The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
THY CANCELS FLIGHTS TO EGYPT
Turkish Airlines announced that it cancelled its' flight to Egypt because the Egyptian government has closed Egyptian air space. THY officials say: "They closed the airspace because of this critical Friday. We placed our passengers in hotels and are waiting for the Egyptian administration to open the air space to commercial flights."
U.S. BAN ON TURKISH FIRMS 'OPENS WAY FOR EU COMPETITORS IN IRAN'
Turkish businessmen have reacted against the U.S. Treasury's decision on Tuesday to put three Turkish companies – Macpar, Multimat and Step – on a blacklist, claiming the companies were part of a multi-million-dollar procurement network for Iran's missile industry.
Now European firms are replacing Turkish firms banned from trading in Iran, Turkish business leaders said.
The U.S. "blacklist" is troubling not only for the defense industry but many sectors, according to Abdullah Çınar, a board member at the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ICOC).
"French, Italian and German firms are selling machinery to Iran like hotcakes," Çınar told the daily Radikal. "The U.S. blacklist seems to be working only against us."
Led by Milad Jafari, an Iranian national, the network tied to Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) used a series of companies in Iran and Turkey to procure metal products, including steel and aluminum alloys for AIO's subordinates, the U.S. Treasury claimed on Tuesday in a report on its website. Between 2007 and late 2008, the network facilitated transactions valued at more than $7 million for companies subordinate to AIO, it said.
Noting that he does not have detailed information on the mentioned companies, Mehmet Nuri Görenoğlu, vice chairman of Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association ( MÜSİAD), said, "These [three] might be front companies."
Still the obstacles for Turkish companies were sometimes reaching to exaggerated levels, he added.
"They are even trying to eliminate firms trying to sell a lathe machine or pressing machine, claiming that they might be used in rocket making. Thus, our industrialists are kept away from a prominent market," he said. "On the other hand, Iran finds whatever it needs in the international markets. We cannot tell what kind of embargo this is."
Oğuz Akyüz, general manager of Ak Makine, a Turkish company that was forced out of Iran, told the Radikal that it had to stop trading with Iran due to a warning from a western company that it represents in Turkey. "The U.S. did not include us on its blacklist, but we had to stop exports to Iran, which we had been doing for three years with legal permission."
As soon as we withdrew from the Iranian market, car-maker Khorda bought goods worth 250 million euros from German and Italy. As our agreements were being cancelled, they were constructing their machines there," he said.
TWO PARLIAMENTS, ELECTED GOVERNORS
A couple of days ago, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that implementation of a presidential system in Turkey would yield good results. Erdogan has now pointed to the two lawmaking bodies [state and federal] system and elected governors in the United States. "I do not consider a presidency a system that excludes the parliament. There is no rule that all demands of the president would be fulfilled. On the contrary, there are two parliaments. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate decide on matters," Erdogan said.
ARAB LEADERS EXPOSED, SAYS TURKISH FM
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wikileaks disclosures had blown up and exposed foreign policies of the Arab leaders, so much so that people's confidence in their leaders had been shaken. "Just as the rest of the world, the Middle East has seen a communication revolution. In the past there were only state-run TV stations and semi-official newspapers, but now there are hundreds of private TV networks and independent dailies. Societies realized that there is more to what they think the world is about," Davutoglu told daily HURRIYET.
AMBASSADOR SAYS ARAB REGIMES SHOULD HEAR THE VOICE OF THEIR PEOPLE
Turkish ambassador in Washington, D.C. Namik Tan said on Thursday that Arab regimes should listen carefully to the voice of their people.
Appearing on Bloomberg television channel, Tan said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and similar regimes should meet their peoples' demand for more freedom and better living standards. Tan said that Turkey believed the Egyptian administration would take necessary steps to meet demands of its people.
Ambassador Tan said that they were monitoring developments in Egypt, which was of great importance for peace and stability in the region. Egypt is a very important country and a close friend of Turkey, he said. Tan said that there must be no violence in the protests in Egypt.
"We hope that everything will take place in Egypt in accordance with democratic parameters," he said. Israel is the first country which should be concerned about developments in Egypt, he said. What is happening in Egypt would also affect the Middle East peace process, he said.
Replying to questions on Iran's nuclear program, Tan said that Turkey would keep doing its best for solutions through diplomacy and peaceful means.
TURKEY TO EXTEND SUPPORT TO KYRGYZ ARMY
Turkey's Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, who accompanied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to Kyrgyzstan, met with his Kyrgyz counterpart Abibilla Kudayberdiev on Wednesday. Gönül said during the meeting that Turkey would increase its financial and technical support to the Kyrgyz Armed Forces.
The Turkish military has provided the Kyrgyz Armed Forces with military and technical assistance worth $9 million over the last 19 years.
Erdoğan said Wednesday that the Central Asia basin could shape the world's future if countries of the region acted in solidarity. After visiting Kyrgyzstan-Turkey Manas University in Bishkek, Erdoğan, Manas said the University was the most important indicator of the two countries' cooperation in education and that it was Turkey's biggest investment in Kyrgyzstan. "If we act in solidarity, the Central Asia basin can be the region that gives shape to the future," the prime minister said.
Erdoğan also met with Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva and Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev. He also held talks with Kyrgyz Parliament Speaker Ahkmatbek Keldibekov and addressed Kyrgyz lawmakers at the Parliament. Erdogan and his Kyrgyz counterpart Atambaev attended a meeting of the Turkish-Kyrgyz Business Forum.
TURKEY-QATAR ALLIANCE AIMS TO SOOTHE MIDEAST TENSIONS
At first glance the emerging alliance of Turkey and the tiny Gulf state of Qatar as regional troubleshooters might be surprising: a non-Arab country with a population nearing 80 million and a sheikdom with fewer citizens than most Istanbul neighborhoods. Together they want to stamp out political embers smoldering from Beirut to San'a to Cairo.
But the new axis is unsurprising given their similar approaches to solving crises in nearby countries and their stake in maintaining stability in the region, experts say.
"The stability and order Turkey wants to see in the Middle East is very similar to what Qatar wants to see. This is the leadership of two like-minded countries," an expert familiar with both countries who wished to remain anonymous told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.
"There is competition for leadership in the Middle East. Qatar acts like an important regional state. It is trying to take the role of Saudi Arabia or Egypt," said Sawssan Abou-Zahr, a senior journalist at Lebanon's Annahar newspaper.
But other experts doubt the two countries, whose officials met Thursday to discuss the ongoing turmoil in Egypt, have enough clout to resolve the crises affecting the region.
"This alliance's strength is not enough to change the Middle East. Turkey is cooperating with Qatar out of a lack of alternatives. But Turkey needs strong partners. The Turkey-Qatar alliance cannot change the picture alone," said Osman Bahadır Dinçer from the Ankara-based think tank USAK, noting that Qatar's rising profile mostly stems from its wealth and its neutral approach to regional matters.
Following a joint effort by the two countries to defuse political tension in Lebanon when the national unity government collapsed last month, Turkey and Qatar have teamed up again to try and address the turmoil created by recent revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu traveled Thursday to Doha, where he held talks with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani about the crisis in Egypt. The meeting followed a telephone conversation between the Turkish prime minister and the Qatari emir.
Experts said both countries have peace and stability as their aim, rather than a shift in regional dynamics and balances, and that they share an overlapping approach to resolving the current difficulties.
"Turkey and Qatar are the two countries whose leaders get on well, who have established bonds of friendship, who consult with one another when crises occur and who speak to any party. All of these have prompted the two countries to move closer," the expert familiar with both countries said, adding that both countries value cooperation and dialogue with all groups.
"Turkey has opened up to the Middle East recently and sought natural alliances with the countries in the region in the wake of Sept. 11. Qatar is different from Egypt or Syria, which makes it easier for Turkey to play an active role," USAK's Dinçer said.
Like Turkey, Qatar favors engagement with Hamas and Hezbollah, whose withdrawal from Lebanon's government precipitated its collapse. Both oppose isolating Syria, support peace and stability in Lebanon and favor dialogue with all groups in Iraq. In 2009, Turkey and Qatar helped broker the Doha agreement, which gave Hezbollah and its allies a role in the Lebanese government even though they held a minority in the parliament.
Both countries also enjoy friendly ties with Syria and Iran. "I think the Turkish involvement will make the Qatari role more acceptable and more balanced to all parties because Turkey also has relationship with Syria and Iran," said Lebanese journalist Abou-Zahr. "It is also acceptable to other countries in the Arab world that are not that friendly to the Iranian involvement in the Middle East."
Qatar, a small country but one of the richest in the region due to its large oil and gas reserves, has also played a significant role in the current conflict in Egypt through its ownership of the satellite television broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which has provided comprehensive coverage from the scene. In addition to Lebanon and Egypt, the Gulf country has also been involved in mediation efforts to solve the Palestinian and Darfur issues.
But though experts generally agree the Turkish-Qatari alliance has good intentions of obtaining a peaceful solution to problems, many said the two countries would not be able to create major results.
"The Middle East is not a coherent region and it will not be after the recent revolts," Professor Ahmet Evin of Sabancı University's Istanbul Policy Center told the Daily News. "Turkey can enjoy flourishing ties with Gulf countries through trade deals. Turkey and Qatar, in particular, may have complementary sides, but they cannot influence the entire region."
Others disputed the appropriateness of some of the attempts to mediate.
"It is worth noting [Qatar's] mediation between Khartoum and Darfur rebels, especially since Sudan is far from Qatar but is on Egypt's borders and is very important to its stability. This mediation should actually be Egypt's role," Lebanese journalist Abou-Zahr said.
TURKEY UPSETS EU WITH 'FASCIST' SLUR
A claim by a Turkish minister that the EU risks falling victim to "the facist methods of the 1930s" has drawn a request for clarification, the European Union said Thursday.
Ankara's minister for European Union affairs and its chief negotiator in enlargement talks with the bloc, Egemen Bagis, said at a Holocaust commemoration at Auschwitz this week that the union was at risk from racism.
"The EU, founded in order to eliminate the threats to peace of that period, is today at risk of being overtaken by a racist mentality that... emulates the fascist methods of 1930s," he said. "Turkish people, implicitly or openly, are being told this: 'You are different and you have no place among us.'"
The commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fuele asked the minister "to explain his words," said Fuele's spokeswoman Natascha Butler. Bagis explained that his statement aimed to highlight "the rising role of some extremist groups" in Europe, which threatened to lower tolerance across the continent, she said.
Far-right Islamophobic parties have been notching up political victories across the EU recently. Fuele was "grateful for this clarification," the spokeswoman said. Asked whether they were misplaced, she said "the words could have been better chosen... given the timing and location."
Bagis also said that the best response to racists "would be to support and adopt the values of the European Union and principles of democracy more. The only remedy for this distorted mentality is Turkey's accession to the EU."
POLICE CLASH WITH PROTESTORS IN TURKISH CAPITAL
Police sprayed tear gas and fired water cannons on demonstrators protesting a draft labor law in Turkey's capital city, Ankara, on Thursday. Riot police did not allow protestors to march to the parliament.
COURT CLEARS LAWMAKER FROM CHARGES FOR SPEAKING IN KURDISH AT PARLIAMENT
Ahmet Turk, a former lawmaker with the defunct Democratic Society Party, was exonerated by an Ankara court from charges pressed after a speech he made in Kurdish at the Turkish parliament a year ago. Prosecutors demanded prison terms for Turk, accusing him of violating Turkey's political parties law. The court cleared Turk from charges, citing his then-legislative immunity.
OVER TWENTY TURKS KILLED IN IRAN IN ONE YEAR
Over the past twelve months, Iranian guards have killed more than 20 Turks who crossed the border illegally. The latest incident came as two Turkish teenagers were shot dead as they tried to smuggle diesel fuel into Turkey.
ERDOGAN SAYS ANTI-TURKEY DEMONSTRATION IN TRNC IS PROVOCATIVE
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized the anti-Turkey slogans chanted at a demonstration held in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to protest the Turkish Cypriot government's recent economic measures. Erdogan said that the demonstration was a provocative act.
ULKER EAGER TO BUY DOGAN MEDIA GROUP
Ulker Group, a Turkish food and soft drinks company, has confirmed that it is willing to buy Dogan Media Holding. Ulker Group, which has formed a financial services venture with Yildiz Holding to buy Dogan, said in a statement on Thursday that it was part of consortium with U.S.-based asset manager Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. to buy stakes of the Dogan Media Holding.