The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
SINGLE VOICE FROM NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
After five-hour long meeting yesterday, the [Turkish] National Security Council announced that the unity of Turkey is the most important value of the country. Demands for "Democratic Autonomy" and "Bilingualism" are definitely unacceptable. The official Language of the Republic of Turkey is Turkish.
DEADLOCK ON 'TWO LANGUAGES & AUTONOMY' IN CHP
Views of deputy chairman Sezgin Tanrikulu and Gürsel Tekin, who wanted the demands of "two languages" and "autonomy" to be discussed, caused a new fissure in main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that political autonomy was against a unified structure, and warned as "we should unite, not dissolve."
TWO LANGUAGES CANNOT BE ACCEPTED
The National Security Council held its last meeting of 2010 on Wednesday and it lasted for five hours under the chairmanship of President Abdullah Gül. The council released a statement at the end of the meeting in which it said: "A single flag, a single nation and a single homeland is our common denominator. Turkey's official language is Turkish. Initiatives aiming to change this fact are unacceptable. Provocations targeting at integrity cannot bear any result."
THE NEW DAVOS: ERZURUM
Turkey's eastern province of Erzurum, which will soon host the UN secretary-general, the Greek prime minister and many ambassadors, is becoming a rival to the Swiss town of Davos. The Turkish city, which will be the venue of 2011 Winter Universiade, will also gain a political identity. Thanks to the "Ambassadors Conference" to be held on Jan. 6, Palandöken will resemble Davos which hosts thousands of politicians and economists every year.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ASSIGNS RICCIARDONE AS US AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY
U.S. President Barack Obama late Wednesday bypassed the Senate and installed Frank Ricciardone as the new ambassador to Turkey, using a rarely exercised mechanism called a "recess appointment" to end five months without representation in Turkey. The post has been vacant since July when the previous envoy, James Jeffrey, left to take up his new job as ambassador to Baghdad. Since then Ricciardone has been unable to win confirmation from the Senate. All senior administration officials, including ambassadors, need the Senate's approval to assume their posts. With Obama's recess appointment move, Ricciardone now is expected to take up his new post in the Turkish capital in early January.
"This is very good news for our relationship with the United States," said one senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official. To remain in effect, a recess appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session of Congress – at the end of 2011 – or the position becomes vacant again. In current practice, this means that a recess appointment must be approved by roughly the end of the next calendar year. Obama on July 1 nominated Ricciardone, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and the Philippines, for Turkeu. Ricciardone won the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's backing on July 22. But on the last day before the Senate went to a summer recess in August, influential Republican Sen. Sam Brownback formally put a hold on his nomination, saying: "I am not convinced Ambassador Ricciardone is the right ambassador for Turkey at this time – despite his extensive diplomatic experience." Brownback's move effectively prevented a Senate floor vote on Ricciardone.
The archaic and rarely used technique known as the recess appointment is a vestige of the 19th century that allows presidents to take certain actions unilaterally, on the presumption that calling the legislature into session could takes weeks, as it did in the era of horse-drawn carriages. The rule gives U.S. presidents the right to install nominees when the Senate is out of Washington. The new U.S. Senate will take office on Jan. 3. Also late Wednesday, Obama announced recess appointments for Matt Bryza to be U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Robert Ford to be U.S. ambassador to Syria and Norm Eisen to be U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. Bryza's confirmation had been "vetoed" by pro-Armenian Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez. The largest and most influential U.S. Armenian group immediately protested against Obama's decision to recess appoint Bryza.
"Armenian Americans are deeply troubled by President Obama's decision today to circumvent the U.S. Senate and use a recess appointment to send a deeply flawed diplomat to represent America in Azerbaijan," said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America. "The president's push to send Matt Bryza to Baku without Senate approval represents a disservice to American diplomacy that will, sadly, undermine our nation's ability to advance our interests and values in the Caucasus region," he said.
Ford will become the first U.S. ambassador in Syria since 2005, when Washington recalled its former envoy. The White House said in its recess appointments statement that these "are posts that have been left vacant for an extended period of time."
Ricciardone most recently served as deputy ambassador and charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ricciardone began his career in Ankara and Adana in Turkey. He served twice again in Turkey, as political advisor to the U.S. and Turkish commanders of Operation Provide Comfort at İncirlik air base, and as deputy chief of mission and charge d'affaires. He led the transition to an organization of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in 2004, and the Department of State's Task Force in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on the United States. He served as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's special representative for the Transition of Iraq from 1999-2001.
PEACE HOPES TIED TO PRESIDENT GUL'S TRIP TO DIYARBAKIR
President Gül pays a visit to Diyarbakır today amid heated debate on the Kurdish issue. The people of Diyarbakır say they are awaiting messages that will help calm the tension raised by recent discussions of "democratic autonomy" and "bilingual life." They expect that Gül will open the way for an environment of free discussion on those issues.
Prominent figures in Diyarbakır have said they expect President Abdullah Gül to deliver messages in the city Thursday that will help create an environment in which the demands of Kurdish people can be productively discussed.
"We hope the visit of the president will be a start, a step to prepare the conditions in which our people can govern themselves freely within the realities of Turkey, including, firstly, education in mother tongue and using Kurdish in the public sphere," Aysel Tuğluk, co-head of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization of Kurdish groups, told reporters Wednesday at a press conference in Diyarbakır.
President Gül said Tuesday that his trip would be an ordinary provincial visit, but expectations are high that he will give promising messages on the Kurdish issue as his visit to the Southeast Anatolian city comes during a time of heated discussion over "democratic autonomy" and the ability to lead a "bilingual life."
According to Tuğluk, the president's messages could affect the discussion over democratic autonomy in a positive or negative manner. Emphasizing that any messages given in the "mentality" of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, could create tension, she said, "We expect the president to handle this issue with an above-politics attitude and take initiative on the issue."
Some pro-Kurdish figures underscore that while there is not a high expectation that the visit will provide a solution to the Kurdish issue, Gül's messages could calm the tension raised due to the recent autonomy debate.
"I don't have a high expectation for his visit to Diyarbakır since a single word from the president will not have a magic-wand effect on the Kurdish problem. However, the visit can create a positive impact if the president uses inclusive language for all the citizens of this country," Emin Aktar, chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday.
"A tone of language that is a continuation of the state language [used for] years would be exclusive," Aktar said. "Gül should give a message that everything can be discussed without violence."
Noting that the political dialogue in Turkey has recently become strained, Aktar said: "One side says something and the other side immediately refuses the idea without considering it. Mutual refusals should be eliminated. Otherwise we cannot build a dialogue."
"I am worried due to the latest statements of the ruling party and the opposition parties since they could destroy the current inaction period," Raci Bilici, the Diyabakır branch secretary of the Human Rights Association told the Daily News on Wednesday, referring to the unilateral cease-fire declared by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"We expect a message from the president different than [that from] the government," Bilici said. "We expect him to say that all the problems can be solved with more democracy."
The president could give a direct message on bilingual language or democratic autonomy, or at least open the way and encourage people to discuss everything, Bilici said. He added that if he could meet Gül during the visit, he would give the president a report on the human-rights violations in the region.
During his trip, President Gül will visit Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir at his office, inspect new investments in the Diyarbakır Industrial Zone and visit Dicle University. He will meet representatives of local nongovernmental organizations at a dinner and award accomplished Diyarbakır businessmen in a ceremony. On Friday, Gül will visit key attractions in the city, including the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque), Hasanpaşa Inn, Keçi Bastion, Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı Museum and Inner Citadel.
SYRIAN PRESIDENT MEETS DEPUTY CHIEF OF TURKISH GENERAL STAFF
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff Aslan Guner in Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday. Al-Assad and Guner discussed cooperation between the Syrian and Turkish armies and the steps achieved through the cooperation in various fields.
Talks dealt with expanding cooperation and coordination between the two friendly armies and the importance of strategic dialogue on the military level, stressing that this dialogue is one of the main components of the strategic relations between Syria and Turkey that constitute an example for relations among countries.
The two sides discussed joint military training carried out by units from both armies and the possibility of expanding them to create common concepts in the face of various challenges.
The meeting was also attended by Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Syrian Arab Army Gen. Munir Adanof and the Turkish ambassador in Syria. Guner also met with Deputy Commander General of the Army and Armed Forces and Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Ali Habib, and Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Dawood Rajiha. Guner, who pays a three-day official visit to Syria, is expected to depart for Turkey on Wednesday.
TURKEY WANTS TO REPAIR ISRAELI TIES, SAY EXPERTS
A high-level Turkish diplomat's attendance and participation in a Holocaust meeting in Israel this month is a good sign for Turkish-Israeli relations, according to experts.
Turkish officials have downplayed the meeting, saying the decision to send a representative to the international meeting had more to do with Turkey's stance on genocide than with trying to fix bilateral ties. Turkey dispatched a senior diplomat to attend a Holocaust meeting in Israel this month, a move some observers saw as a diplomatic gesture to repair severely strained ties between the longtime allies. "The government has taken a good step. We don't have an ambassador in Israel, but we have an embassy; that means our relations with the country continue," former Turkish Foreign Ministry diplomat İlter Türkmen told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, saying the Turkish presence at the meeting in Haifa was a "gesture" from Ankara to Tel Aviv.
"The presence shows normal relations are continuing," Türkmen said.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal said Wednesday that the country's "participation in the meeting is in line with Turkey's principles on the issues of racism, xenophobia and genocide," adding that the meeting was not a bilateral one and the Turkish presence should not be seen as a diplomatic gesture to Israel.
Turkish diplomat Ertan Tezgör participated as an observer in the Dec. 13-16 meeting in Haifa, which was organized by the International Holocaust Task Force, or ITF, Ünal said.
Tezgör's attendance at the meeting was warmly welcomed in Israeli diplomatic circles, where it was seen as a positive step. "We are very much pleased with Turkey's participation," Israeli Embassy spokesman Amit Zarouk told the Daily News.
Analysts speaking with the Daily News agreed with former diplomat Türkmen that the dispatching of Tezgör to the Holocaust meeting was an attempt to mend fences with Tel Aviv. "Turkey does not want to dismantle all its bridges with Israel and it cannot do so," said Professor Hüseyin Bağcı of Middle East Technical University in Ankara.
"The relations between Turkey and Israel are exceeding the Turkish prime minister and the foreign minister," Bağcı said. "Turkish-Israeli relations cannot be minimized to the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP]. They have political, cultural and historical aspects."
Turkey previously declared it would not boycott Israel at international platforms despite the setback in the bilateral relationship following Israel's deadly May 31 attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. In an exception to this statement, Turkey refused in October to send any delegation to a tourism conference held by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Jerusalem due specifically to the situation in that city. European countries including Spain and Britain also shunned the tourism conference, arguing the gathering would lend international legitimacy to Israel's claim to the entire Holy City as its capital.
Turkish participation in the Haifa event was not a surprise, according to Sabri Sayarı of Istanbul's private Sabancı University, who said the Turkish government was doing its best to show up at meetings dealing with the Holocaust, genocide or anti-Semitism.
"I don't consider this visit as an attempt to normalize relations but rather to make Turkey's case stronger in the face of Armenian genocide allegations," Sayarı said, referring to Ankara's attempts to block European and U.S. legislative resolutions recognizing Armenian claims of genocide.
Turkish-Israeli relations are deadlocked, Sayarı said, adding that the ties would either become frozen or the two sides would find a way out of the current crisis.
Ankara insists the Israeli government deliver an apology and compensation after the death of eight Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish descent in the Israeli commando raid on the aid flotilla. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey's expectations from Israel in order to normalize relations remained the same.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out making an apology to Turkey over the raid. "We will not apologize but [will] express our regrets to Turkey," Netanyahu said in an interview with private television network Channel 10. The Israeli leader's comments came a day after his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed Tel Aviv would not apologize to Turkey for the May 31 raid.
Davutoğlu declined to comment on the statements made by Israeli government officials, saying Turkey's stance is open and clear.
"There has been no change [in our attitude]," he told reporters in Ankara, adding that Turkey is determined to take any measures necessary to protect its citizens' rights.
The ITF is an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to rally the support of political and social leaders behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research, both nationally and internationally. Initiated by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson in 1998, the task force currently has 28 member states.
POLICE CHECKS DO NOT LIMIT FREEDOM, SAYS TURKISH RECTOR
The court decision to allow police to search students' bags anytime, anywhere on Istanbul University's campus is not a limit on [individual] freedom, daily Radikal reported Wednesday.
Searches will only be made "when necessary," acting rector Professor Ahmet Gökçen said Tuesday, adding that the measures consequently did not amount to any restriction on freedom. Gökçen also said the decision was taken in response to increasing student uprisings across Europe. A local court authorized police to conduct searches of the bags, vehicles and private documents of students at anytime at Istanbul University, Radikal reported Tuesday. The decision, which came at the request of the rector's office, is valid from Dec. 1 to Nov. 20, 2011. Eren Can, a law student at the university, has applied to the court to have the decision overturned. Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Ali Mutlu said the authorities would be "careful" when implementing the decision, adding that searches would only be conducted when necessary and that the measures were merely "preventive."
But Professor Tahsin Yeşildere, head of the University Instructors' Association, said the decision was a violation of freedom. "The university has been completely taken under police dominion as far as I see it." Meanwhile, Professor Tahir Hatipolğlu, head of the Democratic University Platform, said the decision was "fascist" and that it was "extremely wrong and in discordance with the concept of a university."
Professor Yunus Söylet, the current rector of Istanbul University, is in Iraq to hold meetings with various governmental officials. Söylet has met with Iraqi officials, including Deputy President Adil Abdulmehdi, Finance Minister Rafi al-Isavi and Ammar al-Hekim, head of the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council. The meetings were held in the hope of increasing cooperation between Iraqi universities and Istanbul University, Söylet said, adding that they were willing to cooperate with all neighboring countries in terms of education. The rector also said he officially invited a group from Baghdad University to soon visit Istanbul.