The ambassadorial crisis has escalated between Turkey and Austria in the weeks before Austrian President Heinz Fischer's scheduled visit to Turkey in May.

In the messages sent to Ankara through diplomatic channels, Austria demanded that Turkey summon its ambassador, Ecvet Tezcan, in
Vienna, who caused a problem with an interview with Die Presse newspaper last November.

The Austrian government said otherwise the president's visit to Turkey might be in danger. In his interview, Ambassador Tezcan criticized Austrian government's policy toward foreigners, and said "Turks in Austria were forced to establish ghettos."


While flying from London to Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the number of deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be 315 at the end of upcoming parliamentary elections.

The reason for Erdoğan's decreasing the number of his party's deputies to 315 is not a decline in votes for the AK Party, but that the High Election Board (YSK) changed numbers of deputies by provinces. The board increased the number of deputies in cities, which will increase CHP deputies.

Erdoğan is strong in rural areas.


Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), opened Deniz Gezmiş Park in Istanbul, and pressed Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with these words.

The CHP leader said his party was the most-prepared party for the general elections. "Our single target is to make Turkey reach contemporary civilization level," Kiliçdaroğlu said.

"We are the only party that is determined to solve Turkey's problems and we are the only
party who think of our people, not our own pockets."


An Ankara ferryboat carried humanitarian aid to Libya, then set sail for Turkey with 290 injured and 80 companions from the ports of
Misurata and Benghazi.

Turkey had contacted Libyan leader Muammar al-Gadhafi and opponents and ensured a temporary ceasefire in order to enable the ferryboat to evacuate the injured. The ferry had to wait off Misurata's coast for
five days.

Some of the ferry passengers are opponents and some of them Gadhafi supporters.


Turkish State Minister & Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc left for the United States on Sunday to sign a cooperation protocol between Turkey's state-run TRT radio & television and the United Nations Television.

Arinc, accompanied by TRT Director General Ibrahim Sahin, told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport prior to his departure that he
would meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday. Next a cooperation protocol would be signed between TRT and UN Television.

"This is a first in the history of TRT, but at the same time this is also very important for the United Nations," Arinc said.

Arinc said he would meet with representatives of Turkish institutions and some think-tank organizations during his two-day stay in New York.

He would then proceed to Washington D.C to meet with representatives of think-tank groups, representatives of minorities, and different belief
groups in Turkey.

A Thursday departure is planned from the United States.


Egemen Bagis, Turkey's state minister for the European Union (EU) and chief negotiator, said on Sunday that Turkey should take its place in
the union.

Bagis said the EU reform process had ensured that Turkey will become a more democratic, modern and prosperous country.

"The EU is not a temporary eagerness or a preference for Turkey. The EU is not only an economic and political union, but in fact it is the most comprehensive peace project in the history of humanity," Bagis said during a meeting in Istanbul.

Bagis said Turkey was the youngest and most dynamic country in Europe, and therefore it should take its place in the EU.

"Our nation wants more democracy, freedom and justice and deserves it. Nobody can prevent Turkey's EU membership as long as we are determined and we believe in this process," he said.

Bagis also said the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) would prepare a new civilian constitution after the general elections scheduled for June 12.

Turkey became an EU candidate country in December 1999. The EU launched accession talks with Turkey on October 3, 2005. The EU has so far opened 13 of the 35 chapter headings to negotiations with Turkey.


Turkey's main opposition party's visit to Washington revealed concerns toward the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and curiosity towards the Republican People's Party (CHP), through questions asked by American officials, congressmen and think tanks, a member of the party's delegation said Sunday.

"There were two tracks in our meetings in Washington: questions regarding the AKP government and curiosity about the CHP and how it looks at Turkey's problems," Faruk Loğoğlu, foreign policy advisor to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and a member of the party assembly, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.

A group of CHP members visited Washington last week and held meetings with a wide range of officials. The group was the first CHP delegation to visit Washington, D.C. in more than five years.

"We observed that there is an AKP government whose practices are being questioned in various circles in Washington: the steps taken by the
government in the sphere of democracy, freedom of expression, pressure on the media and the situation of the economy," said Loğoğlu.

He told the Daily News that questions about the Armenian and Cyprus issues as well as Turkey's Kurdish problem and terrorism stemming from
the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), were hardly mentioned. More common were questions like: "Why are the journalists in Turkey being jailed?" "What is the status of democracy in Turkey?" "Does the CHP feel any pressure?"

"We were subjected to questions that were hiding concerns," Loğoğlu said.

Asked if he was surprised, as a veteran diplomat who served as Turkey's ambassador to Washington from 2001 to 2005, Loğoğlu said, "That was a pleasant surprise."

Curiosity about new CHP

According to Loğoğlu, Washington insiders had questions about the CHP, the new face of the party under the leadership of Kılıçdaroğlu
and the chance of the party winning the June 12 general elections.

CHP's leader Kılıçdaroğlu earlier announced that he would not visit Washington in the run-up to the elections in an effort not to give an image that the opposition party gets consent from the United States.

The goal of the trip by the five-member party delegation, was to explain the CHP's changing face to a large group of people there, said Loğoğlu.

"Our mission was only to tell about the CHP; we did not want anything from anyone. Americans we met asked how they can help Turkey, not the CHP, and my answer was that they can help only by defending the values they advocate for American citizens, for Turkey and the region as well. That's it. We do not want anything more than that," he said.

Loğoğlu said in their answers to the questions, the CHP delegation never targeted the AKP.

"We did not articulate the name of the AKP, except from some exceptional cases. We have talked about the mistakes made in Turkey and
we did not say they were made because of the AKP. We have always avoided showing the AKP as a target," he noted.

The group's meetings with Pentagon officials, State Department and National Security Council officials also included the Libya mission as
well as the latest wave of change in the Arab world.

The CHP delegation also met with Israeli lobbies who, Loğoğlu said, were concerned with the Turkish-Israeli relations that were strained
after the Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla left nine people dead last May.


Alevi organizations in Turkey have expressed dissatisfaction over the final report prepared by the government after a series of government-led Alevi workshops.

"The report is not satisfactory and seems to be an election ploy. It doesn't meet the Alevis' demands which have been voiced for years," Ercan Geçmez, president of the Hacı Bektaş Veli Anatolian Culture Foundation, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

"In response to some of our demands including the recognition of cemevis as legitimate places of worship, they [the government] pointed to some Republican reforms as an excuse, thus exposing us against some certain [secular] circles," he said.

"They likewise emphasize the necessity and importance of constitutional change with regard to our demand of an end to mandatory religious
education. This proposal similarly remains insincere given the fact that the government already made constitutional amendments that were approved in the referendum last year," Geçmez said.

The government would have made the necessary constitutional change on the issue and put them in the reform package at the time if they had
been sincere, he said.

Alevis, are members of a community widely perceived as a liberal branch of Islam. Alevi organizations have long raised several demands whichinclude: the recognition of cemevis as legitimate places of worship for Alevis; an end to mandatory religious education; and the transformation of the Madımak Hotel into a museum. (In 1993 37 Alevi artists and
intellectuals died in a fire set by a crowd of fundamentalists at the hotel.)

They have also demanded the dissolution of the Religious Affairs Directorate, which is currently dominated by the country's Sunni majority, and the abolition of compulsory religious courses from the school's curriculum, which they criticized for only teaching Sunni Islam. They demanded mandatory religious courses be optional.

The report, announced Thursday as the culmination of seven Alevi workshops led by the government, included rather ambiguous solution
proposals and gestures instead of suggesting concrete answers to Alevis' basic demands on education, cemevis and the religious directorate.

The report suggested a constitutional change for the compulsory religious courses while granting the right to determine the content of compulsory or selective religion classes to the Alevi community. The current religious courses should be rearranged so as to be in equal distance to all beliefs, the report said.

The report advised that cemevis should have a legal status and a legal commission should be set up to produce a formula in line with the
constitution for those who don't want to benefit from the religious directorate's services.

The report highlighted that the possible constitutional arrangements on these issues should not contradict the Republican reforms.

Regarding the Madımak Hotel, the report called for renovation of a portion of the building as a memorial for those who lost their lives there.

Ali Balkız, former head of the Alevi-Bektaşi Federation, said the Alevis had been cheated as their basic demands on cemevis, Madımak and religious courses were not met, while Fermani Altun, head of the World Ehl-i Beyt Foundation, praised the government's Alevi initiative as a crucial step to further democratization.

The Madımak Hotel problem was solved, he said, and it was understood that constitutional reforms constituted the major obstacle before the
solution of other problems. A new civilian Constitution is needed, he said.

Fevzi Gümüş, chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association (PSAKD), said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government put forward the Republican reforms as an "excuse" to not solve the Alevi community's problems.

From the beginning Alevis asked for the abolishment of Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution, making "Religious Culture and Moral Education" a compulsory course for primary and secondary school students, but the report simply asked for an evaluation of the article within Republican reforms. None of our demands are related to the Republican reforms. We want a legal status for cemevis, for instance.
They can't raise them as justification in solution of our problems," Gümüş said.

"Besides, in some cases, the government hasn't hesitated to confront the Republican values. They shouldn't introduce these old laws as an excuse."

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