The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
ERDOGAN – HARIRI MEETING STARTS
PM Erdogan and Lebanese PM Hariri met at the PM's residence. Both PMs were reluctant to pose for pictures by the press before the meeting, but it is expected that they will set a joint conference after the meeting.
LEBANESE PM PAYS UNEXPECTED VISIT TO TURKEY
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri arrived in Ankara on an unexpected visit after he was forced to leave his office when Hezbollah withdrew its support and 11 of his cabinet ministers resigned. Al-Hariri is set to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday. The Turkish prime minister is expected to offer his Lebanese counterpart to hold a conference between Turkey, the United States, France, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
WEARING HEADSCARF IN PUBLIC PLACES 'IS A RIGHT'
"Wearing a headscarf in public places is a right; it will happen sooner or later," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in response to questions from reporters about the headscarf issue during his visit to Qatar.
TURKEY'S TOP JUDGES CRITICAL OF PLANNED POWER BOOST FOR CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
Two top judges in Turkey on Thursday expressed opposition to a proposed amendment that would give the Constitutional Court the authority to override rulings by the country's top appeals and administrative courts.
Chief of the Supreme Court of Appeals Hasan Gerçeker said the amendment would grant the Constitutional Court a super appeals authority. "As far as I know, even the European Court of Human Rights does not possess such an authority," he said.
Separately, the top judge of Turkey's Council of State, Mustafa Birden, said the amendment would "make a mess of the entire justice system, which would hurt the country with consequences that would be hard to mend."
Birden also said the amendment would violate the Constitution.
SYSTEM IS ABOUT TO COLLAPSE
Metin Feyzioğlu, head of the Ankara Bar Association, commented on the debate over the high judiciary in Turkey. Describing the latest developments in the country as an "earthquake," Feyzioğlu said establishing courts of appeal and increasing the number of chambers at the Supreme Court of Appeals would destroy the unity in jurisprudence. "The system is about to collapse," he said.
MAN WHO ESCAPED FROM HEZBULLAH TERROR RELIVING PAST FEARS
Bengi Yıldız — now a deputy from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Turkey — who 20 years ago escaped from violent armed attacks by the Turkish Hizbullah in Southeast Turkey, says he fears that "the dark days of the past will come again."
Yıldız's concern is mainly due to a recent amendment in Turkey's criminal-procedure law that set free the two Hizbullah masterminds who have been behind bars since 1998. Yıldız says Hizbullah killed five of his friends execution-style and that he narrowly escaped a similar death by fleeing to Istanbul. "Those days are very difficult to define," Yıldız says. "You were chased and shot dead in the back of your neck."
RELEASED HEZBULLAH MEMBERS ARE MISSING
According to the Punishment Court's Application Law, those who released from penitentiaries have to sign in at the local police stations everyday. Authorities say that no one signed in from the time of their release to the present. There are rumors about them feeling Turkey for Iran.
HEZBULLAH ISSUE IN A JAM
The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir sent the files for Hezbollah members, who went missing after they were released, to the Supreme Court of Appeals to ask for their arrest. But the Supreme Court of Appeals' President Hasan Gerçeker said: "We have the authority to decide on their release but not to arrest them."
BALYOZ DOCUMENTS AT GOLCUK NAVAL BASE
Copies of the "Balyoz" military coup plan and several other new documents, which were seized during searches conducted at Turkish Naval Forces facilities, have been submitted to the court. Documents and CDs that contain information on a 2003-dated coup plan were found under the floorboards of an office at the Turkish Navy's provincial intelligence department. The evidence will be distributed to the attorneys next week.
ÇALIK TO BUILD BIGGEST POWER PLANT IN IRAQ
Iraq's biggest power plant will be built by Turkey's Çalık Holding. The construction of the plant will cost nearly $445.5 million. The agreement was signed by Çalık Holding chairman Ahmet Çalık and Iraqi Deputy Electricity Minister Salam Kazzaz.
ERDOGAN TO AL-JAZEERA: ISRAEL'S WORST GOVERNMENT
In an interview with al-Jazeera, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a harsh rebuke to Israel. Describing the Netanyahu administration as the worst government in Israel's history, Erdoğan said the country should get rid of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The prime minister also noted that he would not renew agreements with Israel unless Turkey received an apology and compensation regarding the Mavi Marmara attack.
ISRAELI FM FACES STRONG BACKLASH FROM TURKISH PM
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired his harshest-ever salvo against Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman. "He is the one with unmitigated arrogance. He is a problem at the head of Israel. Israelis must rid themselves [of Lieberman]," Erdoğan said in an interview broadcast on al-Jazeera on Wednesday night.
NEW ALCOHOLIC BEWERAGES RULE TRIGGER CALL FOR SOBER ASSESSMENT IN TURKEY
New restrictions on alcohol advertising have prompted sober damage control by the government following heated debate and confusion about how far new rules would go to curtail the sale and consumption of beer, wine and spirits.
According to clarifications made by Turkey's ruling party and the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority (TAPDK) about the new regulations, alcohol can be served by catering firms at open-air weddings only if the venue where the event is being held is licensed to serve alcohol outdoors. Otherwise, the alcohol must be provided by the host of the event, rather than the catering firm, daily Radikal reported Thursday.
The sale of alcohol will be banned at city-owned establishments and along roads designated as highways and state routes in the traffic code, officials said. Answering questions raised by the public, they said there was no provision in the regulation regarding alcohol sales at venues in coastal zones.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a strong backer of the new regulations, which also restrict sports teams from using the names of alcoholic drink brands in their squad names. The public has expressed concern that this change may require the closure of the well-known Turkish basketball team Efes Pilsen, which was established by a major brewery firm and uses the name and logo of the company's most popular brand of beer.
The team submitted alternative names Thursday to the TAPDK in order to prevent the club from closing. The two candidate names to replace "Efes Pilsen" are "Anadolu [Anatolian] Efes" and "Efes Sports Club," according to a report Thursday by daily Milliyet. Efes is the name of a place in Turkey as well as a brand of beer.
Authorities said over the few past days that the new regulation aims to protect public health and the well-being of children and young people. As a result, alcoholic-drink brands will no longer be allowed to advertise or display their name or symbol at events targeted at children or youth.
The Efes Pilsen Blues Festival, the first and only blues festival in Turkey and a long-running tradition for 20 years, will not be allowed to continue unless its name is changed so as not to contain any elements of the alcohol brand name. Alcohol will still be allowed to be sold at events such as festivals and fairs as long as written permission is received.
"Our lawyers are still examining and analyzing the effects the new regulation will have on our firm," a representative of Efes Pilsen told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.
Giving out free alcoholic drinks as a gift, prize, sample or promotion will be banned under the new regulation, though there is no provision affecting whether consumers can order alcohol to be delivered to their home. Sales of alcoholic drinks in containers of 20 centiliters or less will not be allowed in shops, markets or places that sell dried nuts and fruits.
CLINTON TO VISIT TURKEY NEXT MONTH
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will pay a "bilateral working visit" to Turkey next month, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday. "The exact date of the visit has not been set yet," officials said.
Clinton's trip comes after the U.S. House of Representatives failed to vote on a resolution in late December labeling as "genocide" the killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Her visit will also follow nuclear negotiations in Istanbul set for next week between Iran and the West.
During Clinton's meetings with Turkish officials, the details of the NATO-led missile defense system will be discussed.
In February, President Abdullah Gül is expected to visit Iran.
WE HAVE CLOSE RELATIONS WITH OUR NATO ALLY TURKEY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Michael Hammer said Wednesday that the United States has a close relationship with its NATO ally, Turkey. We want to increase and develop our strategic partnership with Turkey, added Hammer at a press conference in New York.
Noting that the U.S. attached importance to its relations with emerging powers in the world like Turkey, Hammer said that the U.S. has established stronger and deeper relations with Turkey.
Noting that a meeting on Iran's nuclear program will take place in Istanbul, between Iran and UN Security Council's permanent members and Germany soon, Hammer said that Iran had a choice: It could either be further isolated from the world or comply with international obligations.
Hammer said that the U.S. appreciated Turkey's hosting of this meeting and he expressed hope that Iran would choose a constructive path.