“Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defense forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet,” the Hezbollah-owned channel said.
 
Meanwhile, pro-Iranian Al-Mayadeen television station, which is based in Lebanon, quoted what it said were Turkish sources as saying a jet had been shot down by Syrian air defenses near the border with Turkey.
 
Tense relations
 
 
Turkey, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, became one of the Syrian leader’s fiercest critics when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world. 
 
Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without U.N. Security Council approval.
 
Turkey said it had lost contact with one of its military aircraft off its southeastern coast, and a television station said it had crashed in Syrian territorial waters.
 
The plane took off from Malatya airbase in the southeast at 0730 GMT and lost communication with the base at 0858 GMT in the southwest of the Hatay province bordering Syria, the military command said in a statement posted online.
 
“Search and rescue efforts have started immediately,” it said.
 
The Hurriyet daily newspaper reported that the plane had gone down in international waters and that the two airmen had been found alive and well following a search operation by Turkish forces.
 
Turkish warplanes regularly patrol along and off Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast.

Turkey Fears Syrian Conflict Spilling Over Border

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 20:52
Villagers block entrance to Lebanese Syrian border town RutersTurkey has expressed fears that the bloodshed from the growing civil war in Syria could spill over its border.
 
“We are disturbed by the possibility that it could spread to us,” Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said Wednesday in an interview on state-run TRT television.
 
More than 29,500 Syrian refugees have fled through that border to the safety of Turkey in the past year, officials in Ankara have said. At least two thousand of those arrived within the past 48 hours, a major upswing in the number of people fleeing the violence at one time, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
 
Among the latest wave of refugees were 43 wounded victims who required hospitalization, according to Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal. Some 50,000 Syrians have sought shelter across the border in Turkey over the past 15 months, Turkish officials estimate, but thousands returned to their homes, or moved elsewhere.
 
There have been similar flights to safety by Syrian refugees who have crossed borders into Lebanon and Jordan as well. Both countries are also expressing their concerns over the growing incidents of violence that have spilled over their borders.
 
In Lebanon, sectarian rifts which have existed for decades have widened even further as a result of the current Syrian civil war, and in one village a rebel activist supporter was kidnapped on June 11 by a gang of pro-Alawite Lebanese, prompting other villagers to block the road used as a border crossing between the two countries.
 
On April 9, two Turkish officials were wounded when clashes between Syrian government troops and opposition forces spilled across the border and into a refugee camp set up in Turkey. That same day, 21 people were killed in the fighting outside the camp, and two others were injured; a Lebanese cameraman was also killed while filming near the Syrian border along his own country.
 
In response, Turkey has begun to tighten its own borders, and closely question the smugglers who were bringing in the refugees.
 
Officials have started to suspect that some of those refugees might be members of the PKK terrorist organization that promotes a separatist movement in southeast Turkey. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's late father, Hafez al-Assad, encouraged the emigration of Kurdish members of the movement to Turkey in the 1990s.
 
International leaders -- including those in Israel -- have also expressed increasing concerns over the rise of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization in Syria, as the Assad regime loses its grip over the country and no clear unified opposition authority takes control.
 
Humanitarian aid organizations and the United Nations have estimated that at least 13,500 civilians have been killed in the violence since the revolt was ignited in March 2011 by the regionwide Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East.
 
It is not possible to obtain more detailed information due to the restrictions placed on U.N. agencies, journalists and other media by the Assad regime, however; at least nine journalists have been killed -- including several from the United States -- attempting to gain more accurate information through coverage of events in the country, and numerous others have gone missing or been trapped and/or wounded. 

US-Based 'Georgia Power' Interested in Turkey's Nuclear Plant

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 11 June 2012 07:45
U.S.-based Georgia Power is interested in joining Turkey’s nuclear power plant project, its Chief Executive Officer Paul Bowers announced on Friday, The Hurriyet Daily News reported.IHH
 
“Turkey wants to be independent in the energy arena. We can help them because we have been constructing nuclear power plants for the past 30 years,” Bowers told the Anatolia News Agency during his visit to Turkey with Georgia State Governor Nathan Deal.
 
Bowers stressed that Georgia Power specializes in ensuring that nuclear energy remains safe and clean.
 
Bowers and Deal are planning to meet with Turkey’s Economy Ministry during their visit to discuss their interest in the nuclear plant project. 
 
“We have 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. and 400 around the world. We ensure that our nuclear projects are in line with all safety standards. If there are any other recommendations or suggestions beyond this, we can of course take those on as well,” Bowers said. 
 
The move comes following the declaration of Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz that Turkey is determined to build nuclear power plants, and aims to establish 23 nuclear units by 2023.
 
The country is in talks with Japan, South Korea, China and Canada for the second nuclear power plant to be constructed in the northern province of Sinop.
 
Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy giant, has been awarded the contract to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in the southern province of Mersin. The plant is said to cost around $20 billion.
 
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that the country’s first particle accelerator, which opened at the beginning of the month, aims strictly at serving the health sector and diminishing dependence on external markets.
 
However, such declarations of peaceful nuclear ambitions remain doubtful, at best, as Erdogan has criticized the international community for singling out Iran on nuclear issues, saying, “You have to be fair. You will overlook Israel’s nuclear activities but you will spark crisis over Iran. This is not fair.”

Zeal of Turkey’s ruling Islamists worries EU diplomats

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 10 June 2012 08:10
European Union diplomats are expressing growing concern at what they see as the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey’s ruling Islamists.Ergenekon network
 
They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the government as a tool to jail and silence opponents and compromise the country’s secular credentials by introducing Koran studies in public schools.
 
Other measures include lowering the age at which parents can send their children to Islamic religious schools, increasing pressure on those criticizing Islam and restricting abortion.
 
Turkish authorities accuse the so-called Ergenekon network of being behind several plots to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
Dozens of retired or serving senior military figures, intellectuals, lawyers and journalists have been put behind bars.
 
On Thursday Stefan Fuele, European commissioner for enlargement, cited this and other obstacles in the way of Turkey’s membership bid while in Istanbul for talks.
“I have used this meeting to convey our concerns about the increasing detention of lawmakers, academics and students and the freedom of press and journalists,” he said.
 
Changes due to take effect when the new academic year starts this autumn also have also ruffled feathers. The Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is introducing Quran lessons.
 
And from the end of primary school, more parents will be able to opt out of the secular education system and send their children to Islamic religious schools. Previously these schools could not recruit children under the age of 15: now children as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.
 
There is concern too over plans by state broadcaster TRT to launch a religious channel and proposals for prayer rooms in newly built public buildings such as creches, theatres and even opera houses.
 
“A series of recent moves show that the conservative tendency has the upper hand and faces no opposition,” said Marc Pierini, a former head of the EU diplomatic team in Turkey.
 
“Civil society exists, but it is hardly audible,” said one Ankara-based diplomat.
 
“The media are for the most part directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP and the opposition is powerless,” the diplomat added.
 
Plans to restrict the abortion laws and other moves that critics say will would make Islam a more visible part of daily life are added areas of concern.
 
Comments last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he compared abortion to a botched attack by the military that killed 34 civilians last December, brought a sharp response from a senior EU diplomat.
 
Erdogan had said of abortion: “You either kill a baby in the mother’s womb or you kill it after birth. There’s no difference.”
 
And in a emotive reference to the attack in Uludere, in which Turkish warplanes killed civilians they had mistaken for Kurdish separatists, he said “every abortion is an Uludere.”
 
“Some politicians made comparisons that are not appropriate,” Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, told journalists.
 
Turkey is preparing a bill to slash the time limit for abortions from 10 weeks to between four and six weeks.
 
Thousands of women have demonstrated against the proposed changes, defending the existing abortion law, which dates back to 1965.
 
Turkey’s acclaimed composer and pianist Fazil Say faces trial in October on charges of insulting religious values in a series of provocative tweets about Islam. If convicted, he could face up to 18 months in prison.
 
In April, Say told the Hurriyet daily that he felt completely ostracized by Turkish society since having declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance.
 
One European diplomat in Istanbul remarked: “It’s not just the fact that he is being put on trial, but also what the pro-government newspaper Sabah says, which has made a hero out of the guy who denounced him.”
 
Sabah has lavished praise on the person who alerted the authorities to Say’s comments on Twitter, with one headline describing him as “The man who gives no respite to the enemies of Islam”.
 
Erdogan has also just announced that a giant mosque is to be built on one of Istanbul’s most hills, which will become one of the city’s most visible landmarks.
 
This latest announcement on top of the other developments have been seized on by the critics of Erdogan and the AKP, who suspect the government has a covert agenda to promote Islam -- and undermine Turkey’s secular traditions.
 
“He fuelled this debate himself recently with certains utterances, one example being that he and his party wanted to see ‘the emergence of a religious generation’,” noted Semih Idiz, a leader writer for Milliyet newspaper.

Turkey tries out soft power, hard cash in Somalia

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 June 2012 08:51
In a sprawl of plastic refugee shelters and mortar-blasted buildings in Mogadishu, a mud-caked Turkish engineering team monitors the drilling of a new borehole while their armed guards chat lazily under a tree, guns across laps.500 Turkish relief workers and volunteers unleashing a wave of humanitarian aid
 
These government contractors are on the frontline of a huge Turkish development effort in one of the world’s most dangerous cities - one which U.N. agencies and international charities prefer to deal with from the safety of neighboring Kenya.
 
Across the Somali capital, a bombed-out shell after two decades of fighting, residents say Turkey has done more in eight months to shatter the perception that Mogadishu is a no-go zone than the international community has achieved in twenty years.
 
“Our government likes to help anyone in crisis so we came here without thinking anything,” said the lead engineer, Mehmet, who asked Reuters to use a pseudonym because government employees are not authorized to talk to the media without permission.
The retreat of al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the city in August ended the daily street battles and shelling between the militants and African troops, and offered a rare chance to ramp up aid as a famine gripped central and southern Somalia.
 
Some 500 Turkish relief workers and volunteers poured into Mogadishu’s bullet-scarred wastelands, unleashing a wave of humanitarian aid as the militants struck back with a string of suicide bombings and roadside blasts.
 
“Of course it is dangerous but we don’t think about those things. Inshallah, nothing has happened to us. If we are afraid, we can’t operate,” the engineer said.
 
Turkish flags - white crescent moon and star on red background - flutter in the coastal breeze and billboards marking out Turkish reconstruction projects dot the capital, where potholed streets are lined by rubble-strewn ruins and mountains of garbage.
 
Turkey’s “Arab Spring” forays into Middle Eastern diplomacy, have drawn much attention on the international stage. Its launch into Africa, however, has gone little noticed by a world more focused on China’s involvement in the sub-Saharan region.
 
A hotspot in the U.S.-led war against militant Islam, Somalia offers Ankara an opportunity to bolster its image as a soft power on the global stage.
 
There may also be rich trade pickings for Turkey’s thriving economy in the energy, construction and agriculture sectors; but first comes the most basic rebuilding.
 
Beneath Mogadishu’s gutted parliament building, Turkish medics perform surgery in a packed makeshift field-hospital.
 
“We come here with our hearts, not for money,” said one doctor scampering between the inflatable tented wards.
 
“Cover for Western invaders”
 
While security rules restrict foreign U.N. staff and diplomats to fleeting visits beyond the military-protected airport in armored troop carriers, Turkish aid workers move freely in vests adorned with the national flag
 
Their access, it seems, has nothing to do with religion. The Islamist al-Shabaab militant group has denounced Muslim Turkey’s involvement as a “cover for the Western invaders” and has targeted Turkish interests.
 
A suicide truck-bomber in October killed 72 people, many of them students applying for Turkish scholarships. Two months later a car bomb blew up meters from Turkey’s newly re-opened embassy but caused no Turkish casualties.
 
Turkey’s Ambassador C. Karin Torun, on his first ever diplomatic posting, described it as a question of political will.
 
“Our aim is to show a different model can work in getting help to the people,” said Torun, Turkey’s first ambassador in Somalia since civil war erupted in 1991.
 
Istanbul has just hosted an international conference on Somalia, focusing on improving infrastructure and security.
 
“Make Somalia’s voice heard”
 
Turkey is among a growing number of non-Western donors bringing funds, a fresh mindset and their own experience in managing natural disasters to the global humanitarian aid scene.
 
Addressing the Istanbul conference on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan urged the United Nations to intensify its operation in Somalia, and called on other countries who wanted to help to establish a greater on-ground presence there.
 
“We have really struggled to make Somalia’s voice heard, to make those who do not see or feel what’s going on in Somalia, see and feel,” he said. In August, he became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Mogadishu in nearly 20 years.
 
Privately U.N. officials said they admired the ability of Turkish charities and government employees to work in areas of the Somali capital seen by Westerners as too risky.
 
Mogadishu’s central Hodan district was at the epicenter of a protracted battle between Islamist rebels and African Union (AU) forces deployed to the coastal city to prop up the U.N.-backed government. Now building sites are mushrooming.
 
Late last year, the charity Doctors Worldwide Turkey converted a building formerly used as an ammunition dump into Mogadishu’s most hi-tech hospital, doing it in just two months.
 
“I’d never seen anything like it before,” marveled Dr. Osman Abdirahman Mohamed, who left Somalia during the war to train and work first in Pakistan and then in California. He returned to Mogadishu in 2010.
 
The charity has trained thirty of the hospital’s doctors, nurses and midwives in Turkey. Turkish specialists still visit on rotation, part of an effort to counter a hemorrhaging of local medics from the Horn of Africa country.
 
Turkey has fixed up Mogadishu’s crumbling airport, built schools and sent hundreds of Somalis to Turkey on scholarships, installed street lighting and cleared mountains of garbage.
 
Behind the counter of his well-stocked pharmacy, run from a metal-sheet kiosk, Mohamed Nur lauded Turkey’s “visible projects”.
 
“Other governments say they will come but they are not serious. The Turkish government said it would come and it started operating immediately,” Nur said.
 
Soft power, hard cash
 
Turkey, a rapidly growing economy and multi-party democracy that has applied to join the European Union, is widely regarded as a model for Muslim and other developing countries. It has also raised the flag over trail blazing construction projects across former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
 
Erdogan’s government has ratcheted up Turkey’s diplomatic presence in Africa, opening a string of new embassies and flexing diplomatic muscle on issues from Darfur to the Arab Spring. Turkey, analysts said, wants to be seen as the quintessential soft power.
 
“Prestige maximization is a key part of Turkey’s foreign policy. It is trying to portray itself as an indispensable power beyond the confines of its immediate neighborhood,” said Fadi Hakura of the London-based Chatham House think-tank.
 
While the risks are high - mightier foreign powers have tried and failed to mend Somalia - so too are the potential trade rewards.
 
Erdogan’s government is closely linked to Turkey’s powerful business interests, especially the “Anatolian Tiger” small companies in the country’s conservative heartland that thirst for new markets.
 
Turkey’s exports to Africa leapt to $10.3 billion last year from $2.1 billion in 2003, with iron and steel, mineral fuels and machinery among the most exported items, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Economy.
 
“So business and diplomacy go hand in hand,” Chatham House’s Hakura said.
 
“Changed the landscape”
 
Privately, some western aid officials question what deals Turkish aid and reconstruction groups might be cutting to operate with such apparent speed and ease in Somalia.
 
There are concerns among the Nairobi-based aid community that Turkish funding ends up lining the pockets of power-brokers, business tycoons and warlords.
 
Torn between frustration and envy, one aid worker in Nairobi said Turkey had “cut all the corners we cannot cut”, but that its achievements were making others look like “fools”.
 
Inside Mogadishu’s corridors of power, Turkey is flavor of the month.
 
At his heavily fortified residence, where armored plates cover the windows, Somalia’s Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said Turkey had “changed the landscape in Somalia”.
 
“They are the sponsor we have been looking for the last 20 years. They are the Holy Grail for Somalia,” said Ali, who returned from the United States in 2010, initially taking up a ministerial job in the fractured and graft-prone government.
 
Ali is fiercely critical of the United Nations, which he accuses of dealing with Somalia at arm’s length and squandering aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
 
“The truth is they (Turkey) are there to help us succeed. No more, no less. If anyone else has issues with it, I don’t care, that’s their problem,” Ali said.
 
If Ambassador Torun has a weakness, diplomats in Nairobi say, it is that he is politically naive in Somalia, a country where the political kingpins and clan warlords have masterfully duped international actors for twenty years for their own gains.
 
Turkey’s mounting sway comes at a time when Somalia’s political leaders are up against an August deadline to usher in a new parliament and president and adopt a new constitution that redefines the relationship between Mogadishu and the regions.
 
At stake, then, in a country where politics is driven by feuding clans battling to safeguard their interests is a handle on power and the resulting financial spoils. The worry among some diplomats is that Turkey will pick a favorite.
 
Horn of Africa analysts point to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s efforts to hitch his star to Turkey.
 
“The Turks haven’t got their heads around the politics yet,” said one Nairobi-based diplomat.
 
Traditional donors are frustrated about what they call foot-dragging over the political reforms.
 
While some including the European Union have threatened to punish perceived spoilers, Turkey has been less critical.
 
Some Somalia-watching diplomats feel the Turks could use their newly-won influence in Mogadishu to be tougher against the trouble-makers and speak up more strongly to achieve a successful end to the transition. 
 
Ambassador Torun dismisses suggestions that extending the interim government’s mandate would suit Turkish interests. “Whoever they select, we will work with them,” he said.
 
The best way to persuade Somali citizens to buy into the political process and end the cycle of violence, he said, was to offer an alternative to aid and the war economy.
 
“(Somalis) can’t support it if you only talk in five-star hotels and then put up roadmaps. It doesn’t work,” said Torun.
 
“People should see something is going on. Then they get hope and support the process.”

Turkish Court Charges Pianist with 'Insulting Islam'

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 02 June 2012 18:07
A Turkish court on Friday formally charged an internationally known pianist and composer with insulting Islamic religious values, in comments he made on Twitter.turkey eu flags
 
According to The Associated Press, the court in Istanbul voted to approve an indictment against Fazil Say, who has played piano with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, National Orchestra of France and Tokyo Symphony.
 
The 42-year-old Say faces charges of inciting hatred and public enmity, and insulting “religious values.” He allegedly mocked Islamic beliefs about paradise in April.
 
Say’s lawyer, Meltem Akyol, told AP the pianist has denied the charges. The trial will be held on Oct. 18, she said.
 
“We certainly do not accept the charges," Akyol said. “He has stated in his initial testimony during the probe that he had no intention to humiliate any religion. He was basically criticizing those who are exploiting religion for profit.”
 
Akyol said Say's tweets and retweets on social media cannot be considered as public remarks because only people who follow him can see them.
 
In one tweet cited in the indictment, Say said, “What if there is raki (traditional anisette drink) in paradise but not in hell, while there is Chivas Regal (scotch) in hell and not in paradise? What will happen then? This is the most important question!!”
 
Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists might consider such remarks unacceptable. In one of Say’s retweets, one excerpt questioned whether paradise was a “brothel?” according to the indictment.
 
Akyol claimed that line belonged to the wine-loving 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, adding that Say “was merely expressing his ideas within free speech.”
 
She confirmed that Say closed his Twitter account before the court decision Friday, because he was annoyed with messages.
 
“He has lately incurred the wrath of some people,” Akyol told AP. “He has even been receiving death threats.”
 
Say could face a maximum 1 1/2 years in prison if he is convicted, according to the AP report.
 
Previously, the report noted, Turkey's Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians, under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity. The government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.
 
In another incident in 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

Turkish Pianist Faces Imprisonment for Tweets Insulting Islam

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 28 May 2012 22:21
Fazil SayProsecutors in Turkey have demanded charging an internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist for comments he made on Twitter, insulting Islam.
 
According to reports, Fazil Say, an avowed atheist, is being accused of inciting hatred and "public enmity" and insulting “religious values.”
 
In one tweet Say wrote, “wherever there is a stupid person or a thief, they are believers in God. Is this a paradox?”
 
On a different occasion, he tweeted, “After tonight everyone in the country will be an atheist.”
 
Last month, he sent controversial tweets questioning whether heaven in Islamic belief is like a brothel or pub, because the Quran says that there are rivers flowing with alcoholic drinks and that beautiful virgins are waiting for martyrs and others who commit ‘good deeds,’ noted Today’s Zaman.
 
The state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Friday that an İstanbul court will decide whether to accept the proposed indictment against the pianist.
 
Say has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Berliner Symphoniker, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France and Tokyo Symphony.
 
He is not alone in being targetted for expressing his conscience via twitter in a Muslim country. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have also leveled criminal charges - and in some case stiff penalties - against citizens for posts they made on the Internet.

With Sarkozy Gone And Merkel Weakened, Turks Resume EU Entry Bid

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 20 May 2012 15:06
Prime Minister Tayyip ErdoganThe elections in France ousted from power one of the leading opponents of Turkish accession to the European Union- Nicolas Sarkozy.
 
Although the new French President, Francois Hollande, ruled out the possibility of Turkey entering the European Union during his five-year term the Turks are optimistic enough to reopen their entry bid.
 
There are three major reasons accounting for the renewed Turkish optimism.
 
Turkey viewed Sarkozy as the main stumbling block, due to domestic political considerations, part of his desire to win over voters from the extreme right. Turkey's European affairs minister Egemen Bagis commented: It worked in 2007, he added, "but I think it did not work in the second election."
 
Sarkozy also sought the Armenian vote by pushing through a law that would criminalize denial of the of the Armenian massacre by the Turks during the First World War. The law was overturned by the French constitutional court.
 
Hollande was the beneficiary of Moslem votes during the election and appointed three Muslim ministers, including the government spokeswoman. The Socialist victory was celebrated at the Bastille square and at that celebration Moroccan and Algerian flags nearly outnumbered the French tricolor.
 
For the Turks, this at least means that the new government will be more sensitive to Moslem voters and cannot give the appearance of excluding Turkey on these grounds.turkey eu flags
 
The Turks also see a weakening of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a result of recent state elections in Germany. The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, is on record as favoring Turkish entry into the European Union. The most that Merkel would've granted the Turks is a privileged partnership, something the Turks reject as second rate status.
 
Turkey would like the Social Democrats and the Greens to replace the current government, but even a grand coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats could soften German opposition to Turkish entry.
 
A third factor that is encouraging to the Turks is the deteriorating status of the traditional enemy - Greece - within the European Union. Particularly over the Cyprus issue, Greece and Cyprus have been blocking progress of negotiations between Turkey and the EU. As the Greeks are far from the flavor of the month, Ankara may conclude that Greek opposition could prove less influential.
 
Obstacles would remain, with the most important one being the state of democracy within Turkey that has been recently in retreat. Perhaps the Turks are counting on sentiments such as that expressed in a recent op-ed in Bloomberg "without the active pull of the EU negotiations, Turkey’s development as a free democracy has stalled".
 
In other words, the EU has to restart negotiations even before Turkey has demonstrated its democratic bona fides in order to check anti-democratic trends.

IHH to Mark Flotilla Incident with Anti-Israel March

Category: News
Created on Friday, 18 May 2012 16:27
The Turkey-based IHH terror group plans to mark the second anniversary of the 2010 flotilla to Gaza by holding a mass anti-Israel march in downtown Istanbul, Turkish media reported on Thursday.Mavi Marmara
 
According to the reports, the group has announced its intention to hold the march, entitled “Marching for the Liberation of Jerusalem,” on May 31 at the Taksim Square, located in the heart of Istanbul.
 
Nine IHH members were killed onboard the Mavi Marmara during the flotilla in May of 2010. The nine were killed when Israeli soldiers who boarded the Gaza-bound ship were forced to open fire, after being attacked by the IHH terrorists on board with clubs and knives.
 
The Marmara had been violating the naval blockade on Gaza and claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza, a fact which was later proven to be wrong.
 
The incident severely strained the relations between Israel and Turkey. Turkey demanded that Israel apologize for the deaths of the nine, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to apologize. Turkey responded by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan further deteriorated the situation when he chose to verbally attack Israel on several occasions.
 
Reports last week indicated that behind the scenes efforts are currently being made to improve the relations. 

Turkey Accuses Israel of Violating Airspace

Category: Reports
Created on Friday, 18 May 2012 08:23
Turkey accused Israel on of violating the airspace of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the AFP reported.F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet
 
An Israeli aircraft allegedly violated the TRNC’s airspace five times on Monday, prompting Turkish fighter jets to chase out the supposed intruder, claimed a statement issued by the army command.
 
The statement did not offer any further details regarding the incident or the type of Israeli plane involved in the alleged incursion.
 
Israel and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus have both discovered large amounts of offshore natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea, and have tentatively discussed cooperation on delivering gas to European and Asian markets.
 
The drilling for gas and oil in the area off Cyprus, which began last year, angered Turkey, which says it abuses northern Cypriots' rights to the same resources.
 
In April, Turkey initiated its own exploratory drilling in the seabed offshore the TRNC in the north, resulting in condemnations from the government of Cyprus, who called the action illegal.
 
Turkish-Israel relations became increasingly hostile in 2010, when Israeli naval commandos, seeking to protect Israel’s national security, boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla, filled with pro-Palestinian activists seeking to infiltrate Israel’s borders. The incident resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists, including one US citizen.
 
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third in response to a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

Turkey Suspects Bird of Being Spy for Israel

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 21:07
dead birdTurkish authorities believe they have found a bird used by Israel for espionage purposes, the country’s media reported.
 
According to reports, a Turkish farmer found the already dead bird, commonly known as the European Bee-Eater, with markings indicating it came from Israel.
 
The bird’s left nostril was reportedly three times the size of its right nostril, leading Turkish officials to believe the Israel had implanted the animal with a surveillance device in its beak.
 
Israeli officials received notification of the allegations after the reports of the "spy bird" quickly spread within Turkey’s ornithological community, creating commotion in the country’s media.
 
Zoological conspiracy theories, accusing Israel of embedding animals with surveillance devices in order to gather intelligence information and attack against civilian populations, have long been propagated by the Arab media as a way of inciting against the Jewish state and alleging of “Zionist plots.”
 
In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas's official news agency, Wafa, reported that Israel had released poison-resistant rats to drive Arab residents of Jerusalem out of their homes.
 
The report claimed that, "Rats have become an Israeli weapon to displace and expel Arab residents of the occupied Old City of Jerusalem. Settlers flood the Old City of Jerusalem with rats."
 
In October of 2008, Iranian officials captured two 'spy pigeons' near the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, alleging that the birds were being used to spy on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear advancements. In 2007, the regime detained over a dozen squirrels believed to be spies of Western powers seeking to undermine the Iranian regime.
 
In June of 2010, Egyptian officials blamed a wave of shark attacks on Israel’s foreign ministry intelligence, asserting,” We must not discount the possibility that Mossad threw the shark into the sea, in order to attack tourists who are having fun in Sharm al-Sheikh.”
 
Furthermore, in January of 2011, Saudi Arabian security forces detained a vulture carrying a global positioning satellite (GPS) transmitter and a ring etched with the words "Tel Aviv University." Officials exclaimed that the creature was part of a "Zionist espionage plot."

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