Turkey has urged Palestinian groups to take advantage of the high moral ground they achieved with their agreement to form a unity government.
Meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Thursday, President Abdullah Gul stressed Palestinian groups should be united to properly use the leverage they achieved, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Palestinian leader Abbas began talks with Turkish officials in Ankara on Thursday, following Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's discussion with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal two days ago, in order to solve dispute over unity government.
Abbas had meetings separately with President Gül and Davutoğlu, as part of efforts to achieve Palestinian unity with his rival Hamas.
President Gül said Turkey wanted to see all "brother countries" in a strong position, adding the need for a fair peace on the Palestinian issue, the diplomat said. "A united Palestine is crucial" for the upcoming process, Gül told Abbas.
Al-Fatah and Hamas have argued over who will be the next prime minister of the unity government. A meeting of al-Fatah and Hamas leaders in Cairo on Tuesday was postponed due to Hamas' opposition to the re-appointment of Western-backed economist Salam Fayyad.
Meshaal arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday and met with Davutoğlu discussing the ways of overcoming the dispute, Turkish diplomats said. Abbas will meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday.
Under the unity deal signed in May, Fatah and Hamas must agree on independent figures to make up a government that will lay the groundwork for legislative and presidential elections within a year.
Convince Hamas and 'We'll Kiss Your Hand'
Members of Israel's ruling coalition are hailing a "golden opportunity" for rapprochement with Turkey following last year's Mavi Marmara incident and have even made a promise to all Turkish citizens, if Ankara can end Hamas attacks on Israel.
"[We will] kiss the hands of each and every Turk" if Ankara can convince Hamas to sign a peace agreement, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Wednesday.
"Turkey has the right to form its own foreign policy. We respect that. We have no right to tell them not to make contact with different factions. But this must not be a game where everyone loses. Israel must not be sacrificed to develop their relations. If an announcement declaring unity was made today regarding the meeting over Hamas with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], then we would be happy. Palestinian unity is in our interests; that way we will know who to engage with [in talks.] We would kiss the hands of each and every Turk if Hamas said they accept the Oslo [Treaty], condemn terror and recognize Israel," Ayalon said.
Ayalon, a member of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, or "Israel is Our Home" party, is best remembered in Turkey as the Israeli official who humiliated Ankara's envoy to Tel Aviv during a meeting last year. The deputy foreign minister said Wednesday, however, that Israel was ready for all forms of cooperation to erase the shadow of the Mavi Marmara incident from Turkish-Israeli relations.
The warm messages come in the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent message of congratulations to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, following the latter's recent election victory.
Ayalon praised the decision by the Turkish nongovernmental aid group, the İHH, to cancel the Mavi Marmara's participation in this year's flotilla to Gaza. On May 31, 2010, the Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli forces, which killed eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American onboard, greatly straining relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv.
"The fact that the Mavi Marmara will not be coming [to Gaza for a second time] is also a good opportunity for us to renew our ties. We should get together and speak about everything we need to speak about," he said.
"I believe what we have lost over the past few years is trust. Now we need to let go of this mutual blame game as to why this trust was lost. Political tensions in Turkey have been left behind following the [general] elections," Ayalon said.
Turkey as regional power
"A factor that bore no relevance to Turkish-Israeli relations was included in our relations. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas terror was added to our relations. This serves neither the interests of Turkey nor the interests of Israel. Why should we subordinate our relations to a third party?" Ayalon said.
"We want to solve the Palestinian problem anyway. If we are to put our signature on a historic treaty, then we need to be certain that this will not just stay on paper and that our security and regional stability will also be maintained. We are even ready to speak to Hamas for this. But, for Hamas to become a legitimate partner in peace, first they must recognize Israel's right to exist, accept the Oslo Treaty and put an end to terror," Ayalon said.
Ayalon said Israel would welcome a Turkish role in the region as a mediator under the right circumstances.
"If Turkey wants to bring together Palestinian groups, this presents no problem for us. We respect that. Turkey is a regional power and has a historical role, and it might be able to influence the process."
While noting that Turkey has the right to steer its own foreign policy ship in the region, Ayalon said he hoped such maneuvering would not jeopardize its relations with Israel.
The deputy minister said Turkey's current approach to the crisis in Syria was heartening and believed that Turkey and Israel could coordinate their respective policies.
"Syria lies within both of our fields of interest. Both [our] countries have common borders with Syria. Regional stability concerns both countries. We should be seeing eye-to-eye with Turkey over this matter. The leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister Erdoğan over the issue of Syria was very, very encouraging. This should be noticed and appreciated in the region," he said.
Ayalon said the secret talks have taken place, as well as talks through the U.N. Palmer commission, which is investigating the deadly flotilla incident.
"Secret talks are very important because they are conducted away from public pressure. I can neither confirm nor deny the talks for I have no authority [to do so.] But we are also continuing the process regarding the report that will be prepared by the Palmer commission at the United Nations. This report could be a way to normalize and restore our relations," said Ayalon.
"Of course, there are also certain tasks that need to be fulfilled before the public's view. The letter sent to Prime Minister Erdoğan could be seen as a confidence building measure. Another step might be to send the ambassador. We would welcome the ambassador that Turkey will appoint. In all likelihood, we will also be appointing a new ambassador in place of the current one whose term of office has expired," he said.
Turkish High Criminal Court Rejects Release Demands
A Turkish high criminal court ruled Thursday against the release of Prof. Mehmet Haberal and journalist Mustafa Balay, who have been elected deputies in the June 12 elections, although they were under arrest as part of the ongoing Ergenekon case.
The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul assessed the applications filed by the attorneys of Haberal and Balbay, and by the majority of votes, ruled for the rejection of the release demands.
Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay have been elected parliamentarians from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in the latest general elections in Turkey.
Both names are currently detainees as part of the Ergenekon case, an investigation into an alleged network accused of aiming to overthrow the Turkish government.
Independent MP'S will Boycott Parliament
Independent MPs, backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), will boycott Turkish Parliament, a spokesman for the deputies said on Thursday.
Independent MPs, mostly from southeastern provinces, have made their decision after Turkey's Election Board (YSK) stripped Hatip Dicle, an independent deputy, of his newly won seat in parliament. YSK said it made the decision because of an earlier conviction for spreading propaganda of the terrorist organization PKK.
"Hatip Dicle's legal rights have been grabbed by an unauthorized body," Serafettin Elci told reporters on behalf of the independent MPs. "We will not go to the parliament until we see a concrete step from the parliament and the government to correct this unfair situation," Elci said.
Dicle was one of 36 independent candidates who won a seat in the 550-seat parliament after the June 12 general elections. MPs are set to be sworn in on June 28.
He Is Not Settling Things Only With Us
Selahattin Demirtas, the former chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), spoke to the Milliyet daily newspaper regarding the decision to cancel Hatip Dicle's parliament membership.
"The prime minister has not settled things with only us. We will not go to the parliament," Demirtas said. "We will not go to parliament with six deficiencies. We are aware that Hatip Dicle is openly being insulted. Who will make an explanation to the Diyarbakir people who have given 70,000 votes? The stage we will reach at the end of this (process) is PKK's breaking the ceasefire. We are trying not to give harsh messages to prevent such a thing. We do not want the ceasefire to be broken, but the further step will be that."
Turkish Parliament Speaker Talks of Dicle Decision
Turkish Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin said: "The Board made a decision and it was published in the Official Gazette. I do not think that any arguments will serve anything at this point. Because, whether we like it or not, the Supreme Board of Election has made a decision and it is the final decision. Parliament is the only address of dealing with political issues. If there is a problem, it is our parliament that will find a solution. Seeking for a solution somewhere else will not yield any results," he told reporters.
"A deputy can be considered as a member of the parliament only after receiving his/her deputyship certificate. If independent deputies fail to receive their certificates, they cannot attend general assembly works," Sahin added.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Board of Election ruled that Dicle did not qualify to become a lawmaker after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the twenty-month imprisonment term for Dicle on charges of disseminating propaganda to a terrorist organization.
Fear in Aleppo
If the unrest in Syria spreads to Aleppo city, around 300,000 Syrians are expected to flee into Turkey. Ankara is making preparations to establish a buffer zone that is 2 kilometers wide and 15 kilometers long. Turkish Red Crescent Aid Society will erect a tent-site in the Syrian side of the border.
Davutoglu, Syrian Foreign Minister Talk About Border Troops
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallim, talked Thursday about the military movements near the Turkish-Syrian border and the Syrians fleeing into Turkey, Foreign Ministry officials told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Muallim said the reason for the latest Syrian troop activity by the Turkish border was to try "to catch the terrorists and military exercises." The official said Syrian troops backed by tanks entered a border zone Thursday and hundreds of people fled into Turkey, as protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule hit the 100-day mark.
Some 600 displaced people broke through the barbed wire marking the frontier and advanced into Turkish territory on a road used by Turkish border guards, a few kilometers from the Turkish village of Guveççi.
They were flanked by Turkish paramilitary police vehicles and minibuses who were apparently called to ferry the refugees to tent cities the Turkish Red Crescent has erected in the border province of Hatay.
Another several hundred people were seen further down the same road, walking toward the Turkish security forces vehicles. Earlier Thursday, Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed a border village where many of the displaced had amassed, an activist at the scene told AFP.
A Guveççi resident said he saw soldiers crossing a hill on the Syrian side less than a kilometer from the border at around 6 a.m.
A Turkish flag erected a few days earlier by Syrian refugees in gratitude for Ankara's hospitality was replaced by a Syrian one, an AFP journalist witnessed. Turkish police were seen laying sandbags and mounting precision binoculars on tripods on the outskirts of Guveççi.
Syria to Turkey: Review Your Attitudes
Syria on Wednesday said they wanted to continue good relations with Turkey. But Turkey must review its attitude and stance on the developments taking place in Syria, said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem. "We will not permit foreign powers to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria. We do not want to eradicate our special relations that were formed after efforts of long years," al-Mualem said.
Al-Asad's Main Enemy
Speaking to the Milliyet daily newspaper, Muhammad Riyadh al-Shaqfa, the head in exile of Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, says the regime will give up at the end of this year. Al-Shaqfa said that Syrian leader Bashar al-Asad's father Hafez al-Asad quelled the revolt pioneered by the Muslim Brothers in 1979-80 in a very bloody way, and Hama city was even demolished at that time. Al-Shaqfa said those who were members of the organization or those who even have a minor link with the organization were being executed.