TURKEY'S TOP COURT CHIEF HIGHLIGHTS ELECTION THRESHOLD CONCERNS
Political parties that are not represented in Parliament should be included in the process of drafting a new constitution to overcome the 10% election threshold, Turkey's top court chief said Monday.
"We see that a huge segment of society remains unrepresented of Parliament because of the 10% election threshold," Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç said in response to media members' questions following a ceremony marking the court's 49th anniversary.
Parties need to earn at least 10% of the votes in a general election to be represented in Turkey's Parliament.
"If the constitution is a social compromise and agreement, the [parties] should be included in the process. If the 10% election threshold is not abolished or lowered, then their views should be taken into account via dialogue," Kılıç said.
The absence of Council of State head Mustafa Birden and Supreme Court of Appeals chief Hasan Gerçeker was noticeable at the ceremony, which was attended by President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Neither judicial figure attended the oath-taking ceremony of a newly elected Constitutional Court member in February at which Kılıç urged the bodies led by Birden and Gerçeker critically to assess their own reactions to the government-led constitutional amendments restructuring both institutions.
Asked to comment on Birden and Gerçeker's absence from the Constitutional Court anniversary ceremony, Kılıç said an invitation was extended but their attendance at the event was at their discretion.
"There is no room for resentment in the state. We will of course criticize, but we will find the truth in the end," Kılıç said, adding that he respected their choice not to attend.
Criticism of BDP, opposition
In his remarks, Kılıç also addressed the recent political turmoil and street protests surrounding the Supreme Election Board, or YSK's, decision – later partly reversed – barring some independent deputies, including pro-Kurdish candidates, from running in the June 12 general election.
"The recent political turmoil revealed the fact that the content of the laws regulating Turkey's Constitution and political life is full of mines and it is not certain when they will explode," Kılıç said.
In his speech, the top court chief called for the abolishment of antidemocratic elements of the Constitution and laws affecting political rights.
"Terrorizing society, and making streets unlivable places by putting forward negative developments stemming from the legal arrangements and practices, have not solved the problems at any time in history," Kılıç said, indirectly criticizing the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, for the increasing tension in the country.
"The ties with democracy shouldn't be broken while solving the problem. No [demand] for freedom can be an excuse for terror and violence," he said. "Those who collaborate with terror in enjoying their rights and freedoms cannot have the right to expect democratic behavior or patience from anyone."
Kılıç also criticized, again without naming them, the opposition parties and deputies who opposed the constitutional amendments that restructured the top court and promoted the social and economic benefits of the court members, moves he said were decided by Parliament.
"We passionately refuse the evaluations made by some deputies via such words that I am ashamed of repeating them. Nobody has the right to smear the court based on claims without any legal and moral base by using their parliamentary immunity," he said.
President Abdullah Gül expressed his satisfaction with the constitutional amendments.
US ARMS INDUSTRY MAKES STRONG COMEBACK TO TURKISH MARKET
Turkey's utility helicopter program has been designed for maximum local industry contribution. As a result Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, the programs' prime contractor, and other Turkish companies will manufacture 50% of the platform in financial terms. This means that half of the $3.5 billion priced tag will remain in Turkey.
For long a time, the United States defense giants have failed to win a lucrative Turkish contract in the face of competition from European and non-European rivals, but the spell was broken last week when Sikorsky Aircraft, a top US helicopter maker, grabbed the competition to lead the production of Turkey's next utility helicopter for the military.
Under the move by Turkey's top decision-making body on defense procurement last Thursday, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a United Technologies company, defeated Italy's AgustaWestland in a $3.5 billion competition to lead the joint manufacture of 109 T-70 platforms, a Turkish version of the company's S-70 Black Hawk International.
AgustaWestland is a subsidiary owned by the Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica, the closest defense partner for Turkey in recent years. It was competing with the TUHP-149, a proposed Turkish version for its newly developed AW-149.
Turkey has two methods of defense procurement from foreign sources. The first is single-source purchases through government-to-government agreements, and the second is commercial tenders that are international competitions where more than one foreign company is competing.
In the first method, the U.S. is still the largest supplier of Turkey's weapons systems. For example the U.S.'s Lockheed Martin will provide Turkey with 30 modern F-16 Block 50 fighter aircraft worth nearly $1.8 billion soon. Lockheed Martin is also modernizing most of Turkey's older F-16 jets.
In addition Turkey is taking part in the Lockheed Matin-led, multinational program for new-generation and stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II fighter aircraft, and plans to buy around 100 aircraft.
But in commercial tenders, U.S. companies have been failing against other foreign firms in the past 10 years. For example, in 2007 AgustaWestland won a multibillion-dollar Turkish tender to provide the Turkish Army with 51 T129 attack helicopters. Later the company grabbed another contract to make Turkey another nine T129s.
Also, U.S. companies, over the past 10 years, lost bids against Israeli firms to modernize the M-60 main battle tanks and to buy unmanned aerial vehicles. In addition, a South Korean company, Korean Aerospace Industries, won a Turkish tender for basic trainer aircraft; and an Italian company, Telespazio, topped U.S. rivals and won a Turkish contract to build a military satellite.
Turkey in recent years managed locally to design, develop and produce most of what it needed for its Land Forces and Navy by manufacturing armored vehicles and smaller vessels, and its new defense industry strategy calls for greater self-sufficiency in other fields, including some fixed-wing and rotating-wing aircraft.
Sikorsky is no stranger to the Turkish military. In the 1990s it sold more than 100 S-70 Black Hawk International helicopters in two batches. In 2006, it finalized a deal to sell 17 S-70B Seahawk naval warfare helicopters to the Turkish Navy. Recently it started deliveries, and in the face of a delay in deliveries, it accepted a Turkish request to provide an 18th S-70B free of charge.
Sikorsky Aircraft, based in Stratford, Connecticut, was founded in 1925 by aircraft engineer Igor Sikorsky, an American immigrant originally born in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
AgustaWestland said it was disappointed it had lost the latest utility helicopter competition to Sikorsky.
"Unfortunately Turkey's decision was to opt for an old design of helicopter instead of leveraging on the fruitful collaboration and advantages achieved with the T129 program for attack helicopters," said Ugo Rossini, vice president head of AgustaWestland for Europe. "With that decision, Turkey's aerospace industry has lost a unique opportunity to become a major player in the helicopter industry through the co-development of a new generation of helicopter."
But Turkish procurement officials said Sikorsky Aircraft's financial and commercial cooperation package was better and more concrete, providing Turkey with benefits worth billions of dollars for the $3.5 billion utility helicopter program.
Now, whether the U.S. defense industry's comeback to the Turkish market will remain in place will mostly be up to who wins a new multibillion-dollar Turkish contract for long-range missile and air defense systems.
For that program the U.S. Raytheon-Lockheed Martin is offering its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems, and is in competition with the Italian-French MBDA, Europe's largest missile maker competing with Aster 30 SAMP/T, and Russian and Chinese rivals.
Most defense experts here suggest that the Chinese and Russian options are not compatible with NATO systems, so the actual competition will take place between the PAC-3 and SAMP/T systems.
In addition, the U.S. so far has not accepted a Turkish request made more than two years ago for the purchase of MQ-9 Reaper armed drones. "It will remain to be seen whether the positive climate between the U.S. and Turkey created by Turkey's selection of Sikorsky Aircraft will extend to cover the sale of Reapers," said one defense analyst.
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STATEMENTS ON APRIL 24 DISREGARD GREAT PAIN OF OTTOMAN MUSLIMS, TCA SAYS
President of the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) Lincoln McCurdy said Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama's statements on April 23 were a continuation of the mentality of a missionary that disregarded the great pains caused by the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims.
In a written statement released Sunday, the TCA said that five million Ottoman Muslims were killed in the 19th century and early 20th century.
The TCA believes that, unless the tragedy experienced by the Ottoman Muslims gets recognized, a reconciliation between Turks and Armenians is not possible, the TCA statement said.
U.S. President Obama described the incidents of 1915 as a "great tragedy" in a presidential statement he released on April 23 about the incidents of 1915.
In his message, Obama used the Armenian expression "Meds Yeghern," meaning "great tragedy," while describing the incidents of 1915, just as he did in a similar statement last year.
Meanwhile, a group of Turks and Armenians held rallies in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington on Sunday.
Turkish-Americans from various states held banners that carried slogans about Turks massacred by Armenians in 1915 and Turkish diplomats assassinated by Armenian terrorists.
The Turkish Ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan, said, in reference to the Turkish-Americans' rally, that a threshold was passed "today. For the first time, the number of Turkish-Americans holding a rally was higher than the number of Armenian-Americans".
ANKARA ON ALERT OVER ESCALATING TENSION IN SYRIA
Turkey is alarmed at the escalating tension in neighboring Syria, where security forces' deadly crackdowns on protesters threaten to trigger a flood of refugees across the border, Turkish officials have said.
"Syria is the top priority for us," a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday. "We have already taken measures considering all sorts of scenarios, including massive migration and other potential complications."
Turkey has called its ambassador to Damascus, Ömür Önhon, to Ankara for routine consultations, sources said, adding that Önhon has met with newly appointed Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar and he will brief Ankara about those discussions.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu briefed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the developments in Syria on Monday. The Syria issue is also expected to top the Turkish Cabinet meeting Tuesday, while developments will be further assessed Thursday at a routine National Security Council, or MGK, with the participation of military and civilian authorities.
Turkey released its last official statement on the matter late Saturday, calling on the Syrian regime to stop the killings of demonstrators as the death toll neared 350 since the beginning of popular revolts last week. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reluctance to heed Turkey's calls to heed the demands of his people has diminished Ankara's support for his regime.
"The reason for our relatively silent position is not to give the impression that we are backing a regime that suppresses democratic protests," an official said, adding that the continuation of the reform process was still Turkey's expectation from Damascus.
"But those reforms cannot be performed while people's demands are responded to violently," the official said.
Erdoğan already urged al-Assad at a meeting in Februaryurgently to implement reforms if he does not want to see his reign ended. "But he did not listen to us then. He delayed many reforms, which caused today's situation," the Foreign Ministry source said. "If he had acted adequately at that time, perhaps he would not be at this point now."
Syria, not Libya
Underscoring that Turkey shares an 877-kilometer border with Syria and has close economic, cultural and historical ties with the country, Foreign Ministry officials dismissed analogies between the situations in Libya and Syria.
"Syria has critical importance for us. Turmoil in Syria could spark intersecting clashes and regional instability through exporting the tension to neighboring countries like Lebanon," an official said.
Noting that an international campaign to impose sanctions against al-Assad's regime has already been launched, Turkish officials warned that such moves will not be helpful at the moment.
"The mistakes committed during the first days of Libyan crisis should not be repeated," an official said. "This effort allowed some countries to change the regime in Libya, something the United Nations resolutions did not impose."
Northern border quiet
Despite the growing tension in southern Syria, Turkish officials said they have been observing silence in northern Syria, where the majority of the population is of Turkish or Kurdish descent.
An official from the Customs Directorate said measures have been prepared but not implemented because they are not needed for the time being. Mayors of Turkish cities on the Syrian border have also taken some steps to deal with a massive potential influx of refugees.
"The only thing we see is that there is a growing concern on this side of the border as many of our people have relatives in Syria," one official said.
Turkey and Syria abolished visa requirements last year in a move to boost economic and trade ties.
LIBYANS TREATED IN TURKEY SENT BACK TO THEIR HOME COUNTRY
Turkish authorities announced on Monday that 66 Libyan nationals who received treatment in Turkey after the recent uprising in Libya, as well as 28 individuals who accompanied them during their stay in Turkey, were sent from the Aegean province of Izmir back to their home country.
The injured Libyans received treatments in Izmir, the capital, Ankara, and southwestern Mugla province; and upon their release from the hospitals, they were sent to the Libyan city of Benghazi in a military plane provided by the Turkish General Staff on Monday, said a statement from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of the Turkish Prime Ministry.
The presidency said a total of 240 Libyan citizens had been treated in Turkey and returned to Libya so far.
There were 189 Libyan nationals whose treatment still continued in Turkey, the authority added.
Last month, an uprising began against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after the long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were toppled. Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years.
The USA, the United Kingdom and France have launched an air strike against Gaddafi's forces to enforce a UN resolution imposing a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace, excluding aid flights, and authorises member states to "take all necessary measures" to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack".
Earlier this month, a Turkish ferryboat and military cargo plane brought to Turkey hundreds of people who were injured in clashes between Gaddafi forces and the opposition.
TURKEY'S SECRETARIAT GENERAL FOR EU SAYS TURKEY IS A CHANCE FOR AGING EUROPE
Turkey's Secretariat General for the European Union Affairs said, "Turkey with its young, dynamic and qualified labor force has the ability to solve problems of the European Union in its efforts to maintain its competitive power in the global economy."
The secretariat said in a statement, "The increasing number of people over the age of 65 and the decreasing number of people of working age are the problems in the European Union that require urgent solutions. According to the European Policy Center's report 'Temporary and Circular Migration: Opportunities and Challenges', the active labor force will be down to 207 million in 2050 from today's 240 million. That number will decrease to 169 million if migration from the third countries to the EU-member states is not allowed. All these figures entail the European Union to review its migration policies."
"Turkey with its young, dynamic and qualified labor force has the ability to solve problems of the European Union in its efforts to maintain its competitive power in the global economy. While the European Union has faced the threat of aging and decreasing labor force, Turkey's population in working age has been increasing since 1980," it said.
"Today, Turkey's population reached 74 million. People aged between 15-64 account for 65.2% of the total population. People aged between 0-14 account for 25.6% while people over the age of 65 account for 7.2% of Turkey's population. As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and State Minister for European Union Affairs Egemen Bagis said on many occasions, Turkey will not be a burden to the European Union, on the contrary, Turkey will ease the burden on the European Union," it added.
TURKISH PRESIDENT SAYS TRIPARTITE BALKAN SUMMIT PROCESS STARTED TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Monday that Tripartite Balkans Summit process was started with an understanding aiming to solve problems between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
Prior to his departure for Serbia, Gul told reporters in Ankara that he would visit Serbian capital of Belgrade to attend the second meeting of Tripartite Balkan Summit formed by presidents of Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. Gul recalled that the first meeting took place in Istanbul on April 24, 2010.
"Favorable and concrete outcomes have been reached within the scope of the summit process and consultation mechanisms. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia mutually appointed their ambassadors to Belgrade and Sarajevo in 2010," he said.
President Gul said that they approved Istanbul declaration at the end of the first meeting in April 2010 and the declaration confirmed territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Gul said Turkey attached a great importance to lasting peace and stability in Balkans as well as improvement of relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
Gul said they would work for new confidence-building measures and discuss regional matters in tomorrow's meeting.
WE GREW BY THREE-FOLD IN 10 YEARS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed Turkish trade counselors who represent Turkey all over the world. During his speech, Erdoğan said, "We have grown by 3 times since 2002 and our national income has reached $736 billion USD. We will increase Turkey's national income per capita to $25,000 USD and its national income to $2 trillion USD in the next 12 years".
EFFICIENCY MEASURED BY ECONOMY
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that a country's efficiency in the world was not measured by armies, weapons or tanks; it was measured by economic power, diplomatic and cultural activities of that country. Speaking at a meeting of Turkish trade counselors in the capital Ankara, Erdoğan said Turkey did not have an eye on the sovereignty of any country.
EU REACTS TO DEMOLITION OF MONUMENT
The European Union is against the demolition of a monument symbolizing humanism that was called "ugly" by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in eastern province of Kars. Helene Flautre, co-chair of Turkey-EU Joint Parliamnetary Committee, said that demolishing a monument constituted censorship against artifacts, stating that it was a worrying development. Flautre said that the monument was a project of friendship between Turks and Armenians and demolition meant the elimination of this message.
CIA CHIEF'S SECRET TALKS
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Leon Panetta has recently set up a camp in the Turkish capital of Ankara for 5 days to discuss with Turkey the uprisings in Arab countries. Ankara had an unusual visitor during the days the rebellious acts in Arab countries spread to Syria. At the end of last month, CIA's head Panetta stayed in the city for 5 days and his visit was kept confidential. During his stay, Panetta held talks with the head of the Turkish Intelligence Organization (MİT), members of the government and officials from the General Staff.
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FROM AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND JOIN DAWN CEREMONY
Thousands of people from Australia and New Zealand have gathered in northwestern Turkey to pay their respects to their ancestors who lost their lives in the battlefields of Çanakkale. As dawn broke at 5:30 a.m. when the Anzacs landed at the Gelibolu Peninsula 96 years ago, they sang hymns and sent their prayers to their beloved ones. Australian Cabinet Member for Veterans' Affairs Warren Snowdon said at the ceremony that the unwinnable and bloody war became a defining moment in their efforts to create a national identity. He added that the war also laid foundations of friendly relations among Turkish, Australian and New Zealander peoples.