The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
SLEDGEHAMMER NOT MISSION, IT IS INTERVENTION
Criminal Court No.10 made a model decision regarding initiatives of Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case suspects Halil İbrahim Fırtına and Özden Örnek. Fırtına and Örnek tried to bring the case to the High Tribunal, saying that they were force commanders. However, the criminal court said: "The crimes attributed to suspects were not related with their mission and therefore we do not accept the request (of commanders to take the case to the High Tribunal)."
ISTANBUL TO HOST NUCLEAR SUMMIT ON JANUARY 20-21
The Turkish province of Istanbul will host the nuclear summit between the P5+1 countries and Iran on January 20 and 21. In case of a request, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will also participate in the summit.
WE WILL SOLVE CYPRUS QUESTION EATING FISH ON THE BOSPHORUS
Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias relayed important messages regarding the solution of the Cyprus question through the daily Milliyet. "I want to talk to President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even unofficially and explain to them my vision of a solution."
"Let us eat fish with Gül and Erdoğan on the Bosphorus. We will resolve the question with Erdoğan," he said.
"Turkish troops in Cyprus are there against UN rulings. Turkey should withdraw its troops from Cyprus," he added.
ISRAEL SAYS 'GO HOME' TO TURKISH CONSTRUCTION WORKERS
Hundreds of Turkish workers currently in Israel working for Yılmazlar Holding have been told to leave the country following the non-renewal of their work permits and visas.
The workers were asked to leave Israel by Jan. 31, according to a written statement from Yılmazlar Holding. "This is a new crisis with Israel," the company said, adding that on top of Israel's request for the workers to leave, the government did not extend their visas.
The 800 workers, who staged a protest Dec. 28 in Tel Aviv, had been working as part of a tank modernization deal between Israel and Turkey since 2002.
"Their contracts originally continued until 2015. A written warning from Israel to the workers has left them in a tough situation. [We have] informed the Prime Ministry and the government. This is unacceptable," the company said.
"Thousands of Israeli companies are active in Turkey without any trouble," the statement said. "We expect the Turkish government to intervene. We are seeing that the Turkish government has left us at the mercy of the Israeli government. We invite the government to fulfill its duty."
The workers owe their current jobs to Israel's winning the $860 million tender to modernize 170 M60 battle tanks for Turkey in 2002. The agreement at the time said Israel should get at least $180 million worth of supplies from Turkey.
However, Israel was not able to do so and in 2003, Yılmazlar Holding came into the picture when the use of a Turkish workforce in Israel was proposed as compensation.
As part of this "offset agreement," 800 Turkish workers received special permits to work in Israel.
A fine of 10 percent of the original $180 million, levied on Israel due to its failure to supply parts from Turkey, was also set in motion by the company, which then paid the received money to Turkey.
"The three-year work permits were extended three times," the company said. "The last extension expired as of Jan. 1." Yılmazlar applied in Turkey to assist in having the permits extended, but did not receive any reply from the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries.
TURKİSH FM URGES ISRAEL TO USE DIPLOMATIC CHANNELS
Turkey's foreign minister on Thursday said Ankara expects Israel to behave in compliance with contemporary diplomatic traditions, while urging Israel to engage in self-criticism about why its relationship with Turkey has deteriorated.
While speaking to a group of journalists after the second session of a conference of Turkish ambassadors in the eastern province of Erzurum, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu discussed an article penned his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, on Thursday in the Jerusalem Post in which he offered to meet Davutoğlu as part of an honest dialogue on how the two countries' long-time alliance might be restored.
"We are expecting the foreign minister who wrote the [article] to approach the issue on the basis of these principles. We expect behavior in compliance with contemporary, diplomatic traditions," Davutoğlu said.
In the Jerusalem Post article, Lieberman blamed Turkey for the crisis in diplomatic relations, calling the situation in Turkey reminiscent of Iran before the Islamic revolution in his commentary piece on Thursday under the headline "Israel will not be Turkey's punching bag." Lieberman also accused Turkey of anti-Israel incitement.
"We are seeking a return to a frank and honest dialogue with Turkey, and I invite my counterpart, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, to Jerusalem or any other location where we can discuss on issues of relevance to both nations and the wider region," the Israeli foreign minister wrote.
Davutoğlu said he had read the article in question.
"Unfortunately, the Israeli Foreign Ministry failed to pass very serious tests in the past," he said. "The world is a witness. We attach importance to our counterpart adopting a serious, principled approach.
"Today our distance with any counterpart of mine in any part of the world is the distance of a telephone call. I hope Israel thinks and plans to rid itself of this isolations and that the Israeli foreign minister complies with contemporary, diplomatic traditions."
Turkish-Israeli relations received a serious setback after Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla on May 31, leaving nine people dead. In protest, Turkey recalled its ambassador and has insisted on an apology and compensation from the Israeli government in order to normalize troubled ties.
The Turkish government's immediate response to a recent deadly fire prompted fence-mending talks between Turkish and Israeli diplomats, but with no concrete results.
"Turkey's demands [to normalize relations with Israel] are clear," Davutoğlu said. "We expect Israel to seriously engage in self-criticism about why ties have been strained during the past two years and have reached the current stage, especially after the Mavi Marmara [incident]."
The foreign minister used Turkey's improved relationship with Greece as an example of how Turkey responds in kind once it sees a friendly gesture from another country. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who was welcomed by the Turkish prime and foreign ministers late Thursday at the Erzurum airport, will address the ambassadors' conference Friday.
A few hours before the Greek minister landed, Davutoğlu called his arrival "a historic occasion, not a statement made by a foreign minister."
"This is a historic development showing the latest stage the Turkish-Greek relations have reached. ... Even Mr. Papandreou's visit itself is a demonstrator of Turkey's friendship and how this friendship is bolstered when it sees friendship."
IMPORTANT MESSAGES TO PAPANDREOU
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will host his Greek counterpart Georgios Andreas Papandreou in the eastern province of Erzurum today. Erdoğan will give messages to Papandreou to make the Aegean a sea of peace and to make the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council between Turkey and Greece more effective.
GREEK PM VISITS TURKEY AMID DEBATES ON BORDER BARRIER
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is visiting Turkey amid debates over Athens' plans to build a barrier along its border with Turkey in a bid to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the EU. Meanwhile, during a special panel chaired by FM Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Afghan FM praises Turkish contributions in Afghanistan
Greece's prime minister is expected to attend the second leg of Turkish ambassadorial meetings in Erzurum although the visit comes amid debates over Athens' plans to block part of its border with Turkey to stem illegal immigration into the European Union.
Greece's plans to push back illegal migrants on a 12.5-kilometer stretch of the border are expected to be discussed in detail by the Turkish and Greek prime ministers. Greece defends the plan and says it has a duty to protect the rights of its citizens and legal residents.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have also said it is the sovereign right of every country to take measures to protect its borders but have dismissed claims that Turkey failed to stop illegal human trafficking to Greece.
Papandreou's visit comes after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan flew to Athens to participate in a climate change conference as a gesture. In return, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou accepted his Turkish counterpart's invitation to visit Turkey's well-known ski resort, Palandöken.
Papandreou, accompanied by his foreign minister, was expected late Thursday to travel to Erzurum from Paris. In Erzurum, he is expected to address Turkey's ambassadors from all over the world.
The weeklong meeting, which began Monday with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's address, is on the theme of "Visionary Diplomacy: Global and Regional Order from Turkey's Perspective." It is the third such gathering of the country's approximately 200 ambassadors following the first conference in July 2008. The second leg of the meeting will continue in Erzurum until Sunday.
The meeting of the Turkish and Greek leaders also comes after Israel signed an agreement with the Greek Cypriot administration to delineate an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, which drew criticism from Turkey. However, after this agreement, voices in Athens contended that Greece should also sign a similar agreement with Greek Cyprus became louder, according to reports from Athens.
On Thursday, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul addressed the Turkish ambassadors in Ankara in a special panel hosted by Davutoğlu.
The Afghan minister praised Turkish efforts in Afghanistan in reconstruction, health, education and its contributions to the security process in the country.
He said Turkey had played an active role in training Afghan security forces and supported the reconciliation process. The visiting foreign minister also referred to the importance of regional development and, in this regard, hailed active Turkish involvement in bringing together the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his speech, Davutoğlu said Turkish-Afghan relations had been exceptional throughout history and added that the friendship would continue forever.
More commercial consuls to be appointed
In another session, the ambassadors met with Industry and Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan to review potential ways to increase Turkey's exports.
"Some 50 new commercial consuls will be sent to their posts in a few days. We have doubled the number of our commercial consuls to 250 since I was appointed to this job," Çağlayan told ambassadors, according to Anatolia news agency.
He also said Turkey had plans to increase its exports to $500 billion with an overall trade volume worth $1 trillion by 2023, the centennial year of the Turkish Republic.