ERDOGAN ANNOUNCES PARTY MANIFESTO AND BUILDING PLANS
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that they would build two new cities in Istanbul. He also announced his party's election manifesto for the upcoming June 12 parliamentary elections in Ankara.
"We will build two new cities in Istanbul due to high population; one of them on the European side and the other on the Anatolian side," he said.
U.S. TRAINED ACTIVISTS IN TURKEY
According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Department of State trained activists in authoritarian regimes about how to use the Internet effectively.
Since 2008, the Internet freedom initiative has instructed more than 5,000 political activists while attending 100 training sessions. Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq have activists who participated in these sessions. Trainees are taught to use encrypted Internet tunnels that hide a user's location and identity.
ILHAN CIHANER ON LIST OF CANDIDATES
The Supreme Board of Election (YSK) warned main opposition CHP to revise its list of candidates from the western province of Denizli.
As a result, CHP executives put İlhan Cihaner, a former chief public prosecutor of Erzincan, on the second place on the list.
ERDOGAN SAYS HE WILL SOLVE KURDISH ISSUE
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that they would solve the issue on the basis of freedom and democracy.
Prime Minister Erdogan announced his party's election manifesto for the upcoming June 12 parliamentary elections in Turkey. Erdogan said that election manifesto titled "Turkey is ready... Target 2023..." was a road map which covers the 12-year period until 2023, which marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic.
The Prime Minister said that they would focus on the law and political parties, stating that they would re-shape laws on financing political parties and political ethics within the scope of the new constitution.
"We will continue our National Unity and Brotherhood Project with a great determination in the coming period. We will focus on the justice system in the coming period and trials would be concluded more rapidly. Our plan is to increase the number of judges and prosecutors," Erdogan said.
ANTI-SYRIA PROTESTS IN ISTANBUL
Pro-Islamic activists denounced Syrian leader Bashar Assad for his security forces' violent crackdown of protests in Istanbul, following Friday prayers at a mosque in Istanbul.
Some 300 Turkish worshippers held funeral prayers for the Syrians killed during the demonstrations outside Istanbul's historic Beyazit mosque. Some of them chanted: "The oppressors will drown in the blood of the martyrs."
Over the past weeks, Syrian forces have fired tear gas and live bullets at protesters, who are demanding greater reforms than the limited concessions offered by Assad. A key demand is the end to the decades-old emergency laws, which allow the regime a free hand to arrest people without charges.
Turkey has urged Syria's leader to carry out widespread reforms.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN MISRATA (LIBYA) DISCUSSSED AT NATO MEETING
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday that the issue of Libya and the humanitarian crisis in Misrata were the main issues discussed in the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin.
Speaking to Turkish reporters at the Turkish Embassy in Berlin following the NATO foreign ministers meeting, Davutoglu said that all of the participants of the NATO meeting expressed appreciation of Turkey's humanitarian assistance in Libya as well as their diplomatic and political efforts. NATO members requested further information on Turkey's efforts, Davutoglu also said.
Davutoglu later departed from Berlin for Turkey.
GREENS PROTEST NUCLEAR POWER PLANT PLAN
Environmentalists formed a human chain and called on the government to abandon its plan to build a nuclear power plant in the southern province of Mersin.
The participants held hands and formed a chain of 159 km. During the demonstration they chanted slogans against the building of the nuclear power plant.
ISLAMISTS FORGOT THE PEOPLE
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, has indicated that the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) forgot people in its election declaration.
"The AK Party's projects do not include people. They are trying to transfer resources to some circles," he said.
The Turkish Space Agency will become operational within the next four years.
The ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party's election declaration, made public by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, included a number of new projects from the establishment of the Turkish Space Agency to fighting against cyber threats.
Accordingly, the Turkish Space Agency will be ready by 2015 and Turkey will increase the number of its satellites to seven by 2019.
KURDISH OPINION LEADER CALLS FOR PKK CEASEFIRE
Turan Saritemur, a prominent Kurdish intellectual in Turkey, has urged the PKK to declare an unconditional ceasefire before the June general elections.
"A weapons-free environment is the key to creating a new constitution. If you use that weapon as a threat, you could miss the opportunity," Saritemur said.
TURKEY AND IRAN OPEN THIRD BORDER CROSSING
Iran and Turkey have opened a third border crossing at Kapıköy in eastern Turkey's Van province, in what the foreign ministers of both countries called a symbol of friendship amid increased regional cooperation efforts.
"Our prime minister has set a target of $30 billion in annual trade with Iran. That is why we are opening this border crossing. We are announcing to the world that Turkey and Iran will be friends for eternity," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Saturday.
Iran's [state run] media in Iran quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying: "This border is a symbol of peace and friendship and the resurrection of the Silk Road, which for centuries played an important role in making the economy of the region flourish. It also will help the development of the border area and welfare of its residents."
Salehi said trade between Turkey and Iran currently stands at $11 billion annually, a figure he said the two countries are trying to raise to $30 billion.
The joint border between the two countries runs for 499 kilometers and already has crossing points at Gürbulak, in the eastern province of Ağrı, and at Esendere, southeast of Van.
Davutoğlu said a fourth border crossing would be opened in June at Esendere. A fifth will follow at Dilucu in northeast Turkey, he said, without giving a date for its opening.
The opening of the border was carried out amid a summit between Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan, whose foreign ministers met Saturday in Urmia, a city in northwestern Iran and the capital of the West Azerbaijan Province.
A proclamation released following the meeting announced the establishment of a new trilateral mechanism that aims to boost trade, energy, transportation and scientific relations between the three countries.
"An economic committee will be set up for the development of economic and trade relations through joint ventures, modernization of border gates, facilitation of customs and application of preferential trade between Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan," read the joint communiqué released following the meeting between Davutoğlu, Salehi and Azerbaijan's Elmar Memmedyarov.
The mechanism also envisions eliminating disagreements between Tehran and Baku over Iran's northwestern province, where a majority of the population is of Azerbaijani descent.
Every country has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, abiding by the rules of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the communiqué said. The statement was a clear reference to Iran's controversial nuclear program and Turkey's expectations that Tehran comply with international norms on the issue.
The three countries will take joint steps to strengthen cooperation in the fields of trade, industry, joint ventures, transportation, communication, energy, tourism, science and technology. They will also let their intelligence services and security units work cooperatively against terrorism, organized crime and the smuggling of drugs, weapons and humans.
Underscoring recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, where thousands of people are revolting against suppressive governments, the communiqué called on all countries to heed the demands of their people and not commit violence against their citizens. This part of the document could also be seen as a message to the Iranian leadership, which has not refrained from violently squelching frequent protests against the country's government.
The three ministers agreed to meet every six months; their next summit will be in November, in the Nakhchivan autonomous region of Azerbaijan.
TURKEY AND THE ARAB WORLD TO ELIMINATE PREJUDICES, REWRITE TEXTBOOKS
Turkish-Arab relations have turned a new page with the opening of an Arab League office in Turkey, a move that heralds an effort to erase negative historical preconceptions and work together closely in the future.
"Arab and Turkish people were far from each other, despite being neighbors and having a common history and the same aspirations," Ambassador Mohammed Al-Fatah Naciri, the Arab League's representative to Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview late last week.
Admitting that the mission to Turkey was "opened very late," Naciri said both sides are now seeking to "end problems and start a new page in relations. We have a lot of common interests that would fulfill our people's [expectations]," he said, explaining that Turkey and the Arab League have co-launched an initiative challenging the way the history of the region has typically been taught on both sides.
"Ministers of higher education and deans of universities are coming together from Turkey and the Arab world," Naciri said. "We are looking at our syllabuses, at the way history is written about Arabs in Turkey and about Turks and Ottoman in the Arab world. We are looking at how we can remedy this."
There is a widespread negative prejudice against Arab people in Turkey, where much of the public believes that Arab nations betrayed the Ottoman Empire during its decline in the early 20th century. The same is also true for many Arabs whose ancestors lived for centuries under Ottoman reign. The current Turkish government's efforts to improve ties with the Arab world have, however, created a drastically transformed environment that allows for the flourishing of the centuries-old connections and relations.
"Changing the prejudices created by history books is a priority for the Arab League," Naciri said, adding that was one of the discussion points when the group signed a cooperation agreement with Turkey. He said, Turkey and the Arab world are not mentioned in positive terms in each others' textbooks, something the ambassador described as "bad literature."
"This is one of the subjects we put as a priority; we have to review how we see each other," he said. "There is a lot of bad literature that we have to remove. We won't falsify history, but we have to review how we present the image of each party," Naciri said.
Commission to be set up
"A commission will be set up to address this issue will also work to improve knowledge of each other's languages, Turkish and Arabic, to create diploma equivalences and to arrange for the educational systems in Turkey and Arab countries to work together and exchange professors and students," Naciri said.
Praising the role of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in the rapprochement between Turks and the Arab world, the ambassador said the first steps in this regard were taken by the late President Turgut Özal in the early 1990s, but that the desired outcome could not be accomplished at that time.
Naciri also addressed ongoing concerns that Turkey's warming relations with the Arab world represent a shift in the traditional "Western orientation" of the European Union candidate country.
"I disagree with this argument," the Arab League ambassador said. "Turkey is emerging as a regional power, producing more merchandise to sell. Turkey will want to trade with other partners; it cannot be dependent on only the European Union and the United States. What is wrong about that?"
Underscoring the importance of establishing close economic relations between Turkey and the Arab world, Naciri said this would keep relations from being "threatened by minor problems."
Arab cooperation with TOKİ
"Turkey and the Arab League will hold a ministerial forum this year that will focus on cooperation in higher education, industry and foreign policy," Naciri said. He added that "social housing would also be on the agenda of the meeting, in which Turkey's Housing Development Administration (TOKI), will take part."
Noting that Turkey is a major player in the construction sector, Naciri said, "TOKİ came up with an initiative to cooperate. We are bringing technicians and experts [together] to exchange our experiences and cooperate."
TURKISH MINISTER BAGIS SLAMS ISRAEL IN DEFENSE OF ELECTORAL THRESHOLD
Defying European Union requests to slash the national electoral threshold from the current level of 10 percent, Turkey's chief EU negotiator used the negative example of Israel on Sunday to bolster his argument on political stability.
"In Israel, they have a foreign minister who flushes the toilet as he speaks on the radio," State Minister Egemen Bağış said, speaking Sunday during a TV program. "The guy in his youth was a nightclub bodyguard in Moldova. He still thinks of himself as one and cannot pass on to being a statesman. Israel's foreign policy has been entrusted to this man because they don't have an election threshold."
In order for Turkey not to end up in a similar situation, "stability has to be protected while creating space for different ideas," Bağış said.
Responding to a question on the possibility of a "civilian diktat" in the aftermath of the June 12 general election, Bağış mentioned that his Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been in power for the past nine years. "Whose life standards have we poked our noses into? Who has meddled with people's choices in this country? These are artificial concerns," he said.
Bağış also fiercely criticized the country's opposition parties, accusing them of "acting as cloaks for some deep [illegal] organizations. "Opposition parties are in collaboration with some individuals who are accused of having links to gangs. The last-minute changes in their [parliamentary candidate] lists show that the [reins] they have handed over to those gangs has not been enough," Bağış said.
During his TV appearance, Bağış was asked about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Erdoğan "emphasized an unease over the long periods of detention" during the ongoing Ergenekon trials, according to the minister. I hope the process is solved as fast as possible and [the judiciary separates the grain from the chaff]. We want this more than anybody else does," he said, adding that Turkish prosecutors are not taking people into custody "just the sake of it."
Apparently responding to criticism that the AKP has lost sight of the EU membership target, Bağış said the process would accelerate after the election.
"Turkey will complete its homework by 2014. It will implement the necessary legal changes. Afterwards, it's about attaining political rapprochement," Bağış said.
Bağış claimed that Turkey has "finished up the work" that is enough to open twenty-nine chapters within the EU accession talks, but that there are political obstacles. "We need to be patient. They want us to throw in the towel, but we won't do this," he said.
Speaking about the Halki Seminary on Istanbul's Princes' Islands, Bağış said Greece also has to take some steps before it can be reopened. "In Athens, there still is no Muslim cemetery, or a mosque for worship," he said.
Family insurance proposal
In a separate speech in Istanbul's Maltepe district Sunday, Bağış mocked the "family insurance" promise of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). The Turkish nation "does not need fake Gandhis," he said, referring to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Questioning how the CHP would find the resources to carry out such a plan, Bağış said the proposal promises "many times the amount of the Turkish national budget."
The CHP's family insurance proposal involves a monthly payment of between 125 and 1,250 Turkish Liras to families that live below the poverty level.
"When we ask where he will find the resources for this, [Kılıçdaroğlu] responds by saying, 'My name is Kemal.' We like Kemals, for sure," Bağış was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. "But which Kemal are you? You are surely not Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] nor Namık Kemal. You can, at most, be a fake Gandhi Kemal," he said.