NGOS HOLD PROTEST AGAINST SYRIA'S AL-ASSAD
Turkish human-rights associations staged a demonstration in front of the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening, calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in solidarity with opposition protesters in the Middle Eastern country.
Some of the protesters arrived at the demonstration following evening prayers at Teşvikiye Mosque as others gathered earlier in front of Maçka Akif Tuncel Technical and Industrial Occupational High School, and marched toward the consulate building in the Şişli district's Teşvikiye neighborhood.
Demonstrators chanted "Long live the global uprising" while carrying posters that read "Cruel al-Assad, leave Syria." A group of Syrian students also joined the protest.
Security precautions were at a high level around the consulate building, where four police teams set up a barricade.
"Tanks that are not sent to the Golan Heights are targeting Syrian people and spilling blood. Al-Assad is creating a massacre and distorting the reality by giving wrong information on the number of dead people," said Murat Özer, a spokesman for the Free Thinking and Educational Rights Association, or Özgür-Der. The group organized the protest along with the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples, or Mazlum-Der.
"After Zine Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in Tunisia by a popular uprising, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak said that his country's conditions were not the same. But he still fell. Now al-Assad also says the same thing, but he will also go," Özer said.
The people of Syria have broken down the walls of fear and have stood up against the regime, said Cüneyt Sarıyaşar, the chairman of Mazlum-Der's Istanbul branch.
Syrian people have revolted against the government for the first time in 30 years, Şerafettin Öztürk, an Istanbul resident of Syria origin, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, claiming that the ammunition al-Assad's regime is using on protesters as it seeks to cling to power may have been brought from Iran.
The protesters demanded the ouster of the Syrian president and said there would be no going back now that blood has been spilled. "This is a matter of hope. His ouster will probably take one or two months," Öztürk said.
PRESIDENT GUL SAYS HARSH MESSAGES CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS IN TURKEY
President Abdullah Gul assessed harsh political messages on his way to Belgrade for the tripartite summit of Turkey, Bosnia-Hezergeovinba and Serbia. Gul said that harsh messages could create a dangerous situation for the country, and that Turkish politicians should see that such harsh messages were risky for the country. Regarding negative developments in Syria, Gul said that he was concerned about the current situation in Syria and felt uneasy about bloodshed and loss of lives.
IT IS TIME FOR PEACE IN BALKANS, NOT WAR
Ankara has taken another step in an effort to establish lasting peace in the Balkans. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who travelled to Serbia to attend a tripartite summit between Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, said that hostility should end in the Balkans and cooperation should be the ruling power in the region.
WE DO NOT WANT A TOTALITARIAN STRUCTURE IN SYRIA
The number of civilians, who have been killed in the incidents in Syria, rose to 400. Streets are full of bodies in Daraa city. Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad on the phone yesterday. Erdogan said that Turkey did not want an anti-democracy or totalitarian structure in Syria.
LISTEN TO PEOPLE'S DEMAND FOR REFORMS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is using bloody methods to block protests of opponents in his country. Erdogan expressed his sorrow over the government's harsh intervention in the uprising and casualties, and called on al-Assad to "respond to his people's demands for reforms" Ankara is also planning to send a special representative to the Syrian capital of Damascus..
PLAN B READY FOR SYRIA
The Turkish capital of Ankara is getting prepared to put the "confidential" Plan B on the table as tension rises in Turkey's neighbor, Syria. As Ankara's Plan A, which envisaged Syria's transition to democracy through reforms, failed due to the bloody incidents in the country, Turkey decided to put another plan into action. The new plan, which focuses on the possibility of "chaos, civil war and migration" in Syria, will be discussed at the National Security Council (MGK) meeting tomorrow.
NUMBER OF VOTERS EXCEEDS 50 MILLION
Higher Board of Election (YSK) Chairman Ali Em said that 50,189,930 citizens in Turkey, and 2,568,977 in foreign countries would cast votes in the general elections on June 12. The number of voters was 41,465,000 in the elections in 2007, and 49,446,000 in the September 12 referendum in 2010.
SIKORSKY SEEKS MORE DEALS WITH TURKEY
The U.S. helicopter maker that last week agreed to a $3.5 billion deal to lead the production of 109 utility helicopters for Turkey's military and other institutions hinted Tuesday that it would seek further business with Ankara.
"For many years, Sikorsky Aircraft and Turkish industry have collaborated on aero-structures and dynamic component parts, so this contract would follow a longstanding tradition of cooperation," said Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. President Jeff Pino.
"Sikorsky looks forward to entering into this expended partnership with Turkey to meet their present and future rotorcraft needs," Pino said.
Turkey will soon seek to develop its light utility helicopters in a new program, of which Sikorsky is expected to become a part, several defense analysts said.
On Thursday, Sikorsky, the maker of the T-70, a Turkish version of the S-70i Black Hawk, defeated Italy's AgustaWestland, maker of the TUHP 149, a proposed Turkish version of the company's newly developed AW-149, to win the deal.
Sikorsky will lead the production of a first batch of 109 T-70s, most of which will go to the military and the police. Turkish Aerospace Industry, or TAI, the program's prime contractor, and several other Turkish companies will take part in the platforms' manufacture.
"The Turkish Utility Helicopter, derived from the Black Hawk helicopter, will be an advanced, combat-proven, multi-mission helicopter that can meet all of the mission and performance requirements. The configuration of the T-70 baseline helicopter is based on the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter," said Mick Maurer, president of Sikorsky Military Systems.
The aircraft will be assembled in Turkey by TAI. The program will allow Turkish industry access to the Sikorsky global supply chain, including the sale of Turkish-assembled aircraft to future Sikorsky customers.
TURKISH COMMITTEE ARRIVES IN FRANCE TO LOBBY AGAINST ARMENIAN BILL
Turkish Parliament and the Foreign Ministry have sent a committee to France prior to the vote on the law penalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide claims, which is scheduled to appear on the French Parliament's agenda on May 4.
The bill, recently denied by the French Senate Constitution Commission, envisions five years' imprisonment and a fine of up to 45,000 euros for people on French territory who deny the Armenian genocide claims.
The Turkish committee lobbying against the bill consists of representatives specializing in foreign politics from political parties in Parliament, headed by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Düzce deputy Yaşar Yakış.
Osman Korutürk, who served as the Turkish Ambassador to France from 2005-2009 when the draft was first brought to the agenda, is part of the committee. He told Hürriyet Daily News that the Turkish committee was conducting meetings in France regarding the bill in order to preserve Turkish-French relations.
Yakış and Korutürk will be joined by AKP Istanbul deputy Nur Suna Memecan, Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, Ankara deputy Tuğrul Türkeş, and Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputy leader Gülsün Bilgehan.
OBAMA CALLS TURKEY'S PM ERDOGAN AFTER ARMENIA ROW
US President Barack Obama spoke to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following complaints from Ankara about his remarks on "Armenian massacres" under the Ottoman Empire, the White House said Monday.
Officials said Obama and Erdogan spoke about humanitarian efforts in Libya and the brutal government crackdown on protestors in Syria. Obama also expressed hopes that Israel and Turkey could improve their recently difficult relations in a bid to bring some stability to the restive Middle East, a White House statement said.
On Sunday, Turkey had voiced "deep regret" over Obama's remarks on "Armenian massacres" under the Ottoman Empire, saying his annual statement on the issue "distorts the historical facts."
"Therefore, we find it very problematic and deeply regret it... One-sided statements that interpret controversial historical events by a selective sense of justice prevent understanding of the truth," the foreign ministry said.
In the message on the World War I-era "massacres," Obama on Saturday however stopped short of using the "genocide" label that Turkey, a NATO ally, rejects, while urging "full" acknowledgment of the "horrific events."
The White House did not mention the Armenian issue in a statement on Obama's conversation with Erdogan, seeking to stress agreement on Libya and Syria.
"The leaders agreed that attacks against civilians must stop and that Qaddafi must step down and depart Libya permanently in order for there to be a lasting solution that reflects the will of the Libyan people," the White House said. "President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan expressed their deep concern about the Syrian government's unacceptable use of violence against its own people. "The leaders agreed that the Syrian government must end the use of violence now and promptly enact meaningful reforms that respect the democratic aspirations of Syrian citizens."
ANKARA MAY SEEK TO REVISE CUSTOMS UNION WITH EU
Turkey is considering revisions to its Customs Union treaty with the European Union, Turkey's chief EU negotiator told a meeting of Turkish trade counselors Tuesday.
"Can we once more bring the Customs Union agreement to the [negotiating] table? On which issues we can give concessions? On which issues we can get concessions? We are making significant efforts on these [questions]," said State Minister Egemen Bağış.
Highlighting Turkey's economic progress, Bağış said the country represented a sign of hope for the European Union, which is facing economic problems. Some EU states are uncomfortable with this situation, he said, blaming those states for failing to realize how critical Turkey is for the European bloc.
"If Turkey can stand firm to the impositions, it is because Turkey's economy and trade are powerful," he said.
The Customs Union makes significant contributions to the Turkish economy but has problematic aspects, including a lack of Turkish involvement in decision-making processes, that Ankara is working to resolve, Bağış said. "Turkey also demands that the EU resolve problems we have faced in agreements the EU signs with third parties, and quotas on trucks. We have brought up these issues at the recent [Turkey-EU] Association Council meeting," he said.
The council, which met in Brussels in mid-April, is the highest decision-making organ connecting Turkey and the European bloc.
Turkey had learned lessons from the mistakes it made while signing the Customs Union agreement, Bağış said, adding that Ankara would therefore now be more careful about the readmission agreement.
"Turkey will not launch the adoption process for the readmission agreement unless the European Commission authorizes visa-free travel for Turkish citizens," he said.
The Customs Union between the European Union and Turkey came into effect in 1996.