Erdoğan: AK Party not out to establish new status quo with charter

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which is working on drafting a new and more democratic constitution for Turkey as part of its election promises, is not out to destroy the old status quo and replace it with a new one, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

PM Erdoğan stated that the people of Turkey had given Parliament the duty to draft a new constitution in a speech delivered in Kızılcahamam.
PM Erdoğan stated that the people of Turkey had given Parliament the duty to draft a new constitution in a speech delivered in Kızılcahamam.

Delivering the closing speech at a four-day party caucus in Ankara’s Kızılcahamam district, the prime minister said about the ongoing work on a new constitution: “Changing the old status quo that is keeping Turkey in shackles is not enough. And we are announcing right away that our new perspective is not about building a new status quo.”

He said the people had given Parliament the duty to draft a new constitution. “Our Parliament will exercise in the right way this power taken from the people to do its responsibility to the people.” He said Parliament, with its 91-year history, had the accumulation of knowledge to draft a new constitution “for as long as we talk face-to-face, for as long as we don’t talk to each other from behind ideological walls, for as long as we don’t slip to illegitimate grounds because of the reflexes of bureaucratic ideologies.”

Erdoğan said in party consultation meetings AK Party members attached the greatest importance to making a new constitution. “The constitution question, which is at the heart of all of Turkey’s problems, is the most important issue to solve for an advanced democracy and a strong Turkey.” He said the only way Turkey could realize its dream of being a part of the contemporary civilization, a goal set by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is to head into the future with a new constitution. “It is now the right time to meet our people’s demands,” he said.

The prime minister said the Turkish nation wanted a democracy rid of all military guardianship. “Our nation doesn’t want to share its right to sovereignty with anyone ever again. It wants only the people to have a say on fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Erdoğan also highlighted the international aspect of his party. “The AK Party is not only a party of Turkey, it is a party of the world from Mogadishu to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from Damascus to Skopje, from Sana to Bishkek, from Abu Dhabi to Islamabad, from Gaza to Benghazi, from Pristina to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [KKTC]. Where there is a victim in the world, the AK Party is there by his side. This is the kind of party we are,” he said.




17 October 2011, Monday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Palestinian prisoners need OK by Turkish prime minister

Top Turkish officials have been reportedly involved in deciding whether to host Palestinian prisoners who will be deported after their release by Israel
Palestinian women hold pictures of their jailed sons. Turkey is expected to host a small group of Palestinians to be freed soon. REUTERS photo
Palestinian women hold pictures of their jailed sons. Turkey is expected to host a small group of Palestinians to be freed soon. REUTERS photo
A small group of Palestinian prisoners is expected to arrive in Turkey within days as part of the swap deal with Israel if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gives his consent, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. The move would come after a covert operation that only a few Turkish officials, including the prime minister and foreign minister, had knowledge of until recently.

However, the deal has not been completely hammered out yet, sources told the Daily News.

“The whole process sped up as of Sunday night,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Daily News, speaking yesterday on condition of anonymity. “How many [prisoners] will come to Turkey is not determined yet. But when they come, they will be free citizens. Still, there is a small possibility that no prisoners would come to Turkey.”

As part of the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, which will see more than 1,000 Palestinians freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Turkey is among three countries that will receive some of the 39 Palestinians to be sent abroad, according to Hamas officials. However, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told the Hürriyet Daily News they had no information on Turkey’s involvement in the swap operation.

The Daily News has revealed the names of the 39 Palestinians, which were seen by Israel as “too dangerous” to be sent to either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, on its website yesterday. These Palestinians, 33 of whom were serving life sentences in Israeli prisons, are expected to be deported to three countries, namely Turkey, Syria and Qatar.

“At the moment, the countries that will accept prisoners are Turkey, Qatar and Syria,” a Hamas official in Gaza told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “These countries, along with Egypt and Hamas, will coordinate the procedures under which the prisoners will be moved,” the official said.

Hamas’ deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk also said Oct. 17 that the three countries have agreed to “absorb” the Palestinian prisoners who will be deported, according to a report by the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat.

However, Turkish diplomats have not yet officially confirmed that the country will host Palestinian prisoners. Thus, talks could have been carried through Turkey’s intelligence organization which reports directly to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as was the case in previous negotiations to release Israeli soldier Shalit.

It was not immediately clear whether the prisoners will have the right to free movement once they arrive in the third countries. It also remains unclear under what legal status they will be allowed to reside in the country, a Palestinian official told the Daily News. The length of the exile period will be equal to the years they were sentenced to serve in Israel, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israel is set to release 1,027 prisoners in two stages in exchange for freedom of captured solider Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas militants in June 2006. The first stage of the exchange is planned to be finalized today, when Israel is expected to free 477 prisoners in exchange for Shalit’s return. Of the first group, 39 are expected to be exiled overseas, including 26 from the West Bank, 13 from east Jerusalem and one from Gaza. The remaining 550 prisoners will be released in about two months, according to the terms of the deal between Israel and Hamas.

The spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, Abu Obadiah, said Oct. 16 that Israel and Egypt would meet once a year to review the status of the deported prisoners.

Among the prisoners to be released are Walid Anjas, who received 36 life sentences for a 2002 attack on a Jerusalem bar that killed 11 Israelis, and Nasr Yateyma, who was convicted of planning the 2002 Passover bombing that killed 29 people.

The others were involved in kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers. There are also several senior Hamas leaders slated for release, including Yehia al-Sinwar and Rawhi al-Mushtaha, who helped found the movement’s security arm, al-Majd.

The swap deal has the support of eight out of 10 Israelis, according to a poll in the Yediot Aharonot daily. Those opposing the deal are several families who lost people in Palestinian attacks, with the Israeli High Court on Oct. 17 to hear four petitions against the release, a procedure that must first be exhausted before the exchange operation can go ahead.

Monday, October 17, 2011
Sevil Küçükkoşum
ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News

Kurdish education brings questions on employment

Turkey’s first undergraduate-level Kurdish literature program will start today at Mardin’s Artuklu University. Department head Kadri Yıldırım says a considerable number of students are interested in the Kurdish program, yet many of them are also concerned about finding employment opportunities upon graduation
Artuklu University also founded the first Kurdish department offering post-graduate work in 2009 as part of the Living Languages Institute located in a historic building.
Artuklu University also founded the first Kurdish department offering post-graduate work in 2009 as part of the Living Languages Institute located in a historic building.

After years of efforts, a number of rejections and strong debates, Turkey’s first undergraduate-level Kurdish language and literature department is welcoming students for its first class today in the southeastern province Mardin’s Artuklu University.

The beginning of the first undergraduate-level Kurdish program, which many consider a positive development, comes at a time of recent tension over discussions on Turkey’s new constitution, which are about to commence between the ruling and oppositional parties, including the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is primarily focused on the Kurdish issue.

While tension among the delegates is expected to rise especially on the first three articles, which discuss “the characteristics of the Republic,” an academic move to officially integrate Kurdish culture into Turkey’s education system is already regarded as a sign of development.

“When we established the School of Eastern Languages, I had planned to set up a Kurdish Language and Literature Department and kept re-applying to YÖK [Higher Education Board]. This city is the center of upper Mesopotamia, and Kurdish [culture] is a major part of this,” Artuklu University Rector Serdar Bedii Omay said.

Employment questions

Twenty-one students have enrolled in the four-year undergraduate program, which was established at the School of Eastern Languages and Literatures.

As the academic season starts, department head Professor Kadri Yıldırım said there had been a considerable number of applications from students who have shown interest in the program. Many of them, however, are concerned about what will happen once they graduate.

“Students who have applied to the program are all keen on studying Kurdish, yet they have questions on how they will find employment opportunities,” Yıldırım said.

Yıldırım said the students would likely be able to get jobs with the university as it offers Kurdish as an elective class to all students.

“There will not be any problems in employing the first-year graduates, and I also think that as other universities start opening Kurdish-language classes and once Kurdish is used in the primary education system, this department will become more popular,” Yıldırım added.

Indeed, several other universities in the eastern region of Turkey such as Hakkari, Muş, Tunceli and Bingöl have also started offering Kurdish-language classes in recent years. Istanbul’s Bilgi University has offered a Kurdish course since 2009 as well.

Classes such as this one are part of a wider debate in Turkey – a country in which the Constitution decrees that only Turkish is permitted as a language for primary education. But members of other ethnic groups, especially Kurds, have been increasingly challenging this law, demanding that their native tongues also become a language of instruction.

Artuklu University founded the first Kurdish department offering post-graduate work in 2009 as part of the Living Languages Institute.

Lack of textbooks

In the first year of Kurdish education, students will take a grammar course, a Kurdish folk literature, history of the Kurdish language and a course on Kurdish poetry. Four of the five faculty members in the program will teach the Kurmanji dialect, which is the most widely spoken Kurdish dialect in Turkey; one professor will teach Zazaki.

Still, Yıldırım said the department lacked the necessary textbooks for the classes. “We are preparing our own books. We finished the grammar and folklore books, and for others we will go through our class notes,” he said.

Sunday, October 16, 2011
Işıl Eğrikavuk
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Prime Minister Erdoğan lashes out at EU over latest progress report, Cyprus

Turkish prime minister blamed EU for unfair treatment to Turkey in its recently published progress report and warned to cut dialogue with the EU if the Greek Cypriots take over its rotating presidency next year.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) welcomes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) on January 19, 2009 in this file photo. AFP photo.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) welcomes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) on January 19, 2009 in this file photo. AFP photo.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the European Union for “slinging mud” at Turkey in its latest accession progress report and disparaged the bloc over its financial woes.

Erdoğan ruled out any dialogue with the EU if the Greek Cypriots take over its rotating presidency next year and argued that rectifying injustices against the Turkish Cypriots had now become a “matter of honor” for the bloc.

“The progress report has once again shown the serious eclipse of reason at the EU. Turkey is closer to EU norms than ever and we all know why things are actually stuck,” Erdoğan said in a speech at his party’s gathering at Kızılcahamam, near Ankara, at the weekend.

“And their state of affairs is evident: they are crumbling, their currency is in disarray. But Turkey is up on its feet, and not thanks to them but to its own people,” he said.

Erdoğan pledged Turkey would stay on the path of reform, but said that abandoning the Turkish Cypriots will “not be the price we pay to overcome obstructions” in the accession process.

Stressing that Greek Cyprus was granted membership despite rejecting a reunification plan at the 2004 referendum, Erdoğan said: “This problem is now a matter of honor for the EU. They will either implement their 2004 decision and open the door for trade with the Turkish Cypriots or will continue to spoil the Greek Cypriot side and live with this shame forever.”

Erdoğan dismissed Greek Cyprus as “a country that is null and void for us,” adding that, “the EU will fail to find Turkey for six months” if the Greek Cypriots take over the EU presidency in July despite the island’s persisting division.

Decrying a Greek Cypriot drive for gas drilling in the east Mediterranean, he warned that “those who claim unilateral ownership of the island’s riches will see a multi-fold response by Turkey.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011
KIZILCAHAMAM – Hürriyet Daily News

US acts like Israel’s lawyer, Erdoğan tells Obama

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired back at US President Barack Obama, after a remark Obama made about Turkey’s relationship with Iran in a private meeting late last month, reportedly telling the US president that his country is acting like “Israel’s lawyer.”

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu

Davutoğlu, who is currently attending an informal gathering of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the town of Kızılcahamam, near Ankara, revealed a minor encounter between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Obama to lawmakers on Saturday during a speech, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.

Obama and Erdoğan met in New York late last month on the margins of the UN General Assembly, to discuss bilateral relations, along with regional developments. Davutoğlu said when Obama complained to Erdoğan that Turkey is “protecting Iran,” Erdoğan said: “You [the US] are acting like Israel’s lawyer.” The Turkish foreign minister described Erdoğan as responding to Obama with his “sweet strong style.”




16 October 2011, Sunday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,

Turkey to host committee meeting of OIC

The 27th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic & Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will take place in Istanbul between October 17 and 20.

The 27th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic & Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will take place in Istanbul between October 17 and 20.

The meeting will be chaired by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Turkish Development Ministry stated on Friday that permanent president Turkey, COMCEC member countries and observer countries as well as OIC secretariat general and OIC-related organizations and several international institutions would attend the meeting.

COMCEC started to function with the first meeting held in Istanbul in November, 1984. The duties of COMCEC as agreed in the Third Islamic Summit are; Monitoring the decisions that were taken or will be taken on economic and commercial cooperation by OIC; taking necessary precautions to strengthen the economic and commercial cooperation between the member countries; and preparing plans and offering recommendations to increase the economic and commercial capacity of the member countries.

COMCEC convenes in ministerial level annually in Istanbul, Turkey.


Turkish PM vows more democratic constitution

Erdogan said the making of a new constitution was the top agenda of Turkish politics and the national assembly, adding that “a very positive environment existed where everyone agreed that a new constitution is a must.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday pledged to make a new constitution in Turkey that would rise democratic standards of the country as well as expand rights and freedoms.

“The new constitution will be made by our nation not by bureaucratic ideologies. And the constitution we need will boost our democracy and expand rights and freedoms,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Kizilcahamam, near the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Erdogan said the making of a new constitution was the top agenda of Turkish politics and the national assembly, adding that “a very positive environment existed where everyone agreed that a new constitution is a must.”

“All citizens of the Turkish Republic will feel themselves as ‘the host’ in their own country. This will be a constitution that cements their sense of identity. This will be the fruit of a wide social consensus that protects the rights of all our citizens,” he said.

Turkey’s current was made after the military coup of 1980. It has been largely amended through time mainly in line with Turkey’s drive to join the European Union.





15 October 2011 Saturday

KKTC president’s bank account stirs up controversy

Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu’s bank account has led to controversy in the island nation’s parliament, which its Thursday session was scene to a heated debate over the source of Eroğlu’s assets.

Derviş Eroğlu
Derviş Eroğlu

Eroğlu’s assets came under scrutiny when a lawmaker from the Republican Turks Party (CTP), Sonay Adem, raised the issue on the floor, claiming that the president had over 2 million lira stored in his multiple bank accounts, and demanded an explanation for the source of his wealth, or his resignation, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.

As announced back in 2009, Eroğlu’s assets included a house, three pieces of land and a car, a declaration Adem claimed was not accurate.

Eroğlu lashed out at the allegations, saying he regularly declared his assets in accordance with the law and that he would do so again in the coming year.

“I have been actively working for 48 years. I have served as a doctor for 20 years, as a lawmaker for 36, and I have worked in the positions of minister, prime minister and finally as president. I also come from a reputable family with an inheritance.”

“The money in the accounts comes from my retirement bonus, money from immovable property we previously sold and, finally, from two estates we sold in 2011.” The money, which was put in separate accounts throughout September and October, was allegedly transported from Eroğlu’s house by an armored vehicle.

Prime Minister İrsen Küçük responded to the claims by saying that the papers Adem handed out to prove his claims would be investigated by the auditing board and stressed that it was their duty to carry out the investigation objectively.





14 October 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA

Hashemi: Sending troops to Turkish border will not resolve PKK issue

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has suggested that sending Iraqi military and peshmerga troops to the border with Turkey will not help resolve the problem of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi (Photo:AP)
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi (Photo:AP)

Hashemi, speaking in an interview with the Anatolia news agency on Friday, began by voicing his sadness over the loss of Turkish soldiers in attacks by the PKK. Turkey and all related parties should find a permanent solution to the issue, he added.

“There is no agreement that clearly outlines what the parties should do to establish permanent peace along the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran and to end the violence. The PKK and PJAK [Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan] issue will not be resolved by sending Iraqi military forces and peshmerga to the border region. A military solution is not sufficient on its own. A lot of solutions are needed,” Hashemi was quoted as saying by Anatolia.

The PKK uses its bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks on Turkey. PJAK is also involved in clashes with Iranian forces.

Remarks by the Iraqi vice president came in contrast to what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said recently. Maliki stated on Monday that sending Iraqi troops to the north of Iraq is the best option to push out members of the PKK and its Iranian wing, PJAK.

Maliki’s comment was welcomed by Turkish leaders, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu highlighting that Turkey will not have to carry out cross-border operations into northern Iraq if Iraq protects its own soil.

Hashemi, nevertheless, admitted that Iraq, like all related parties, has a responsibility in resolving the PKK issue. He has not yet elaborated on Iraq’s responsibilities.

Turkey has carried out scores of air raids and artillery strikes this year in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region to hit PKK targets. Ankara has warned it may conduct a cross-border ground attack, depending on talks with Iraq.

Recently, Turkey’s Parliament passed a bill extending permission, as it has done several times since 2007, for the Turkish military to mount cross-border operations against members of the PKK in northern Iraq during the coming year. Turkish air and artillery operations against suspected PKK members in the Kandil Mountains have intensified since August. The strikes were ordered after a break of more than a year in retaliation for an increase in PKK attacks on security forces inside Turkey.

Speaking at a press conference in Ankara following talks with Davutoğlu on Thursday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari underlined that the presence of the PKK in Iraq is not legitimate according to the Iraqi constitution.

“This is unacceptable, and no Iraqi government will accept it,” Zebari said in remarks translated from Arabic to Turkish.

At the same press conference, Davutoğlu reiterated Turkey’s determination to fight the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the majority of the international community.

Davutoğlu said one of the main items on the agenda of his meeting with Zebari was the cooperation of the two countries against the PKK. Noting that the terrorist group, which has bases in Iraq, poses a threat to both Turkey and Iraq’s territorial integrity, Davutoğlu said Turkey has to solidify its position against this threat. “Turkey is determined to end this terrorist activity,” Davutoğlu said.

Davutoğlu also reiterated his appreciation for Maliki’s remarks from Monday.

“If Iraq really ensures full military control on its own soil, this is both important for Iraq’s capacity to control its own soil and to prevent terrorist activity against Turkey. If this is the case, Turkey will have no need to stage cross-border operations [in northern Iraq against the PKK],” he reiterated.




14 October 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Turkic countries sign deal

Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, four Turkic-language-speaking countries, signed an economic cooperation memorandum yesterday, according to Turkey’s development minister.

“This is a first,” Minister Cevdet Yılmaz said at a press meeting

during his visit to the Kazakh capital of Astana to participate in a joint council.

The parties have decided to repeat the council meetings in every six months.

As part of the memorandum, the four countries will build working groups on economic cooperation, transportation, the rehabilitation of investments and supporting enterprises.


Thursday, October 13, 2011
ASTANA – Anatolia News Agency