The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN SAYS TURKEY'S REPORT INDEPENDENT, CREDIBLE
Philip Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, on Wednesday described a report released by Turkey on Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla as "independent and credible."
"Both [Turkey and Israel] are doing what they can to help contribute to a fuller understanding of what happened during this incident last year [...] I'm saying that Turkey – it is an independent, credible report. I'm not challenging either one," Crowley told reporters at a daily press briefing.
The spokesman last Monday said an Israeli report on the flotilla incident was "transparent and independent."
Crowley said the Turkish National Commission of Inquiry last September submitted its interim report to the UN Secretary General's panel of inquiry, adding that both Turkey and Israel had worked "seriously and responsibly to get at the facts, and both have made important contributions to the work of the Secretary General's panel."
"We look forward to the process continuing at the United Nations within the Secretary General's Panel of Inquiry, which will give the international community the opportunity to fully review the circumstances surrounding this incident. And we look forward to a full examination of facts and perspectives from all sides," he said.
Crowley said relations with both Turkey and Israel were of "equal importance" to the U.S., adding, "they are both close friends of the United States. They have a relationship that has been important bilaterally and to the region, and we hope that both countries will continue to seek opportunities to move beyond the recent strains in their own bilateral relations."
Crowley said the U.S. recognized the importance the relationship between Turkey and Israel, adding that both countries exerted efforts to find ways to resolve the dispute.
"We hope that can be done, because this relationship has very significant meaning, both in terms of our respective relations with these two countries, but more importantly, Turkey has been a significant player in helping to resolve issues in the region related to the pursuit of Middle East peace. And we would hope that in the future that effort can continue," he said.
"Given the incident and the circumstances, I don't think that we're surprised that there are differing views of what transpired. That is expressly why we support the UN panel so that we can take the Turkish perspective, and it has a valid perspective; we can take the Israeli perspective, it has a valid perspective; and together, try to fully understand what happened. So – but just to reinforce that through the UN panel there's still work to be done and there's still, obviously, an effort that will be important to understand fully what happened last year," Crowley said.
PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS DISAGREE WITH TURKISH PRIME MINISTER OVER PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM
Senior figures from the ruling party in Turkey as well as the main opposition voiced support for Turkish President Abdullah Gül, who had expressed his reservations over a debate on introducing a presidential system in the country, an idea that was backed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. "I believe that Turkey will be much better off with the [current] parliamentary system, despite the few drawbacks to it," Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said.
The Speaker of the Parliament, Mehmet Ali Şahin, joined Arınç on the issue, saying: "I agree with Mr. President. I certainly have some reservations, too." Leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said the president's remarks "made me happy. I wish he would have spoken his mind earlier."
EYES ON ERDOĞAN
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said some time ago that Turkey needed to discuss the presidential system. The previous day, President Abdullah Gül said he did not welcome that system. Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin said, "I am thinking just like our president."
Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister Bülent Arınç, said: "Although it has some deficient sides, I think the parliamentary system will bear better results for Turkey."
TURKEY RETURNS TO DAVOS
Turkey will be the star of the World Economic Forum (WEF) to which it has not attended for two years. Turkey is participating in the Davos summit that begins on Thursday. Klaus Schwab, the founder of the WEF, said they were pleased to see global power Turkey back again in Davos.
Ten lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) released a statement commenting on proposed changes to be made in the higher courts and called on the public to begin a peaceful, lawful resistance.
The CHP lawmakers, who were also members of the Parliament's constitution and justice committees, compared the reconstruction of the Constitutional Court and establishment of new departments in the Supreme Court and the Council of State to initiatives made during Nazi Germany.
The five-page statement said, "The government aims to hit the final stroke on the rule of law and democracy with a new constitution that it plans to prepare and implement after the general elections."
The statement also said: "We are warning all our citizens against an obvious and near threat, and we voice the obligation to invoke our rights on this legitimate ground."
MOUSSA SEES TURKEY'S ROLE AS IMPORTANT IN SOLVING REGIONAL PROBLEMS
The secretary general of the Arab League said on Thursday that Turkey had a significant role to play in solution of regional problems.
Amr Moussa said that the incidents in Tunisia, Egypt and some Arab countries were a reflection of the uneasiness in the Arab world.
Turkey has a significant role to play in solving regional problems, Moussa told AA correspondent in Davos, Switzerland on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Moussa said Turkey had known the region and its problems well and therefore could contribute to peace process in the region. Turkey's president and prime minister were influential in settlement of problems in the Middle East and Arab world, Moussa said.
Moussa underlined importance of Turkey's cooperation with the Arab League, and said the problems in the Arab world were mainly geographical, regional and international.
The secretary general also underscored importance of cooperation in solving problems in the Arab world. A former foreign minister of Egypt and a successful diplomat, Amr Moussa served as Egypt's ambassador to India in 1967. Moussa was the Egyptian diplomat to the United Nations (UN) in 1990 and he served as Egypt's foreign minister from 1991 to 2001.
Moussa has been the secretary general of the Arab League since 2001.
After Tunisia, people staged demonstrations against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, especially in its capital Cairo. Thousands of people, who were inspired by the "Jasmine Revolution" that ousted President Zine el- Abidine Ben Ali, got organized on the internet and rebelled against the Hosni Mubarak regime.
Some say that Egypt had similar political and social problems with Tunisia (unemployment, poverty and corruption). Authorities think that these problems in the Arab world could be overcome by full-scale restructuring.
TURKEY DOES ITS BEST FOR IRAN, P5+1 TALKS
Spokesperson Selcuk Unal said that Turkey hosted the meeting between Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) countries in Istanbul last week and did its best to enable parties to reach a conclusion.
Turkey had done its best for the Iran meeting to bear fruit, the spokesperson for Turkey's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Spokesperson Selcuk Unal said that Turkey hosted the meeting between Iran and P5+1 countries in Istanbul last week and did its best to enable parties to reach a conclusion.
"The meeting was important for Turkey because the process has not ended, and Iran and the Vienna group came together for the first time in Turkey, and the parties have not closed the door [to further negotiation]," Unal told a press conference in Ankara.
Unal said Turkey believed the Iran nuclear negotiation process would continue, and Turkey was ready to contribute if it was asked to.
Iran and P5+1 countries had a two-day meeting in Istanbul last Friday and Saturday. Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, headed the meetings.
The first meeting between Iran and P5+1 took place in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2009.
On the developments in Tunisia, Unal said Turkey was closely following the developments, but was not taking any action at the moment.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL AN OFFICIAL FIRST IN TURKEY
Turkey will officially commemorate the Holocaust on Thursday at Istanbul's biggest synagogue, Neve Şalom, for the first time with the participation of Foreign Ministry officials and the mayor of Istanbul.
"The Jewish community in Turkey will hold this memorial ceremony for the first time. Naturally we [the Foreign Ministry] will also be present at the ritual. Ambassador Ertan Tezgör and the mayor of Istanbul will attend the commemoration as well," Selçuk Ünal, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told reporters Wednesday.
"It is humanity's obligation to condemn the Holocaust, which aimed to completely destroy a people, in order to take the necessary measures to prevent future genocides and to encourage efforts to educate new generations," the office of Turkey's chief rabbi and the Turkish Jewish community said in a written statement on Tuesday.
Every country in the world has a duty to eliminate anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all types of racism and discrimination, it said.
Recalling the attendance of President Abdullah Gül at a ceremony in Auschwitz to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp in 2005, the statement said since then, the Foreign Ministry has issued statements regarding Holocaust Remembrance Day every year on Jan. 27. International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was launched by the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 1, 2005 is the first global commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. The largest Nazi death camp, in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, was liberated by Soviet troops six decades before.
In the memorial ceremony, an opening speech will be delivered by Süzet Sidi, a Turkish-Jewish expert on the Holocaust. Chief Rabbi Rav İsak Haleva and Istanbul Gov. Avni Mutlu will light a candle in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Turkish Jewish community leader Sami Herman will address the audience. Tezgör and Mutlu will also deliver speeches.
"I AM NOT FAULTLESS PERSON"
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: "I told them because of the tension those days, I am not a faultless person," when commenting on his remarks that "they are drinking until they sneeze (until they get out of control)."
Erdoğan addressed liberal intellectuals and said, "The nation determines the result of elections, not the language of intellectuals."
Erdoğan said the government would draft the new constitution and seek a consensus and Turkey needed an understandable constitution. The prime minister estimated the possible votes his Justice & Development Party (AKP) will get in the upcoming general elections around 45-50 percent, and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) around 20-25 percent. Erdoğan said the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would get just enough votes to pass the electoral threshold.
ERDOGAN DEFENDS NEW LAW ON TOBACCO & ALCOHOLIC DRINKS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended a new law limiting the use of tobacco products and alcoholic drinks, saying that the provisions of the law conformed with the constitution. "We did not ban the sale of alcoholic drinks. Articles 58 and 59 of the Constitution are crystal clear about the protection of youth. There is no religious motivation here," Erdoğan said.
HIGH COURT UPHOLDS LIFE SENTENCES FOR TURKISH HEZBULLAH OPERATIVES
Turkey's High Court of Appeals has upheld sentences for ten senior operatives of the Turkish Hizbullah, including the group's mastermind Edip Gümüş, yet the convicts are still at large after they were released from prison some three weeks ago under an amendment to the country's criminal procedure law. The suspects were charged with killing of hundreds of people.
NEW CHP LENS ON KURDS' RIGHTS IN TURKEY
Turkey's main opposition has vowed to offer its own solution to the vexing Kurdish question, using an approach a senior party official has said will focus on democracy, human rights, equal citizenship and freedom.
The Republican People's Party (CHP) is offering a "third way" to solve the issue that differs from the paths pursued by the ruling party and the country's main pro-Kurdish party, according to CHP deputy leader Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
"Our third path is to set forth a political vision that ends unjust treatment based on a person's faith and ethnic identity, without basing the foundation of the politics on religious beliefs and ethnic identity," Tanrıkulu told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
"The politics in the [Southeast] region are sought to be forced between the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] and the BDP [pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party], and the arguments used are increasing social tension and separation," he said. "This environment of separation and tension is not beneficial to the rights and freedoms of Kurds, or to democracy, human rights, social justice and the rule of law in Turkey."
Tanrıkulu, who is originally from the Southeast Anatolian city of Diyarbakır and recently joined the social democratic party, is a longtime human-rights activist who is seen as having a keen understanding of the roots of the ongoing Kurdish issue. As the CHP's deputy leader responsible for human rights issues, he is in charge of preparing the party's updated Kurdish report, which is likely to be made public in late February.
Noting that the CHP penned its first Kurdish report in 1989, in which the problem was first depicted as the "Kurdish question," Tanrıkulu said this report is partly still valid today, but that it was not capitalized on by the ruling parties then.
Addressing one of the key demands of the country's Kurds, for education in mother tongue, Tanrıkulu did not hesitate to deviate from party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's stance on the issue. "The right to learn the native language does include the right to education in the mother tongue, as an education system in our age [must consider] the learning process. Our main starting point will be modern norms and agreements," the deputy leader said.
"Issues around education in the native language must be handled using international examples while complying with international agreements," Tanrıkulu added.
CHP chief Kılıçdaroğlu recently ruled out any initiative for education in Kurdish but said, "The state has to do whatever is necessary for Kurds to learn their languages either in special courses or as elective classes."
The CHP's proposals for solving the Kurdish question will be located on the "axis of democracy, human rights, equal citizenship and freedom, in a way that will provide social reunification," Tanrıkulu told the Daily News. "Of course, the solution's perspective will include what to do in such areas as economy, social improvement and education."
He said the CHP was targeting a policy "that respects, protects and improves [a sense of] religious and ethnic belonging while combining a solution to these problems with [one for] the general democracy, social justice, superiority of law, uneconomic progress and human rights problems in Turkey."
Tanrıkulu emphasized that the party's solution would embrace the problem as an issue facing the entire country, not just a specific region.
The deputy leader also called Kurds' controversial demand for democratic autonomy something that is "causing 'a tempest in a teapot.'" He added that the demand's content has parallels with the local government reform that is mandatory for European Union accession. "Autonomy of local administrations is thus a democratic problem, and the CHP will carry out politics that broaden democracy and freedoms," Tanrıkulu said. "The main reference will be the Council of Europe Charter of Local Self-Government. The first order of business is to end Turkey's reservations on the matter."
The self-government charter, which dates to 1985, calls for broad rights for local governments. Turkey adopted the charter but introduced reservations on nearly all of its articles that have made its implementation impossible.
For Tanrıkulu, the biggest obstacle to a peaceful and democratic political solution is the use of violence. Asking members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to lay down their arms, the CHP official promised that his party would work to integrate former PKK members into Turkey's political and social life.
According to Tanrıkulu, the government's human rights record is poor in terms of continuing violations of the freedoms of thought and speech as well as the right to a fair trial. "In no other democratic country is the number of people in prison during their trials higher than the number of actual prisoners," he said, adding that women's rights have not seen improvement either.