A well-respected think thank in the U.S., the East and West Institute (EWI), gave a 2011 Peace Prize to Fethullah Gulen. Mustafa Yesil, Chairman of the Reporters and Authors Foundation accepted the prize on behalf of Fethullah Gulen. In a message which Gulen sent to be read at the prize ceremony, he says he is accepting the prize not for himself but for the volunteers from different nations, different religions who are doing tehir best for the humanity. National Security Advisor General James Jones and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were among the Board Members of EWI.


Speaking to Milliyet daily newspaper, Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli said, "Fethullah Gülen's returning to Turkey will be beneficial for Turkey to make a robust assessment." He apologized for the tape scandal. "Turkey has been imprisoned in the Erdoğan-Gülen-Öcalan triangle." Bahçeli said he was not thinking of filing a lawsuit to find those who leaked out the records.


Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office decided for annulment in the investigation launched upon allegations of coding scandal in passage to higher education examination. The office said, "there is coding but no one used it." However, the prosecutor asked for permission from Higher Board of Education (YÖK) to open an investigation against Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) head Ali Demir and some officials on charges of negligence of mission.


Turkey's current account deficit reached 8.9 billion in March 2011, the Turkish Central Bank announced on Wednesday. Turkey's current account deficit increased 120.5 percent over the same period of 2010.

According to the balance of payments report made public by Central Bank for March 2011, current account deficit was 22.1 billion USD in Jan-March 2011. Current account deficit was 10.2 billion USD in the same period of 2010.
The increase in foreign trade deficit triggered the rise in the current account deficit, the bank said.

In a general sense, the balance of payments is a statistical statement that systematically records all the economic transactions between residents of a country (Central Government, monetary authority, banks, other sector) and nonresidents for a specific time period.

Economic transactions consist of those involving;

- goods, services and income,
- transactions of financial claims and liabilities,
- one-sided transactions between residents and nonresidents for the provision of real and financial resource transfers without quid pro quo.


Turkey plans to build two new cities near Istanbul, one on the European side and the other on Anatolian side, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday.

Erdogan said that the new city on European side of Istanbul would be built on an area of closed mines on Black Sea coast. A land of 40,000 hectares of abandoned mines will flourish thanks to this new city, Erdogan said.

Erdogan announced his new project two weeks after he unveiled his "crazy project" Canal Istanbul, a new waterway for Istanbul, to link the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea which aims at reducing maritime traffic on Istanbul Strait, or Bosphorus.

Erdogan assured that these two cities would be constructed in compliance with the spirit of Istanbul. He also said that the new city on European side would be home to one of world's largest airports with a capacity to host 60 million passengers a year. The new city will be designed as a commercial hub with ports, marinas, and new sports complexes.

Construction works for these two new cities will begin one year after the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 12, Erdogan said. "At the same time, we will complete studies for the third bridge on Istanbul Strait during this period of time," he added.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "The Justice & Development (AK) Party is not a party that shelters, backs and advocates for gangs, like some other parties." Addressing a huge crown at the Selimiye Square in the northwestern province of Edirne, Erdoğan said, "We are not like some circles that divide Turkey's map into colors, that make partisanship, which differentiates among cities and regions. 74 million is the same for us."


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that Turkey made crucial contributions during its six-month presidency of the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee.

Turkey handed over to Ukraine presidency of the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee in Istanbul on Wednesday. Turkey assumed the presidency of the Ministerial Committee for a six-month term on November 10, 2010.

In a joint press conference held in Istanbul with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko and Council of Europe's Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland, Davutoglu said that he was pleased to see that the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence was opened to signature during Turkey's rotating presidency.

The Convention is one of the results of our term presidency, Davutoglu said. Davutoglu said that the Council of Europe was one of the most crucial international organizations that helped establish and preserve peace, the supremacy of laws and democratic principles.


Turkey's state minister for the European Union (EU) and chief negotiator said on Wednesday that neither Europe nor the United States extradited PKK members to Turkey in the last decade.

Egemen Bagis said European and the United States had not extradited a single PKK member to Turkey in the last decade.

"Countries can extradite any person immediately if s/he is a murderer, rapist or a thief, however when that person is a PKK member, our files are always considered incomplete and translation is considered wrong and they do not extradite that person," Bagis told a televised interview.

Bagis said Turkish citizens would make the final decision on whether or not to become a European Union (EU) member when the time came. The minister said 56 percent of Turkish people supported EU membership, however 66 percent thought that the union would not admit Turkey as a member.

Bagis said participants of the Friendship and Peace Rally went to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and defined it a "historic success." The EU minister said those joining the rally were uneasy about incidents in Syria and therefore Turkey convinced them to go on their route via TRNC. "Almost 700 people arrived in TRNC by four ferryboat yesterday," he said.

Bagis said entrance of 700 citizens of 12 European countries by carrying banners giving friendship and brotherhood messages, did what their own countries and states had not done and made them break isolation of TRNC.

The "2011 Friendship and Peace Rally", which is travelling from Germany from Jordan to give a message of peace, arrived in the TRNC on Tuesday. Nearly 400 vehicles and 600 people arrived at Girne port within the scope of the rally.

"2011 Friendship and Peace Rally" is a civil society initiative, supported by the Turkish Secretariat-General for European Union Affairs within the framework of May 9 Europe Day activities.

The rally's longest route in Europe was Turkey. The convoy, which was sent off from the Turkish capital of Ankara with a ceremony last Friday, visited Kirikkale, Kirsehir, Nevsehir, Kayseri, Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman, Urfa, Mardin, Gaziantep, Hatay, Adana and Mersin during its journey across Turkey and arrived in TRNC on Tuesday.

Participants of the rally will donate their cars to United Nations after completing the whole trip.


The European Union must liberalize its visa regime with Turkey before the country's accession to the bloc, because Turkey's membership will take a long time to achieve, a former top EU diplomat has said.

"I don't know [whether visa liberalization will occur before or after membership], but since the accession process will be long, I hope that it will happen before," prominent European diplomat Javier Solana told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday.

Solana, a former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, spoke to the paper after a press meeting where a Council of Europe report on diversity was launched.

Provisions of an additional protocol to the Ankara Agreement signed between Turkey and the EU in 1971 imply no tougher requirements than the existing ones at the time of the signature can be imposed on people's freedom of movement by either party.

"That is true," Solana said, referring to the protocol's provisions on no tougher measurements, but he refused to comment further as he said he was not qualified to discuss the related legal aspects.

Turkey's accession to the European Union is a very long process and the negotiations will take time, according to Solana.

"It is not going to be done in 24 hours. This is a long, long process. Turkey is a very important country, it is a very big country that has a very fast-growing economy," he said. "[The EU] is not bringing in a small country. It is an important country with a foreign policy, with 70 million people, with an economy that is growing faster than the European average."

Solana also said Turkey's EU membership would benefit all parties.

"I think that we need each other. [Turkey] need Europe, and Europe needs [Turkey]," he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently claimed that Turkey-EU negotiations will be sped up after the June 12 general elections in Turkey. Asked about this statement, Solana said: "I hope so too, although I do not relate elections to [the negotiations process] unless the results of the election create a government that goes against what has been in the acquis already in the negotiations, which is not going to happen."

He said the fact that Turkey and the EU were negotiating was good for the democratic processes that have taken place in Turkey.

"I would like very much [for negotiations] to go faster. We lost the second part of 2010. I hope that in 2011 there will be [new] chapters open. I hope that the chapter on competition, which is an important one, will move faster in 2011," Solana said.

Turkey has only been able to open 13 chapters out of 35 in its negotiations with the European Union since 2005, with only three chapters left able to be opened in the coming years due to EU countries' blockades on the rest of chapters.

Asked whether the negotiations could reach a bottleneck in the near future, Solana said, "I hope not. This is my wish.... We have to do what we have to do rapidly. What we have to do and what you are obliged to do ... [is] to comply with what is the spirit [of the negotiations] and then [both parties] will share the details and move on. That is what I would like to see."

The Turkish government has accused EU countries of slowing the talks while the European Union continues to press Turkey to keep its promises to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels. Talks on eight chapters are suspended since Turkey is seen as not fulfilling its obligation toward Greek Cyprus.

Solana said, however, that both parties shared responsibility for the slow pace of negotiations. "Everybody has part of the responsibility," he said.

Action, not simply letters, needed in Iran talks

The European diplomat also commented on statements made Monday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said his country would resume nuclear talks with Western powers based on an exchange of letters between Tehran and European officials. "I don't think it is a question of writing letters, it is a question of solving problems," Solana said. "[This should] not to go to another ledger or another document.

Solana said Iran had to clearly show political will and the objectives of its nuclear program. Regarding Ahmadinejad's claims that the previous talks had not been held on just grounds, he said, "I heard that so long ago. If we are still saying these things, we are not going to move [forward]."


The Italian Defense Ministry continues pushing Turkey to join the Eurofighter aircraft project as an alternative to its present fleet of US-made jets. 'Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States,' says a Turkish defense analyst

The pan-European Eurofighter fighter aircraft is the only viable alternative to U.S. planes in its category for the Turkish military, Italy's deputy defense minister said late Tuesday, urging Turkey to join the ambitious European-led defense program.

"The Eurofighter is the only alternative to U.S. aircraft, and provides a great relief to world countries," Guido Crosetto told a small group of international reporters through an interpreter on the sidelines of the 2011 International Defense Industry Fair, or IDEF, being held in Istanbul.

"If Turkey joins this program, the program would gain a larger importance," Crosetto said.

Turkey, whose present fighter fleet is comprised of U.S.-made aircraft, also plans to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II planes, a next-generation, multinational program also led by the United States.

But Turkish officials privately say they want another future jet fighter to be developed with a country or countries other than the United States, in an effort to reduce Ankara's over-dependence on Washington.

Most of Turkey's present fleet of F-16 fighters are being modernized by the United States.

Lockheed Martin and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are technologically free from this influence, the officials believe. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.

"Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States. It believes this scheme would better fit its national interests," said one Turkish defense analyst.

The members of the Eurofighter consortium include Germany, Italy, Britain and Spain. As an influential member of the group, Italy is leading the efforts to add Turkey to the consortium.

Quest to find a fighter partner

In December, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said that Turkey at that point was not considering the Eurofighter as an option, and was more interested in developing a national fighter through its own assets or through cooperating with non-U.S. partners.

Initial talks with South Korea came to nothing as Seoul insisted on its own terms for partnership with Turkey, while Ankara remained interested in no less than an equal partnership.

Despite Ankara's rejection in December, Italy has continued to insist on the multinational Eurofighter program as the best solution for Turkey.

Crosetto said the inclusion of India and Japan in the Eurofighter program was likely, and again urged Turkey to also join.

The Eurofighter, short-listed together with France's Rafale in technical evaluations for India's huge fighter program, and short-listed together with the U.S. F-18 and F-35 in Japan's fighter competition, believes it can add the two Asian countries to the pan-European program.

"It would also be great to include Turkey in this scheme," said one Eurofighter official.

Separately, Crosetto urged Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland, which recently lost a multibillion-dollar competition to U.S. firm Sikorsky Aircraft for Turkey's next-generation utility helicopter deal, to pursue a new Turkish contest to find a partner to make light utility helicopters.

"[AgustaWestland] needs to pursue all opportunities, [all] chances in the helicopter field," Crosetto said. "They will have to fight in a tight market."

Separately, on the second day of the IDEF fair, Turkey and Qatar signed a military cooperation agreement that calls for the Turkish sale to the Gulf country this year of various pieces of defense equipment worth $120 million.

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