ERDOGAN CALLS MEETING ON LIBYA
Prime Minister Erdogan is holding a meeting at his official residence about the recent developments in Libya. Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek, Minister of Defense Vecdi Gonul, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu, Chief of Turkish General Staff Isik Kosaner and Undersecretary of National Intelligence Agency Hakan Fidan are attending the meeting.
ESCAPE FROM HELL
The escape from hell in Libya by plane, ship and road continues. Emre, a construction worker from the northern Turkish province of Trabzon, was a victim of a sniper. The Orhan Gazi and Osman Gazi ferryboats brought 3,000 Turks to the Aegean town of Marmaris last night.
Orhangazi-1 ferryboat, carrying 1,486 Turks and 30 foreigners, anchored at Marmaris Port at 11:44 p.m. last night. Six passengers were hospitalized as they suffered from some health problems.
Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım and Health Minister Recep Akdağ welcomed the passengers. Two hours later the Osmangazi ferryboat approached the port.
"ZERO MISTAKE" OPERATION
The evacuation of Turkish citizens from Libya began with the directive of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In his directive, Erdoğan said that he wanted an evacuation with "zero mistakes." Erdoğan ordered the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to provide all assistance possible in evacuating Turkish citizens from Libya. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that they were conducting the biggest evacuation of Turkish citizens in the history of the Republic of Turkey. "We brought 5,099 people from Libya to Turkey in 72 hours. 21 countries made a request to Turkey to help evacuating their citizens from Libya," Davutoğlu said.
TURKISH SHIPS WITH 3,000 EVACUEES FROM LIBYA LAND IN MARMARIS
Two Turkish ships whisked 3,000 citizens away from the unrest engulfing Libya arrived in the Aegean town of Marmaris early on Thursday as Turkey cranked up its largest-ever evacuation.
The ferryboats left the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi on Wednesday escorted by a navy frigate, heading to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Marmaris, where a soup kitchen and a field hospital were set up and buses were brought in to transfer evacuees. Turkey also sent two more ships to Libya and flew 250 more Turkish citizens back home.
Passengers cheered and whistled as the two ferries carrying 3,000 Turks docked at Marmaris early Thursday. Exhausted, but relieved, the passengers hauled suitcases and large bags off the Orhan Gazi-1 ferry, the first to arrive.
Turkey's Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım and Health Minister Recep Akdağ welcomed the passengers, who are mostly construction workers employed by more than 200 Turkish companies involved in construction projects in Libya, worth more than $15 billion. Some 30 foreign nationals were also on board. Turkey began evacuating some 25,000 Turks after several construction sites the east of the country were raided and looted during protests last week.
Among the construction workers who saw violence first hand was Mustafa Öztekin, who worked in the hard-hit eastern city of Benghazi. "Our construction site was pillaged, our camp was looted," Öztekin told The Associated Press. "We left for the airport thinking that it would be safe, but the protesters raided the airport as well.
"We were terrified, but they quickly reassured us that they had nothing against the Turks. They were just against the regime," he said. "In fact, it was the protesters who accompanied us to a stadium, where we waited for two days to be evacuated."
Halil İbrahim Yurttutan, who worked for Libya's Mammar Arabia company in Benghazi, said company workers witnessed anti-Gadhafi militias hunting down and killing mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa. "They were killing whichever mercenary they caught, they were unforgiving," Yurttutan said.
"Three were attacked just outside our sight with knives and sharp objects. Two were killed and were lying on the pavement. We took a third one to the hospital, but we don't know what happened to him," Yurttutan said. He also said he witnessed a funeral of some 50 people he believes were killed by Gadhafi's supporters.
Ali Tumkaya, the human resources manager for Turkey's Sembol company, which was building a university in Benghazi, said militias came to raid the Benghazi airport and brought vans with more than 20 dead bodies, who Tumkaya said were paid soldiers from sub-Saharan Africa.
Şaban Sarıdağ said militias armed with machine guns tore down Gadhafi's posters in the airport and set a section of the airport on fire. He said the militias were kind to the Turks, bringing a busload of food, heaters and blankets.
"We are carrying out the largest evacuation operation in our history," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, adding that 21 other countries have asked Turkey to evacuate their citizens, too.
Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi has urged his supporters to strike back against pro-democracy protesters, escalating a crackdown that has led to widespread shooting in the streets. Nearly 300 people have been killed in the nationwide wave of anti-government protests – and possibly many more.
Justice and interior ministers of European Union (EU) member states will discuss readmission agreements with Turkey today. Six countries including Italy, Britain and Spain support Turkey, while Germany's Merkel and France's Sarkozy oppose.
Turkey and EU have been bargaining for a "readmission agreement" for a long time.
Turkey asked for visa facility for its citizens in return for affirming the agreement envisaging extradition of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak into EU countries via its territories.
Italy, Britain, Spain, Poland, Sweden, and Finland favored Turkey's request.
Germany and France made veto threats, as usual. Turkey will not sign the agreement if visa facility cannot be ensured with the EU.
RULING AK PARTY STARTS ELECTION PROCESS
Turkey's ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) submitted a motion to the parliament on Tuesday to hold general elections on June 12, 2011.
With this motion, the election timetable has started for the 24th term of the parliament, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin said.
All political parties represented in the parliament had earlier agreed on the election date. The parliament is likely to debate and approve the election date next week, AK Party officials said.
The last parliamentary election was held on July 22, 2007. The AKP won the 2007 elections, gaining 46.5 percent of the national vote and winning 341 seats in the 550-member parliament.
Republican People's Party (CHP) came the second, winning 20.8 percent of votes and 112 seats in the parliament. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) collected 14.3 percent of votes and 71 seats.
Turks vote in general elections every four years.
165,000 DOCUMENTS IN HANDS OF SPIES
According to military espionage indictment at the Istanbul Criminal Court No. 11, criminal gangs have learned state secrets. The classified documents that needed to be preserved were sold to foreigners. Retired colonel Ibrahim Sezer is the alleged leader of the espionage gang. The General Staff, backing the trial process, has launched a separate investigation regarding the espionage claims. Judges can see the documents, sealed as a state secret, only with the consent of the army.
U.S. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: TUNISIA COULD BE A MODEL
Washington has offered Tunisia help in shoring up its security following its "model" revolution, U.S. Senator John McCain said on Monday. A popular uprising in the North African state last month ended President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's 23 years of rule, sending shock waves through the Arab world and inspiring further revolts, one of which toppled Egypt's president 10 days ago.
"The revolution in Tunisia has been very successful and it has become a model for the region," McCain, the leading Republican on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters after meetings with Tunisian government officials. "We stand ready to provide training to help Tunisia's military to provide security," he said. Elections to replace Ben Ali are expected by July or August.
But new protests have erupted in recent days against the interim government tasked with organizing the vote for failing to address rising crime rates and lingering poverty. Tunisia's ouster of Ben Ali -- widely seen as a repressive ruler who raided state coffers -- inspired Egypt's uprising and has also encouraged mass demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world, including in neighboring Libya where scores of people have been shot dead by security forces.
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, traveling with McCain, said the situation in Libya was "tragic".
"The Tunisian military played a constructive role (...) but the military in Libya has been against the people," Lieberman told Reuters. "That is unacceptable."
Growth at stake
Earlier on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a press briefing that Tunisia had a chance to provide a positive model for other countries seeking reform if it can avoid pitfalls on the path to elections.
He said the interim government needed to make constitutional changes and set up institutions to ensure the rule of law for the election to ensure that it passes smoothly.
"We moved into a multi-party system in Turkey in 1946 and our first elections were in 1950," he said. "In Tunisia, there are risks because everything is happening so fast."
Davutoglu, who is also the current president of the Council of Europe, was in Tunisia along with council Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland for a meeting with Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. Jagland said Tunisia's ability to set smooth elections was crucial for its trade ties with Europe.
"It is very important that these processes are entertained in a way that everybody in this society can believe in and have trust in," he said. "This is the only way to come closer to Europe and to form the basis of any economic progress," he told reporters.
Ghannouchi said he was happy with international support for Tunisia's transition.