The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
THREE DEMANDS FROM U.S.
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff made a courtesy call to his recently assigned counterpart Gen. Isik Kosaner recently. Sources close to the Turkish General Staff says that Admiral was expected to ask for three major areas of assistance from Turkey, which are:
1. Allowing heavy-mechanized equipment [tanks and self-propelled artillery] and [other] vehicles of the U.S. Army to transit Turkey on their way home from Iraq;
2. Installing early warning and missile-defense systems on the borders of Turkey;
3. Extending Turkey's Regional Command in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The landmark visit by Mullen, who is also the highest-ranking [uniformed] officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, comes after U.S. political and military leaders marked the official end of combat operations in neighboring Iraq.
The Turkish government recently said negotiations were continuing with the United States regarding the use of Turkish soil to transfer American troops, arms and equipment out of Iraq, without elaborating further. Some U.S. military equipment has already been transferred through Turkey since 2009 under an agreement that allows Turkey's İncirlik Air Base to be used by American forces as a "logistics hub."
The U.S. pullout plans are proceeding despite high-level concerns over Iraq's readiness to defend the country on its own.
IF NO VOTES MORE THAN YES, DEMOCRACY WILL GO THROUGH A SERIOUS TRAUMA'
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that if the constitutional amendment package is voted down in the referendum on Sept. 12, [Turkish] democracy will undergo a serious trauma. Appearing on a television channel, Erdoğan said disapproval of the package would also have a negative effect on economy.
SUPPORT FROM THE EU TO 'YES' CAMPAIGN
European Parliament Rapporteur for Turkey Ria Oomen-Ruijten made a written statement on Sept. 12 referendum giving open support to "yes" campaign.
Oomen-Ruijten said she was deeply saddened after certain Turkish political parties called on their supporters to boycott the referendum and noted that the constitutional amendment was the first step towards Turkey's democratization and modernization and that everyone should cast a vote at the upcoming referendum in Turkey.
'WE DON'T BELIEVE IN AK PARTY'
Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] officials earlier said that they would abandon their decision to boycott the referendum on Sept. 12 in return for sound messages on Kurdish issues by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
However, BDP group deputy chairperson Ayla Akat Ata said that they would not reverse their decision due to Erdoğan's statements. Ata said they did not believe in promises made ahead of the referendum.
CITY EYES ERDOĞAN'S VISIT
While waiting for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an important statement was made by civic organizations on Thursday in Diyarbakır,. Representatives of the organizations, which rejected the "boycott" call of the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] some 10 days ago, said they would vote "yes" in the referendum on Sept. 12. Executives of the BDP and the Democratic Society Congress, [DTK], also agreed to the statement. The statement reflects the political pulse prevailing in Diyarbakır.
PRESIDENTIAL TENURE RAISES BIG QUESTIONS
Speaking to journalists during a visit to Adana on Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu said regardless of the referendum's outcome, the length of the president's tenure – five or seven years – will remain uncertain and could, in fact, cause a crisis within the ruling party.
"We will quickly witness how oppressive it will become. As pressure rises, the desire to be more democratic will also increase for citizens," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "The biggest crisis for the AKP [the Justice and Development Party] and AKP voters will be who will be a presidential candidate. It is obvious that Prime Minister Erdoğan is eager to be rid of President Abdullah Gül, go to Çankaya Palaca and carry out a semi-presidential system," said Kılıçdaroğlu.
"If Gül runs for president again, the AKP could split in two."
TURKEY'S DEFENSE COSTS UP DESPITE FEWER FOES
Removing Iraq, Iran, Greece and Russia from its threats list is not slowing defense spending in Ankara, where procurement is expected to peak in 2015.
Multibillion-dollar purchases of fighter jets, attack helicopters and diesel submarines are all set to begin delivery around five years from now as Turkey also develops its first domestically produced battle tank.
As Turkey revamps its national security document to reduce the number of countries listed as threats, defense procurement has not slowed in Ankara, which is expected to spend even more on arms in the coming decade. "You don't buy weapons to use them in wars, you buy them for deterrence. As your deterrence increases, and you need to be really strong for that, your potential enemies refrain from attacking you," one senior procurement official said Wednesday, explaining the logic behind the continued large-scale arms-purchasing programs.
Turkey currently spends more than $4 billion a year on defense procurement, a figure that is expected to rise by at least $1 billion not long after 2015, due to the new large-scale buys.
Under the draft of Turkey's latest national-security document, expected to be finalized in the fall, Ankara no longer views Greece, Iran, Iraq or Russia as threats, a change that reflects the Turkish government's "zero problems with neighbors" policy.
The draft, however, does not contain any recommendations to reduce arms spending, despite considerable public discussion for such a move, which some defense analysts suggest would be a natural outcome of this kind of major change in national-security strategy.
Instead, Turkey's "procurement spending will peak shortly after 2015, and is expected to remain at that level for several years," the senior procurement official said. "We and the government are talking about measures to meet that increased level of spending, and we will find ways to do that." By 2015, three of Turkey's top multibillion-dollar weapons programs – including the $13 billion purchase of around 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II fighter jets – will particularly gain speed. Deliveries of the jets are expected to start shortly after 2015. Delivery of 50 A129 attack helicopters to the Turkish Army by the Italian-British partnership of AgustaWestland should meanwhile begin by 2014 as part of a nearly $3 billion deal.
And in 2015, a partnership led by Turkey's Otokar is expected to complete the design, development and manufacture of four prototypes of the Altay, the country's first domestically produced battle tank. The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries [SSM] will likely award a contract for mass production of at least 250 tanks, a deal worth billions of dollars.
In addition, Turkey has started co-production with Germany of four modern diesel submarines. Turkey is also expected to select later this year either a U.S. company or a European group for joint manufacture of hundreds of utility helicopters for all major branches of its military.
The multibillion-dollar programs are expected to begin deliveries around 2015. "All these large-scale programs will require increased procurement spending roughly around the same time, and we are preparing for that," the procurement official said. It is the first time in the country's history that Ankara will need to make large payments for several multibillion-dollar programs at the same time. "We hope that a large-scale, punishing global economic crisis doesn't hit the world and us in upcoming years," the official said. According to excerpts leaked to the press, the draft of the new national-security document, which is likely to be ratified in October and become official later in the fall, states that Turkey now sees all its neighbors as potential partners for cooperation in all fields.
TWO MAJOR MEETINGS TO BE HELD UNDER TURKEY'S [U.N.] SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENCY, TURKISH REPRESENTATIVE TO UN
Turkey's permanent representative to the United Nations (U.N.) said on Thursday that two major meetings would be held in September under Turkey's rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council. Speaking to Turkish reporters at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Turkey's permanent representative to the U.N., Ertugrul Apakan, said Turkey had recently undertaken the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council and the council had convened this morning to officially adopt its monthly schedule.
Pointing out to two major issues to be on the council's agenda in September, Apakan said Turkish President Abdullah Gul would chair a U.N. meeting on protection and establishment of peace on September 23. Apakan said heads of government and state would attend this meeting and a presidential statement would be adopted at the end of the gathering.
Apakan said that a second important meeting will be held in September: a summit on the fight against terrorism which would be presided over by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. A declaration would adopted at the end of this ministerial meeting as well.
Noting that Turkey was acting as the rotating president of the U.N. Security Council for the second time, Apakan said Turkey had previously undertaken a term presidency in June 2009. Commenting on the council's program for September, Apakan said developments in the Middle East, recent reports of the Council's sanction committees on Iran and Sudan, reports of U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), U.N. Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), U.N. Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), as well as developments in Congo and Somalia were among the topics that would be on the agenda of the council this month.
Upon a question on the U.N. report regarding the Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara aid ship, Apakan said the relevant U.N. investigation commission would present its interim report on the attack to the U.N. Secretary-General by mid-September. "I would also like to confirm that Turkey's national research commission has also presented its interim report to the UN investigation commission," Apakan said, adding Turkey would continue to provide the commission with new reports.
Replying to a question on Turkey's holding the presidency of the Security Council, Apakan said Turkey would do its best and work effectively to contribute to the smooth functioning of the council's monthly program. Turkey's rotating presidency will end on October 1, 2010.