The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
IRAQI GENERALS ON CIA AIRPLANE
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency apparently took 320 high level Iraqi military officers and their families – for whom it promised to secure a new life in the U.S. before taking down the Saddam regime - to the U.S. through the İncirlik air base in Adana.
Officials who witnessed the events, said the Iraqi military officers, entered Turkey with special permissions and were carried to the İncirlik base in buses where they boarded planes for the U.S.
This went on until January 11, 2003, when the war began. At that time hundreds of U.S. intelligence operatives from the CIA and military intelligence units entered Iraq through Turkey.
TURKEY 'UNAWARE' AS CIA RAN OPERATION OUT OF ADANA
In a tacit acknowledgment that a Turkish base was used to transport "terrorism" suspects as part of extralegal U.S. operations, a former senior Turkish diplomat has said Turkey was unaware of who the airplanes were transporting.
"Those flights [the secret transfers] entered Turkish airspace from another country and left to another country's airspace. If Turkey gave permission for those flights to refuel, it was under a parliamentary motion given for transfer of logistics and personnel," the diplomat, who held a high-ranking position in the Foreign Ministry at the time, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
"As far as I can see, the CIA flights were among [the U.S. flights covered by that motion]," the diplomat said. "However, I don't remember the United States asking for permission for CIA flights."
Citing a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, the German daily Die Welt reported Monday that Turkey had allowed the United States to use its İncirlik airport as a refueling stop for extraordinary rendition flights. The allegation was denied by the Turkish Foreign Ministry in 2006 in response to accusations made in an Amnesty International report.
"Those flights could have passed through Turkey, however, they could merely get fuel when they landed," the former senior diplomat told the Daily News, highlighting three dimensions to the issue. "One is the fight against terrorism, second, human rights and the fight against torture, and third, international cooperation," he said.
"We cooperate with the United States against terrorism, which also includes the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)" he said, adding that Turkey never allowed torture to take place on its soil. Asked if the use of Turkish land for rendition flights could lead to negative legal outcomes, the diplomat said it would not. He also noted that the allegations of torture of "terrorism" suspects were revealed later, in late 2005 and 2006.
The U.S. used İncirlik airbase in southern Turkey as refueling stop for controversial flights, according to a cable dated June 8, 2006, and written by then-U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson. "The Turkish military has since 2002 allowed us to use İncirlik as a refueling stop for prisoner transport flights from 'Operation Fundamental Justice,' but revoked permission in February this year," said the cable, referring to the extraordinary rendition program. When Amnesty International released details of the U.S. system of extraordinary rendition in 2006, alleging that Turkey was used in the logistics of rendition flights, then-Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Namık Tan denied the allegations to reporters.
"The Turkish government and state never played a part [in the secret transfers] in any stage of this and never will," Tan said. Asked if there was any possibility that İncirlik was used without the permission of Turkey, he said there was "no way" this could have happened.
"İncirlik belongs to the Turkish Army. Any steps taken from there will be within the knowledge of state officials and military authorities," he said.
Ahmet Ersin, an İzmir deputy with the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has asked the head of Parliament to take action, the Anatolia news agency reported Tuesday.
According to Ersin, the ministers of foreign affairs during the relevant period, Abdullah Gül and Ali Babacan, had given "incorrect answers" regarding claims that al-Qaeda members were interrogated at İncirlik and at Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul.
Ersin said he had been following the subject since 2005 and that Gül and Babacan had stated that the "claims did not reflect the truth."
TEKIN: WE CAN FORM A COALITION WITH ANY PARTY
Gürsel Tekin, deputy chairman of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said that CHP could form a coalition with any party if necessary. Asked whether a coalition with Justice and Development Party (AKP) was among options, Tekin said CHP would not leave Turkey abandoned.
ERDOGAN POISED TO MEND TIES WITH THE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is slated to participate in a meeting of the country's influential Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD).
Erdoğan seeks to mend ties with the business group, which were strained after the premier's much-debated remarks in the run up to a referendum last September. He said, "Declare your stance. If it is no, say 'no.' If it is yes, say 'yes' [...] He who is neutral will be eliminated."
TURKISH HEZBOLLAH OPERATIVE UNDER ARREST
A senior operative from Turkish Hezbollah's armed wing and his son were re-arrested on Tuesday just weeks after they were set free from prison under an amendment to Turkey's criminal procedures law, which requires the release of suspects who have been held for more than five years without trial. Suspects of the Turkish Hezbollah case were tried for murdering over 100 people, including writer Konca Kuriş and Mehmet Sincar. Two senior operatives of the group, Edip Gümüş and Cemal Tutar - who were also released from prison - have failed to report in ever since their release to a local police station, a measure to make sure that they do not run away. The two are still at large.
BULGARIA JOINS GREECE TO FENCE BORDER WITH TURKEY
Bulgarian government is planning to build a fence along its 143-km border with Turkey, according to a Bulgarian daily. The Bulgarian fence, similar to what Greece is set to construct along the Turkish border to ward off illegal migration, is aimed at preventing livestock from Turkey from crossing to the Bulgarian side.
A BOW TO IRAN AS TURKEY BACKPEDALS ON BEIRUT
A day after announcing it is supporting a French proposal to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon, Turkey has apparently bowed to pressure from Iran and decided to put forth its own inclusive "action plan" instead.
The Iranian foreign minister made a statement Monday in Turkey criticizing the involvement of actors outside the region in the Lebanese crisis. His remarks came following the Turkish prime minister's announcement that he had been asked to join a French-led "contact group" on the issue and had accepted the invitation.
"We will be pleased to participate in and contribute to an international meeting, if it were to be held, but [we think] this regional momentum should continue," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Tuesday before departing for Lebanon, where he will join Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani in holding talks with Lebanese authorities.
Without the regional momentum, Davutoğlu warned, the process of finding a solution to the crisis in Lebanon would be very difficult.
Detailing Turkey's plan to stop the potential spread of the crisis in Lebanon, where the national unity government collapsed last week, to neighboring countries and the entire Middle East, Davutoğlu said being able to "see the frame" is most important.
"The first [part of Turkey's approach] is to be able to provide healthy communication with all sides in Lebanon without any discrimination. The second is to keep regional actors, namely Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Qatar, together in a healthy relationship," Davutoğlu said. "The third [part] is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon formed as a result of a U.N. Security Council resolution. That's why close contacts with France and the United States, two permanent members of the Security Council, are a must. All these are interrelated."
The Turkish foreign minister warned that events in Lebanon could bring about regional consequences that could hurt the already-fragile stability of the Middle East. "Thus Turkey, due to the importance it places in regional peace and comfort, sees taking every adequate step as necessary," he said. "We can't be a mere spectator as this brother country is drifting into crisis."
Davutoğlu's statements on the action plan followed an announcement Monday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he had received an invitation from French President Nicholas Sarkozy to an international meeting that Turkey would be pleased to join. The French proposal suggests the formation of a "contact group" for Lebanon with the participation of Syria, Turkey, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Though the group would invite some other regional countries, it would surely be closed to Iran.
On the same day Turkey accepted the French proposal, Iranian interim Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi paid a visit to Ankara, where he said the engagement of non-regional actors in the Lebanese process would not produce stability in the region.
"We see no efficacy in the intervention of outside actors to this issue," Salehi told Turkish reporters late Monday at a joint press conference with Davutoğlu. The Iranian minister arrived in Ankara late Monday to discuss the Lebanese crisis and the upcoming talks in Istanbul on Tehran's nuclear program. The two ministers appeared before the media around midnight.
Iran's chief diplomat also advised Turkey and other related countries to contact all groups and parties in Lebanon and not exclude any of the regional countries, including Iran.
The assurance that Iran will not be excluded was given Tuesday by Davutoğlu, who said, "Turkey will continue its efforts without excluding any actor from the process." Noting that Turkish, Syrian and Qatari authorities have agreed to act together for a solution that would bring stability to Lebanon, Davutoğlu said he h participated in phone calls with his French and Qatari counterparts early Tuesday.
The unity government in Lebanon led by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri collapsed last week after Hezbollah and its allies walked out in a long-running dispute over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Fears of Sunni-Shiite violence have been raised following the collapse and the submission of the tribunal's indictments, which are widely believed to implicate Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of al-Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Regional heavyweights as well as France, Lebanon's former colonial power, are jostling for influence in leading the process to avert further crisis.