The following are translated excerpts from the Turkish press.
CRISIS AT SUPREME COUNCIL OF JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS (HSYK)
The appointments of judges and prosecutors have blocked the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, (HSYK) meeting because of "Ergenekon" case. Sources said that HSYK's legislative members wanted to appoint 2 alternate members to the courts in charge of the Ergenekon case, and to remove Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı and other Ergenekon prosecutors from the office. Upon this development, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin withdrew the relevant decree for assignments of 1.271 Judges and Prosecutors. HSYK announces that the Minister does not have the authority to withdraw a decree when it comes to HSYK meeting agenda.
CONFLICT FLARES ANEW BETWEEN TURKISH GOVERNMENT, JUDICIARY
The crisis over appointments in the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges, or HSYK, continues as the Justice Ministry announced Wednesday a partial rejection of the summer list of reassignments for judges and prosecutors.
The ministry also said it believes the HSYK's proposals would lead to a direct intervention in ongoing trials.
Three HSYK members suggested changing the positions of judges and prosecutors who are running controversial cases such as Ergenekon and "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer), both of which are investing alleged attempts by prominent citizens and some military officers to overthrow the government. The way these cases have been handled has created an uproar, as well-known individuals -- including journalists, rectors and professors -- have been detained without strong evidence.
The negotiations over the appointments started July 6. The final list of reassignments was announced Aug. 16. The result affected 1,271 judges and attorneys general. According to the statement, there were still negotiations over the position of 67 judges and prosecutors from the main draft, and 79 from the titled draft.
The HSYK's proposal was to add 84 names to the list of reassignments, which is still to be discussed. Another 140 names were to be evaluated and added to the list if necessary. Part of the HSYK's proposal was to change the structure of special courts, especially in Istanbul, Erzurum and Diyarbakır, and offices of attorneys general.
"It is clear that these proposals will lead to a direct intervention in ongoing trials and investigations," the ministry said.
Kadir Özbek, deputy chairman of the Supreme Election Board [HYSK] assessed the withdrawal of the list. "The commission does not function as ministers and consultants do not attend it. No HSYK member has intervened in ongoing trials."
The crisis in the HSYK appointments emerged following claims that the HSYK tried to reposition the Ergenekon special prosecutors to pacify them.
ISRAELI EXPORTS TO TURKEY UP 32 PERCENT DESPITE TENSIONS
Israel's trade with Turkey rose by almost one-third during the first seven months of 2010 --– despite heightened political tensions – the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday. Exports to Turkey between January and July totaled $811.8 million, up 32 percent from the same period in 2009. Israeli imports from Turkey rose 30 percent to $1.04 billion during the same period. The increase comes despite a sharp deterioration in political relations between the two countries, which was further aggravated when Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish activists and a U.S. citizen of Turkish descent during a May 31 raid on an aid flotilla that sought to break Israel's Gaza blockade.
NO PROBLEM IN RELATIONS WITH U.S., TURKEY'S TOP DIPLOMAT SAYS
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said there were no problems in Turkey's relations with the United States. However, Davutoğlu is set to send his undersecretary to Washington D.C. for high-level talks. The Turkish delegation, headed by Feridun Sinirlioğlu, is expected to appeal to the U.S. administration to ask for help in mending ties with the U.S. Congress in the aftermath of Turkey's deteriorating relations with Israel against warm ties with Tehran. The Turkish delegation is expected to explain to the U.S. officials that Turkey's foreign policy axis is not shifting.
TURKISH BUSINESS PRESSURED TO ENDORSE REFORMS
Growing pressure from the government on business and non-governmental organizations to make public their intended vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum has drawn criticism from civil society organizations and experts.
"The warning was an unfortunate act and will certainly not serve the cause of strengthening the role of civil society in modern societies," said a statement from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association, or TÜSİAD, on Tuesday.
The statement came in response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging the pre-eminent business organization not to remain impartial for the Sept. 12 referendum. "Those who fail to choose sides today will be set aside tomorrow," Erdoğan said Tuesday in an interview with a private TV channel.
Although Erdoğan directly called on TÜSİAD to announce its side regarding the constitutional amendments, his call targeted other civil society organizations as well, including trade unions and professional chambers.
In its statement, TÜSİAD said it was a business organization, and that it was not its job to speak out about its choice in the referendum vote.
Erdoğan, however, said that TÜSİAD had openly supported the constitutional amendments that proposed the abolition of the death penalty in 2002.
"Wasn't it you that published huge ads in newspapers in the past, urging constitutional amendments," he said. "Those who said 'yes' back then but remain silent today should know that we will remain silent as well when they come to our door."
TÜSİAD is the country's largest business organization, and has frequently found itself engaged in debates with the ruling party.
The prime minister issued similar warnings to the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges [TOBB], which has more than 1.5 million members.
Urging TOBB to disclose its stance on the reform package, Erdoğan said, "It was in fact the responsibility of civil society to push for the democratization of the country."
TOBB head Rifat Hisarcıkılıoğlu, however, has preferred to remain silent, saying there was no need to tak sides.
Although TÜSİAD and TOBB have remained neutral, a number of business organizations and nongovernmental organizations have already announced their positions on the referendum.
Philosophy of the Cold War
Erdoğan's pressure on the civil society is a clear reflection of a Cold War mentality, political science Professor Baskın Oran told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday. "The prime minister has shot himself in the foot. His remarks on the 'yes' campaign have been destructive," he said.
Oran said that organizations like TÜSİAD were both nongovernmental organizations and business entities.
"Those organizations sometimes become prominent, sometimes half-prominent. Sometimes they don't come to the forefront and they wait," Oran said.
Putting pressure on these organizations could backfire, as they could feel pushed to the other side, the professor said. "George W. Bush and the neo-cons implemented that Cold War tactic and they lost."
Another political scientist, Naci Bostancı of Ankara's Gazi University, said TÜSİAD was in a difficult position.
"TÜSİAD is the economic elite of Turkey. However, they face the threat of losing their previous efficiency through the current social and economic transformation of Turkey," Bostancı told the Daily News on Wednesday. "TÜSİAD is squeezed between their perspective of modernity and the concerns of losing their strong position. Thus they abstain from taking a position on the referendum, although they took positions on political issues several times before."
Bostancı said that TÜSİAD was afraid of the "increasing power of the 'Anatolian tigers' that form the spine of Justice and Development Party."
He said TÜSİAD was avoiding taking a position on the referendum because it had concerns abput the political outcome of the referendum.
The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce [ICOC], the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists [TUSKON], the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association [MÜSİAD], the Free Industrialists and Businessmen's Association [HÜRSİAD], and the Anatolian Lions Businessmen's Association [ASKON] have all announced their support for the package.
I DON'T LIKE HIM, BUT...
Turkish State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, referring to the situation of journalist Tuncay Özkan, who has been under arrest as part of the Ergenekon case for 22 months, said, "He is a journalist I do not like; however we cannot tolerate injustice".
Arınç, who said last week, "Journalist Mustafa Balbay's cry should be heard," noted that the 102 soldiers whose arrest warrants under the "Balyoz" ["Sledgehammer"] case were cancelled during the latest Supreme Military Council meeting, were being "protected." "Some people protected them and they are now free, despite the law's ruling," Arınç said.
CLAIMS ON AKP-PKK DEAL OVER CEASEFIRE IRK TURKISH OPPOSITION
Recent assertions that the government went "bargaining" with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK], which announced a unilateral ceasefire, stirred controversy in Turkey. The daily Milliyet quoted a key figure in the PKK as saying, "The state itself has requested a ceasefire on the basis of dialogue developed with our leadership."
Assertions that the outlawed PKK announced a unilateral ceasefire, following bargains with the government, caused a controversy after a senior official from the group verified the claims.
"There is another important development, which can now be announced without any hesitation. The state itself has requested a ceasefire on the basis of dialogue developed with our leadership," Murat Karayılan, was quoted as saying in daily Milliyet on Wednesday.
"In fact, our leadership had previously withdrawn from the [dialogue] process. However, it is engaged once again, [following] appeals and a direct request by the state," he said, adding that the main objective was to give peace a chance. The PKK's ceasefire will expire on Sept. 20, nearly a week after the referendum.
There were serious assertions that some government members have visited Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader who is serving a life sentence on the island-prison of İmralı, in attempts to convince him to lay down arms, at least until the referendum process is complete.
The government strongly denied such claims, reiterating that the state does not negotiate with terrorists.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Oktay Vural, deputy leader of the Nationalist Movement Party [ MHP], argued that there was a division of labor between the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP], the PKK and the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP]; and that the ceasefire was clear evidence of a deal.
"The ceasefire is a product of secret meetings between the AKP and İmralı [Ocalan], and has a political motive," Vural told reporters Tuesday.
"The picture is clear. İmralı, the BDP and the AKP are playing the same game. That is why a proposal like 'democratic autonomy' can be put on the country's agenda," he said, adding that what he called "dirty relations" should be unveiled.
However, the government does not really want to engage in a quarrel with the opposition over such claims.
Asked how he assessed the ceasefire declaration of the PKK, Turkish government spokesman Cemil Çiçek said that terrorist organizations are not an end in themselves. "They are rather a tool for achieving a political end," he said, adding that the PKK was backed by some external powers.
"A terrorist group cannot survive for a long time if it does not get external support. The separatist PKK has existed for 30 years now. From where does it derive its power? Who trains the militants?" asked Çiçek.
HARSH WARNING TO ISRAEL FOR EMBASSY RAID
Turkey's reaction was harsh after a Palestinian entered the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv with a toy gun, a gasoline can and a knife, and tried to take the Turkish officials hostage.
"We take all kinds of precautions for the security of your diplomats. You should fulfill your responsibility as well. It is our right to expect such a thing from you," Ankara told Tel Aviv.
TWO ISRAELI SOLDIERS SUSPECTED OF FLOTILLA THEFT, ISRAELI MEDIA REPORTS
Two Israeli soldiers are suspected of having stolen computers from the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that the navy intercepted in a deadly May 31 raid, Israeli media reported on Thursday.
One soldier suspected of selling the computers was arrested on Monday, together with three other soldiers who bought the stolen goods.
Military police also arrested a second lieutenant suspected of stealing the computers from one of the ships, the Yediot Aharonot daily said.
The officer had access to the ships after they were taken to the port of Ashdod following their interception in international waters.
Military police suspect that the officer took between four and six laptops off one of the ships.
A military spokesman confirmed that military police had opened an investigation, but added: "For now it has not been established that the theft was from one of the boats in the flotilla."
Naval commandos on May 31 boarded the six ships that sought to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade, killing eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent aboard the Mavi Marmara ferry.
Israel says the soldiers fired in self-defense after they were attacked with clubs and knives, but activists claim the Israelis opened fire as soon as they rappelled down from helicopters onto the upper deck of the Mavi Marmara.