The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
MY PEOPLE SHOULD DISCUSS PRESIDENCY SYSTEM
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded to the questions of reporters in the eastern province of Erzurum. Erdoğan said: "My people should know what the presidency system is. If the United States implements this, we should know what this is. There is also semi-presidential system. There may be different approaches."
Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust were for the first time commemorated in a formal ceremony in Turkey.
Neve Shalom synagogue in Kuledibi in Istanbul made a first in Republican history on Thursday. A ceremony was held in the synagogue for "The International Day of Commemoration of Holocaust Victims."
Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin released a message: "Our nation, which has protected oppressed peoples throughout the history, shares the sufferings of our Jewish people."
KILIÇRADOĞLU EXTENDS SUPPORT TO THE MANIFESTO
Republican People's Party Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu embraced the manifesto issued by 10 lawmakers from his party, drawing an analogy between the government and Nazi rule.
"He who can not claim his rights at the court will claim their rights in the streets. Our friends only pointed have out this danger," said Kılıçdaroğlu.
Message from Turkey's Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bağış to European Union (EU): Extreme efforts were exerted to make Turkey give up. We will not be the ones who unplug [disengage]. We will let Europeans do this.
The tone of messages of Turkey to Brussels is toughening every passing day.
The message of President Abdullah Gül is "The world does not end with the EU," followed the view of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said: "We will not be the obedient country begging at the gate of the EU."
Bağış, currently holding talks in Brussels, openly relayed the message that relations could be broken if necessary.
TURKISH DIPLOMATS ASSASSINATED BY ASALA COMMEMORATED IN IGDIR
Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadir Demir, the first Turkish diplomats who fell victim to ASALA terror, were commemorated with a ceremony held Thursday in Igdir.
Citizens, representatives of civil organizations and reporters attended the ceremony held at the Genocide Monument and Museum in Igdir.
ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) was an Armenian terrorist organization that staged terrorist attacks on Turkish targets and assassinated Turkish diplomats between 1973 and 1986, aiming to force the Turkish government to acknowledge the so-called Armenian genocide and cede territory for an imaginary Armenia.
ASALA staged 110 terrorist attacks in 21 countries, killing 5 Turkish ambassadors, 34 Turkish diplomats, 4 foreigners and injuring 15 Turkish citizens and 66 foreigners.
Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadir Demir were assassinated by a 73-year-old Armenian-American named Gurgen Yanikiyan in 1973.
Yanikiyan who contacted Baydar and Demir said he wanted to give the portrait of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Turkey as a present. Yanikiyan, who met Baydar and Demir at the Baltimore Hotel in Santa Barbara, killed the Turkish diplomats with a pistol.
TURKEY, EIGHT OTHERS DRAG HEELS ON HUMAN RIGHTS, EURO COURT SAYS
The president of the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday said Turkey and eight other states were guilty of repeated rights violations by delaying the implementation of the court's judgments.
The states — Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine — were violating the European Convention on Human Rights due to "major systemic deficiencies," the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said in a resolution.
President of the court French judge Jean-Paul Costa told journalists after the resolution was adopted by parliamentarians that the states should make "efforts themselves to prevent a repetition of the human rights violations."
"The execution of the judgments is fundamental," he said, adding that this would reduce the number of cases coming before the Strasbourg court.
The resolution said the states were causing "extremely worrying delays" in implementing rulings.
Most violations were related to deaths or ill treatment at the hands of law enforcement officials, unlawful or over-long detention or legal proceedings and court judgments that were not enforced, parliamentarians said.
Other states where problems had been identified were Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Serbia.
U.S. WELCOMES TURKEY AS "VALUABLE COMMUNICATOR" ON IRAN DISPUTE
The U.S. understanding of Turkey's role in Iran's disputed nuclear program is much better than it was six months ago, according to the president of the American-Turkish Council. "I think [American officials] have felt that Ankara has been a valuable communicator with strong messages as far as Tehran is concerned," says retired Ambassador James Holmes.
The U.S. approach toward Turkey's involvement on Iran's disputed nuclear program, a source of irritation in the Turkish-American relationship in 2010, has improved greatly, according to the president of the American-Turkish Council.
Washington has now come to see Ankara as a valuable communicator that is giving strong messages to Tehran, retired Ambassador James Holmes recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in Ankara.
"I think there was a substantial misunderstanding about the various roles and what those roles were as far as Iran is concerned. Perhaps there was even miscommunication between Washington and Ankara on how this could be best handled," Holmes said. "I think that the relationship and the understanding as far as Iran is concerned has much improved [vis-à-vis] what it was six months ago. The fact that Turkey was preparing to host this [latest] round of negotiations and act as host was appreciated in Washington."
Turkey hosted two-day nuclear negotiations last weekend between the P5+1 group (composed of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) and Iran, but no progress was made. It is not known when new talks will be held.
Turkey, however, was not involved in the Istanbul talks but the country did express its willingness to continue efforts for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
When asked if the U.S. might request that Turkey act as a facilitator or mediator in the future, Holmes said it was unlikely.
"They want Turkey to use its regional influence. They want Turkey to use its contacts and its ability to talk to all the sides. They are not really looking for Turkey to be a mediator, a facilitator at this point. Maybe that will change but it will require, I think, a fairly significant amount of change of circumstances before it does," Holmes said.
Turkey, along with Brazil, drafted an accord in 2010 to facilitate a solution between Tehran and the West and voted against a resolution in the U.N. Security Council that called for new sanctions on Iran, thus straining its relations with the U.S.
"A lot of heat that existed in 2010 has gone out of that issue now," said Holmes. "I think [U.S. officials] have felt that Ankara has been a valuable communicator with strong messages as far as Tehran is concerned."
The Iran issue will likely be on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Turkey on Feb. 7.
Another source of friction in the Turkish-U.S. relationship in 2010 was the adoption of the Armenian genocide resolution that passed in the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2010, an event that led to Turkey recalling its ambassador.
A further attempt by U.S. Armenian groups to pass the controversial resolution, this time in the U.S. House of Representatives, failed in December.
Holmes said there would always be the possibility that some groups would introduce similar legislation because of the Armenian- American constituency in some districts.
"But with the change of leadership we have in the House of Representatives, we have a different dimension for that. There is no identifiable interest [with] the new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to move this legislation," he said.
"They've said to me that this is not our issue. It was [former] Speaker Nancy Pelosi's issue, it was [former House Foreign Affairs Committee] Chairman Howard Berman's issue, but not their issue," he said.
Relations with Israel
The Republicans won control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the midterm elections in November. But Holmes said with the Republicans holding the majority, Turkish-Israeli relations would be a source of concern.
"The good news is that business-to-business contacts and relations continue. … The bad news is that both governments in Tel Aviv and Ankara have dug themselves into a hole with respect to their respective positions that is not susceptible to compromise," he said.
"And it is even less susceptible to compromise as they are moving to election campaign periods," he said. "It is not obvious to me what the outcome can be here."
New US envoy 'on the ground'
The retired diplomat also offered comments about new U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis J. Ricciardone.
"In an environment in which there have been repeated strains in a relationship, it is important to have an ambassador on the ground. The relationship took a hit early last year when Turkey recalled its ambassador. … For vastly different reasons the American ambassador wasn't here for six months," said Holmes.
"He is now on the ground. It makes a difference. I think that the fact that Ricciardone is here will begin to have a consequence in terms of both Ankara's and Washington's understanding because Frank really has a very deep knowledge and familiarity with the U.S.-Turkey relationship," he said.
President Barack Obama bypassed the Senate in late December and installed Ricciardone as the new ambassador to Ankara, using a rarely exercised mechanism called a "recess appointment" to end the long period without representation in Turkey.
Turkish judges seek a recess in court system restructuring
An ongoing dispute between Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals and the government over moves to reshape the judiciary is set to intensify Friday, with judges preparing to demand parliamentary debate on the proposed restructuring be halted.
The court's Executive Council gathered Thursday and decided to meet with members of parliament's Constitutional Commission to inform them about their stance on the government-led changes that the commission is scheduled to begin discussing Friday.
The government submitted a draft law to parliament on Monday that proposes restructuring what it sees as Turkey's overworked court system by establishing six new chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals and two in the Council of State.
The draft also proposes that the number of people working at both the council and the court be increased. The move has been interpreted by many as an attempt by the government to stem the influence of staunchly secular judges by making new appointments to the two chambers.
"As the provisional appeal courts will start to function by June this year, there is no need to establish new chambers," the Anatolia news agency reported the judges as saying at their meeting. They added that they plan to inform the parliamentary commission that nearly 1 million suspended trials would be completed once appeals can be redirected to provisional appeals courts after June.
Supreme Court of Appeals head Hasan Gerçeker met President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin recently to express the judges' discomfort with the draft law. Gerçeker asked Erdoğan to suspend the introduction of the draft, saying the government had not sought the judges' views on the matter.
The government's move has continued to draw negative reactions from a number of nongovernmental organizations, as well as Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which has compared the proposed alterations to the structure of the judiciary to Nazi Germany under Hitler's rule and has called on citizens to resist.
The announcement came during a press conference Wednesday by CHP members of parliament's Constitution and Justice Committee, led by CHP group deputy chairman Mehmet Akif Hamzaçebi.
"The draft law gives complete control of the judiciary to the [ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)]. We are concerned," said Hamzaçebi, who compared the judiciary structure to that during Nazi rule in Germany and called on people to resist [what it sees as] pressure and fascism.
This call was supported by CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who said Thursday: "Where are we going to seek justice if the judiciary is politicized? We will, of course, seek it on the streets."
CHP Konya deputy Atilla Kart read the statement prepared by the group during the same press conference, which implied that the ruling party has already brought in its own civil servants, undersecretaries, and ministers, and is now trying to bring in its own judges and prosecutors.
"The government is trying to neutralize the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State using the Constitutional Court after the 2011 [general] elections as a final blow and turn them into fascist judiciary institutions," the statement said.
"Hitler's courts had only four judges by trade, the other five were Nazis chosen from the military," it added. "The AKP is taking this a step further by bringing it not only to the high courts, but the courts of first instance too. A fascist judiciary is formed step by step."
The first ruling-party reaction to the statement came from AKP group deputy chairman Bekir Bozdağ, who called it a sign of the CHP's "failure." Bozdağ also said they were not planning to postpone the talks on the draft law but added that the decision will be made by the commission.
Süheyl Batum, a deputy leader of the CHP, meanwhile argued that the draft law was in contradiction with international norms, adding at a press conference he held Thursday that "it could only serve for the government to politicize the judiciary."