FIRST REACTION FROM TURKEY
President Gul says that he is very happy to hear the death of Osama Bin Laden. President Gul, on his way to Vienna, answers the questions of the press at the Esenboga airport. He says: "This shows that all the terrorists will be captured dead or alive at the end. I am very happy to learn one of the most dangerous terrorists was killed."
WE REJECT XENOPHOBIA
President Abdullah Gul will travel to Austria today. Austrian President Heinz Fischer had an interview with the daily Zaman prior to Gul's visit -- the the first of its kind from Turkey after thirteen years.
Fischer pointed to the importance of freedom of religion at a time when anti-Islam sentiments reached their highest level in Europe.
Fischer said they reject xenophobia and every kind of prejudice.
TURKISH PREMIER SAYS TURKEY DOES NOT WANT SEPARATION OF SYRIA
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, "Turkey definitely does not want the separation of Syria. And Syria should not allow any attempts that could pave the way for separation."
Erdogan told a TV program on Sunday, "We have friendly and historical relations with Syria. Following the developments in northern Africa, we felt uneasy about whether those developments could trigger similar incidents in our region. During my latest visit to Damascus, I shared those concerns with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. I urged him that the emergency rule imposed in Syria for more than 40 years should be ended.
President al-Assad did not voice any opposite views, but he failed to take the necessary steps. In the end, Syria has come to this point."
"We have opened the border crossing with Syria to let Syrian people in. We cannot close the door to them. But, we have also taken a series of measures," he said. "It is people's freedom we are talking about. President al-Assad should assume a determined attitude in this struggle for freedom. He declared that the emergency rule was lifted, but the decision should be put into practice. People should not be killed," he said.
Erdogan also referred to corruption in Syria: "We are ready to do our utmost to assist Syria in its fight against corruption."
"Eventually, the UN Security Council will discuss the incidents in Syria. Syria should not face another massacre like the one in Hama in 1982. I urged President al-Assad to be extremely sensitive about it. If such a massacre is carried out once again, Syria cannot deal with its consequences. Because, the international community will display a harsh reaction. And, in such a situation, Turkey will have to fulfil our responsibilities," he added.
"DO NOT SEND US BACK, THEY WILL KILL US IF YOU DO"
A group of Syrians who crossed into Turkey in southern province of Hatay told Turkish officials that they wanted freedom. The Syrians begged the Turkish officials not to send them back to Syria as they could get killed if they went back. 252 Syrian nationals are currently in the town of Yayladagi. The Turkish Red Crescent Aid Society (Kizilay) is erecting tents in Yayladagi for the Syrians. Turkish officials presently do not know how long the Syrians may stay in Yayladagi. The Syrians came to Turkey escaping violence in their country after the recent unrest and uprisings.
TURKEY FORMULATES "PLAN B" FOR REFUGEES: MAKING SAFE HAVENS IN SYRIA
Establishing safe havens in Syrian territory is part of Turkey's plan to respond to a potential influx of refugees from the unrest-hit country, diplomatic sources say. Foreign Minister Davutoğlu is meanwhile urging the international community against a possible military intervention against the al-Assad regime. Describing Syria as the "summary" of the Middle East, he has also urged the country's leader "not to miss the chance to fix problems in Syria."
Turkey is considering establishing safe havens on the Syrian side of the border to cope with a potential massive influx of refugees from the unrest-hit neighboring country, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned.
This "Plan B," formulated in light of past experiences with fleeing Iraqis in the 1990s, was discussed by top government and military officials late Friday after a group of nearly 250 Syrian citizens crossed the border into Turkey.
Although the group was allowed to enter Turkey to seek asylum, the development alarmed officials regarding the potential for a massive influx that could carry tens of thousands to the Turkish border.
If the scale of Syrian asylum seekers remains small, as envisioned in Ankara's "Plan A," there will be little problem with allowing them to cross the border and receive humanitarian aid, diplomatic sources said. But if the flow turns into an influx similar to what the country faced in the early 1990s during the first Gulf War, they said, a more substantial project, described as "Plan B," could be implemented.
This plan envisions the establishment of some safe havens on the Syrian side of the border, where security and humanitarian needs would be provided by Turkey. This would keep Turkey from permanently hosting tens of thousands of people; they could return to their homes after the tension in Syria is defused.
In late 1990, nearly half a million Iraqi people crossed into Turkey, fleeing the war between the U.S.-led international community and the Saddam Hussein regime. Despite Turkey's calls for help, it received no substantial support from the international community in extending humanitarian aid to the migrants. The potential for another massive influx across its borders during the second Iraq War in 2003 pushed Ankara to come up with the idea of establishing safe havens on the Iraqi side of the border.
The presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq was an additional reason for crafting this plan at that time. But the expected flood of migrants did not materialize and no safe havens were created.
A similar plan is being mulled by Ankara in the Syrian case, but its implementation requires compatibility with international law. Sources noted that the resolution approved by the United Nations Security Council on Libya constituted the legal basis for international humanitarian assistance to the North African country; they said a similar move for Syria could legitimize Turkey's plans to establish such secure zones in Syrian territory.
As a sovereign state, Syria would likely oppose the idea of forming such safe havens protected by Turkish troops within its territory. "Unless the United Nations Security Council demands such interventions, this move could be interpreted as an attempt at occupation," an expert on international migration told the Daily News on Sunday.
The assumption on Sunday of the presidency of the U.N. Security Council by France has raised expectations in the international community for a swift U.N. resolution. Earlier attempts failed, due to Russia's veto.
Politically oppressed people escaping from non-European countries are not accepted as "refugees" by Turkey, due to its geographical limitation to the 1967-dated additional protocol of the Geneva Convention. However, it considers these people as asylum seekers, and would meet their basic needs before they are accepted by a third country.
Dialogue with Damascus Continues
In the wake of Friday's border crossing, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu twice called Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim late Friday to discuss the developments in the neighboring country, sources said.
Speaking to reporters Saturday, Davutoğlu dismissed the idea that Turkey would reintroduce recently lifted visa requirements for Syrian citizens, saying the country would always do its best to protect its Syrian brothers. Although Davutoğlu signaled that Turkey's doors would be open for those who feel unsafe, he also expressed his hope that the Syrian people would not need to cross into Turkey because of the ongoing turmoil in their country.
"Everybody should be able to live in his homeland in peace. This is what we want," Davutoğlu said, urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to establish proper dialogue with his people.
Military intervention would harm:
Davutoğlu also warned the international community not to intervene militarily in Syria. "We have to work to nullify such an option. An international intervention could cause unwanted consequences in a country like Syria, a sociologically heterogeneous society," the foreign minister said Sunday in an interview with a private television channel.
He said there was still an opportunity for the Syrian leadership to find a solution internally but urged Damascus "not to miss this chance."
Drawing a distinction between Syria and Egypt or other regional countries, Davutoğlu described Turkey's neighbor as the "summary" of the Middle East. "We do not want to see a cracking of the Syrian mosaic," he said. "We will consistently continue to advise [Syria]. We hope it will respond."
KILLING OF GADHAFI'S SON IRKS ANKARA
The deaths of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's son and his three grandchildren as a result of a NATO raid has annoyed Ankara: "This will lead more fatal clashes between rival parties and deepening of unstability."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his close aids were informed about the deaths late Saturday in Konya, the ministers' constituency. Convened to briefly evaluate the developments, the diplomats expressed concerns that targeting the members of Gadhafi family would bring serious repercussions.
One of the immediate consequences is an increase in the attacks by the security forces loyal to Gadhafi against rebels, especially in critically important city of Misrata. The increase in the scale of clashes would hamper the distribution of humanitarian assistance, sources said.
However, a greater blow would be dealt to ongoing international efforts to reach a solution in Libya. For its part, Turkey is concerned that the ground for intensifying negotiations over the Road Map has been weakened.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was planning to discuss Turkey's suggestions, and other countries efforts to contribute to the stability of the North African country, with his counterparts at the Libya Contact Group meeting in Rome slated for this week.
"What we want is that Libya could overcome this crisis in its integrity," Davutoğlu said Sunday in an interview with the private television channel. "We will continue to exert all possible efforts for Libyan people. But those who are unhappy with the growing influence of Turkey in the region are conducting a psychological campaign against Turkey. Despite this, we'll continue to hold dialogues with all groups," he stated.
TURKEY NEEDS ELECTION THRESHOLD FOR STABILITY, TURKISH PREMIER SAYS
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey needed a 10% election threshold for stability. Erdogan attended a TV program and responded to the questions on issues on Turkey's agenda.
When reminded that the Higher Board of Election (YSK) cancelled the candidacy of several independent applicants, and asked about election threshold, Erdogan said that the YSK was an independent board. "We do not have any power to intervene in affairs of the YSK. The coming process is important."
Erdogan said the election threshold was important as it was an element of exploitation. "This threshold has not come with Justice & Development (AK) Party. The AK Party came to rule despite the 10% threshold. We have come to power with 34%of the votes. We also got 65% of the parliament. One-party rulings have been successful in Turkey. Coalition governments unfortunately took the country back. We need an election threshold for stability."
Asked to comment on the situation of Peace & Democracy Party (BDP), Erdogan said, "this party should embrace the whole nation. Why does it say, "I am the party of only the Kurds"? It should say it is the party of the whole of Turkey."
Responding to a question on the studies regarding the new constitution, Erdogan said the new constitution was the primary step of AK Party. He said primarily democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms would be taken up in this constitution.
"It will be the constitution of people. NGOs, economists and political scientists are working on the preliminary preparations of the constitution," he said.
Asked to comment on the presidential system, Erdogan said, "This issue will definitely be discussed." He continued that he personally thought that the presidential system would be more appropriate.
Commenting on the "Canal Istanbul" project, which he earlier described as a "crazy project," Erdogan said, "We will do whatever international law requires on the matter after we fulfill the Canal Istanbul Project."
Erdogan said that Istanbul really needed this project, underlining that the Istanbul Strait was under a very serious threat. He said the passage of heavy tankers posed very big dangers particularly when considered from the point of view of environmental factors.
Erdogan referred to a fire at the Independent: "This fire broke out at the broadest part of the strait. We don't want similar incidents in the tight parts of the strait."
He said this was an energy and transportation project at the same time.
"When the Montreux Convention was signed, there were no tankers. The convention was made on simple cargo ships. Now the conditions have changed, and measures should be taken now," Erdogan said, and noted that all necessary measures would be taken against criticism that it would step up traffic and population, and that it would have a negative impact on fish migration, water resources and forests."We should act considering next 50 years," he added.
TURKEY WELCOMES AGREEMENT BETWEEN HAMAS AND FATAH
Turkey has welcomed the recent agreement between Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "We hope that the agreement will ensure a lasting national compromise in Palestine…..We consider the agreement as a step taken towards ensuring a fair, comprehensive and sustainable peace and stability in the Middle East. Therefore, the international community should encourage the parties in this process, which will be completed with fair and transparent elections," a spokesman for the Ministry said.
The Ministry added that Turkey would do its utmost to contribute to efforts to find a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.
Earlier, Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election.
HUNDRED OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHERED IN TAKSIM SQUARE
Hundred of thousands of people gathered at Taksim Square in Istanbul to mark May 1 Workers' Day. Crowds, including workers, civil servants, retired people, artists, unemployed, environmentalists, all colors of the political Left, political parties and high school students were at the square. Many groups could not enter the square because of the intensive participation. There was enthusiasm at Taksim Square this year which had been closed to workers on May 1 for years.
ERDOGAN: KURDISH PROBLEM ENDED
Addressing a public demonstration in eastern province of Mus, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he liked the 74 million citizens of the country. He said, "for me, Kurdish problem in this country has ended. My Kurdish brothers have problems, but there is no Kurdish problem."
BDP TAKES NOURISHMENT FROM TERRORISM
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Peace & Democracy Party (BDP), which started civilian disobedience. Erdogan said the BDP exploited Kurdish citizens, and noted that "CIA agents work with the BDP. They are nourished by terrorism. They make fun of our religion and set our flag on fire. Disrupt their game on June 12."
RELATIONS WITH ARMENIA DEPEND ON UPPER KARABAKH
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a public demonstration in the eastern province of Igdir, said it was not possible to normalize relations with Armenia before the Upper Karabakh problem is solved.
WE WOULD ALSO BE SHAKEN IF WE DID NOT MAKE REFORMS
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said incidents that occurred in Libya, Egypt and Syria did not happen in Turkey thanks to the reforms fulfilled in Turkey.
Davutoglu said, "History flows. If we had not made reforms since 2002, we could also have met this wave of transformation and similar problems."
INTERVENTION IN SYRIA FROM OUTSIDE MAY LEAD TO NEGATIVE RESULTS
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that undesired outcomes could occur in case an international intervention comes to Syria.
Davutoglu said efforts should be exerted to prevent international intervention in Syria.
NABUCCO READY TO BEGIN PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION IN TURKEY, SPOKESMAN SAYS
Some 4 billion euros will be invested in the Turkish portion of the Nabucco project, a proposed pipeline designed eventually to carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to Europe, according to a spokesman.
The Nabucco Pipeline Company has finalized arrangements for the physical surroundings for the part of the pipeline that will be situated in Turkey, spokesman Christian Dolezal said in an interview published on the Hürriyet newspaper's website on Sunday.
The largest portion of the pipeline project lies on Turkish soil.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced plans for a vast project to open a 40- or 50-kilometer canal between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea to direct mainly ships, gas and oil tankers to a new route other than through the risky Bosphorus Strait. Some experts speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review had said that the "crazy project," as the PM calls it, was an alternative to Nabucco.
"Shareholders [of Nabucco] decided to locate the feeding station on the Iraq-Jordan border instead of Iran, said Nabuccos's Dolezal. "This was a crucial decision. Due to sanctions on Iran, it has become impossible to invest in pipelines there."
Everything was progressing according to schedule in the project, the spokesman said.
"We believe we can start the construction work and capacity bookings after the final decisions [by the involved countries] are made. The date we determined is the end of 2012. The construction will start simultaneously in all countries and the lines would be connected later. Before starting, we need guarantees from the supplier countries," Dolezal said.
Besides Iraq and Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan was also willing to provide natural gas for the project, the spokesman said.