Commenting on the riots in the region, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "nations should be able to gain their rights. Syria will solve its problem with its state and the people."
Speaking about the nuclear crisis about which the world wondered, Ahmadinejad said, "We are ready for contact. I wrote the letter. I will send it to European Union (EU). The address will again be Istanbul."


Turkish Foreign Minister and President of Ministers Committee of the Council of Europe (COE) Ahmet Davutoglu signed a convention to combat violence against women including domestic violence.

Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence and Domestic Violence Against Women was opened to signature before the 121st meeting of COE Ministers Committee in Istanbul on Wednesday.

So far 13 countries; Turkey, Austria, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Montenegro, Portugal, Finland, France, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia and Luxembourg, have put a signature on the convention.

The Convention enjoins the countries to take concrete measures in criminal law to fight against violence and domestic violence on women, and it envisages the countries extending free legal support to victims of violence.

It also envisions the countries adding the topics of gender equality, combating violence against women and mutual respect to their education curriculum, and setting up a mechanism for supervision to follow the implementation of these countries.

Committee of Ministers of the COE approved this convention in Strasbourg on April 7, 2011. Negotiations on this convention have continued nearly for three years, and it is considered as the most important legal arrangement in Europe in this issue.

Violence against women has been defined as a human rights violation and discrimination for the first time in this convention.

Although it is a convention of COE, it is open to participation of non-member states.

Turkey has been one of the strongest supporters of the convention from the very begging of the preparations. Turkey also actively contributed in the preparation of the convention.

The preparation and adoption of the convention is seen as one of the most important successes of Turkey's term presidency of Committee of Ministers of COE.


The Turkish prime minister and religious leader Fethullah Gülen are cozying up to each other over a tape scandal that led to the resignation Tuesday of two senior members of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP.

"It is ugly for [MHP leader Devlet] Bahçeli to engage in an approach implying that this issue [the release of the secret tapes] was managed from overseas. Then say its name clearly: What is overseas? What is going on overseas?" Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told conservative television channel Kanal 7 in an interview late Monday.

Turkish religious leader Gülen, the head of one of the country's most influential Islamic movements, has been living in the United States since 1999.

"You hold some people responsible for the [tape] incident. This is wrong. It has no meaning to hold others responsible for an internal conflict within the party," Erdoğan added. "And why do you [Bahçeli] want their resignations? What you should do is to expel them."

The MHP was hit with a third wave of a tape scandal on Saturday with the online release of more R-rated footage of two senior party members, Bülent Didinmez and İhsan Barutçu, with young female university students. Bahçeli blamed the government and the Gülen movement for the incident after the release of the footage.

In his interview with Kanal 7, the prime minister also repeated that the tape scandal could not be considered an "individual issue," as he found it contrary to society's moral values "to call such immoral issues 'private' and 'an intervention in private life' in a society where 99% [of the population] is Muslim."

Responding to Bahçeli's accusations using the website, Gülen described the move as a "ruthless attack and aspersion."

Without naming any names, Gülen said the community could only engage in self-defense and file a case for compensation in the face of such accusations but "would never engage in a similar aggressiveness."

Responding to criticism that it was late to address the issue, the Telecommunications Directorate, or TİB, said in a written statement Tuesday that it had taken a step within the judicial process and instructed the authorities to bar access to 68 websites that had posted the tapes.

Speaking at his party's rally in Afyonkarahisar on Tuesday, Erdoğan criticized Bahçeli and main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for blaming his party, saying they attacked the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, instead of criticizing themselves.

"We have avoided making this immorality into political material. Instead of engaging in self-criticism, they have blamed the AKP from the beginning. The AKP is not the pursuer of your dirty affairs," he said. "First you should engage in questioning yourself. Instead of feeling embarrassed, they slander us. Can an illegitimate thing be private?"

Speaking at his party's election rally in Burdur on Tuesday, Kılıçdaroğlu challenged the government over the tape scandal, saying his party would call the government to account for the incident if elected.

"Isn't it immoral to govern the country supplied by illegal ways?" he said, noting that a hidden camera had also been placed at the CHP-run İzmir Metropolitan Municipality.

Speaking at the 143rd anniversary of the Council of State on Tuesday, the body's president, Mustafa Birden, likewise expressed his concerns on the issue. He said the council could not understand the violations of private life through wiretapping and why the necessary measures have not been taken in the face of recent incidents.


The Republican People's Party, or CHP, Deputy President, Osman Korutürk paid a visit to Fener Greek and Armenian patriarchies of Turkey. His visit to Armenian Patriarchy of Turkey took longer than anticipated. On the matter of the Armenian deputy who had declared candidacy from CHP yet been excluded out of the list, Korutürk said, 'We do not separate people according to their ethnic identities, 4,300 people applied'

The Republican People's Party, or CHP, Deputy President and Foreign Politics Representative Osman Korutürk and General Secretary Bihlun Tamaylıgil paid a visit to Fener Greek Patriarchy and the Armenian Patriarchy of Turkey on Monday.

While the officials' visit to Fener Greek Patriarchy took a half hour, their visit to the Armenians Patriarchy of Turkey took approximately an hour and a half. They were met by the Acting Patriarch Archishop Aram Ateşyan at the Turkish Armenian Patriarchy; the meeting was closed to the press. Answering the questions of Hürriyet Daily News after the meeting, Korutürk touching upon the incidents of 1915, said: "Both of the sides experienced agonies, it would be unjust to say they are one-sided. As two rival parties -- the CHP, and Justice and Development Party, or AKP -- we brought on the agenda the proposal of establishing a history commission. Nevertheless, the proposal was not approved in Armenia."

Answering the question on why Arev Cebec,i in a candidacy from CHP on behalf of the Armenian community, could not be elected, Korutürk said they do not separate people according to their identities. "More than 4,300 people applied and 550 of them won. We do not have an Armenian deputy in Parliament on behalf of our party. However, we have Armenian-origin citizens taking positions in the administration of the CHP and local levels."

Explaining why the visit to the Armenian Patriarchy of Turkey took a longer time, Korutürk said: "They had a long agenda to discuss. We have comprehensive projects, family insurance, agriculture projects and economic projects. These projects would change the country throughout."

Saying that minorities are crucial for CHP, Korutürk said they stand by all of the rights recognized to minorities within the frame of the Lozan Treaty. One of the presidents of the Istanbul Armenian Foundation Bedros Marzubanyan at the meeting said the recent statements of CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu upset the Armenian community. "Some people said Kılıçdaroğlu's mother is an Armenian from Dersim, and he tried to prove his mother is not an Armenian. I would like to ask him whether being an Armenian is really such a bad thing after all." Despite that, they are welcome as the door is open to everybody, said Marzubanyan. "CHP is the closest rival of the government. Therefore, learning their opinions is to our advantage," he said.

"There should have been at least two Armenian parliamentarians both in government and in the opposition. It is said on each occasion that Turkey is a mosaic. If the parliament is a place where this mosaic is represented, and that is the case, as far as I know, then the pieces missing from the mosaic must be completed. We have deputy mayors and village headmen, but now we want to send a representative to parliament," said Marzubanyan, who highlighted the fact that the 50,000-strong Armenians in Turkey did not have a single representative in parliament. Another participant in the meeting, Apik Özfırıncı, said the visit was part of the election campaign in Turkey and the patriarchate had demonstrated its hospitality. "As we stated earlier, we listen to both sides and our doors are wide open to both of them. The decision will undoubtedly stem from the ballot box," said Hrant Hasbaşyan whose affinity with the ruling AKP is well known due to the Turkish-Armenian community's gains on issues relating to minority foundations. Bedros Şirinoğlu, the president of the Yedikule Surp Pırgiç Hospital Foundation, which ranks in second place in the protocol following the patriarchate, did not attend the meeting. Şirinoğlu, who is also known for his disposition toward the AKP, had told Daily News in a previous interview that he were ready to serve as a parliamentarian, if he was offered a position.


Opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu targeted the ÖSYM chief Ali Demir in his speech on Tuesday, expressing his disappointment that Demir still has not resigned.

"They cheated 1.7 million students of their rights. And that man [the Student Selection and Placement Center, or ÖSYM, head Demir] who has lost all shame is still sitting in his seat. He should be embarrassed," said Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kılıçdaroğlu during his election campaign stop at Burdur.

Kılıçdaroğlu also spoke about the new developments in the case, expressing his confusion on the ÖSYM's conflicting statements.

"First they said there is no code. Then they said it was a mistake. Then they said there is a code. Then they said there is a code, but no one cheated. If no one cheated, then why is there a code?"

Meanwhile, details of the court defense submitted Monday by Turkey's testing body are raising even more questions regarding the recent cheating scandal on the university entrance exam, or YGS.

While ÖSYM had previously admitted the existence of an answer-revealing "code" within the national exam, the court defense denied that there was a code in the test and said the system had malfunctioned.

"How can the system not work correctly without human interference?" asked lawyer Ahmet Gürol Şağban, who had applied to Ankara's 7th Administrative Court on Monday to have the exam canceled.

"And they are denying the code previously admitted to by the ÖSYM head. This is worse than a scandal," Şağban said. "Just now I met a student inside [the courthouse] who told me that they had first gotten a letter saying they had passed the test, and later received a different letter stating that they had failed. This is ridiculous."

Distraught students continue to bring their claims about problems with the exam to the attention of the media. Most recently, a student who did not even take the science section of the exam received results indicating six mistakes had been made on that section.

A decision is still pending from the court on a petition filed by an exam candidate from the Central Anatolia province of Konya to annul the exam based on the cheating claims.

"I expect a result sometime this week," Şağban told journalists Tuesday before submitting his defense to the court in the afternoon.

Speaking to daily Hürriyet, the main opposition leader of the CHP, Kılıçdaroğlu, claimed that "police found an e-mail in one of the computers in a previous exam from the ÖSYM implying that 'the named person should be placed in a good university'."

"We do not know if this person got placed [at a good school]," Kılıçdaroğlu said, calling on the prosecutor to explain the details.


Religion has become the latest sparring point in the pre-election debate between the ruling party and the main opposition after the prime minister attacked the opposition leader for using the word "Allah."

"Allah of the status quo sits in Ankara," Republican People's Party, or CHP, chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said last week, responding to criticism by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the CHP is a supporter of the status quo in the country.

The phrase Kılıçdaroğlu used in Turkish refers to "the top" or the "leader of something."

The CHP chief "should know his limits," Erdoğan said in response.

"The CHP has been insulting the religious values of our people," the prime minister said. "First you say 99% of this country is Muslim, then you show disrespect to the transcendent creator of the universe. He [Kılıçdaroğlu] must apologize to the people for his remarks."

The main opposition leader defended his words, saying it was a phrase commonly used in daily life, and pointing to a similar remark by the prime minister.

"He said he did not have an 'Allah kuruş' when he was accused of embezzlement. Can Allah's name be used for materialism?" Kılıçdaroğlu asked. (A kuruş is one-100th of a Turkish Lira.)

Erdoğan said he used the phrase to mean he did not have any undeserved money.

"I very well know Allah's name should not be used for other purposes, but it is a common phrase and I try to use local phrases when I travel in the country," the CHP leader said. "For example, we use another phrase and say, 'She is a beautiful woman, for Allah's sake.' The prime minister is exaggerating the situation because he believes he may profit from it."


The Turkish prime minister has criticized statements made by American officials after the killing of Osama bin Laden, breaking with other top Turkish officials who expressed strong satisfaction with the U.S. operation against the al-Qaeda chief.

"I find America's statement that the world is now safer after bin Laden's death to be wrong. This is not an individual issue. There is not one bin Laden, there are many of him," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview with Kanal 7 on Monday night.

Drawing attention to the timing of the operation, Erdoğan noted a statement made by Pakistani President Asef Ali Zardari indicating that the Americans could have gotten bin Laden earlier.

"Which one shall we believe now?" Erdoğan asked.

He added, though, that this issue was also confusing because Zardari did not discuss it when they met during the Pakistani president's visit to Turkey in mid-April.

Appearing on the U.S. television show "Meet the Press" on May 10, 2009, Zardari dismissed a question about bin Laden's whereabouts, saying: "You all have been there for eight years, you tell me. You lost him in Tora Bora, I didn't."

Bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in Washington and New York, was killed earlier this month by U.S. forces in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Pakistani administration's claim that it was unaware of bin Laden's whereabouts is "also worth questioning," Erdoğan said.

The prime minister cited another statement that he said added to the confusion, a claim by Iran's intelligence chief that they had evidence that bin Laden was already dead before the May 1 raid. Erdoğan dismissed the suggestion that he had discussed this issue with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad late Monday during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 4th U.N. Conference on Least Developed Countries being held in Istanbul.

More than 1,000 civilians are dead in Syria

During the interview, Erdoğan also addressed developments in neighboring Syria. Although he highlighted his personal relationship with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, he did not hide his displeasure at the growing civilian casualties due to the harsh intervention against demonstrators by security forces.

The Syrian leadership told Turkey that demonstrators had killed five soldiers and seven police officers, Erdoğan said, but added that the number of civilian dead in Syria has already exceeded 1,000.

"An administration's opening fire on its people is not right. Because there is no an armed group challenging [it]," Erdoğan said, repeating his earlier calls to Damascus not to repeat the massacres of Hama and Humus in the early 1980s.

Press freedom in Turkey

Addressing the growing criticisms of the Turkish government by Western powers over deteriorating press freedom in Turkey, Erdoğan accused critical Western politicians and journalistic associations of simply following Turkish journalists without further investigating the situation.

"In the West, there are no journalists who are trying to plot or helping those who plot a coup. But this is the case in Turkey. We are aware of those who want to overthrow our government," he said.

There are journalists who have never written even one thing in favor of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, actions, Erdoğan added. "Isn't there anything among our actions to be applauded?" he asked. "Among these journalists are some famous writers. Their only mood is beating the [AKP], beating Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, beating our government."


The United Nations Population Fund has opened a new regional office in Istanbul on Tuesday, with the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu also participating in the opening ceremony.

The fund is for the first time opening a regional office in Turkey, and Istanbul will for the first time be hosting a U.N. office as well. The Eastern Europe and Central Asia regional office, or EECARO, is the first such office opened in Istanbul and in Turkey.

"We are very happy that we are opening the doors to the U.N. in Istanbul," Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA's executive director, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review Tuesday, adding that he hoped a hub of U.N. agencies would be created in the future in Istanbul.

Istanbul was chosen to host EECARO on June 2010, eliminating three other bidders – Geneva, Copenhagen and Vienna – as the offer presented by Turkey presented the best terms. The agreement for the office was signed in New York on July 1 by Turkey's Permanent Representative at the United Nations Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan and UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid.

The UNFPA will carry out its activities in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern European countries from its Istanbul office, which will serve the fund to work more efficiently, as well as focus more and establish more partnerships in the region. UNFPA Turkey's authorities confirmed for the Daily News that some 17 people would be working in the EECARO office located in Istanbul's Şişli district.

The world's population expected to reach 7 billion in October

World's population is projected to reach 7 billion on Oct. 31, according to UNFPA, and Osotimehin told the Daily News "This should not be seen as a concern, but rather as an opportunity, to increase awareness about world's population dynamics."

The investment in human beings is the most precious one, according to Osotimehin, who said countries had to utilize the population momentum. Young people must be engaged more in the production sector, especially by providing them with micro-credits, Osotimehin said. "Access to education, health services, as well as economic and political opportunities should be offered to young people [especially in the least developed countries]."

The report "Population Dynamic and Poverty in the LDCs: Challenges and Opportunities for Development and Poverty Reduction," recently published by the UNFPA, highlights empowerment of women as one of the priorities, for the LDCs' growth and prosperity. "When educating women, you are educating a mission," Osotimehin said, adding that investment in education of women and girls was the most valuable one for development.

Osotimehin talked to the Daily News at the U.N.'s Conference for Least Developed Countries, or LDCs, being held in Istanbul between May 9 and 13.

UNFPA has been decentralizing since 2007

UNFPA has established five regional and six sub-regional offices in the field that help coordinate work in about 150 countries, areas and territories through a network of 129 country offices. The system was decentralized in 2007; the move is expected to make the organization a "more field-centered, efficient and strategic partner to the countries it serves," according to UNFPA's official website.

The five regional offices and their locations:

-Africa Regional Office in Johannesburg, South Africa

-Arab States Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt

-Asia and the Pacific Regional Office in Bankok, Thailand,

-Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office in Istanbul, Turkey

-Latin America and the Caribbean Office in Ciudad Panama, Panama

UNFPA works in partnership with governments, and along with other United Nations agencies, communities, NGOs, foundations and the private sector to raise awareness and mobilize the support and resources needed to achieve its mission. The fund is fully committed to a more effective, coherent and better-coordinated United Nations system that "delivers as one," which is the essence of the ongoing United Nations reform process.

UNFPA's income in 2009 totaled $783.1 million, including $469.4 million in voluntary contributions from governments and private donors.


The possibility of talks between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas should not be entirely ruled out, Israeli President Shimon Peres told Ynet news in an interview published Tuesday, Israel's Independence Day.

Peres said it was important to remember that Palestinian former president Yasser Arafat was regarded with suspicion and even hatred by many Israelis when he was engaged in the negotiations that yielded the Oslo Accords.

"Even when I began negotiation with Arafat, they said: 'There's no chance'," Peres told the Israeli website in an interview published on the Isral's Independence Day. "I think the same thing about Hamas. The name does not interest me, what matters is the content. Anything can happen, because Hamas has problems too, and it's not so strong."

Israel has repeatedly said it will not talk to Hamas, and the Islamist group has also said it has no interest in holding negotiations with Israel. Peres, who was jointly awarded - with Arafat - the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 as architects of the Oslo Accords, spoke to the news site after a surprise unity deal between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The agreement has caused consternation in Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning Abbas he must choose between unity with Hamas and peace talks with Israel. But Peres said Israel should not be focusing on the unity agreement. "If they want to unite, let them unite," he told Ynet.

"We are discussing our own security issues, and if they establish a union with an organization that continues to espouse the destruction of Israel, it is no longer an interior affair, it is a foreign affair, and it concerns us."

Peres said he was convinced it was still possible to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, despite the fact that talks have been on hold since September 2010 over the issue of settlement building and show no sign of resuming soon. But he said it was crucial to reach an understanding "quietly," adding: "Publicly, there's no chance."

Peres also weighed in on the controversial issue of Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed later, in a move never recognized by the international community. The president said it would be better for Israel to focus its energy on building upwards, rather than expanding into Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for the capital of their future state. "You can sometimes house 10,000 people in one tower," he said. "Today the whole world is building vertically."

The tender of an Ankara natural gas network was cancelled as a Turkish joint venture of Mehmet Emin Karamehmet and Mehmet Kazanci did not pay 1.2 billion USD until Monday, the payment's deadline. The two partners burned $92.6 million USD of assurance. Now eyes are turn to tenders for Istanbul's Bogazici Elektrik Dagitim, Turkey's largest power grid, and Istanbul Anadolu Yakasi Elektrik Dagitim, another power grid on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Karamehmet and Kazanci offered the highest bid for these tenders. The payment deadline of these two tenders is May 31.

State Inspection Board Delegation, associated with President Abdullah Gul, had a very long meeting with Rakel Dink, wife of Hrant Dink, and took notes on her demands.
President Gul said he was very embarrassed when European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sentenced Turkey as it did not prevent Dink assassination and did not investigate the murder in details. Gul gave directives to State Inspection Board, and the delegation met with Rakel Dink and her lawyer two weeks ago. Dink told all the problems they had experienced starting before the murder.
The delegation later gave information to Gul about the meeting. A new legal process may start if State Inspection Board decides that investigation against civil servants was not carried out in line with the laws.

IDEF 2011, the International Defense Industry Fair, opened on Monday in Istanbul. The event saw the penning of an agreement for the manufacture of Turkey's first fully indigenous tank. The tank is named Altay; it would feature a radar system that could detect enemy and friendly forces.

Institute of Strategic Thinking, a Turkish think tank, is set to release a draft constitution on Wednesday, which was written after its sixth workshop. The draft constitution includes provisions that amend the structure of Turkey's Constitutional Court and the National Security Council.

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