The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
DEFENSE MINISTRY CONCLUDES DRAFT LAW TO HIRE PROFESSIONAL SOLDIERS
Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said a draft law to hire 50,000 professional soldiers had been submitted to the office of the prime minister. Gönül said the soldiers would be paid 1,500 TL a month plus a 500 TL bonus. Soldiers will be accommodated in military barracks.
DANCES WITH 'ORIGINS' IN TURKISH POLITICS
The "discrimination" issue is high on the agenda in the Turkish capital of Ankara, especially after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent remarks saying he was "against both Turkism and Kurdism."
Members of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who were accused of discrimination, replied harshly to the Turkish prime minister's statements. "The idea of Turkism is nothing like discrimination. Otherwise, you would not have become prime minister," MHP chairman Devlet Bahçeli said in his reply to Erdoğan. BDP chairman Selahattin Demirtaş also noted that his party did not display any discriminatory acts.
NEW YEAR SURPRISE FOR FARMERS, STUDENTS AND THE POOR
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said the government was set to increase student grants and loans by 20 percent. Erdoğan said interest on agricultural loans will be reduced from 13 percent to 10 percent while the allowance for poor families with children at elementary school will be raised from 30 percent to 50 percent.
IF THERE IS ANY CRIME, I AM RESPONSIBLE
In the second hearing of the 'Balyoz' (Sledgehammer) coup plot case, the number one suspect of the case, Ret. Gen. Çetin Doğan said: "If there is crime, I am solely responsible, not those who attended the seminar."
Former Force Commanders Özden Örnek and İbrahim Fırtına requested to be tried at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
IRAQ'S SHIITE LEADER SENDT A LETTER TO THE TURKISH PRIME MINISTER, THANKING HIM FOR ASHURA REMARKS
Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has sent a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, thanking him for a speech he delivered at a commemoration ceremony in Istanbul on the Day of Ashura, the Shia Muslim day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala. "You have touched the hearts of each and every Muslim. You have done what no other Muslim leader has done," al-Sadr told Erdoğan.
IRAN SAYS NO DATE SET FOR NUCLEAR TALKS IN ISTANBUL
Iran is yet to agree on an exact date for the next round of nuclear talks with world powers due to be held next month in Istanbul, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.
"There is an agreement on the venue of the meeting but the date has not been finalized yet. Consultations are ongoing to organize talks in Istanbul somewhere around the end of January," Mehmanparast told reporters.
A senior Iranian official said in Damascus on Monday that next month's talks could resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. "We think (the negotiations), in line with the agenda decided in Geneva, could clear the way to resolving problems," said Ali Bagheri, the deputy of Saeed Jalili, Iran's nuclear negotiator.
"Continuing the negotiations in Istanbul could bring gains to both the parties concerned," Bagheri told a news conference after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, said the West's hostile policies could harm further talks over the country's disputed nuclear program. "If you take an action that is a continuation of the previous path, this will make the job difficult. It will close the road (to dialogue)," he said in the live TV broadcast. "Cooperation benefits all. We do not expect them to take actions that are hostile."
The Istanbul negotiations would be the second round between Iran and six world powers - Britain, China, France, Russia, United States and Germany - after talks resumed in Geneva earlier this month following a 14-month hiatus. The West suspects that Tehran is pursuing an atomic weapons program under the guise of a civilian nuclear work. Iran denies the charge and insists its activities have a purely peaceful purpose. The U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth and tougher round of sanctions on Iran in June after Tehran refused to halt its nuclear program.
TURKISH WORKERS CAUGHT IN RIFT WITH ISRAEL
Turkish construction workers in Israel staged a demonstration in front of Turkey's Tel Aviv Embassy on Tuesday, demanding their work permits be extended.
"We need our work permits to be extended. If we are sent back, they should find us jobs. We are falling victim to politics. As the elephants fight, it is the grass that gets stamped upon," said worker Osman Nuri Yazıcı, who added that he had four children to support back in Turkey. The protesting workers, whose permits will expire Jan. 1, are all employees of Yılmazlar Holding, a conglomerate that does extensive construction work in Israel.
Nearly 500 workers, wearing red and white clothes, protested the Turkish government while waving Turkish flags and carrying placards that said "Israel-[Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan hand in hand, sending Turkish workers back," "Why did you cancel our work permits?" as well as "Dear PM [Erdoğan], what do you want from workers abroad?" and "800 workers here feed 8,000 at home."
Some wore T-shirts saying "Government, don't mess with us" while other also chanted slogans such as "We are workers, we will win."
Attending the protest, Şeref Toprak, a Turkish worker who has been in Israel for the past nine years, said he only wanted bread money.
"Our work in Israel is contributing both to our families and the Turkish economy," Toprak told Anatolia news agency. "We are not protesting [the Turkish] state. We just want them to hear our voice, see us. I believe the prime minister will not leave us empty-handed."
Cevat Erikli, 32, who has been working in Israel for the past two years, said he came to Israel because of a lack of jobs in Turkey. "If we are sent back, I will be jobless again."
Arif Timur, 29, who has been in Israel for the past year, also said he went abroad because he could not find a job at home. "We are earning our bread money here."
Meanwhile, another worker who claimed to be unjustly laid off by Yılmazlar after a workplace accident protested the company alone. As tension between the worker and other protestors increased, the Israeli police took the man away from the scene.
According to an offset agreement related to Turkey's M60 tank modernization project, partly undertaken by Israel, Turkish workers of Yılmazlar had received permits to work in Israel.
Yılmazlar's name came to the fore after a May 31 raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish aid ship that left nine Turkish activists dead. Afterward the company's chief executive, Ahmet Reyiz Yılmaz, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that the Turkish government's "anti-Israel rhetoric" was jeopardizing $100 million-worth of Yılmazlar operations in Israel.
Yılmazlar has been operating in Israel for the past 16 years. It has carried out about $1 billion worth of projects there, including construction of the Defense Ministry and Air Force buildings.
ISRAEL'S TOP DEFENSE OFFICIAL CALLS FOR MENDING TIES WITH TURKEY
Israel's defense minister on Monday said tensions between Turkey and the Jewish state -- escalated after a deadly Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy -- must be defused in the shortest possible time. "Wisdom tells us that we must do whatever we can do to ease tensions with Turkey. We need to leave this crisis behind and make our disagreements with Turkey the fundamental issue of our Middle Eastern policy," Ehud Barak told reporters during a visit to the Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems.
Tensions between the two countries were heightened last May when Israeli commandos raided Mavi Marmara -- the lead ship in a three-vessel aid flotilla headed for Gaza -- and killed eight Turks and a U.S.-Turkish citizen. Turkey has recalled its ambassador immediately after the attack and it cancelled scheduled military exercises between the Turkish and Israeli armed forces. Turkey has also repeatedly demanded an official apology and redress for the relatives of the victims if relations were ever to go back to normal.
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matam Vilnai has severely criticized remarks by the country's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who said: "There will be no apology. On the contrary, we are expecting an apology from Ankara." "As always, they are pathetic and useless," Vilnai described Lieberman's remarks, adding that Lieberman's comments made no positive contribution to Israel.
NETANYAHU RULES OUT APOLOGY TO TURKS OVER FLOTILLA
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out making an apology to Turkey over an Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent. "We will not apologize but express our regrets to Turkey," the Israeli leader said in an interview with private television network Channel 10.
"We don't want our soldiers to be possibly hauled before international tribunals. ... Our soldiers acted in accordance with standards," he said, stressing an apology could be interpreted as an admission of liability. Netanyahu's comments came a day after Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed Tel Aviv would not apologize to Turkey for the May 31 commando raid. Lieberman described Turkey's demand for an apology before normalizing relations between the former allies as "cheeky."
"The ones who have to apologize are the government of Turkey for supporting terror," he said. "There will be no apology" from Israel. Speaking to Channel 10, Netanyahu explained his foreign diplomatic chief's comments by saying: "In my coalition government, there are different points of view, but the prime minister expresses the voice of the government."
Israel's ties with Turkey were plunged into crisis following the raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ferry carrying aid to the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Saturday that Turkey wants to turn the page on a year of difficult relations with Israel but that Israel must apologize for the deadly aid ship assault.
Thousands of Turks gave the Mavi Marmara a rapturous welcome when it docked Sunday at Istanbul's Sarayburnu following a lengthy refit in a port along the Mediterranean.
According to the ferry's owner, a Turkish campaign group called İHH, the boat will be part of a new flotilla that will leave for Gaza on May 31, 2011, exactly one year after the deadly raid.
TURKISH JOURNALIST BLAMES U.S., WIKILEAKS FOR LOSS OF HIS JOB
Turkish journalist Fehmi Koru has blamed a former U.S. ambassador and the WikiLeaks website for causing him to lose his longtime job with daily Yeni Şafak, where he had been writing two separate columns.
Speaking live Monday on the news channel NTV, Koru said he had not offered his resignation, nor had newspaper officials requested it, but that his title as "publishing consultant" had been removed from the paper's masthead without an explanation.
Koru told NTV the situation was created by allegations that started circulating after WikiLeaks released the U.S. diplomatic cables that mentioned him, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman and Yeni Şafak foreign policy columnist İbrahim Karagül. According to the allegations, Edelman, who came to Turkey following Parliament's denial of U.S. access to Iraq through Turkey in 2003 – known popularly as the "March 1 memorandum" – tried to get Karagül fired due to his purported anti-American stance.
Koru reportedly lobbied for the firing of Karagül. Karagül wrote about this in his column and said he kept his job because the paper's management stood behind him.
Koru had been writing for Yeni Şafak for 12 years and had a column under his own name and another using the pseudonym "Taha Kıvanç."
Speaking to daily Taraf for its Tuesday edition, Koru denied the allegations, saying he is the one being punished for his anti-U.S. stance during the March 1 memorandum era.
He said he never met Edelman in private, only at conferences and meetings.
Hüsnü Mahalli, a columnist for daily Akşam, wrote Tuesday that he [Koru] was fired from Yeni Şafak five years ago on Edelman's request. Contacted by the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Mahalli said he does not want to speak further on the matter unless one of the people involved says something new. Karagül did not return calls from the Daily News while Koru said he does not answer questions over the phone.