Greek crisis to hurt Hellenic Air Force

HAF

Greece’s most devestating financial crisis in modern times and the growing possibility of a default on its loans have not only progressed its rating from Germany-level credit to average, on to junk, below junk and now to likely default, but also have begun to dramatically limit and even reduce its military capabilities. The damage is especially stark among the ranks of the Hellenic Air Force (HAF).

Here’s a brief list of probable changes to HAF:

  • Vintage A-7E and TA-7C s are all to be retired before 2013 due to high maintenance costs.
  • Two squadrons of F-4E AUPs will be merged into one squadron.
  • RF-4E recon aircraft are to be withdrawn in late 2012 while 6 will be kept for use with the 3 Thales ASTAC SIGINT pods. Recon ops to be transferred to the F-16 Block 52+’s with the 2 Goodrich DB-110 pods.
  • Mirage 2000s face possible operational cuts due to small size of fleet.
  • T-2 Buckeyes are very likely to be withdrawn in 2 yrs due to lack of spare parts.
  • Many T-6A Texan IIs have been placed in long-term storage due to shortages in operational budgets.
  • NH-90 helicopter acquisition delayed due to major design flaws along with higher costs of operation relative to the Blackhawk. Acquisition will probably not be finished before 2015.
  • EMB145H AWACS assets face possibility of reduction of the fleet from 4 to 2 aircraft.

HAF airbases planned for downsizing and/or outright closure include:

  • In Larisa AFB on Crete, the F-16 Block 52s will go to Araxos following the retirement of A-7s.
  • Aircraft storage and maintenance facilities in Agrinion face budgetary cuts.
  • Similar cuts hame things difficult in Santorini (QRA detachment)
  • Tympaki (location of S-300 air defence missiles) is burdened by lower budgets.
  • CL-415 water bombers in Thessaloniki will go to Elefsis.

Based on Air Forces Monthly data.

Turkey, Macedonia sign free zone agreement

Turkey and Macedonia signed on Thursday a memorandum of understanding including free zone agreement.

The two countries signed the agreement during Turkey-Macedonia Trade and Investment Forum in the northwestern province of Bursa.

Turkey’s economy minister said on Thursday that whoever invested in Macedonia would gain.

Zafer Caglayan said Turkey and Macedonia had signed free trade and industrial zone agreements some time ago, and their bilateral foreign trade reached 400 million USD in 2011.

“Our aim is to raise our bilateral trade to 1 billion USD, and to increase our investments in Macedonia to 500 billion USD,” Caglayan said during Turkey-Macedonia Trade and Investment Forum in the northwestern province of Bursa.

Caglayan said Macedonia was one of the most important centers in Europe for Turkey, and whoever invested in Macedonia would gain.

Zafer Caglayan promised to raise Eximbank’s loan to Macedonia to 100 million USD from 50 million USD soon.

Turkey’s exports to Macedonia were up 14 percent and reached 299 million USD, while Macedonia’s imports to Turkey rose to 92 million USD with a 82 percent year-on-year rise in 2011.

Turkish companies have 180 million USD of investments in Macedonia.

Also, Bursa Chamber of Commerce and Macedonia Chamber of Commerce signed a cooperation protocol on the sidelines of the meeting.

During the meeting, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said Macedonia had fulfilled NATO accession conditions in 2008 and the EU had ensured visa liberalization to Macedonia in 2009.

Gruevski said the EU told Macedonia that it had fulfilled all preconditions to launch accession talks, however his country could become a member of neither NATO nor EU due to political problems with Greece.

However, Macedonia was doing everything it could to overcome that problem, Gruevski said.

Gruevski also said that he believed that there would be no problems before Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership after the problem was solved.

AA

Serial Production Started in Key Weapon Programs

Turkey's nationally developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles and Cirit laser-guided rockets on display at a military exhibition in Istanbul.

The head of the under-secretariat for the defense industry, Murad Bayar, has outlined Turkey’s armaments objectives in coming years. This year, Turkey plans to finish tests on several national weapons systems that have been developed and move to the serial production phase. In the next stage, building on that momentum, Turkey plans to increase its arms exports as well as reduce its reliance on imports (Anadolu Ajansi, January 23).

During the past decade, Turkey has embarked on ambitious programs to reduce its dependence on external sources for the procurement needs of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), the second largest army in NATO. On the one hand, through stringent rules on procurement tenders, Ankara wanted to ensure that domestic firms will take part in the production of imported weapons systems, as well as enabling technology transfers. On the other hand, building on the accumulation of knowledge gained from these joint projects and the assistance and subsidies provided to the domestic arms industry and R&D activities, Turkey has been working to develop several “national” weapons systems. So far, Ankara’s ambitious national arms projects included the development of a national warship, main battle tank, attack helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and an infantry rifle.

Turkey has been cooperating with Italy’s Augusta-Westland on an attack helicopter project, which is aimed at resolving the Turkish army’s deficiencies in its fight against the PKK. Earlier, a prototype of this helicopter was developed, which is going through flight and weapons systems tests (EDM, September 29, 2009). Turkey is proud of the attack helicopter deal and sees it almost as an advertisement for its recent national projects. Turkey obtained the sole production license from Italy and introduced the necessary modifications, in order that it meets the specific operational needs of its army in mountainous terrain. Moreover, reflecting its self-confidence in indigenous technological abilities, the electronic systems and the software of the helicopter will be developed in Turkey, meaning it will have full control over the platform’s operation. The weapons installed on the helicopter will also come from national weapons developed domestically in recent years, including Cirit laser-guided rocket systems.

Bayar announced that they are planning to finish firing tests and start the first deliveries to the TAF this year, and complete the delivery of 51 helicopters in the coming years. Bayar also noted that once this platform is added to TAF’s inventory, it will have good marketing prospects. This system will be in demand, Bayar believes, especially in countries that are currently fighting terrorism, given that Turkey developed it with such considerations in mind. Several Middle Eastern countries are believed to be considering ATAK. After successfully passing the flight tests in summer 2011, ATAK has also been invited to submit its bid to a procurement tender in South Korea (Sabah, September 25, 2011).

Another major project is the main battle tank ALTAY, developed in partnership with South Korea’s Rotem (EDM, August 7, 2008). This project seeks to increase the TAF’s firepower in conventional warfare through the procurement of 250 third generation main battle tanks. Currently, ALTAY is in its design phase and the initial deliveries are expected to start from 2013. Bayar noted that this year they plan to develop the first prototype and start the necessary tests.

Turkey also has been working on another ambitious project to bolster its surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities. In need of actionable intelligence in its fight against the PKK, Turkey has relied on the United States and Israel to either lease or buy UAVs. This cooperation, however, proved difficult to sustain given the tensions encountered in its bilateral relations with Israel and occasionally the US. Turkey has launched an indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV system program that will initially meet the TAF’s reconnaissance requirements, and later a modified version with combat capability will be developed. The prototypes are going through several tests. Following the maturity tests, Bayar expect the five prototypes to be put into operation and their serial production will start. Ankara sees this project also as a sign of prestige, as it will join the few nations with this technology and eventually develop the potential to export it. Similarly, Bayar expects that the first indigenous satellite developed by Turkey, the Gokturk-2, will be launched into space this year.

Another project has been the development of a national infantry rifle. Turkey is currently conducting tests on a rifle designed and developed domestically, and anticipates moving to the mass production stage this year. The country has also been running a national warship program, MILGEM, to develop a littoral combat capacity. Under the project, the Turkish Navy will be supplied with eight corvettes and four frigates, as well as exploring possibilities for exports. The first corvette has already been delivered, while the second is undergoing tests.

Recently, Ankara announced plans to develop a national fighter jet. Bayar described it as a long term objective, which would mark Turkey’s elevation to a higher class in arms producing countries. Turkey is currently considering this option and will soon initiate two-year long feasibility studies. If the project is deemed feasible, further work will be authorized to develop the first prototype in ten years’ time and serial production in the following decade. Turkey has also announced another ambitious program to develop long-range missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km (www.trt.net.tr, January 13).

Although Turkey remains a major arms importer, through these programs it is now able to procure slightly more than half of its needs from domestic sources. Currently, Turkey is producing short range missiles, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, training aircraft, small UAVs, etc. Especially in advanced weapons systems, Turkey remains dependent on imports, and addressing that deficiency is one of the objectives of the procurement programs. In the future, while seeking to increase the share of domestic contributions, Turkey will also work to bolster its export figures to $1 billion, from last year’s $800 million. Overall, two principles will underpin Turkey’s defense industry policies, as underlined by Bayar: depth, i.e., increasing the national contributions in the new platforms through the development of sub-systems; and sustainability, or, building a viable arms industry that can sustain mass production at competitive prices.

By Saban Kardas

Turkey threatens intervention into Iraq

Relations between the Turkish and Iraqi governments have deteriorated sharply. In a speech to parliament on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the head of a Sunni Islam-based religious party, accused his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of a Shiite-coalition, of promoting sectarian violence against the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Erdogan warned: “Maliki should know that if you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes it will be impossible for us to remain silent. Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder.”

Erdogan was responding to complaints by Maliki that Turkey has been interfering in Iraqi domestic politics through its support for the largely Sunni-based Iraqiya coalition, which is engaged in a fierce power struggle with the government in Baghdad.

The implications of Erdogan’s statement are unmistakable. They amount to a direct threat that Turkey will support an intervention into Iraq on the same pretext of “defending civilians” used to justify the NATO-led intervention to oust Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the case of Iraq, intervention would be justified with the allegation that Maliki is persecuting the country’s Sunnis.

The Turkish stance toward Maliki is inseparable from the broader US-backed drive to refashion geopolitical relations in the Middle East and, above all, to shatter the regional influence of Iran. US allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf state monarchies—all dominated by Sunni elites—have lined up with Washington against Shiite-ruled Iran. They are using inflammatory sectarian language to try to galvanise support for a policy that threatens to trigger a regional war.

The Syrian regime, which is a longstanding Iranian ally and based on an Allawite Shiite ruling stratum, has been targeted for “regime change.” The current Iraqi government, while it is the direct creation of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, is also viewed as unacceptable by the regional US allies. The Shiite factions forming the Maliki government have longstanding ties with the Iranian religious establishment. Maliki has refused to support an ongoing US military presence in Iraq or economic sanctions, let alone military aggression, against Syria and Iran.

Iraqiya, which was part of the ruling coalition, campaigned aggressively to weaken the political dominance of the Shiite parties in the lead-up to the withdrawal of US combat troops in December. Sunni leaders accused Maliki of reneging on an agreement to preside over a “national unity” government and pressured him to place the main security ministries under the direction of Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi.

Allawi, a secular Shiite, had been a long-time American collaborator before the US invasion and was installed by the US in 2004 as the “interim” prime minister of Iraq. He sanctioned the military repression of the Sunni population and atrocities such as the destruction of the largely Sunni city of Fallujah. Despite this history, he was adopted by the Sunni elites as their main representative after the effective collapse of the anti-occupation insurgency. His qualifications are his hostility to the Shiite religious parties, his anti-Iranian Arab nationalism and his close connections to Washington.

Attempts to elevate Allawi, with clear support from the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have suffered something of a shipwreck. Maliki and his Shiite-based Da’wa Party, which was repressed by the Sunni-dominated Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, responded with a pre-emptive strike against the challenge to their grip on power.

Hundreds of ex-Baath Party members, particularly former senior military officers, have been rounded up and detained. Allawi alleged this month that more than 1,000 members of his and other parties opposed to Maliki had been arrested in recent months. He claimed they had been subjected to torture to extract false confessions of committing “terrorism.” There has been a growing number of indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas and religious events by suspected Sunni extremists. Last week, 34 men accused of terrorism were executed in a single day.

In the most high-profile case of alleged Sunni “terrorism,” the bodyguards of Iraqiya Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi—one of the country’s highest ranking politicians—were detained and allegedly tortured. They were paraded on national television in late December to accuse the Sunni leader of personally directing a sectarian death squad.

Hashemi has only escaped arrest by taking refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. He has been charged with crimes that carry a death sentence.

Maliki responded to a walkout of Iraqiya ministers from his cabinet by having their offices locked and stripping them of their political responsibilities. The Iraqi parliament has continued to sit despite a boycott by most Iraqiya members.

Last Friday, the Iraqiya deputy governor of the majority Sunni province of Diyala, who agitated last year for regional autonomy, was seized by secret police operating under Maliki’s command. He has been charged with “terrorist activities.”

The present crisis could rapidly lead to the eruption of civil war and potentially fracture Iraq along sectarian lines, drawing in other regional powers such as Turkey and Iran. The majority of the 300,000-strong Iraqi military are Shiites. While poorly trained and equipped, they have a degree of allegiance to Maliki’s government.

A confrontation is looming between the Maliki government and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Last week, a Shiite politician advocated an economic blockade of the Kurdish region unless Vice President Hashemi was handed over for trial. The Kurdish government has its own 200,000-strong armed forces.

Following the 2003 invasion, the US fostered sectarian divisions as a means of undermining the previous Baathist elite and blocking a unified resistance by ordinary working people against the occupation and collapse of living standards. Now the US is encouraging its regional allies to back the Sunni and Kurdish elites against the Maliki government, with reckless indifference for the rapidly escalating violence.

By James Cogan, WSWS

Turkey awaits key counterterrorism weapons

Turkey's T129 attack helicopter during flight tests.

The Turkish military is slated to acquire several weapons systems to use against terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) this year, one senior procurement official said last week.
Italy’s AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) have been collaborating on building the T-129 attack helicopter, a Turkish version of the company’s A129 Mangusta International.

AgustaWestland is scheduled to deliver the first nine of a planned 59 helicopters to the military toward the end of 2012.

Turkish authorities then will assemble the required weapons systems on the platforms, and the nine helicopter gunships are expected to enter service in 2013, the official said.

Separately, the United States is expected to deliver three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters early this year. The U.S. Congress approved the sale of these three choppers, worth $125 million, toward the end of 2012.

Additionally, TAI, Turkey’s state-owned aerospace powerhouse, is scheduled to deliver to the military three Anka Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles in 2012, to be used for reconnaissance purposes, the official said.

Turkey is already operating nine Israeli-made Heron MALE drones against the PKK. The United States has also deployed another four RQ-1 Predator MALE drones at Turkey’s southern İncirlik airbase to fly over PKK camps in northern Iraq and provide the Turkish military intelligence.

Additionally Turkey has requested to buy four RQ-1 Predator reconnaissance drones and two armed MQ-1 Reapers, but the U.S. has not responded to the request.

In addition to its MALE drone capabilities, the Turkish military operates scores of smaller drones.

Unmanned vehicles

TAI’s efforts to develop and produce the Anka have seen a delay of several years. “Attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles are among the most effective weapons against terrorists, and we will have an abundance of these weapons soon,” said one security official.

The PKK this year intensified terrorist attacks against Turkish military and civilian targets, causing a public outrage.

Separately, the U.S. Boeing is expected to deliver the first of a planned four spy planes to the Turkish Air Force in 2012. The program to manufacture the four Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft is worth more than $1.6 billion and is behind schedule a few years.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey’s highest procurement agency, is also expected to select a foreign company in Turkey’s $4 billion long range air and missile defense system program. Among the candidates competing to build an air and missile defense system with Turkish partners are U.S. companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, with their Patriot Air and Missile Defense System; Russian Rosoboronexport’s S-300; Chinese CPMIEC’s (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.) HQ-9; and European Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee’s members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Procurement Chief Murad Bayar.

Finally, the committee would select a national commercial shipyard which will manufacture the third through the eighth of the Milgem national corvettes. The first two corvettes were built at a military shipyard. The first corvette, the TCG Heybeliada, already has entered service in the Navy, and the second, the TCG Büyükada, has been put to sea for tests.

HDN

Greek Cyprus says right to drill for gas ‘non-negotiable’

Greek Cyprus said its plans to explore for gas were non-negotiable, accusing its rival Turkey on Friday of stirring up controversy over Mediterranean hydrocarbon reserves as a pretext for “expansionist designs” on the island.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias
Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias

Greek Cyprus is locked in a row with Turkey over its decision to explore for natural gas south of the ethnically-partitioned island, close to one of the world’s largest gas discoveries of the past decade.     

Turkey, the only country to recognise Turkish Cyprus, says the island’s internationally recognised Greek Cypriot administration has no authority to explore for reserves.     

Turkey this week dispatched an exploration vessel and military escorts close to an area where US company Noble Energy started drilling almost two weeks ago.      

“I wish to underline again to all those who attempt to question this right of the Republic of Cyprus; our sovereign rights are non-negotiable,” Dimitris Christofias, Greek Cypriot leader, said in a public address.     

Noble has been commissioned by EU member Greek Cyprus to drill in an area termed Block 12, some 160 km south of the island. Turkey has pledged to drill for gas on behalf of Turkish Cypriots unless the Greek Cypriots stop.     

Israel is also drilling nearby; its Leviathan field was described as the world’s largest of the past decade. The issue has emerged as a further bone of contention between Turkey and the Jewish state.      

Once an ally of Israel, Ankara has downgraded ties in recent weeks over Israel’s refusal to apologise for a deadly raid last year on a Turkish aid flotilla going to Gaza.     

Cyprus was split in a Turkish intervention in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup, and is now divided east to west by a UN controlled buffer zone. Greek Cypriots who live in its south represent Cyprus internationally, and the rift marks an escalation of tensions simmering for years.     

“The commotion, threats and interference of Turkey are baseless. They are a pretext, betraying its expansionist designs against Cyprus,” Christofias said.      

Turkey says the drilling risks derailing peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for eventual reunification. Nicosia maintains the two issues are unrelated, and that any potential discovery should spur reunification efforts because both communities stand to benefit.

 

30 September 2011, Friday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,

Turkey’s T-129 attack helicopter prototype P6 maiden flight completes successfully

The first Turkish-built prototype of the T129 attack helicopter during flight tests over the Akinci airfield, Ankara.

The first flight, conducted by Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) test pilots, of the T129 “P6” prototype helicopter has timely and successfully been completed at TAI’s facilities in Akıncı, Ankara, the company said today  

The ATAK Program was initiated with the aim to meet the Attack/Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter requirements of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLF) by the integration of high-tech avionics equipment, hardware and software being developed ‘in-house’ by Turkey.  

The first flight of the P6 prototype marks an important milestone in the ATAK Program and is the first of three T129 prototypes which are being assembled in Turkey.

The helicopter is based on the Agusta Westland A129 Mongoose which has been the mainstay of the Italian army and has been operational and battle-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The T-129 ATAK is an enhanced version of the Italian-built A129, and its development is now the responsibility of TAI, with AgustaWestland as the primary partner.

 Prior Crash

The original prototype being built in Italy crashed in March 2010 during a test flight, leaving its Italian test pilot and its test engineer needing hospital treatment for minor injuries.

Turkey originally planned to order 51 A129s with 40 options back in 2007 but the following year Turkey undertook to fully build the platform.

Under the agreement, TAI has integrated an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) is manufacturing the LHTEC CTS800-4N engines under licence. Under the agreement, Turkey has full marketing and intellectual property rights for the T-129 platform. There are also no restrictions imposed on Turkey for the export or transfer of the platform to third countries other than Italy and the UK.

Israel Deploys Drones Over Gas Fields

Israel has deployed drones to keep watch on gas fields off its northern coast, fearing attack by the Hezbollah militia from neighboring Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post daily reported on Aug. 9.

 The fields lie in a part of the Mediterranean that is claimed by Israel for gas exploration and production, but Lebanon says the fields lie within its territorial waters.
“The decision to deploy drones was made in order to maintain a 24-hour presence over the site,” the paper said, adding that the air force was equipped with the locally made Heron drone, which has special electro-optics designed for maritime work.

The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Post report to AFP.

The paper said that the air force started aerial surveillance after a warning last month from Hezbollah, which in 2006 fought a deadly war with the Jewish state in which it used anti-ship missiles.

“The Israeli enemy cannot drill a single meter in these waters to search for gas and oil if the zone is disputed … No company can carry out prospecting work in waters whose sovereignty is contested,” the Shiite group said.

The Hezbollah threat came after Israel’s cabinet approved a map of the country’s proposed maritime borders with Lebanon and submitted it to the United Nations, which has been asked to mediate in the dispute.

The map conflicts with one submitted by Lebanon to the U.N. last year, which gives Israel less territory.

The two countries are technically at war and will not negotiate face to face.

The disputed zone consists of about 330 square miles.

The two biggest known offshore fields, Tamar and Leviathan, lie respectively about 50 miles and 81 miles off Israel’s northern city of Haifa.

Tamar is believed to hold at least 8.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, while Leviathan is believed to have reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet.

In June an Israeli company announced the discovery of two new natural gas fields, Sarah and Mira, around 45 miles off the city of Hadera further south.

AFP

 

International coalition of pressure against Syria

By Sami Kohen

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

The meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday constitutes a significant event in the international campaign focused on Syria lately.

It is not a coincidence that as Turkey launches this latest diplomatic attempt, many countries and organizations have also expressed tough criticism of the Assad regime.

The fact that the bloody incidents in Syria have reached the dimensions of a massacre has prompted even those countries which have been silent or cautious up until now to voice their concerns loudly.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah condemned the incidents in Syria for the first time and called on Assad to end the violence. Like Saudi Arabia, two other Gulf countries, Bahrain and Kuwait, withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council issued statements condemning the Assad administration. The chief imam of the al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt came out against Damascus.

It is a significant development that the Arab world for the first time is raising its voice in a chorus against the Assad regime even though some of these countries are lead by authoritarian kings or leaders. The public uprising in Bahrain was crushed by brute force. And besides, with contributions of troops from Saudi Arabia… This is one of the contradictions of the Arab world.

However, this is also a reality that the vice surrounding Syria is tightening and that the Assad regime is gradually becoming isolated.

Nobody says ‘resign’

Including Turkey, an interesting aspect of the attitude of all the countries that are increasing their pressure against Syria is that Assad is still the addressee, and hopes of change are still being pinned on him.

No one from either the West or the East has called on Assad to resign as in the case of Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi. This call had an immediate effect in Egypt. In Libya, the process has not been finalized yet.

In fact, incidents in Syria for example are more tragic than Egypt. But the international community still maintains the wish and hope that the transformation in this country can be made without a change of regime.

The primary reason for this is that Syria’s political structure and the strength of its regime is different than other Arab countries. To tell the truth, Assad is not a person who would obey the word “resign.” He relies on his own army, the Baath party, his intelligence organization and support from Iran.

Because of this and other similar reasons, nobody for now has openly asked Assad to resign. Instead of this, they advise him to withdraw his army from cities and end the firing on the public. The demand from Arab countries (for example King Abdullah) is only this. Western countries – and, of course, Turkey – in addition to this call for Assad to make democratic reforms fast, demand that he come to terms with the opposition and organize free elections.

With or without Assad

Will this change and transformation occur with or without Assad?

At this phase – since it is a weak probability that the regime will be toppled – the option of forcing Assad to change his politics is preferred more.

How will this happen? Again at this phase, the method to be applied should be to keep Damascus under political pressure and to force the administration to come to terms with the opposition.

Signs coming from the region and the West also point to the formation of a “coalition of pressure” against Syria.

Will this be enough to bring Assad to reason? If it is, then it is good for everybody. Otherwise, other options could be considered, such as boycotts or economic sanctions – nobody, presumably, is considering the military option. We hope that it will not come to that point.

*Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

HDN

New Turkish charter to be a model for region

Turkey’s new constitution will set a model for regional and other countries that seek the “best-ever charter highlighting universal values of democracy, human rights and rule of law,” according to a senior governmental official.

“I believe our new constitution, which will be the newest charter based on universal principles, will make an overwhelming impression on the world. If you make the best (constitution), it will of course draw attention from countries that are seeking the best for them,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Wednesday. Bozdağ, however, said their intention was not to become a sample case for regional countries whose citizens have revolted for more democratic regimes.

Almost all political parties, civil society organizations as well as universities agree on the need to rewrite the current charter, which was made by the military junta in 1982, two years after a coup.

“We are not making this constitution to be praised by other countries. That would undermine the whole process. Our motto is to make the best and most modern constitution for our own people by emphasizing democratic requirements, freedoms and human rights,” he said. Recalling that they were also analyzing the constitution of advanced democracies, Bozdağ said, “Those who want to take our new constitution as a sample are free to analyze it, because we believe it’s going to be a model constitution.”

For the deputy prime minister, who will likely play a key role in the constitution-making process, the most important goal is consensus among the political parties as well as civil society and universities. “I hope Turkey will achieve its new constitution with the broadest consensus possible, based on not minimum common points but on maximum common points,” he said.

Bozdağ said he believes there would be a few articles that would cause a debate between the political parties represented in Parliament. “We are ready to discuss everything at the table. Prejudices or pre-conditions would hurt the process, thus we call on all parties to come to the table without conditions,” he said. One of the potential points of discussion in the making of the constitution is the removal of the first three articles, which shape the nature of the republic. Pro-Kurdish politicians have expressed their intention to ask for the three articles to be removed and replaced with items that highlight the status of the Turkish citizens with Kurdish descent. Bozdağ said his party prefers for these articles to remain but said, “We are ready to discuss any proposal regarding these items.”

‘Doves not hawks’

Another important point Bozdağ made was on the composition of the parliamentary commission that will be set after Oct. 1, which will be the main body to draft the charter. “It’s extremely important who the parties nominate for this commission. It would be very useful if the parties would send reconciliatory personalities, figures who are capable of compromise. They would ease the working conditions of the commission and shorten the length of work,” he said.

At the same time, Bozdağ added, the members of this commission should also be able to convince their own party fellows and influence public opinion. “It’s going to be a three-way work.”

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek is expected to call on parties represented at the Parliament to nominate two people to carry out constitutional work after Oct.1.

Bozdağ also talked about the preparations of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, for the new charter. “We have to do our homework before sitting at the table. All parties should do it in order to be fully ready for the process,” he said.

They are writing a text indicating the framework of the AKP’s principles that will be sought in the new constitution, Bozdağ said. “For example, we will on the one hand emphasize universal human rights and democratic values and on the other hand we will also seek way to assure the implementation of these rights, unlike the current charter which obstructs accomplishment of the rights.”

The new constitution is an order to us from the people who voted for parties on June 12 elections, Bozdağ said. “That’s why this Parliament has a unique mission to write the new constitution.”

HDN