In a four-hour meeting in Anakra, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Syrian president's special envoy that time was running out for the Syrian government to introduce democratic reforms. "You have no other options but to make reforms. This is your last chance. Do it right away or it will be too late," Davutoglu reportedly told the Syrian envoy.
Syran Governor Alleges Weapons Entered from Neighbors
Syria's Aleppo governor has alleged that weapons destined for an armed group that has killed 120 police officers entered the country from neighbors, including Turkey. "We have never targeted unarmed protestors. Yet it is very odd that U.S. and British diplomats visited Hatay just days before the incidents erupted," he said.
Number of Syrian Refugees in Turkey Reaches Nearly 9,700
The number of Syrians fleeing violent clashes between the army and anti-government groups to Turkey has reached nearly 9,700, a Turkish border official said on Friday.
Syrians who seek shelter in Turkey are accommodated in tent sites in the southern province of Hatay, in the towns of Altinozu and Yayladag.
Syrians in the sites are served three meals a day, provided hot water round the clock and medical care at a field hospital.
Hollywood star and UN refugee agency goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie, is set to visit the tent sites on Friday.
Gul: Turkey Will Vote in Favor of Palestinian State
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that Turkey supported the foundation of a Palestinian state, which would have East Jerusalem as its capital. Gul revealed Turkey's vote for a UN resolution, despite the United States and Israel having expressed their opposition to a sovereign Palestinian state. "We are one of the strongest supporters of Palestine. There is no doubt that our vote at the UN will be a 'Yes'," Gul said.
U.S. Senator: Turkey Responsible for Flotilla
A United States senator has issued a call for Turkey to be held responsible for the planned launching of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla organized by a group he calls a "terrorist organization."
In a policy recommendation report authored by U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, and obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News on Wednesday night, Kirk calls on the U.S. to adopt three measures to deal with the planned Gaza-bound flotilla, including labeling the flotilla organizers, the nongovernmental organization İHH, a terrorist organization. He offered U.S. naval support to Israel to block the flotilla and told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Turkey will be held accountable for the flotilla's actions.
"The United States should ... make it clear to [Prime Minister] Erdoğan that Turkey will be held accountable for any actions that support or enable the İHH to launch its flotilla," the report said.
"I don't think that's a fair assessment," said Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selçuk Ünal, who reiterated the Turkish government's position that the aid flotilla was being organized outside the scope of government policy by an international group of nongovernmental organizations, with no known connections to terrorist organizations.
The U.S. should "immediately designate the İHH as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224, which targets 'terrorists, terrorist organizations, and those providing financial, technological, or material support to terrorists, terrorist organizations, or acts of terrorism,'" according to the Kirk report, "The Future of Israel's Security and the U.S.-Israel Relationship."
The report also included other policy recommendations based on the senator's recent "intense fact-finding mission to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan."
Government Pressure Divides Group on Flotilla Decision
Under indirect pressure from the government to cancel plans to send a new flotilla to Gaza, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, is facing a growing split, on the eve of a key decision to be announced Friday.
"The evaluations are still ongoing. We are considering every option," Hüseyin Oruç, a board member of the Turkish relief organization İHH, and the spokesman for the new flotilla, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Twenty-two vessels from different countries, including the Mavi Marmara, which played a leading role in last year's voyage, are expected to sail to Gaza after meeting in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean on June 27.
The Turkish government has been discouraging the İHH through indirect channels from sailing to Gaza, indicating growing instability in Syria as the fundamental reason behind it, although the United States' pressure on Turkey to stop the flotilla is another important factor.
Turkish-Israeli relations were seriously damaged after Israel raided the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, killing nine. Turkey insists on an apology and compensation as a precursor to normalizing its relations with Israel.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu urged the flotilla's organizers to see how the Egyptian opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, as well as the intra-Palestinian unity between rival factions Hamas and al-Fatah, affects the situation before heading to the blockaded strip.
"The flotilla is sailing, but we'll announce the final decision about the Mavi Marmara at a press conference at 11 a.m. on Friday," Oruç said, adding that international activists of other planned ships would also be present at the press event.
Oruç reiterated earlier remarks made to the Daily News that the latest developments in the region, especially in neighboring Syria, prompted the group to reconsider the plans. Turkish organizers of the flotilla are having second thoughts about sending the Mavi Marmara to Gaza this year, especially after the crisis in Syria prompted an influx of refugees to the Turkish side of the shared border, following President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissidents.
"We already have members of our board, on the Syrian side of the border, in the buffer zone next to the refugees," Oruç said. "We went there to coordinate humanitarian aid, but it appears the crisis will not be resolved in the short run."
The Daily News also learned that the split within the İHH is widening, as some members from its nationalist wing insist on sending the ship to Gaza, while others close to government circles are reluctant to do so, especially after Ankara's suggestion that the group reconsider its plans. Some members of the İHH expressed their willingness to sail to Gaza through social media late Wednesday, after the Daily News broke the news that the İHH was thinking of revising its plans.
Turkey to Boost Cooperation with International Partners
Turkey decided on Friday to boost cooperation and speed up coordination and consultations with regional and international partners regarding developments in the Middle East and North Africa.
Turkey's ambassadors to the Middle East and North Africa came together in Ankara under the chairmanship of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The meeting ended on Friday.
Turkish ambassadors in the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Belgium and Italy, as well as permanent representatives to the United Nations, NATO and European Union, attended the meeting.
Participants assessed possible course of developments in the mentioned countries in the short, medium and long-term, and relations with those countries.
At the end of the meeting, the Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying the political change and democratic transformation in the Middle East and North Africa were a late normalization process.
"A peaceful transformation process is of vital importance for regional peace and security," the statement said. It also said all regional countries and international actors were closely monitoring Turkey's constructive contributions.
According to the statement, participants underlined the importance of an institutional and economic reconstruction in the countries that were undergoing a transition process, saying the international community should give priority to extending assistance to those countries which had to meet the daily economic needs of their peoples.
The statement said Turkey was a source of inspiration and a focus of interest in its region, thanks to its successful democratic and economic performance and active foreign policy.
"To this end, we have decided to boost our cooperation and speed up our coordination and consultations with our regional and international partners," the ministry statement added.
AK Deputy Chairman: We are Opening a New Page
Justice and Development Party (AK) Deputy Chairman Huseyin Celik told Radikal Daily that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to withdraw the cases he filed during the election. Erdogan, who had asked for Turkish citizens' "blessings" during his speech after the elections on June 12, decided to withdraw the 17 cases he had filed during the election period. Journalist Ahmet Altan and Republican People's Party (CHP) were two of the defendants in such cases. Deputy chairman Celik said his party wanted to "reset the clock and open a whole new page."
Erdogan to Travel to Egypt
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to make his first-ever foreign trip to Egypt after his landslide victory in last Sunday's general elections. Erdogan is expected to give messages to Egyptians, and other nations, encouraging their democratic drive.
CHP member Calls Election Comments 'Cruel'
Gursel Tekin, a member of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who is the target of the opposition within the party, spoke to Vatan Daily, saying, "It takes only six months to get the product when you plant potato in a field. Only (CHP leader Kemal) Kilicdaroglu and delegates can ask me to resign. The other voices are just a buzz."
Tekin defined comments that the election results were unsuccessful for CHP as "cruel," adding, "You are visiting Agri, Gumushane and Erzurum for the first time in your history. When you visit those cities for first time in 20 years, they see you as a tourist. How can everything change in one day? It is cruel to ask us 'Why we haven't achieved it in five years?' In this case, won't one ask you 'Why you haven't done it in 20 years?'"
State Official Issues University Entrance Exam Warning
A high-level state official, who paid a visit to Higher Education Board (YOK) President Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, issued a horrifying warning for the second leg of the university entrance exam (LYS), which will take place this weekend and next:
"LYS questions will be stolen from the Student Selection and Placement Center (OSYM), and will be distributed to all of Turkey through the e-mail of a Justice and Development Party (AK) lawmaker." Ozcan said. "It is possible that questions can be leaked out by methods we don't know. It is a very horrifying scenario."
Ozcan informed security about the claim, and security measures have been tightened in trucks carrying question booklets, OSYM building, and depots where booklets are kept. YOK, OSYM and security department will work in coordination until the exam is over.