Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan has announced that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s export target this year is to earn $149 billion in revenue from goods sold to overseas markets.
Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, the minister made comparisons between Turkey and other economies, particularly those in Europe, with respect to a number of key indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) growth, the unemployment rate, the budget deficit and the ratio of public debt to GDP, concluding that 2011 was an excellent year for the country. In the field of exports, he noted that the government is optimistic about meeting the 2023 republic centennial’s target of $500 billion. To that end, he noted that this year’s target has been set at just below $150 billion. “Thanks to the strategies we will follow, we expect our volume of exports to top $149 billion and our imports to be at $248 billion by the end of this year,” he said.
Turkey’s main exports are motor vehicles, petrochemicals and textile products. It has a trade relationship with almost all nations around the world, but the country’s largest trading partner and export market is the European Union, with which it has a customs union. The 27-member bloc accounts for nearly 45 percent of all of Turkey’s trade overseas, down from over 50 percent a decade ago.
The volume of exports in 2011 will be announced by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) on Monday, but it will take another two months before the assembly’s annual import figures will be announced by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat).
According to the most recent data available, Turkey’s foreign trade deficit — the main reason for its wide current account deficit (CAD) — dropped by nearly 3 percent to $7.53 billion in November of last year from $7.75 billion in the same month of 2010. The same year-on-year evaluation by TurkStat indicated that the country’s exports expanded by 18.5 percent while its imports grew by only 8.8 percent in November. This is mainly due to the weakening of the lira against the US dollar for most of that particular month.
With the decline in the country’s foreign trade deficit expected to continue, it is also likely its CAD will shrink as well. Turkey’s CAD dropped to $4.2 billion in October of last year, nearly 35 percent lower than what it had been a month earlier.
The United States and Turkish governments in many senses rediscovered each other in 2011, achieving constructive engagement — especially in the aftermath of the people’s revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
In stark contrast, the previous year Ankara irked many in Washington with its relatively accommodating stance vis-à-vis Tehran. Deep tactical differences between the two governments on how to deal with Iran’s controversial nuclear program yielded to Turkey’s decision to cast a no vote for sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council. The US, in return, raised its concerns publicly and privately to a point where there were untypically harsh exchanges between US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Toronto. Amidst serious doubts about the direction of Turkey, some American observers even speculated the country was changing its traditional Western trajectory
US-Turkish official relations miraculously recovering from that low point and quickly ascending to one of its best periods in history this year can mainly be attributed to the so-called Arab Spring. Despite initial confusion, both governments eventually adopted a pro-change strategy in the region and found reliable partners in each other. Turkey — with its increasing appeal to the Arab Street and improved political influence — actively helped many US goals such as ousting the Col. Gaddafi regime in Libya and boosting pressure on the Assad regime in Syria. Turkey considers its US ties important for securing its interests in the regional power play evident between an Iran-led Shiite bloc and Sunni nations. In a dramatic twist of events, Ankara undoubtedly positioned itself with the US and other Western allies by agreeing to host a critical NATO missile defense radar that Iran sees as a threat. Iran, in return, is using its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to block Turkish reintegration with the rest of the region for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman state.
Iraq, once a subject of deep resentment between the US and Turkey due to Washington’s unilateral occupation and Ankara’s hesitation to support it, has turned into a crucial ground for cooperation. In the aftermath of the American troop withdrawal, both governments want to see a unified and stable Iraq. In the event that the country breaks up, Turkey’s enhanced economic, political and social ties with the Kurdish north closely allied with Washington would serve as a cushion. The US government has proved sensitive to Turkey’s national security concerns regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which uses the mountains in northern Iraq as a safe haven for its terrorists. Intelligence aid provided to Turkey will not be interrupted by the halt of US operations in Iraq. Four US surveillance drones have been transferred to the US air base in İncirlik, Adana, and have been operating from there. In November, the US Congress approved the sale of three SuperCobra attack helicopters to Turkey.
Historically, the most difficult terrain for Turkey in Washington has been Capitol Hill. 2011 was no exception, especially given the political sensitivities aroused by Turkey’s seriously deteriorated relations with Israel. Pro-Israel forces joined with traditionally hostile elements such as the Armenian and Greek lobbies to make life difficult for Turkey in the US Congress. However, as usual, the US House of Representatives fell short of passing a resolution marking the events of 1915 as the “Armenian genocide.” The House adopted Resolution 306 in December that urged Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and return confiscated Christian properties.
On the other hand, the Obama administration applauded an August decree by the Erdoğan government that invited non-Muslims to reclaim churches and synagogues that were confiscated 75 years ago. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which had initially blocked Francis Ricciardone’s appointment as US ambassador to Ankara, approved the nomination in September. What is remarkable was the fact that despite the rift with Israel, the closest US ally in the Middle East, Washington was able to improve its relations with Ankara on a separate track, while urging restraint to both sides. Even Ankara’s veiled threats to Tel Aviv over its cooperation with the Greek Cypriot government on natural gas exploration in a coastal area disputed by the Turkish Cypriots received a relatively muted response from Washington.
President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan personally invested generously in bilateral relations and have largely been instrumental in setting the current positive tone from atop. Perhaps only second to his British counterpart, President Obama has frequently called Erdoğan to consult and reflect on the developments in the region. Obama has made it clear he attaches a special value to relations with Turkey by making Ankara one of his first foreign destinations upon assuming office. Obama and Erdoğan were quick to recover from the hiccups of 2010 and built a cordial relationship, unparalleled by any American and Turkish leaders.
At the lower levels of bureaucracy, especially at the State Department, suspicions concerning Turkey’s relatively independent foreign policy linger to some extent. Likewise, American ambitions in the region keep Turkish cynicism alive in a nation where the US government’s public image remains low. However, Turkish officials are relieved by the visibly improved level and frequency of official consultations. It’s very rare for both the US president and vice president to visit a foreign nation in the same term. Vice President Joe Biden’s successful visit to Turkey in early December only reaffirmed the positive trend in US-Turkish relations.
From Afghanistan to the Balkans, from Central Asia to Africa, Turkey’s dynamic foreign policy and growing economic clout is increasingly regarded as an asset by the Americans. When the US is confronted by hurdles in continuing its military dominance and faces resistance from local populations, an emerging Turkey provides a useful venue for many American political and economic projects. Turkey’s improving democracy and strong security ties with the West — despite diminishing prospects for EU membership — serve as an antidote to the clash of civilizations that the US is also trying to avert. Apparently there is no better ally than Turkey practically and ideologically to counter anti-Western radical and terrorist movements emanating from the Muslim world. However, a lack of meaningful trade between the two countries and relatively poor public knowledge remains a mutual challenge.
Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) on Wednesday convened in Ankara for the last meeting of 2011 with an agenda dominated by recent developments in Syria as well as a recent French move to penalize the denial of Armenian allegations.
The MGK meeting, chaired by President Abdullah Gül and attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, was held at the Çankaya presidential palace.
The council reportedly discussed the approval by the French National Assembly of a bill which makes it a crime to deny that the 1915 killings of Armenians during the fall of the Ottoman Empire were tantamount to genocide.
Legislators in France’s lower house of parliament last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a draft law outlawing the denial of the 1915 events as genocide. The senate is slated to debate the bill next year.
Turkey, which vehemently rejects the term “genocide” for the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians, saying the issue should be left to historians, was outraged by the French move and reduced ties with Paris. It recalled its ambassador to France for consultations for an indefinite period of time.
Among the other issues discussed during the meeting was the ongoing government crackdown on protesters in the neighboring country of Syria.
Turkey announced a series of sanctions against the Syrian regime in November due to its military crackdown on an eight-month-long uprising. It said the measures target the Syrian administration and will not harm the Syrian people.
The council also discussed recent military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which have been regarded as successful by many security experts.
The number of PKK militants who have surrendered or were captured alive has increased in the past few months. Dozens of militants who refused to surrender were killed in November and December. Turkish losses were minimal in these encounters.
Turkey urged Belgium on Thursday to investigate possible wrongdoings by authorities in a fire that killed a Turkish national and severely injured three others, including two children.
The fire took place in a flat in Vilvoorde, near Brussels, on Dec. 25. Tuba Küçüksarı Elçi (26) died after she and her husband, Ramazan Elçi (26), together with their 2-year-old daughter Sıla and 40-day-old son Talha, jumped out of the window to escape from the flames. Ramazan Elçi was severely injured from the fall while the two children reportedly have high chances of survival.
The fire caused outrage among Turkish immigrants living in the area, who said firefighters did not arrive in time to extinguish the flames, leaving the couple with no choice but to jump. Residents said they had called the fire department to report the fire but dispatch officials hung up the phone because none of the callers could speak Flemish.
The fire reportedly began from the floor below when the couple was asleep. A Polish family living in the flat where the fire began was not at home that night.
“We deeply regret the fact that a Turkish national was killed and three others, including two children, were severely injured in the fire,” a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. It noted that the Turkish embassy and consulate were closely following the case and urged Belgian authorities to shed light on the incident, “particularly with regard to allegations concerning the circumstances behind it,” and on the “reason why the fire began.”
The European Commission’s representative in Turkey, Marc Pierini commented on the new charter process, saying that the next constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate major problems.
Writing a new constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate Turkey’s major problems, like the Kurdish issue and the coexistence of conflicting lifestyles, according to a top EU envoy. It took a long time for Europeans to solve similar problems, said Marc Pierini, European Commission’s representative in Turkey, in reference to the Kurdish issue.
“The solution was 100 percent political, not a military solution,” Pierini said, talking to a group of journalists on Oct. 21. “The new constitution is the major vehicle to solve Turkey’s major problems.”
Turkey is following the correct methodology to write a new constitution, according to Pierini. The methodology employed in the previous effort to change the constitution, which ended with amendments being put to referendum, was a poor one, he said. “It was a single party proposal. The choice was between the one offered by the government and the one of the military coup. That’s why we said it was a right step in the right direction. The other parties had not offered an alternative. So far so good,” said Pierini talking about the fact that four parties are equally represented on the commission that will draft the charter and adding that it was extremely positive that the ruling party did not offer its own proposal to the commission.
“The next constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate major problems like the Kurdish issue and coexistence between lifestyles,” he said after mentioning the terror attack that took place on the first day the Preparatory Constitution Commission met to begin work. Pierini said it took decades to solve similar problems in Europe.
When asked about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s criticism of insufficient support coming from the EU in the fight against terror, Pierini said, “His convictions are based on past experience during the course of the last 10 years. But there has been improvement in the course of the last two-three years. But these are technical issues and it is not like instant coffee, it takes time for them to be effective.”
Pierini said Turkey’s image in the Middle East would be shaped by the type of constitution that it will have. While some constituencies in the region look to Turkey as a better example than Iran, not all look to Turkey as a model, he said. “I am not sure whether some religious minorities in Egypt or Tunsia or if Egyptian diplomacy is looking to Turkey as a model,” he said.
Turkey and the EU’s convergence rate on foreign policy issues has fallen below 50 percent, while there has been times when it was 70 percent, Pierini said. “We sent our statement on foreign policy issues to Turkey with two hours notice on whether it would like to participate in the statement,” he said. Turkey wants to be consulted in advance and it therefore makes a case by not accepting the statement, according to Pierini.
Turkey’s new charter commission has come together for the first time yesterday, following the deadly attacks on security forces by the PKK. “We will carry our responsibilities with common sense,” said Cemil Çiçek, who reportedly will be the chairman of the commission.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek vowed yesterday that a landmark drive to rewrite Turkey’s constitution would go ahead despite escalating violence in the southeast as he kicked off the first meeting of the Preparatory Constitution Commission tasked with drafting the new charter.
The deadly attacks on security forces by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Hakkari province that claimed at least 24 lives overshadowed “a historic day,” Çiçek said in opening remarks at the 12-member cross-party commission.
“No matter how great our pain is, we will suppress it. There is no turning back, regardless of how much the developing circumstances are making our task harder. Those developments maybe an attempt to discourage us from our way,” he said. “We will carry out our responsibilities with calm, prudence and common sense, sticking to law and democracy.”
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door session, Çiçek said a four-member sub-commission had been set up to outline the procedural rules under which the commission’ would work.
The sub-commission, comprised of Ahmet İyimaya of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Atilla Kart of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Oktay Öztürk of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Ayla Akat Ata of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), will prepare a draft by Oct. 24.
In their opening remarks at the meeting, all opposition representatives called for democratic reforms to be carried out simultaneously with the drafting of the new constitution.
CHP’s Kart said the new constitution should reflect the spirit of the time, calling for simultaneous amendments in the electoral law, political parties law, the abolition of special-authority courts, and a solution to the problem of imprisoned deputies.
Voicing sorrow over the killed soldiers, the BDP’s Akat said the Kurdish issue remained Turkey’s most urgent problem. The new constitution will be a first step towards a settlement, she said, suggesting also “confidence-boosting” amendments in the penal code, the anti-terror law and the political parties law
“A new constitution is not enough. The government should show utmost care for democracy. If this commission managed to gather despite the current events, it should be able to continue working free from daily politics,” Ata said.
AKP representative Mehmet Ali Şahin condemned the PKK attack, pledging that, “the parties’ representatives in Parliament will work with determination more than ever.”
Implying that open-ended debates on the new charter would be futile, he said, “We should not sacrifice the spirit of reconciliation to daily political debates.”
The MHP’s Faruk Bal said the new charter should keep the first three articles of the current constitution “which unites the state and the nation and associates the republic with democracy.” He said a new constitution would not be a “magic wand” to rectify all problems and called for parallel amendments in the electoral and political parties laws.
During the closed-door session, Çiçek requested commission members not to speak to journalists about the content of their meetings, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. On the other hand, commission members reportedly agreed that Çiçek would be the chairman of the commission. They also agreed on a rotating chairmanship when the speaker is absent. Some members suggested a constitutional status for the commission, sources said.
Following a number of erstwhile attempts, Prime Minister Erdoğan receives another invitation from the besieged Gaza Strip’s rulers, Hamas, to visit the territory
Hamas’ deputy prime minister has expressed expectations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will soon visit the blockaded Gaza Strip following previously abandoned attempts to travel to the Palestinian territory.
“The media has twice announced that Erdoğan was going to visit Gaza, but then we didn’t see anything on the ground. Turkey is a great country, and I think Turkish people can find a way to go to Gaza if they want to,” Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Awad told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview yesterday. “We would like Prime Minister Erdoğan not only to visit Gaza, but also to discuss every kind of political and humanitarian issue with us. It would be very good to discuss the matters with Mr. Erdoğan face to face,” Awad said.
Every part of Gaza is under humanitarian, social, financial and political siege, Awad said, adding that they also needed to discuss how to end the siege with Erdoğan.
“Erdoğan mentioned many times that this siege has to be ended. At least we can discuss this process with him from our point of view. Our people are in a big prison. We need all the people to understand our situation and discuss the matter of how to finish the siege. Turkey has a chance to [publicize] the issue everywhere in the world. We would like Turkey to raise our problems in the world,” the deputy prime minister said.
Touching on difficulties with the Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, Awad said there had been no progression in plans for reconciliation. Hamas does not support Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ bid to have the U.N. recognize Palestinian statehood.
“We need a state of Palestine, but we don’t need this Palestine against the right of return of our people. So we have to discuss this matter in terms of how much this step can affect the right of return of Palestinians to their lands. Otherwise we won’t be able to face our people later on when we say that the right of return has been finished with this step,” Awad said.
Erdoğan has expressed his intention to visit Gaza more than once in the past. “If conditions allow, I’m thinking of visiting Gaza,” Erdoğan said in July and added last month that he intended to cross into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah border gate in reaction to Israel during his official visit to Egypt on Sept. 12-13. Erdoğan was unable to travel to Gaza last month.
Israel reacts to Erdoğan’s possible visit to Gaza
Israel also reacted to Erdoğan’s planned visit to Gaza, saying such a move would harm Turkey’s relations with the United States and challenge the legitimacy of Abbas’ claim to represent all of Palestine. The Turkish prime minister’s determination to visit Gaza came as relations between Turkey and Israel sharply deteriorated following Tel Aviv’s continued refusal to apologize after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists last year aboard an aid ship that was attempting to break the blockade against the Gaza Strip. If the trip does occur, it is likely to exacerbate tensions between Turkey and Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group. Turkey has refused to declare Hamas a terrorist group because it was democratically elected.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said it is possible for state officials to begin a new round of talks with the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, but added that such a plan was not currently on the government’s agenda.
Erdoğan on Wednesday spoke to a group of journalists accompanying him on his plane en route to Ankara from South Africa, where he was on an official visit. In response to a question on a recent remark from the prime minister that Turkey could hold talks again with the PKK, Erdoğan clarified: “I didn’t say with the PKK. I said that about talking with İmralı [the prison isle where Öcalan is held]. If the state deems it necessary, they can talk to [Öcalan] or other places. But this is currently not on the agenda.”
Turkish officials have held talks with Öcalan on the prison isle of İmralı for the past year or so, but the talks are currently stalled.
During the flight, Erdoğan also elaborated on his earlier remarks that Germany-based foundations used loan and credit schemes to fund PKK-affiliated companies by investing in municipal projects in Turkey, saying loans from such agencies could be used in funding some of the activities carried out by the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella group that encompasses the PKK and related groups that Turkish prosecutors say is an attempt at forming an alternative state structure.
Erdoğan said he was aware that his statement about German foundations had caused somewhat of a stir. “What I said was there are such German foundations and agencies. So you have foundations and credit agencies. These organizations give directives [to municipalities], telling them, ‘We’ll give you this loan, but you will contract the job to so and so.’ Other companies don’t even get a chance to compete in a tender. Among these are Republican People’s Party [CHP] and Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] municipalities, but also some of ours. CHP municipalities were instantly unnerved [over Erdoğan’s remarks]. Mr. [CHP leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu can find [these municipalities] out if he looks into it. He can find out which CHP municipality has used funding from which German agency. The German development bank [KfW] grants huge loans. Their loaning methods aren’t entirely ethical, nor are they in compliance with the law. They keep referring projects to some companies that have captured our attention; it really catches one’s attention.”
Erdoğan didn’t say whether he believed all these companies were affiliated with the PKK. “I can’t comment about that. It’s suspicious. Perhaps these [German funds] will emerge behind the operations into the KCK. I am certainly uneasy about these ties.”
In operations against the KCK about 4,000 suspects have so far been arrested; among them many BDP mayors and members. The BDP has criticized the government for stifling Kurdish opposition under the pretext created by the KCK case.
Erdoğan said on the plane he could not possibly accept the BDP’s accusations. “I don’t even know, and God is my witness, who was arrested, which mayor in which district. It is an entirely judicial process. These are steps taken as part of the judicial process based on tips or evidence found during investigations. The BDP’s claim [that the prime minister decides who will get arrested] is sheer slander. The BDP does all its work with slander. They point fingers at the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] and Tayyip Erdoğan for everything.”
He said the government saw the BDP as the right place for political negotiations and noted that they will soon be talking to BDP officials. Erdoğan said the BDP was exploiting the old rhetoric and discourse of the Kurdish movement and ignoring the positive changes in the country. “Have you ever heard the BDP [praise the AK Party] for what’s been done? Ever heard them say ‘this many hospitals were built, or this many roads were laid.’ You can’t. They are unabashedly still talking about ‘policies of denial and assimilation.’ Who can speak of a policy of denial and assimilation in Turkey in this day? This country has a prime minister who says Kurds are my brothers. They are continuing to exploit the issue for [political gain].”
Erdoğan also said he wanted to talk to media bosses about coverage regarding terrorist attacks. “From a psychological aspect, I think broadcasts of terrorist attacks and soldiers killed are negative. They reflect negatively on society. In a way, we are propagating the PKK. If we can change this, it would turn things in our favor. They [the PKK] step up their propaganda efforts the more they are written about. They want this. I don’t think its right to go to the mountain [PKK base] and interview them there, and then print that as if it’s a major journalistic success. These are things of the past.”
The prime minister said the government was planning to revisit the situation of Mahmour, a refugee camp in northern Iraq controlled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where the PKK maintains a strong presence. Erdoğan said Mahmour was reminiscent of the Bekaa Valley in Syria, where the PKK made its home for many years before Öcalan was driven out of that country in the face of threats from Turkey.
“Currently, Mahmour is like a breeding ground in the mountain [for new terrorists]. It’s under UN protection. It looks like all of these camps are under certain guarantees. We have to bring the Mahmour Camp to the table and talk to the UN. We are fighting terrorists, but this place trains new ones.”
Erdoğan on new constitution
The prime minister also expressed his views about the future of a new constitution Turkey plans to draft and adopt. He said the government was determined to pass a new constitution to replace the current one that was created and adopted by the 1980 military government and therefore naturally has militaristic overtones and an approach suspicious of civilians.
He said he was upset to hear the CHP’s criticism that the government was squeezing other parties with deadlines on the constitution. The government has said it hopes to complete constitution-related work within 12 months. “I think they are the ones who are really dragging their feet on this issue. If we are serious about this, we can pass not one but many new constitutions within a year’s time.”
Erdoğan warned that if the four parties represented in Parliament did not collaborate, the situation could come to an impasse. He said the rest of what happens in the process will take place before the eyes of the public. “If two parties draft the constitution, then it will be these two parties. We can’t continue like this until the end of time.”
He recalled that the government had to battle the opposition to be able to pass a 26-article constitutional amendment package in 2010. “We were able to put this package before the people in spite of all the attempts to stop us, and it was passed with 58 percent approval from the nation, and we were able to complete it. If it was up to them, we could have never finished it. It took us five months.”
Religious affairs to talk on terrorism
During the flight, Erdoğan also responded to criticism that the Islamic world was not doing its best to fight terrorism. To address this he said the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate would be holding a conference where men of religion and community leaders from Muslim countries would be invited. “Sometimes men of religion should make public statements. Some circles would be greatly unnerved by that. Is terrorism acceptable in Islam, or not? If you say that terrorism is unacceptable in Islam, then you have to go declare this openly everywhere in the world.” He said the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should strive to do the same and work with Turkey toward this end.
He said the PKK was an irreligious group that argued that the Kurds’ religion was Zoroastrianism. “Some people here [in South Africa] think the PKK is associated with Islam. They have nothing to do with it. They are a Marxist, Leninist, irreligious terrorist organization. They have nothing to do with our religion.”
06 October 2011, Thursday / MUSTAFA ÜNAL , JOHANNESBURG/ANKARA
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 outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (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, straining relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.
The strikes were ordered, after a gap of more than a year, in retaliation for an increase in PKK attacks on security forces inside Turkey.
The opposition supported the government motion, but it was rejected by Kurdish lawmakers who won 36 seats in a June election.
Turkey has launched air and ground operations across the border several times in the past. The last incursion was in 2008, when it sent in 10,000 troops backed by air power.
Iraq says Turkey still has 1,300 troops in Iraqi territory manning small observation posts set up in the 1990s with Baghdad’s permission.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the conflict that began in the 1980s.
The renewed violence is another setback for a government initiative in recent years to boost the rights of minority Kurds who account for up to 15 million of Turkey’s 74 million population.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government submitted the motion to the Parliament Speaker’s Office last week in the wake of escalating acts of terrorism by the PKK, which have claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, policemen and civilians in recent months.
Terrorist attacks and open threats — which target the peace and security of the Turkish people as well as the national unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, and which stem from terrorist PKK elements based in northern Iraq — are continuing, the government said in the motion sent to the legislature.
Before the voting began in Parliament, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu paid a visit to Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Although reports said Davutoğlu’s visit was to discuss the cross-border motion, the foreign minister, who spoke to reporters at the end of the meeting, denied these reports and said his visit was to inform the main opposition party about a number of foreign policy issues.
While the AK Party, the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were expected to vote in favor of the motion, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) announced that it would vote against it.
Speaking at a news conference in Parliament before the start of the voting session, BDP parliamentary group deputy chairman Hasip Kaplan announced that the BDP would say “no” to the cross-border motion.
“As the BDP bloc, we unanimously say no to the war motion. Some of our deputies will make a symbolic appearance in Parliament today, and they will vote against the motion,” Kaplan said.
He also said the Kurdish problem, which the BDP sees as Turkey’s most important problem, is not a problem of security or terrorism, but a problem that has social, cultural and historical dimensions. “The solution to this problem should be found in Parliament through peaceful and democratic means,” he said, adding that Parliament should not debate a motion to make war its primary duty, but should work toward finding a peaceful solution.
The cross-border operations motion was first brought to Parliament in 2007 and has since been extended three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The current resolution providing the legal basis for operations expires on Oct. 17, and with the motion currently sent to Parliament the government is seeking permission for cross-border operations for another year.
05 October 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES,
Turkey’s main Kurdish party reacts angrily to the detentions of more than 100 members of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, including the party’s deputy leader Erkan Pişkin on accusations of links to an illegal organization. ‘If that is the KCK, then I must be its leader,’ says BDP’s co-chariman Selahattin Demirtaş
More than 120 people were taken into custody across the country Tuesday in fresh raids against the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, prompting fears of a response from Turkey’s main Kurdish party.
“If that is the KCK, then I [must] be [its] leader because all the [people] they detained are colleagues from the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP]. As such, how can we conduct mature, reconciliatory political discussions regarding a solution [to the Kurdish problem]? We are also debating this among ourselves,” BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaþ said.
Around 90 people were detained in Istanbul alone in connection with the investigation into the KCK, the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK.
Simultaneous raids were also launched Tuesday in the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Mardin and Siirt, as well as in the eastern province of Adıyaman, the southern province of Mersin, the Aegean province of İzmir, and the capital Ankara.
A deputy leader of the BDP, Erkan Pişkin, and the party’s deputy accountant Salih Yıldız were among the detainees, while several mayors and numerous other regional BDP administrators were also taken into custody as part of the operations. M.K., the alleged Istanbul manager of the KCK who was identified only with his initials, was also detained.
“Every day [the prime minister] is pouring forth directives as if [he were] the country’s chief prosecutor [and] picking targets. Every day our friends are being arrested. Our party assembly members, our mayors, [and] all our party employees are being arrested under the name of KCK operations,” Demirtaş added.
Meanwhile, the BDP’s group deputy leaders Hasip Kaplan and Pervin Buldan paid a visit to Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s jailed leader.
Kurdish groups are also planning to undertake a march this weekend in the Gemlik district of the northwestern province of Bursa in protest of Öcalan’s continued isolation. The coastal district was chosen for its proximity to İmralı Island in the Marmara Sea, where Öcalan has been held since 1999.
“People are dying on the streets and mountains in these days when we are talking about framing a new constitution. Political genocide operations are underway. There is also a legal blanket for this. Anyone who opens their mouth [or] speaks can be declared a terrorist,” BDP co-leader Gülten Kışanak said Tuesday at her party’s first group meeting this term.
Work on the new constitution would not yield any results before the appearance of a powerful will to peace, the removal of obstacles in the way of democratization, and the freedoms of thought and organization, she said.
“The AKP police have gone on a hunt for the Kurds. The people will not bow down even if 10,000 people are detained,” she added.
Hundreds of people, including elected mayors, are already on trial on charges of ties to the PKK as part of a two-year case that has fuelled tensions in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.
A surge in PKK violence in recent months has sparked Turkish military air and artillery strikes against militant bases in the mountains of neighboring northern Iraq.
Some 150 politicians and activists are being tried in Diyarbakir, where a large courtroom has been specially built. Similar trials are being held in other cities across Turkey. The European Union, which Turkey is aiming to join, is closely watching the cases and their human rights implications.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
Compiled from the Doðan news agency and the Anatolian news agency stories by the Daily News staff.