The following are translations of excerpts from the Turkish press.
TURKISH PRESIDENT: THE "WHOLE ISLAMIC WORLD NEEDS REFORM"
President Abdullah Gul has given messages to the Islam world as he flew to Iran on an official visit. Actually, the whole Islamic world needed reforms, he told reporters at Ankara's Esenboga Airport. "The whole Islamic world has faced an extraordinary transition process lately. People are pioneering this process," he said, adding that all countries should take lessons from the incidents in Tunisia and Egypt.
TALKS ARE ONLY SOLUTION TO IRAN NUCLEAR ISSUE
President Abdullah Gul said Turkey backs a negotiated settlement of the Iran nuclear issue by dialogue, as he prepared to travel to Tehran on his maiden official visit, state media reported.
"Turkey wants a solution for Iran's nuclear issue through negotiations and dialogue," Gul told Iran's official news agency IRNA in what it said was an exclusive interview ahead of the scheduled trip.
Gul begins a three-day visit on Monday which will see him meeting top Iranian officials, including his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will also visit the cities of Tabriz and Isfahan. "Iran is signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thus, Iran's nuclear issue should be solved through negotiation and Turkey will continue to facilitate this," Gul said.
Turkey's ties with its eastern neighbour have markedly improved since Ankara's current Islamist-rooted government came to power in 2002. Last month, Turkey hosted talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at allaying Western suspicions that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, but no progress was achieved.
In June, Turkey -- then a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council -- irked the United States when it voted against fresh sanctions the body approved against Iran, arguing that a nuclear fuel swap deal it had negotiated together with Brazil the previous month should be given a chance.
Gul also places importance on the economic ties between Ankara and Tehran. "Both nations want to expand ties in all aspects," he said. "We will discuss political, economic and cultural issues. Many Turkish investors and businessmen are travelling with me and we will hold joint economic commissions." Iranian and Turish officials have said they want to increase trade between the two countries to $30 billion by 2015 from the present $10 billion.
Turkey's improving ties with Iran, coupled with a deep crisis in its relations with long-time ally Israel, have sparked concern that NATO's sole Muslim-majority member is sliding away from the West. Ankara strongly denies any policy shift. Gul said his visit to Tehran was also in response to several trips made by his Iranian counterpart to Ankara.
TURKISH PRESIDENT GUL ARRIVES IN IRAN
Abdullah Gül arrived in Tehran on Sunday on a visit aimed at boosting economic and political ties with the Islamic republic. The visit marked his first trip to Iran as the Turkish president.
During his visit, which ends on Wednesday, Gül will meet senior officials including his counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and businessmen.
In an interview carried by Iran's state news agency IRNA on Saturday, Gül said Turkey backs a negotiated settlement of the Islamic republic's nuclear issue.
"Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thus, Iran's nuclear issue should be solved through negotiation and Turkey will continue to facilitate this," he said.
Turkey's ties with its eastern neighbor have markedly improved since Ankara's current Islamist-rooted government came to power in 2002.
Last month, Turkey hosted talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at allaying Western suspicions that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, but no progress was achieved.
Last June, Turkey – then a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council – irked the United States when it voted against fresh sanctions the body approved against Iran, arguing that a nuclear fuel swap deal it had negotiated together with Brazil the previous month should be given a chance.
Gül also places importance on the economic ties between Ankara and Tehran.
Iranian and Turkish officials have said they want to increase trade between the two countries to $30 billion by 2015, from the present $10 billion.
Turkey's improving ties with Iran, coupled with a deep crisis in its relations with long-time ally Israel, have sparked concern that NATO's sole Muslim-majority member is sliding away from the West.
Ankara strongly denies any policy shift.
SWEEP OF ARRESTS ERASES ANY DOUBT OVER WHO'S THE BOSS IN TURKEY
The ongoing arrests of more than 100 active officers as part of the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) case have demonstrated the increasing confidence of the government in confronting a military that once held sway over Turkish political life.
An Istanbul court approved an arrest demand late Friday evening for 163 suspects in the alleged coup-plot case, including top suspect retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, the former commander of the 1st Army, and Özden Örnek and İbrahim Fırtına, the former top commanders of the Navy and Air Force, respectively.
Out of the 196 total suspects of the case, 167 were present at the Friday hearing and 133 were arrested immediately. The defendants face between 15 and 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of "attempting to topple the government by force."
Seven more officers turned themselves in Saturday, raising the number of arrests to 140.
The once-unimaginable arrests of high-ranking military officers dominated the local news agenda over the weekend and are reported to have created a massive disruption in the promotion system of the military. Relatives of the arrested soldiers and other figures from pro-military circles held protests around the country Saturday. The chief of General Staff met with families, and also with the prime minister, though the latter talks were described as "normal" by the Interior minister.
The reading of the trial's indictment was finished Thursday at the 12th hearing in the case; the 13th hearing Friday saw the prosecutor demand 186 arrests following opening remarks by defense lawyers. Prosecutor Savaş Kırbaş justified his demand based on the recently added 43 dossiers of documents confiscated at Golcuk Navy base and the 100th article of the Turkish Penal Law. Head Judge Ömer Diken called for a recess after Kırbaş made his demand and asked the suspects not to leave the courtroom. The court approved the arrest demand for 163 of the suspects later Friday evening.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met Saturday with Gen. Işık Koşaner, the head of Turkey's armed forces, at the prime minister's office in Istanbul's Dolmabahçe Palace. Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül was also present for the talks, which lasted about 45 minutes. Neither Erdoğan nor Koşaner made a statement afterward.
Addressing the press Sunday, Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said the meeting should be considered a "normal" one.
"The arrest [demand] of 163 officers is in question; of which 106 are active officers," Atalay said. "In such a situation, what can be more natural than the defense minister and the chief of General Staff discussing the matter with the prime minister?"
When asked whether the meeting would result in an intervention to the judiciary, Atalay said the meeting should not be evaluated in that way, adding that the trial process was ongoing but there were duties to be handled by the executive branch as well.
Top suspect Doğan and others are expected to arrive to turn themselves in Monday. Doğan's lawyer Celal Ülgen said they would object to the arrest decision "even if they already know it will be denied." Retired Gen. Ergin Saygun and retired Gen. Recep Rıfkı Durusoy fell ill after the arrest order and were taken to be treated at Ankara GATA Military Hospital's cardiology section.
"We are watching [the developments] carefully and with worry. If there are serious findings, explanations that would satisfy the public opinion should be made," said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.
Other heads of political parties also responded to the developments, with Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, saying: "If there are coup plotters within the military, they should be sorted out."
Noting that similar arrests were carried out before the Sept. 12, 2010, constitutional referendum, Bengi Yıldız, group deputy head for the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, said "the timing of the arrests is meaningful."
"This case should be evaluated as an opportunity for Turkey to become [a] mature democracy," said Numan Kurtulmuş, leader of the People's Voice Party, or HSP.
Sledgehammer is the code name for an alleged military coup plot against the leading Justice and Development Party, or AKP, drafted in 2003. The case has put dozens of soldiers behind bars. This weekend's arrest decision is the third against the suspects since the beginning of the trial's investigation process. The conflict over repeated arrests and releases last year caused rumors of a pro-military versus pro-AKP polarization within the judiciary. The head judge of the case was changed two days shy of the first hearing, which was protested by the defense as an "intervention" into the case by the political authority.
DEFENSE LAWYERS CHALLENGE ARREST WARRANTS FOR 163 OFFICERS
Turkey's armed forces chief of staff met with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after meeting families of officers arrested in connection with an alleged 2003 coup plot.
State-run television showed defense attorneys arriving at an Istanbul court on Sunday morning to challenge arrest warrants for 163 of the 196 retired and serving officers on trial over "Operation Sledgehammer," an alleged plot to oust Erdogan's government.
Most of the defendants have been in and out of detention since the case first broke wide open a year ago. The trial, being held in the town of Silivri west of Istanbul, was adjourned on Friday until March 14 and will resume just three months before a national election that is expected to result in Erdogan's AK Party winning a third consecutive term.
The case underlines simmering tension between the traditionally secular military and the AKP, which critics suspect harbors Islamist leanings though it insists that its agenda is
conservative and democratic rather than religious.
Initially stunned by seeing so many officers put in custody, Turks have become less shocked during the course of the drawn out legal battle. Not all the defendants were in court for Friday's hearing, and some have yet to be arrested, including retired General Cetin Dogan, former commander of the prestigious First Army.
Police formally arrested 133 officers in Silivri; 11 others were arrested later on Saturday at Istanbul's Besiktas court. "Turkey is secular and will remain so!" chanted the wives of
arrested officers in a protest that stopped traffic outside the Besiktas courthouse on Saturday evening.
Otherwise, remaining defendants subject to arrest warrants were expected to give themselves up, possibly on Monday. Among those already jailed were former air force commander Ozden Ornek and former naval commander Ibrahim Firtina.
Anatolian news agency reported that the meeting between Erdogan and military commander General Isik Kosaner took place at Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace on Saturday. It said the encounter was unscheduled and there were no details on the
outcome of the discussion, which lasted around 45 minutes.
Kosaner had earlier met relatives of the arrested officers at a military officers' club in the city. Regarded as a staunch secularist though he has made few public utterances, Kosaner took over command of NATO's second largest military force in August.
Whatever he says or does will be closely scrutinized by both the government and an officer corps whose morale was badly damaged by multiple investigations and arrests related to various conspiracies during the past few years.
Milliyet newspaper reported on Sunday that 29 serving generals out of a total 364 were currently jailed in the military's Hasdal prison in Istanbul.
Defendants deny any conspiracy and say "Sledgehammer" was simply a war game exercise presented at a military seminar. Prosecutors allege that the plot involved plans to bomb historic mosques and provoke conflict with Greece, as part of a plan to undermine the government and enable a military takeover.
By enacting democratic reforms aimed at making Turkey fit for membership of the European Union, the AK has undercut the military's influence. Few people believe today's generals would dare return to the coup-making ways of their predecessors.
"SLEDGEHAMMER" INVESTIGATION TARGETS MILITARY OFFICERS
Interior Minister Besir Atalay spoke about about Saturday's meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and General Staff Chief Gen. Isik Kosaner at Istanbul's Dolmabahce. "One hundred six out of 163 officers are current members of the Turkish army. They have families. The prime minister wants to get information about developments and give necessary directives," he said.
Gen. Kosaner met with Prime Minister Erdogan and National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul after the court decided to jail 163 military personnel over alleged coup plans known publicly as "Balyoz (Sledgehammer)."
TURKEY'S ERDOGAN URGES FREE ELECTIONS IN EGYPT
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday urged fair and free elections and shift to constitutional democracy in Egypt following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
"From this moment on, Egypt must hold fair and free elections and form a constitutional democracy without allowing chaos, instability and especially provocation," Erdogan said one day after Mubarak's resignation.
Erdogan was one of the first world leaders to urge Mubarak to heed Egyptian people's demand for change after the anti-Mubarak protests broke out. Erdogan said he made his call while everybody remained silent and turned a blind eye to the uprising in Egypt, adding, "I just made sincere recommendations just like a brother."
Erdogan also said: "now we share the joy, hope, excitement and jubilation of the Egyptian people."
Erdogan repeated his call to the international community to help Egypt and Tunisia overcome their financial troubles. "I believe that this transition process will end successfully and Egypt will get through it stronger," he added. "We have always wanted peace in Egypt and we will continue to support peace and stability in Egypt."
ISLAMIST PM DENIES INTERVENING IN "OTHER PEOPLE'S LIFESTYLES"
Speaking at a ceremony in Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that there was no place either for fear or for intimidation in their policy. He said, "in our policy, we don't intervene in other people's lifestyles and we don't make prohibitions. We don't use sacred values as a tool in politics."
EITHER PRESIDENCY OR REPENTANCE
Burhan Kuzu, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution, said that Turkey should adopt the presidency system. "Turkey needs a new constitution. If we fail to change the system, coalition governments will come to political power after the Justice and Development Party (AKP). And it can lead to instability and political crises," he said.
TURKISH MINISTER LASHES OUT AT GERMANY OVER VISAS
Turkey's foreign trade minister directed criticism at Germany for strict visa regulations against Turkish firms, saying it dealt a big blow to Turkey's trade with Europe.
Zafer Caglayan's remarks came in Frankfurt, Germany at his meeting with Turkish businessmen who attended the AMBIENTE-lnternationale Frankfurter Messe, the top international fair for the kitchen, housewares and luxury sectors.
Caglayan said only half of Turkish companies could participate in the fair due to Germany's strict visa regulations against Turkey. "The visa issue is the biggest persecution in the world. It is a violation of human rights, it is torture. Today, we could have had more Turkish companies here, if Germany did not have this visa obstacle," Caglayan told Turkish businessmen. "It is a big obstacle against Turkish industry, it is double standard."
Turkey ships 46 percent of its export goods to EU countries and 11 percent to non-EU countries in Europe. Caglayan said German government had not enforced the laws despite a 1973 protocol and German court rulings on visa-free travel of Turkish people to Germany.
Turkey urged the EU to begin visa liberalization talks after Ankara and Brussels finally ended talks last month on a deal on the readmission of illegal immigrants entering EU countries via Turkey. "EU, especially Germany, brings all kind of stonewalling regarding Turkey's membership. The pretext is the Cyprus issue," he said. "We are on our way to EU in spite of all the stonewalling and double standards. We have been waiting for 50 years but it does not mean that we will wait for 50 years more. Everything has an end."
PRESIDENT GUL APPROVES COURT-PACKING PLAN
President Abdullah Gul approved the law that increases the number of departments and members of Council of State and Court of Appeals and drew the reaction of higher jurisdiction organs. Ignoring the calls for a veto, Gul approved the debated law only two days after his meetings with presidents of Council of State and Court of Appeals. Replying questions prior to his departure for Iran, Gul said: "I see no harm in approving the law within the scope of the information and recommendations made by my advisors and department on law."
WE SUPPORT TURKISH CAB
The government extended a hand to Karsan, a company which was qualified for the final round of the New York City cab tender but needed support against competition.
State Minister for foreign trade Zafer Caglayan will visit Karsan's factory in the northwestern province of Bursa tomorrow and then he will visit New York to convey the message "we support Karsan" to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
VIOLENT ATTACK ON TURKISH STANDS IN BEIRUT
At a textile fair in Beirut, the stands of Turkish companies were attacked by Armenians. The Armenians shouted slogans against Turkey and assaulted Turkish businessmen.