The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
TURKISH, SYRIAN, QATARI LEADERS MET AND DISCUSSED HOW TO HANDLE LEBANON CRISIS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Qatari Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani met on Monday in Damascus to discuss the political crisis in Lebanon, which has seen Hezbollah withdrawing support from Saad Hariri's government in order to force him to step down.
The three leaders agreed to seek Syrian and Saudi Arabian mediation between Hariri and Hezbollah. In related news, a pro-Hezbollah TV channel revealed a voice recording that reportedly belonged to Saad Hariri speaking to a United Nations investigator and accusing Hezbollah for the 2005 assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah has asked Saad Hariri to reject any ruling by the U.N. tribunal and state that the government would not arrest those the tribunal indicted.
WIFE OF SLAIN JOURNALIST FILES PETITION AGAINST FORMER GOVERNOR, POLICE CHIEF
Rakel Dink, wife of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, has filed a petition against 28 people, including former Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler, now head of the newly founded Public Security Undersecretary, as well as former Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah, former Trabzon Police Chief and former head of Police Intelligence UInit Ramazan Akyürek as well as Trabzon's former Gendarmerie Commander Ali Öz, accusing them of premeditated murder and being members of a terrorist organization.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey failed to carry out an effective investigation into the killing of the Turkish-Armenian journalist, who was shot dead on Jan. 19, 2007 outside the offices of his weekly Agos.
ANKARA CAUTIOUSLY EYEING WAVE OF RALLIES IN ARAB STATES
Amid its ongoing efforts to play a stronger role in the region, Ankara has taken a cautious approach to the wave of protests in Arab countries, calling for "peaceful" changes while keeping a close eye on developments.
The ouster of the president of Tunisia following widespread street protests has sparked similar reactions in other parts of the Arab world. While the European Union said Monday that it stands ready to help Tunisia become a democracy and offer economic aid in times of need, Turkey has made only careful statements on the protests.
"There is a change in regime of Tunisia, we hope it will occur peacefully," a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday. The Foreign Ministry made a similar statement Friday, saying Ankara hoped the tension in Tunisia would not worsen.
"There is nothing we could say at this stage," the Foreign Ministry official said.
Ankara is, however, keeping a close eye on the developments in the region and their impacts on the populations of other countries, especially in Egypt, for fear that the unrest could spread.
Governments across the Middle East and North Africa are doing likewise, wary that violence and popular revolt could spread to their doorsteps if opposition groups take advantage of the upheaval.
Though the rallies in Tunisia have fueled protests in other Arab countries, such as Algeria, the Turkish Foreign Ministry is evaluating the situation based on each country's individual circumstances and the likelihood that those facing economic problems could be the most at risk of further turmoil. In this regard, Egypt is in a sensitive situation and rising protests in the county could have a major impact on the region, according to assessments by the Foreign Ministry.
Libya and Morocco, however, face less of a threat since their governments maintain tight control over the country.
According to assessments in Ankara, the protests in Tunisia happened naturally, based on domestic issues and no foreign intervention has played a role. "No country in the region would want the regime in Tunisia to collapse, since if they were involved, it would backfire on them eventually," a diplomat told the Daily News on Monday.
A month of protests against unemployment, rising food costs and the autocratic rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali forced the Tunisian leader to flee the country and seek refuge in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
Tunisian protesters called Monday for the abolition of Ben Ali's ruling party amid a chaotic power vacuum as politicians prepared a government of national unity.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has urged the interim government of Tunisia to ensure that civil liberties are not trampled.
TURKEY TO JOIN LEBANON "CONTACT GROUP" TO HELP SOLVE POLITICAL CRISIS
Turkey has agreed to take part in an international "contact group," proposed by France, amid Ankara's ongoing efforts to help Lebanon overcome its political crisis.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who met Monday with the Syrian and Qatari leaders to discuss developments in Lebanon, said he had received an invitation to the group Sunday from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and had asked his office to reply favorably.
No date has yet been proposed for a meeting of the group, Erdoğan said. Sarkozy's office said in a statement Sunday that a meeting would be held "as soon as possible."
The French president's office said Sarkozy has been discussing the crisis that erupted following the collapse last week of the national unity government in Lebanon with key figures, including Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, the presidents of Syria and Turkey, the emir of Qatar and U.S. President Barack Obama.
The crisis in Lebanon likewise topped the agenda Monday at the meeting in Damascus between Erdoğan, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The meeting was continuing as Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press Monday evening.
Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, was meanwhile headed for Turkey on Monday for discussions as part of regional efforts aiming to help solve Lebanon's political crisis, Iranian news agencies reported. The ISNA and Fars agencies said Salehi was to hold talks with Turkish officials on the latest political developments in Lebanon.
The visit follows a telephone call Saturday from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Erdoğan in which the Iranian leader called for a quick solution to Lebanon's political crisis. The unity government, led by al-Hariri, collapsed last week after Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from the cabinet as part of a long-running dispute over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tribunal was expected late Monday to indict high-ranking Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq al-Hariri, Saad's father.
Talks with parliamentary groups on naming a new prime minister in the crisis-hit Middle East country were postponed Monday. "After assessing the positions of various parties in Lebanon... President Michel Suleiman has decided to postpone parliamentary consultations until next Monday," the president's office said in a statement.
The talks had been scheduled after the Shiite group Hezbollah forced the collapse of the al-Hariri's Western-backed government. Mohamed Chatah, a top advisor to al-Hariri, said the postponement was aimed at giving international efforts to defuse the impasse between the rival Lebanese parties a chance to succeed and prevent an escalation of the conflict.
"The fact that efforts are underway, locally but equally importantly abroad – all these things are aimed at finding a way to either resolve the crisis or make sure that the political impasse does not deteriorate into something worse," Chatah said.
He said he regretted, however, that the solution was being brokered outside Lebanon, referring to the summit Monday between the Turkish, Qatari and Syrian leadership in Damascus.
"From our standpoint there is a bit of a bitter taste to the fact that this is happening elsewhere," Chatah said. "After all, we are talking about a Lebanese political crisis, the address of which should be here," and not in Damascus.
Lebanon's Foreign Ministry meanwhile summoned the U.S. ambassador over concerns that she was interfering with internal politics, officials said. The controversy stems from a meeting over the weekend between U.S. envoy Maura Connelly and lawmaker Nicolas Fattouch, who is seen as a key "undecided" figure as Lebanon's political factions scramble to form a new government.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami "considers these kinds of contacts as interference in Lebanon's internal affairs," the ministry said in a statement. After Monday's meeting with Shami, Connelly's office denied any interference.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Monday he believes the pending indictments would implicate members of his party and has accused the tribunal of being part of a U.S.-Israeli plot. In a televised speech late Sunday, Nasrallah vowed his group would defend itself against the likely charges, without giving details. "We will not allow our reputation and our dignity to be tarnished nor will we allow anyone to conspire against us or to unjustly drench us in [Rafiq] al-Hariri's blood," Nasrallah said. The Shiite leader said his party would disclose in the coming days how it planned to defend itself in light of the indictments, the contents of which will not immediately be made public.
Nasrallah also said his party and its allies would not nominate al-Hariri for the premiership and accused the United States of scuttling an initiative by regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Syria to forge a compromise in the standoff over the tribunal.