FAREWELL TO ISLAMIST ICON
Yesterday former Prime Minister and Felicity Party chairman Necmettin Erbakan was laid to rest at Merkezefendi Cemetery after a ceremony in Istanbul that was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
Erbakan's body was brought to Fatih Mosque in Istanbul in a private airplane. Second funeral prayers for Erbakan were performed in the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul at noon yesterday. High-level officials of the state barely avoided the risk of being trapped in the crowd. First Army Commander Gen. Hayri Kivrikoglu and several officers attended the ceremony.
URAS ASKED FOR HOUSE ARREST FOR OCALAN
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin responded to Ufuk Uras's proposal to "keep head terrorist Abdullah Öcalan under house arrest," adding that, "the society is not ready."
The Peace & Democracy Party (BDP) lawmaker Ufuk Uras suggested the proposal to Ergin: "Öcalan can be taken to a place other than İmralı. He could also be kept under house arrest [there]." Uras said he could allocate his own plan.
Ergin responded: "The conjuncture is not appropriate right now, and we do not welcome it. People are not ready."
A surprise remark came from Çetin Soysal, of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). as he visited the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Soysal said: "We should refrain from discussions, and nobody's nose should bleed from now on."
Journalists asked CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to comment on this remark. Kılıçdaroğlu said: "If a trial is deemed [appropriate], that practice should be maintained. I do not know under which circumstances Soysal made those remarks."
MERKEL AND SELOCAN EMBRACED EACH OTHER
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the debut of Turkey at the Cebit International 2011 in Hanover, Germany.
Ninety-two Turkish companies joined 4,200 other companies from 68 countries at the trade show.
Merkel said: "I am glad about the establishment of a bridge of information technology between Turkey and Germany."
Merkel also welcomed "Selocan," the mascot of Turkish cell-phone operator Turkcell.
BALBAY AND OZKAN KEPT IN SINGLE PRISON CELLS
On February 28th suspects in the Ergenekon case were transferred to the Silivri Prison No:1 from Silivri Prison No: 4 and 5. Journalists Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, who once stayed in the same room, were moved to single cells.
Lawyers defined the decision as "torture." Balbay and Özkan sent a petition to parliament in which they said they did not have adequate security. Balbay and Özkan said: "We were taken by force at 3 a.m. under an instruction from Ankara. Mustafa Balbay was taken to F-3 and Tuncay Özkan to B-3. Is this change oppression or revenge? Which law permits the imprisonment of two prisoners, who have not received a discipline punishment, to be moved to solitary confinement without cause?"
BRITISH NEWSPAPER APOLOGIZES
The British Daily Telegraph newspaper, which claimed that Justice & Development Party (AK) received 25 million U.S. dollars of election assistance from Iran, wrote: "We admit that we were briefed incorrectly and our allegations are not accurate. Neither Erdoğan nor his political party (AK) reached any agreement with Iran or accepted donations from Iran."
AS NATO CONSIDERS NO-FLY ZONE OVER LIBYA, TURKEY DEMURS
Over the weekend, Turkey continued to play the role of outsider as world powers began discussing a no-fly zone over Libya and a possible military intervention, following a U.N. Security Council decision to impose sanctions on Libya.
"Reporters have been asking me whether or not NATO should intervene in Libya. It is such nonsense. What does NATO have to do with Libya? NATO's intervention in Libya is out of the question. We are against such a thing," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late Monday in a speech to the Turkish-German Economy Congress in Hanover, Germany.
Clashes between security forces and protesters seeking the removal of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi have left hundreds dead in the North Africa country.
"There has been no preparation for intervention in Libya under the framework of NATO," an official from Turkish Foreign Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday, emphasizing that the U.N. Security Council is the organization involved in the Libyan crisis and that Turkey is closely monitoring developments there.
The United States and its allies have also suggested a no-fly zone over Libya to stop alleged atrocities committed by forces loyal to the regime, but experts have warned such a move may be politically problematic, and carries military risks.
"If not configured properly, the no-fly zones can be worse than useless, signaling fecklessness instead of resolve while providing little real protective value to civilians," said Michael Knights, a military analyst for a Washington think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"For the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya, a resolution by the U.N. Security Council is needed, and it's not clear what China, for example, a veto-wielding power in the council, would say yes this time," said a Ankara-based defense analyst who asked not to be named. "In addition, NATO cannot be involved, because Turkey would veto it."
Turkey opposed sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council over the weekend, saying the measures would hurt the Libyan people more than the embattled Gadhafi, whose regime is accused of killing civilians and opposition members amid ongoing protests. Turkey's stance makes it in the role of an outlier, as world leaders discuss a no-fly zone and possible military intervention.
"A no-fly zone is an option we are actively considering. I discussed it today with our allies and partners and we will continue to consider it.
What I said in my remarks is that all options are on the table," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Geneva on Monday.
The Pentagon said early Tuesday that the U.S. military is repositioning its forces near North Africa as the U.S. and its allies consider whether to establish a no-fly zone over the country, where a resistance army is building against Gadhafi.
According to a report by U.S. TV network Fox News, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the military is repositioning forces to be ready to assist in Libya. Most likely, U.S. forces would be asked to provide humanitarian relief, though no decision has been made and the State Department has not yet made a request to the U.S. military.
"The United States is serious, it openly says Gadhafi must go and most probably is preparing for some kind of military action," one Washington-based analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday. "If this military action happens, this means the U.S. and Turkey are opposing each other, again, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq."
The concept of no-fly zones first came to the fore 20 years ago in the wake of the Persian Gulf War, when U.S. allies initiated Operation Provide Comfort to protect northern Iraqi Kurds who were engaged in revolt from attacks by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces. Iraqi units were forbidden to operate north of the 36th parallel.
Based in Turkish territory, the operation's original members included the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, the Netherlands and Turkey. Originally the force also had a land-based element. A similar operation was later launched over southern Iraq to protect "marsh Arabs" against Hussein.
In July 1991, the northern force transformed into Operation Provide Comfort II, which only involved the Air Force and included the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey. At the beginning of 1997, the operation's name became Operation Northern Watch and France dropped from membership.
This force came under constant Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in the first several months of 1999, and U.S. aircraft responded by bombing Iraqi air-defense sites. Low-level conflict continued up until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although the number of hostile incidents declined dramatically after 1999.
But Operation Provide Comfort and its successors over northern Iraq were replete with political and military-related problems.
"These operations constantly were a source of dispute between Turkey, the host country, and the U.S.," said the Ankara-based Turkish defense analyst. "Some in successive Turkish governments and the Turkish public generally believed that the U.S.-led operations were actually aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK]. Actually, these operations marked the beginning of anti-Americanism in Turkey."
No-fly operations also incur some military hardships, according to analyst Knights. "Collateral damage among civilian and friendly forces is always a risk, as occurred April 14, 1994, when two U.S. helicopters were destroyed by other U.S. aircraft in the northern no-fly zone, killing 26 coalition personnel," Knights said in a Washington Institute policy paper released over the weekend.
"No-fly zone operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 struggled to protect civilians against repression and functioned primarily as a means to demonstrate resolve and build consensus for future military operations," he said.
In the event the U.S. and some of its allies were to pursue exclusion zones in Libya, Knights advised these world forces "to seek out a clear mandate from the U.N. Security Council, which provided the foundation for previous no-fly zones; to make the prohibitions mandated by no-fly and no-drive zones as clear as possible; and to provide a way out of an open-ended commitment, by seeking a U.N. resolution that requires renewal within a specified time limit."
In his remarks on the possibility of a military intervention in Libya, Erdoğan criticized the international community without naming any country. "We are not one of those who see oil when looking at the Middle East," Erdoğan said Sunday. "We are not one of those who see unearned income when looking at the Balkans. We are not one of those who look at the Caucasus, Asia and Africa with interest considerations."
Following Erdoğan's remarks that NATO has nothing to do with Libya, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva. Diplomatic sources said Libya and Iran were the prominent issues on the agenda. The two ministers discussed the developments in Bahrain, Libya, Tunis, Egypt and Yemen, an official said, adding that Secretary Clinton did not mention anything about a possible U.S. intervention in Libya.
The North Atlantic Council declared Friday that the alliance would not intervene in the Libyan crisis, but will continue to monitor the situation closely in coordination with other international organizations.
TURKISH PRIME MINISTER'S FIERY RHETORIC MAY BURN EU HOPES
Turkey's tough language toward the European Union, seen as a way for the government to rally domestic political support, may also erode public confidence in the idea of joining the bloc, experts have said.
"Instead of repairing the difficult relations and waiting for the political outlook of today to improve, making assertive statements that put relations into further difficulty does not serve the intended goal [of EU membership]," Sinan Ülgen, an EU expert at the Istanbul-based Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
Commenting on Turkey's stalled bid for EU membership, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Germany over the weekend that the European bloc was becoming a Christian union, not an alliance of civilizations.
"If they do not want Turkey in, they should say this openly … and then we will mind our own business and will not bother them," Erdoğan said, speaking in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I do not have a hidden agenda and I do speak clearly ... Don't stall us ... Let's not stall each other."
The prime minister's comments were the latest in a string of remarks made by government officials indicating that Turkey's patience with the European Union is running out. The country's chief negotiator for EU talks, Egemen Bağış, recently said the bloc could "pull the plug" on the accession bid if it wanted, while Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan accused the EU of becoming an inward-looking "Christian club."
Some observers believe that such statements, in addition to being a domestic political tactic ahead of the June 12 general elections, could also pave the way for Turkey to abandon the EU bid in the future.
"Such statements will undoubtedly shake the trust of the public but Turkey has made serious strides over the last couple of years, both politically and economically, boosting its self-confidence," said Ceren Mutuş, an EU expert with the Ankara-based think tank USAK. "Turkey, always deemed by the EU as an unqualified student, is today a country that can develop strategies and is held up as a role model in the Middle East. This could give both the government and the Turkish public the upper hand to face off against the EU in the coming period," Mutuş said.
Turkey and the EU formally began accession talks in 2005, but little progress has been made due to Ankara's refusal to open its ports to shipping from EU member Greek Cyprus, and because of stiff opposition from key bloc members Germany and France.
Thirteen chapters have been opened in Turkey's accession negotiations; France is blocking the opening of five chapters, while the European Commission froze eight chapters in response to Ankara's failure to open its ports. This leaves only three chapters that Turkish officials say do not carry any "political baggage," but Turkey has been reluctant to fulfill the benchmarks required to open the competition, social policy and public procurement chapters.
"Turkey's eventual membership in the EU is as important to Turkey and its people as it is to the EU given our common commercial, cultural, political, security and other interests. This is a strategic goal that both sides have worked toward for some time," an EU diplomat told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"It is too important to give up or undermine. We understand that the unilateral blocks on several negotiation chapters are frustrating for Turkey, just as the lack of progress on implementing the [benchmarks]... With patience and diplomatic efforts on all sides, these obstacles can be overcome," the diplomat said.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule recently expressed concerns about the harm the upcoming June 12 general elections in Turkey may cause in Turkey's EU accession process. He said Turkey was a good example and source of inspiration for the North African states, adding that he was concerned about the growing disappointment in Turkey with the EU.
"I have doubts about the upcoming elections," Fule was quoted as saying.
Erdoğan had planned to make a one-day visit Tuesday to the EU Commission, but the trip was postponed so the prime minister could attend the Istanbul funeral of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who died Sunday.
"We all know what is causing the problems in Turkish-EU relations under the current circumstances. They will not be overcome overnight," said EU expert Ülgen, calling for responsible and constructive leadership on the issue.