Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Israel and Syria on Wednesday, calling Israel a nuclear threat and threatening Syria with unilateral sanctions, despite the failure of the United Nations Security Council to adopt a stance against its southern neighbor.
Erdoğan's comments came on the same day as Turkey's military forces conducted a cross-border operation into Iraq, defending its move to deploy an early warning radar system against Iranian nuclear capabilities.
"Right now, I see Israel as a threat for its region because it has an atomic bomb," Erdoğan said in a foreign policy speech during an official visit to South Africa. The prime minister also accused Israel of committing "state terrorism."
Erdoğan's remarks were in response to comments from an Israeli Embassy diplomat in South Africa who blamed the radical Islamic organization, Hamas, for launching rockets into Israeli territory and criticized Turkey for downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel.
"Your question opened my way for a reply. One cannot transfer atomic bombs and phosphorus bombs through tunnels [linking Egypt to Gaza]," Erdoğan said. "Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed by bombs that have rained down on them from Israel. You sleep at night peacefully and secure, yet Palestinians can't find a single trace of peace in Palestine."
New Sanctions on the Way
Erdoğan also repeated that Turkey would impose sanctions on Syria, making it clear that the UN Security Council could not block Turkey's move.
"It won't stop our sanctions," Erdoğan said. "Turkey and either some, or all, of the European Union nations, and who knows which others, will take steps. The people of that country do not need to endure a merciless, shameless, tyrannical regime that bombs its own country from the sea," he said.
On Wednesday, the Turkish military began a week-long military exercise near its border with Syria. Erdoğan is expected to announce new sanctions on Syria later this week when he visits refugee camps near the border.
In Ankara, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized the international community for not being united on the Syria case.
"We wish the UN Security Council could all vote in the same direction. What is taking place in Syria is not a domestic issue. It has become a tragedy for humanity," he said.
Missile Deal to Expire in Two Years, Foreign Minister Says
The deal signed between Turkey and the United States on the deployment of an early warning radar system will expire after two years, and Turkey has the right to annul it whenever it wants, according to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
"It is not possible for the system to be activated or convey information to any other country without notifying Turkey," Davutoğlu said in response to criticism from opposition parties in Parliament on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, media in Spain reported that Madrid was planning to join the missile defense system from its naval base at Rota in the south part of the country. Statements on the Spanish government and NATO Web sites said Spain, NATO and the U.S. would announce an agreement on the development of new capabilities during an upcoming NATO meeting in Brussels; no details of the agreement were disclosed.
Turkey's decision to participate in the NATO missile shield project has drawn reactions both from Iran and local politicians who claim this will make Turkey a regional target. Davutoğlu said the missile defense shield would be open to inspection by the Turkish Armed Forces, and that all of the necessary guarantees had been made to ensure the facility will be open to military and diplomatic intervention by Turkey at any point. The contract would be renewed automatically every two years.
Davutoğlu and his aides told Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu before a parliamentary debate on the issue that calling the project an "Israel Shield" means "using matters of national security as a tool for gaining small and narrow political profits.
If activated, a missile will be destroyed in the atmosphere, without any fallout landing on Earth, he said. According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News, Kılıçdaroğlu's meeting with Davutoğlu resulted in a "sect complaint."
Turkish Parliament Approves Military Operations in Iraq
Turkish Parliament passed a bill extending permission for the Turkish military to mount cross-border operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq during the coming year.
Turkish air and artillery operations against suspected PKK militants in the Qandil 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 the June 12 elections.
Turkey has launched air and ground operations across the border several times in the past. The last incursion was in 2008, when it sent 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.
The renewed violence is another setback for a government initiative in recent years to boost the rights of minority Kurds who account for nearly 15 million of Turkey's 74 million population.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkic Republics Need to Act as Six States with One Nation, President Gul Says
Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Wednesday that Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan needed to act as "six states with one nation" and display solidarity with each other.
Speaking at an international meeting to mark the 20th year of the independence of Turkic republics in Ankara, Gül said:
"This is the challenge before us. Those who are not in solidarity with each other face difficulty when they are alone. Being in solidarity never puts a shadow on mutual equal and respectable relations. If we do see ourselves as part of one nation, it is the natural right of all our states to facilitate utmost cooperation between our citizens, societies and states.
"The day when Turkic republics became independent, everyone in the Turkic world embraced each other as brothers and family members who have been away from each other. Twenty years have passed since the Turkic republics declared their independence.
"I am proud to note that the Turkic republics have proved themselves, went through an historic test and have assumed important roles in their geography. I congratulate those who have organized the meeting in Ankara and who have made scientific works as part of the meeting."
Hizbullah Commander Apprehended in İzmir
The military leader of the outlawed Turkish militant group Hizbullah has been apprehended in the Seferihisar district of İzmir, police officials said Wednesday.
Veysi Kavan, who was sentenced to life in prison and later released for his role in the 1993 killings of Mehmet Sincar, deputy of the Democracy Party and 16 others in southeastern provinces, was detained when the identification card he gave to the police turned out to be fake; he was taken to Seferhisar police headquarters.
Kavan was found guilty in 1995 of being the Turkish military commander of Hizbullah, which is responsible for more than 150 murders and attacks that have injured 80.
He was sentenced to life in prison, but spent only six years in jail; he was released in 2001 after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the court ruling.
Judge Asks for Retirement in Sledgehammer Case
A member of the court hearing the Ergenekon and "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) coup-plot cases has asked for a retirement.
Şeref Akçay, who has argued that the suspects in question have been detained for too long, filed a petition for retirement on Wednesday, according to CNNTürk. Akçay was a member of the 11th Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul.
In his latest nine-page opposition to the arrests, Akçay said: "I'm not saying that the suspects should not be on trial because they are soldiers, they should be tried, but the process should be fair."
EU Minister Urges International Community to Pressure Greek Cypriot on Energy
Turkey's European Union Minister Egemen Bagis on Wednesday called on the Union to pressure the Greek Cypriot administration to remove a veto on the opening of talks in Turkey's accession negotiations on a policy chapter on energy.
"EU countries must stop the Greek Cypriot side from its refusal to open the energy chapter," Bagis told reporters during a meeting with French Ambassador in Ankara Laurent Bili.
Bagis said the international community and the European Commission should be aware that the Greek Cypriot administration has tried to stall ongoing settlement talks in Cyprus, adding that the Greek Cypriot move to start offshore drilling attempted to push reunification talks to a dead end.