The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN TALKS WITH TURKEY?
Although there has been no official dialogue between Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior Turkish diplomat indicated Thursday that discussions were likely occurring at the party level.
"[There might be dialogue] between political parties," the diplomat told a group of journalists in Istanbul on condition of anonymity, noting that a key Brotherhood figure, Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, had been in Turkey recently.
Ghaffar, however, denied that his group had contacted any Turkish political parties in any way, officially or unofficially. "We did not contact any party; we are currently concentrating on the media," he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.
The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt but remains an important force in the opposition movement calling for the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Political forces other than the Muslim Brotherhood, which have until now been invisible due to the country's chaotic state, seem to have emerged in Egypt recently, the Turkish diplomat said. "It is still difficult to weigh the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood," he said, adding that the groups' presence would start to be more visible in the coming days.
Ghaffar confirmed the emergence of new groups in Egypt, which he said were cooperating closely with the Brotherhood under the "Coalition of the Revolutionary Anger."
"New groups have started to appear, which is useful," he told Daily News, adding that the past few days have seen the important emergence of union-affiliated workers from large companies as participants in the ongoing demonstrations.
"Maybe this will lead to a paralysis in the country and make the [present] regime resign," Ghaffar said, emphasizing the importance of workers in revolutions in other countries.
"The new groups emerging in Egypt are serving the revolution in a positive way and will continue to do so in the future in order to ensure democratic elections in the country in the event that Mubarak steps down," Ghaffar said.
"Numerous political groups are involved, including the 'Front of Democrats' and the 'Sixth of April [Party],' " he added.
Ghaffar came to Turkey recently and said in a February 8 press conference that he would stay in Turkey until the demonstrations in Egypt – which he said would continue until Mubarak steps down – produced results in order to inform the Turkish people about the developments in his country. He said he couldn't return to Egypt at the present time due to security concerns.
The demonstrations in Egypt are increasing day by day, Ghaffar said, adding that no one would turn back. "There is no way back at this point. It is very clear that no government can [win over] the nation," he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood figure said there had been little dialogue between the demonstrators and the government and that it had been impossible for the protesters to explain their demands. "We tell them we want Mubarak and his government to resign, and they tell us they will change something," he said.
Turkey will wait for the developments
The Turkish diplomat said Turkey would await further developments in Egypt and provide assistance to the country if needed. "Turkey will be pleased to help, if it is asked for assistance," he said, adding that for the time being it would be observing the situation and waiting for new developments.
The diplomat also said the Turkish ambassador had not contacted representatives of the major opposition parties driving the revolution in Egypt, but that it could happen in the future. "For the time being, we are still [focused on] the security of Turkish citizens in Egypt," he said.
ELECTIONS IN JUNE SEEN AS OPPORTUNITY FOR THE TURKISH PEOPLE
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said the parliamentary election, scheduled for June, would be an important opportunity for the Turkey. Speaking in the Ankara district of Polatlı, Bahçeli said: "The AKP should have a rest."
KILIÇDAROĞLU: "YOU SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE SIGNING"
The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said President Abdullah Gül should think twice before signing a bill that would re-structure the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State.
AL JAZEERA IS THE NEW OWNER OF CINE 5
On Thursday, Turkey's savings deposit insurance fund approved Al Jazeera's offer to pay $40.5 million to buy seized national TV station, CINE 5. Al Jazeera's initial offer for the TV channel was $21 million in the first round of negotiations. The Arabic-language network's offer still needs separate approvals from Turkey's competition and broadcasting authorities.
BDP: WE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WEAPONS
Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş said the party did not receive directives from the head of the terrorist PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, who is imprisoned on İmralı island. "We have nothing to do with weapons. If the BDP will end the [Kurdish] problem, then so be it," Demirtaş said.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REPORT TOUCHES ON HEADSCARF ISSUE
The European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Relations decided to add remarks to a Progress Report on Turkey about the end of a ban on headscarves at Turkish universities. The remarks were added and amendments were made after Emine Bozkurt, of the parliament's Socialist Group, said political parties in Turkey had to find a solution to the headscarf issue based on allowing women a free choice.
TURKISH BUSINESS PEOPLE TO VISIT IRAN WITH PRESIDENT GÜL
More than 100 Turkish business people will travel to Iran with Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Sunday. At a time when many countries have cut off trade with Iran due to the sanctions, Turkish-Iranian commercial relations are going through a golden period. Turkish and Iranian authorities expect bilateral trade volume will rise to $30 billion per year in the coming years.
TURKEY ENJOYS A 8% GROWTH RATE IN 2010
During a trip to the United Arab Emirates, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said the Turkish economy grew by 8 percent in 2010. In 2011, he said the government expected the Turkish economy to grow by about 5 percent.
YEMEN CALLS ON TURKISH BUSINESSMEN TO INVEST
Yemen's Deputy Minister of Tourism Omar Babelghaeth said that there were important projects in Yemen and called on Turkish businessmen to invest in his country.
Yemen is a "guest country" of the 15th East Mediterranean Tourism and Travel Exhibition (EMITT) held in Istanbul. Babelghaeth said that they are working on six resort construction projects in various places in Yemen.
EUROPEAN UNION PRAISES TUSKON
European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule began his fifth trip to Turkey within a year by visiting the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON). Fule said that TUSKON played a crucial role in the economic cooperation between the EU and Turkey.
A NEW AMBASSADOR SENT TO TURKISH CYPRUS
Turkey replaced its ambassador in Nicosia, where demonstrators carried banners against Turkey during recent protests. Halil İbrahim Akça, who was head of Turkey's office for financial grants, replaced Turkish Ambassador Kaya Türkmen, a statement said Thursday morning. Turkish Cypriots were surprised by the move. The development comes amid tension between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus following a January 28 protest in northern Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot trade unions participating in the demonstration unfurled banners opposing the Turkish government.
DIPLOMACY DIVIDED ON DIVIDED CYPRUS
Friction between Turkey and northern Cyprus over labor protests on the divided island risks weakening the Turkish side's hand at the negotiating table with the Greek Cypriots, who have used the situation to pressure the European Union.
"Of course this situation complicates Turkey's efforts to present itself as the unified negotiating side. That's obvious," Hugh Pope, director of the Turkey/Cyprus Project at the International Crisis Group, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday. "Ankara is supporting reunification talks [with Greek Cypriots]. Mr. [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu is really trying hard to get something done regarding Cyprus. But the fact is the talks are slowing down," said Pope.
Turkey has downplayed any negative repercussions from the crisis, saying the Turkish side would continue to be one step ahead at the negotiating table with the island's Greeks, while promising that the Turkish government would continue to aid northern Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu, however, believes the situation is benefiting the Greek Cypriots, who he said were enjoying the split between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus. Analysts agreed, saying recent events have given the Greek Cypriots the upper hand against Turkey.
"This rhetoric will inevitably be used as proof by the Greek Cypriots that Turkey considers northern Cyprus as its part and that's why Ankara does not want a solution to the Cyprus problem," Nilgün Arısan Eralp, director of the EU Institute at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, told the Daily News.
Protest on wage cuts
The current tension arose when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lashed out on January 28 following protests targeting wage cuts that were introduced by an economic protocol signed between Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot government.
Erdoğan's angry comment that the Turkish Cypriots were taking "handouts" from Turkey, followed by Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek's statement that the protesters "swore at us ... and the next day we sent them money," sparked a fierce reaction from Turkish Cypriots.
"This tension taking place in the public eye must be reduced once and for all," said Mustafa Kutlay, head of the European Union desk at the Ankara-based think tank USAK. "This is in the interests of neither Turkey nor Turkish Cyprus. To the contrary, this strain has delighted the Greek Cypriots, who are [using it to] make their case on international platforms that Turkey is an occupier on the island."
In a televised appearance Thursday, Çiçek said the Turkish government's reaction targeted only those protesters who insulted Turkey.
Turkey economically supports northern Cyprus, which has been suffering from embargoes for decades due to the lack of a diplomatic solution for the divided island. The latest economic-measures package received a strong reaction from Turkish Cypriot unions, which urged Turkey in the January 28 protest to take its hands off the island's shores.
Status quo could be prolonged
Pope warned that the current situation could mean the extension of the years-long status quo on the island, and that northern Cyprus could end up being the backwater of Turkey.
"That's bad news for the Turkish Cypriots," he said. "Obviously they [Turkish Cypriots] do have double the per-capita income of people in Turkey and that's a privileged status that has been supported by Turkey. But if this [situation] extends for a long time, Turkey is really not willing to continue treating the Turkish Cypriots better than Turkish citizens."
The Turkish government announced it would deliver 880 million Turkish liras to Turkish Cyprus, a decrease of 916 million liras last year. There is a deficit of roughly 600 million liras in the 2011 Turkish Cypriot budget.
Turkish Cypriot economy needs 'reform'
Ankara-Nicosia relations should be put back on track both economically and politically, said USAK's Kutlay. "Politically, if Turkey recognizes northern Cyprus as a sovereign state, it should treat it the same way it treats other sovereign nations based on diplomatic practices," he said. "This should be a relationship between two sovereign peoples and governments, which is the minimum criterion as Turkish Cyprus deserves Turkey's respect."
Economically speaking, northern Cyprus needs a serious reform process, he added. "Turkey is a transformative power in this process but this is not functioning well. The public expenditures in the north make up 70 percent of the entire Turkish Cypriot economy," Kutlay said. "The private sector is not involved. The working performance of the civil servants is low. The most important income source on the island is tourism, but the hotels are only 30 percent full."
TEPAV's Arısan suggested that the unhealthy system on the island should be reformed through a better communication strategy.
TURKISH COURT BEGINS CLOSURE CASE INTO ALEVI ASSOCIATION
Turkish judicial authorities began a much-criticized case Thursday into an Ankara-based Alevi association that is accused of attempting to build a cemevi as a "as a house of worship."
Prosecutors want to shut down the Çankaya Cemevi Building Association, arguing that a cemevi, where Alevis gather for their prayers, cannot be legally deemed a house of worship and that an association may not have such a goal.
Fevzi Gümüş, a lawyer for the association, said in a petition that the intent was not illegal.
"Neither building a cemevi nor calling the cemevi a house of worship is illegal," read the petition. "It is impossible to understand how the prosecutors can seek to shut down the association for something that has not been openly banned by the law."
Gümüş said all Alevis consider cemevis their houses of worship and added that everyone in the community was fighting for legal recognition of the situation.
Ahmet Ersin, a member of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, told reporters after the hearing that the case was a disgrace at a time when the government and the members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), were discussing an Alevi initiative.
"The closure case is based on a fatwa from the Religious Affairs Directorate that argues that cemevis are not houses of worship," said Ersin, a member of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
"The prime minister, his government and the ruling party deny cemevis, which play a very important role in Alevi belief. Where will the Alevis gather, where will they worship?" Ersin said.
Ersin said closing down cemevis was part of an assimilation policy against Alevis in Turkey and that "Alevi houses of worship should be given legal status immediately."
The next hearing of the closure case will be held February 24.
Seven years of struggle
When Alevis in Ankara formed the association in 2004, one of their primary aims, according to the group's charter, was "to build cemevis, which are the belief and worship centers for Alevi believers." The association also aims to construct cemevis in Alevi-populated areas that are part of lands the Ankara Municipality has allocated for places of worship as part of a citywide redevelopment plan.
As per legal requirements, the association submitted an application to the Interior Ministry for recognition in 2004, but the ministry expressed its concern about the "place of worship" phrase contained within the group's statutes. Ministerial authorities asked for clarification on the issue from the Religious Affairs Directorate, to which the latter said cemevis could not be considered places of worship.
As a result, the ministry demanded the association remove the phrase from its documents, suggesting the group say instead that it was "building a cemevi for cultural purposes." The association, however, refused the recommendation.
The Ankara Governor's Office warned the association to change its documents again in June, but the group responded by saying the matter was not open to discussion. As such, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office opened a case against the association in late November.
TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS TURKEY'S EGYPT POLICY FOCUSES ON PRINCIPLES, NOT PEOPLE
A spokesperson for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that Turkey's policy regarding Egypt did not concentrate on names, but on principles.
In a press briefing at their headquarters in Ankara, spokesperson Selcuk Unal said the primary step to be taken in Egypt should be to assess the public's demands and complete the transition process as soon as possible.
Noting that Turkey closely monitored the latest developments in the country, Unal said, "We are not supporting or objecting to any leaders in Egypt. We are conducting a policy that focuses on principles rather than people," Unal said.
Commenting on the letter brought to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu by the Egyptian Ambassador in Ankara, Abdurrahman Selahaddin, Unal reiterated that the letter "did not carry any statement of protest". Unal said
Turkey officials had prepared a reply to the letter, however, it had not been sent yet.
"As we consider Egypt a friend and brother, we prefer to express our opinion openly," he said.
Regarding Israel's recent statement calling on Turkey not to intervene in Egypt's domestic matters, Unal said he found Israel's comment on the issue strange. "We do not intervene in the domestic matters of any country," Unal said, adding that Turkey's stance on the issue was clear.
TURKEY HOPES NUCLEAR POWER PLANT NEGOTIATIONS WITH JAPAN WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE END OF MARCH
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz has said on-going negotiations with Japan --for the construction of its second nuclear power plant—are on-going until the end of March.
Minister Yildiz and Director-General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency Luis Echavarri spoke to reporters Wednesday after the nuclear energy conference, hosted by Turkish Atomic Energy Authority in Ankara.
Yildiz said delegations from the two countries met almost every week seeking agreement on principles, terms and negotiations.
Yildiz said Turkey wanted to build three power plants with twelve reactors by the end of 2023.
Turkey recently signed a deal with Russia for the construction of its first power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin, which will be completed before 2022. The first reactor is expected to start operating in 2018.
Luis Echavarri said, cost was one of the most important issues in building nuclear power plants, noting that the deal Turkey signed with Russia was very advantageous in terms of cost and funding.
"Turkey, thanks to the deal it signed with the Russian Federation, will enjoy benefits of nuclear energy without drawing any significant funds from the Turkish economy. This is a very good deal for Turkey," said Echavarri.