The following are translated excerpts from the Turkish press.
ERDOĞAN SCORNS TRADE UNIONS OVER 'REMANING SILENT' ON REFERENDUM
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday criticized certain nongovernmental organizations in Turkey for "failing to express their views" over a referendum scheduled for Sept. 12 on a constitutional amendment package. "I am calling out to business associations, trade chambers and commodity exchanges and civil servants' unions. You have published huge ads in newspapers in the past urging constitutional amendments. Those who said 'Yes' back then, but remain silent today, should know that we will remain silent as well when they show up at our door. When the country's well-being is at stake, those who fail to choose sides today will be set aside tomorrow," he told a rally.
ANSWER TO "YES" THREAT
The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association [TÜSİAD] said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's pressure on the business world to take sides in the referendum has no place in modern democracies. TUSIAD said it rejected all sorts of pressure and tutorship over the free will of individuals.
"The warning was an unfortunate act and will certainly not serve the cause of strengthening the role of civil society in modern societies," said TÜSİAD.
Prime Minister Erdoğan, who threatened chambers and trade unions in his Çorum rally, said, "Those who remain silent today should know we may remain silent too, when they come and knock on our door." Erdoğan, in his meeting with officials from Turkey's Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), urged them to take a clear stance. TOBB's Chairman Rifat HisarcIklıoğlu refused, saying they took no sides.
ALEVIS TO SAY 'NO'
Chairman of the Alevi Bektashi Federation Ali Balkız, who held a joint press conference with representatives of the Alevi associations, said Alevis would say "no" to the referendum. Balkız said the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, fooled the people and tailored an amendment package suiting its own needs.
WE AGREED WITH THE STATE
Murat Karayilan, current leader of the PKK's armed group talked to Fırat News Agency. He said: "There is no need to keep this as a secret: the Turkish Government asked for a cease-fire from our leadership (meaning Abdullah Ocalan). The government asked him to call for a ceasefire; and then our leadership (Ocalan) agreed to what the government wanted; so then we announced the ceasefire the on August 13."
[Editors' note: What really happened is another story: The importance of the ceasefire is that the supplicant is considered the one in the weaker position, here, the supplicant was the current government, Ergogan and company. In approaching the government's referendum, the PKK is announcing that it will stand by the government's referendum and cooperate in a ceasefire. The opposition has risen against this, alleging that the government and the PKK are on the same side, in the same boat.]
A STRANGE RAID
A Palestinian man, who apparently once worked as a spy for Israeli intelligence, broke into the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv late on Tuesday, briefly holding the vice consul and his wife hostage. The man, identified as Nadim Injaz, climbed up over the security fence around the compound and broke a window to get in; he carried a knife, a gas can and a toy gun. Injaz, who asked for asylum from Turkey, was shot in the leg by the embassy guards. Four years ago, Injaz made a similar asylum request at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv.
I CANNOT BRING LEADERS TOGETHER
President Abdullah Gül, who commented on the referendum campaigns of party leaders, said he did not find the style of the leaders appropriate, and questioned how the leaders could come together in a matter of emergency. "As it is, I cannot bring them together," said Gül. "Instead of clear speeches about the articles being taken to referendum, they talk as if it is the general elections. This picture, in the level of prestige Turkey has gained, is saddening," said Gül. " But responsible individuals should pay heed to what they say. They take it to such dimensions, the distance between leaders grows. I speak to them, they have trust issues."
NEW BALANCE SOUGHT WITH UNITED STATES
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is sending a delegation to Washington, D.C., to assess problems and to find a new balance.
The delegation will not "assume a humble attitude" and will ask for support to break the opposition getting stronger in the Congress.
DAVUTOĞLU: NO ONE CAN WARN US
Responding to allegations that U.S. President Barack Obama warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, "No country can ever talk to Turkey in a warning tone, let alone warning our prime minister."
TURKEY LOOKS TO CONTINUE ARMS PROCUREMENT DESPITE QUESTIONS
At a time when many Western nations are moving to curb their defense spending, Turkey's defense procurement programs remain in place and are even increasing. Some analysts question the wisdom of this policy, but procurement officials say Turkey's strategic location makes it necessary to continuing acquiring conventional arms
Although several Western nations, including the United States and Britain, are announcing cuts in defense spending, Turkey, a country with a relatively modest defense budget, is scheduled to boost such spending for the foreseeable future.
Turkey's defense budget for 2010 is nearly $16 billion, roughly 1.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Nearly $4 billion out of this amount goes to weapons procurement while the rest is being used for personnel, operations, logistics and maintenance expenses.
Part of Turkey's defense procurement spending is devoted to systems mainly designed for asymmetric warfare; that is, the threat posed by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles falls into this category and is of the highest priority.
Ironically, however, some of the much costlier items, including modern fighter aircraft, battle tanks and submarines, are classed as conventional weapons. As such, some defense analysts wonder if it is wise to spend huge amounts of money for such systems, which probably will never be used in war.
Others, however, believe the procurements are necessary. "Turkey is located in the middle of some of the world's most unstable areas, and I personally think that Turkey will continue to need strong defenses," said one senior defense procurement official.
"For this reason, I expect our procurement spending to increase, and not decrease, in the foreseeable future. And don't forget this: Most defense systems are not made for use in war; they more importantly serve a deterrent role, preventing wars," said the official. "This is very important."
Other Western countries looking at cuts
Former Aegean rivals Turkey and Greece earlier this year explored the possibility of mutual defense spending cuts, but nothing much came out of the process.
Undergoing its worst financial crisis in history, Greece has announced that it is planning to sell one of the submarines it is buying from Germany. But most of the country's other defense programs remain in place, mainly because outstanding Turkish-Greek disputes seem set to continue for the foreseeable future.
Other countries in NATO, however, are looking to reduce their spending. Under defense spending curbs proposed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week, the United States should save $100 billion over the next five years from base closures and the elimination of some Pentagon-related organizations. Gates is also seeking to lower the number of generals and admirals in the top echelons.
Given that the Pentagon's budget next year should be around $700 billion, including the spending for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the $100 billion to be saved over the next five years is rather small, but the measures are at least a start.
Britain's new Conservative-led government is also pushing through a comprehensive defense review, while many other European governments have frozen key decisions to buy weapons systems.
As a result, Britain may reduce its number of Eurofighter air combat fighters, jointly made by its BAE Systems, the Italian Alenia and the European group EADS. London also may decide to decrease the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lighting II fighter jets being made by a U.S.-led consortium. Britain may also opt for one new aircraft carrier instead of two.
In addition, the German government is working on a plan to reduce considerably its defense procurement spending; the results are expected to emerge in the fall. France and Italy are similarly mulling curbs in defense spending.
The largest item on Turkey's shopping list over the next 10 years will be its planned purchase of 100 F-35 fighters. Several Turkish companies are members of the consortium, led by the U.S. company Lockheed Martin, which is making the F-35.
The cost of the aircraft, however, is constantly rising; last year, the 100 F-35s were believed to cost around $11 billion, but that figure is now estimated at over $13 billion. In addition, the rival Eurofighter Consortium is seeking to sell at least 20 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.
Under a $500 million program, Turkey is preparing to build four prototypes of the country's first indigenous battle tank, the Altay. When this phase is completed in 2015, a fresh contract will be awarded for the mass production of the tank; the first batch of 250 tanks may cost anywhere between $3 billion and $4 billion.
By roughly 2015, Turkey should begin to receive 50 T-129 attack helicopters being built under the leadership of the Italian-British AgustaWestland in a multibillion-dollar program.
Other large-scale programs call for the joint-production with a foreign partner of hundreds of utility helicopters; the joint-manufacture with Germany of four modern submarines; the purchase from local companies of thousands of armored vehicles, and the indigenous design, development and production of frigates and corvettes.
"Given our spending schedules, we can say that our procurement expenses are expected to peak around 2015 and stay around there until 2020," said the senior procurement official.
"But if at some point in the future, political and threat-conditions allow for a reduction in procurement spending, and if the government decides to do so, obviously we will obey."
TURKISH PRESIDENT HAILS TURKISH-AZERBAIJANI TIES
Turkey and Azerbaijan need to act in solidarity, cooperation and brotherhood, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Monday during a two-day formal visit to the Caucasus country.
"We are one nation with separate states. We come together frequently based on such an understanding. We will continue our solidarity and cooperation," Gül said Monday after signing a treaty of strategic partnership and mutual cooperation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
During his visit, Gül met with Aliyev and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, who expressed confidence Tuesday that the Turkish president's visit would contribute to the extension of useful working relations for the welfare of the two peoples.
Highlighting the strategic partnership and mutual assistance agreement signed Monday, Gül said: "Agreements are a clear proof of the importance of political relations. Our bilateral relations continue to develop, including in the political, security, economic and cultural fields. We discussed today ways to promote our relations."
Speaking at a joint press conference Monday with Aliyev following a meeting between the Turkish and Azerbaijani delegations, Gül said he was thankful to "brotherly" Azerbaijan for the hospitality displayed to him and the members of his delegation.
Aliyev said that Turkey and Azerbaijan share a deep friendship based on history. "President Gül's current visit to Azerbaijan will contribute to the development of our relations."
Gül added that Turkey would continue to support Azerbaijan in its conflict with neighboring Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. "We discussed today what must be done to make the Caucasus a region of stability and security; we talked about the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and the end of the occupation in Azerbaijani territory," he said.
Speaking at the joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Aliyev said: "Azerbaijan will continue to make political and diplomatic efforts for its territorial integrity. I believe that we will realize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity." He also thanked Turkey for its support on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
"Turkey will continue to make efforts so that the issue of the occupied Azeri territory gets solved," Gül said. "I want all of my Azeri brothers and sisters to know that Turkey is, and will always be, on the side of Azerbaijan."
In response to a question on visa liberalization with Turkey, Aliyev said the issue of visas did come up Monday, and that visa liberalization would take place once Azerbaijan makes the necessary internal arrangements.
"Resolving the problems will lead to greater cooperation, the opening up of the borders, the construction of new highways and the creation of bigger economic activities," said Gül, who was accompanied on the trip by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.
"Big problems can be solved by silent diplomacy, and this is how we will solve the problems of the region," the Turkish president said.