The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
WAR BETWEEN ISRAEL AND IRAN EXPECTED THIS YEAR
According to an article published the Israeli daily Haaretz, a war between Iran and Israel is expected this year.
The article says: "Current Israeli chief of General Staff Gen. Askenazi rejected Minister of Defense Barak's suggestion to hit the Iranian nuclear facilities last year. This year, Gen. Askenazi will retire and Gen. Yolav Galant who is known with his 'hawkish' policies will replace him."
CHAOS WARNING FROM CHAIRMAN OF THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS
Hasan Gerceker, Chairman of the Supreme Court of Appeals, raised concerns about the new proposed law establishing the Constitutional Court.
He said: "The new draft gives extraordinary authorization to the Constitutional Court to overrule both Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State. This means that the current judiciary situation will become a chaotic and long-lasting cases will become longer lasting. We are discussing the issue with the members of the Supreme Court of Appeals and if the government asks our thoughts, we surely express our thoughts and concerns. Also, we will hold a press conference to enlighten the public shortly."
RED BULLETIN FOR DALAN
Authorities have decided to issue an international arrest warrant for former Istanbul Mayor Bedrettin Dalan, who is a fugitive. Dalan will be wanted in all countries.
GERMANY: WE DO NOT NEED A HISTORY LESSON
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: "I guess Mrs. Angela Merkel (the German Chancellor) considers the Cyprus issue as something that emerged during her chancellery. She does not know about the history of Cyprus issue."
At these remarks, German government spokesman said: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not need to get a history lesson."
Merkel had said that the Turkish Cypriot side was not taking steps to solve the Cyprus issue.
EDUCATION IN KURDISH NOT ON THE AGENDA
Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu terminated the discussions on education in one's mother tongue and elective courses in Kurdish by saying: "These are not on our agenda."
She said Alevism, which would be included in the curriculum, would not be an elective religious course.
'GOOD CONDUCT ABATEMENT' IN THE SENTENCE OF HIZBULLAH MEMBERS
It was revealed that the sentence of Hizbullah members - who were tried for 181 murders - was abated due their good conduct at court.
Diyarbakır 6th Criminal Court at first sentenced Hizbullah members - who killed their victims after hogtieing them - to aggravated [hard labor] life imprisonment. Then, the court reduced the sentence to life imprisonment due to the good conduct of suspects during the hearings.
THIS TIME PEOPLE WILL MAKE THE CONSTITUTION
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who proceeded to Qatar from Kuwait in the last day of his Gulf tour, made important statements on many issues. Commenting on release of Hizbullah members, which caused public reaction, Erdoğan said: "It is not the disposition of the government, but the jurisdiction."
Erdoğan said elections would take place in June, adding that the government would include the new constitution on the agenda after the elections. He said they were waiting for contributions from all segments of the society.
I CALLED MONUMENT 'FREAKY'
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made remarks regarding the issues high on Turkey's agenda during his visit to Qatar. Erdoğan said, "I used the expression 'freaky' for the [humanity] monument [in the eastern province of Kars]. I know how a monument looks."
Erdoğan said: "Those who assess the incident in Kars and those who appear on the TV have not seen the monument. There are historical artifacts there. We do not have to be a graduate of a fine arts faculty to appreciate the monument or not. I warned the mayor when the monument was being erected. As a matter of fact, the Natural and Cultural Heritage Preservation Agency decided to demolish the monument."
Regarding suspects who have recently been released, Erdoğan said: "Why do they [judicial authorities] give priority to important cases? They had brought up my case from Diyarbakır in a day, made a decision and prevented me from running for MP in the general elections."
US SENIOR ADMIRAL SEES PKK THREAT AS ISSUE TO BE SOLVED SOONER OR LATER
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday that the PKK threat was an issue that needed to be solved sooner or later.
Admiral Michael Mullen said he thought the PKK threat was something that needed to be resolved in the long run.
"We've got great a relationship with the Turkish military. They have been enormously supportive in Afghanistan, for instance, where they lead, they command the forces in Kabul," Mullen told a press conference at the Foreign Press Council in Washington, D.C.
Mullen said he would only say that the security conditions in Kabul had been much improved and they had not had many incidents in recent months.
"I've had enough engagement with the Turkish military leadership to understand where the investments are going and the need to do that and the need to evolve," he said.
"The military is very focused on the PKK threat, the terrorist threat from northern Iraq, and that's something I think in the long run needs to be resolved as well," Mullen also said.
MERKEL DISAPPOINTED TURKEY WITH HER CYPRUS REMARKS
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent statements accusing Turkey of not taking any steps toward a resolution of the Cyprus problem were a serious letdown for Turkey, its foreign minister said Wednesday.
"Ms. Merkel's latest statements caused serious disappointment on our part. If Ms. Merkel and Germany exert efforts for peace on the Cyprus issue, we will always support this, but they should first adopt an objective approach between the parties concerned," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at a press conference in Ankara.
During her five-hour visit to Greek Cyprus on Tuesday, Merkel criticized Turkey and Turkish Cypriots for not doing enough to reach a deal with Greek Cypriots. Her criticism received a prompt response from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
"I guess Ms. Merkel has forgotten what she has said. It was she herself who said it was wrong to admit Greek Cyprus into the European Union. But now, she pays a visit to the Greek Cypriot administration and makes such a statement," Erdoğan said in Qatar. "It is also clear that she does not know the history of the Cyprus issue."
After meeting with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, Merkel said Turkey needed to show more willingness to reach a settlement on the Cyprus dispute. If Merkel had talked to former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, she would have known who was responsible for the Cyprus issue, Erdoğan said.
"I call on the chancellor to research the history and sit down for tea with Gerhard Schroder," the Turkish prime minister said.
Asked to comment on Merkel's views, Davutoğlu said Germany is one of the allies in which Turkey places the most importance. "Positive initiatives that have been taken over the last two years have come from the Turkish side. If Ms. Merkel had talked to the two parties, she would not be making one-sided statements," he said in Ankara.
"We trust her and her leadership. I hope that in the upcoming period she also listens to the Turkish side and adopt a fair and objective approach," Davutoğlu said. "We believe that Germany can play an important role but this role cannot be played by listening to one side."
Referring to Merkel's appreciation of the steps taken by the Greek Cypriots, Davutoğlu responded in an ironic tone. "Yes, the Greek Cypriots have expended efforts. They expended efforts for the rejection of the Annan plan," he said, referring to the 2004 referendum when Turks on the island voted for the plan while Greeks rejected it.
Making overtures to the Greek Cypriot administration was a historic blunder on Merkel's part, a Turkish state minister and chief EU negotiator said Wednesday. "However, we are determined and we will continue to tell the truth," State Minister Egemen Bağış told reporters before flying to Hungary.
Cypriot leaders meanwhile continued to negotiate the "Power Sharing" topic in a meeting Wednesday within the scope of extensive unification talks on the divided island. Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu told reporters after the meeting that they made a counter-proposal to the Greek Cypriot side that Christofias asked for time to assess. The two sides will meet again Jan. 21, Eroğlu said.
Alexander Downer, the United Nations chief's special advisor on Cyprus, told reporters after the meeting that more talks would be held in Geneva on Jan. 26. He said they expected the parties to reaffirm the progress made since the meeting in New York and set a course for talks after Jan. 26.
Following his talks with Merkel, Christofias urged Turkey on Tuesday to give up what he called its "gunboat diplomacy" in the eastern Mediterranean and drop its opposition to Greek Cyprus's offshore exploration for gas deposits.
Christofias accused Turkey of hampering a Greek Cypriot search for gas off its southern shore with warplanes and navy ships. He said Turkey must stop acting like the "neighborhood policeman" if it wants to join the European Union.
"Neither Turkey, nor any other country, has the right to tell us … [that] we don't have the right to carry out this search," Christofias said.
Turkey says the Greek Cypriot search [for petroleum] disregards the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots and could damage long-running talks aimed at reunifying the island. Last month, Turkey declared that a maritime border accord between Greek Cyprus and Israel was null and void.
The Greek Cypriot government has said Turkish Cypriots could share in the potential bounty after a peace accord is signed, though Christofias said drilling is still a few years away. Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis said earlier this month that Greek Cyprus would press ahead in the second half of this year with a second licensing round for gas exploration in its 51,000-square-kilometer exploration area.
GOVERNMENT DEFENDS NEW RESTRICTIONS ON ALCOHOL SALES
New restrictions on Turkey's alcohol laws, strongly backed by the government, have created a splash in the public and media and worried those involved in the sector.
The new regulations brought by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would prohibit alcohol from appearing in commercials and advertisements and bring strict new restrictions on alcohol licenses.
Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority (TAPDK) head Mehmet Küçük defended the new regulations Wednesday. He said the aim was not to restrict freedoms but to lessen alcohol's appeal.
The TAPDK released the regulations over the weekend and alcohol-manufacturing companies quickly called in legal experts to examine the new laws, worried that they were dangerously unclear and open to broad interpretation.
AKP Group Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik on Wednesday defended the new restrictions, saying they were implemented to protect young adults from alcoholism. He said every country has laws regulating alcohol.
The legal age to purchase alcohol in Turkey is still 18, Çelik said, adding that this is lower than the legal drinking age in the United States.
Ordinary citizens have come together to protest the new regulations. A group on Facebook titled "We drink to the AKP!" had over 80,000 members by the time the Hürriyet Daily News went to press.
While initially set up as a humorous way for people to voice their discontent, the overwhelming response from Turkish Facebook users, most of them young adults, prompted the group to set up meetings in İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Eskişehir, and Antalya on Jan. 29.
The press also reacted to the bans, comparing the ruling party to Ottoman Sultan Murad IV, who famously banned coffee and alcohol in Istanbul, executing anyone who disobeyed the law.