U.S. Spokesperson: Turkey-Syria Border Needs to Stay Open

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States remained concerned about the Turkey-Syria border, but that it needed to stay open.

Speaking at a daily press briefing on Monday, Nuland said: "Our view is that the border needs to stay open. We're very gratified by the superb humanitarian work that the Turkish government is taking on. I think we have some 15,000 refugees over that border now. And the situation continues to be extremely difficult. As you know, we have offered our assistance to the government of Turkey, including through Turkish Red Crescent. So, you know, we remain concerned about that border."

When asked about U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton talking about potential clashes on the border, Nuland said, "The secretary spoke in response to reports that the Syrian government had moved heavy weapons, including tanks, up to the border. So her message was designed as a warning to maintain an open border, to maintain peace and security on the border and not to have clashes. So, obviously, our concern remains. But we're gratified to see that the border largely still remains open."

The number of Syrian people who fled the violence in their country and took shelter in Turkey reached 11,122, as of Monday. The Syrians are staying in five temporary tent-sites set up by the Turkish Red Crescent in the Altinozu and Yayladag towns of Turkey's southern province of Hatay. Nearly 2,000 tents were erected in the region while 15,425 blankets and 9,841 beds were distributed to the Syrian people. There are also four mobile kitchens, 22 mobile baths and two mobile hospitals in tent-sites.

Hundreds of people have been killed during pro-democracy protests in Syria since January 2011.


Turkey, Israel Attempt to Turn Page on Mavi Marmara Killings

Turkey and Israel have shown a "firm willingness" to make amends in the diplomatic row over Israeli troops storming a Gaza-bound ship, killing nine Turks, a Turkish diplomat said Tuesday.

Last May, the Mavi Marmara was leading a flotilla to the Palestinian territory, which is subject to an Israeli-imposed blockade, when an intervention by Israeli security forces ended in bloodshed.

Following the raid, Turkey withdrew its ambassador in Tel-Aviv, vowing that bilateral relations "would never be the same."

Recent gestures have raised the prospect of improved relations, however, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sending his Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, congratulations following his party's victory in the June 12 elections.

"The discussions are continuing. There is a firm willingness to find a solution between the two countries in order to put the affair behind them," said Ozdem Sanberk, the Turkish representative on the UN committee looking into the Gaza flotilla incident. "The two parties have been making genuine efforts."

The diplomat said it was not possible to say at what stage the discussions were, in terms of Turkey's demands, which were an apology from Israel and compensation for the families of those killed.

The decision by a Turkish Islamist group not to launch the Mavi Marmara as part of this year's flotilla has been interpreted in Tel-Aviv as a move influenced by the Turkish authorities.

"I think that we had lost trust between one another over the last few years. Now we need to stop playing this mutual blame game on the reasons for the loss of trust," Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, told the Turkish Daily News on Friday.

"The cancelation of the Mavi Marmara's departure is a chance for us to strengthen our ties. We need to meet and tackle all the issues," said the minister who, last year, humiliated a Turkish envoy when he forced him to sit on a much lower seat than him during a televised meeting.

Israel is gearing up to block the arrival of a new aid flotilla planning to set sail to Gaza from Greece later this week.

Israel first imposed a blockade on the enclave in 2006 after militants there snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid. He is still being held.

A ban on civilian goods and foodstuffs was eased last year, but many restrictions remain in place.


Iran Not a Threat to Turkey, Spokesman says

A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mihmanperest, said Tuesday that news suggesting NATO would attack Syria from bases in Turkey, Iran posing a threat to Turkey, were unrealistic. Such news, Mihmanperest said, is made by the western media and do not represent reality.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Iranian Embassy in Ankara made public Mihmanperest's views on Ankara-Tehran relations.

Iran and Turkey are two, big neighboring countries in the region. We have good relations with Turkey, Mihmanperest said.

The cooperation between Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria would make great contribution to the regional economy, Mihmanperest also said.


CHP Won't Take Oath Until Colleagues Released, Kilicdaroglu says

Turkey's main opposition leader addressed party members Tuesday and said the party's deputies would not take their parliamentary oaths until two incarcerated party colleagues were released from prison and allowed to do so as well.

Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has severely criticized a court decision preventing elected CHP deputies Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay from entering Parliament.

"We will not take the parliamentary oath until our friends are allowed to do so," Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The CHP opposed the hijacking of the rights of their friends who entered the elections with the approval of the prosecution and the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, and, without any past convictions or sentences, legitimately won seats in Parliament.

He said they wanted the principle of being "innocent until proven guilty" upheld.

Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his harsh attitude toward the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

"We supported the prime minister's entry into Parliament in 2003 due to our belief in democracy and the rule of law. We did not ask whether the AKP [Justice and Development Party] could not find anyone else to run as a candidate," Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Erdoğan's comment about barred candidate Hatip Dicle's candidacy.

"We will stand against this march toward civilian dictatorship and we will stand against the AKP," Kılıçdaroğlu said.


Ankara Locked, Erdogan has the Key

In a first interview with the Daily Milliyet, Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said, "We were very careful in the statements we made. We said unil the ways are opened to take oath, not till Balbay and Haberal take oat'. The target is not to insist, it is to find a solution."

This means Kilicdaroglu keeps open the door to words that will come from the prime minister. The only CHP MP Oktay Eksi, who took the oath, said CHP would give a motion for a solution.

Milliyet then spoke to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. When told that Kilicdaroglu was waiting for a statement, he said, "we will consider when they make their proposal," meaning he did not close the door.


Parliament is Three Parts

Parliament started its 24th term with a crisis that has never been seen before in its history: Parliamentarians, supported by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), boycotted parliament and the MPs of CHP boycotted taking oath. As the Justice and Development Party (AK) only got 49.9 percent of the votes, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) MPs won 12.9 percent of the votes in the general elections took oath, the names representing 37 percent of the electors could not take office.


Parliament Opens Without 170 MPs

For the first time in its history, parliament opened with a boycott and an oath-taking crisis.

Parliament started work for the first time while 170 MPs did not take their oaths. Parliamentarians of the AK Party, CHP and MHP were in the parliament in the General Assembly. Seats of BDP, which decided to boycott because of the seat to be filled by Hatip Dicle remained empty.

CHP's Oktay Eksi, the temporary Speaker of Parliament, in his opening address, relayed messages about the MPs who were under arrest, saying: "Eight parliamentarians are today deprived of carrying on the duty given by the nation to them."


Making First Contact

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek will visit CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu today. Commenting on the visit, Cicek said he would "take views for (the) Parliament Speaker."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, commenting on the MPs who were under arrest, said, "First, they should put forth their proposals, then we will make a statement."

BDP to Hold Group Meetings in Diyarbakir

Independent deputies who were elected with the support of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) convened in south-eastern province of Diyarbakir Tuesday. They took a decision to hold BDP's group meetings in Diyarbakir rather than the Turkish Parliament.


EU Commissioner: All Parties Should Contribute to Turkish Parliament's Integrity

A member of the European Commission said Tuesday that all parties in Turkey should contribute to the integrity and proper functioning of Turkish parliament.

In a statement released by his press office, Stefan Fule, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, commented on today's oath-taking ceremony at the Turkish parliament, saying Turkey might face important challenges in the near future and this situation might necessitate the involvement of all the democratic forces in the country.

Fuele said the Turkish parliament would be positioned right in the center of the debates and decisions concerning Turkey's future, adding that all parties should make contributions for the integrity and proper functioning of the parliament.

The 24th term of the Turkish Parliament began with an oath-taking ceremony on Tuesday. Deputies of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) attended today's opening session; they refused, however, to take the oath in a move of protest against the recent court decision rejecting the release of the party's two jailed MPs.

Independent MPs, who were backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and won 36 seats in the latest general elections, also boycotted the swearing-in ceremony due to the Turkish Election Board's decision to strip independent candidate Hatip Dicle of his newly won seat in parliament.


More Turkish Soldiers to Stand Trial in Coup Probe

Another 28 Turkish soldiers, among them a senior general, will stand trial over an alleged 2003 plan to overthrow the Islamist-rooted government, the Anatolia News Agency reported Tuesday.

An Istanbul court accepted the indictment in the case and issued an arrest warrant for eight of the 13 defendants who remain at large on the grounds that they may destroy evidence or flee, Anatolia said.

Fifteen suspects were already detained in recent weeks, after prosecutors expanded their investigation into the alleged coup plot, code named "Operation Sledgehammer," whose first stage landed some 200 soldiers in court last year.

The most senior among the new suspects is four-star general Bilgin Balanli, the head of Turkey's military academies, who was in line to become air force commander this year. He was detained in May.

The court scheduled the trial for August 15, Anatolia said, without providing details about the charges.

The first trial in the case opened in December with 196 defendants, among them senior commanders. Most of them remain in prison.

The investigation, the toughest challenge yet to the once-omnipotent Turkish military, has landed some 30 generals, or about a tenth of the total, in jail, humbling the army after its ouster of four governments in the past.

The case, however, has been marred by serious doubts over the authenticity of some implicating documents, fueling mistrust between the army and government.

Prosecutors argue the coup plan was drawn up and discussed shortly after the Justice and Development Party, the offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, came to power in November 2002, amid fears it would undermine Turkey's secular system.

The soldiers allegedly plotted to bomb mosques and down a Turkish jet over the Aegean Sea and blame it on Greece, hoping to discredit the government and garner public support for a coup.

The alleged plot leader, retired general Cetin Dogan, says papers from a seminar on a contingency plan, based on a scenario of tensions with Greece and domestic unrest, have been doctored to look like a coup plan.


Boyner: Turkish Economy No Longer Affected by Politics

Chairman of the Turkish Industrialist's and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD) Umit Boyner said the Turkish economy was no longer affected by politics. Our vulnerability is much less now, he said.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu to Represent Turkey at SEECP

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will represent Turkey at a meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Montenegro.

President Filip Vujanovic of Montenegro will host the summit in the city of Budva.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying the Regional Cooperation Council annual meeting and SEECP foreign ministers meeting would also take place prior to the summit.

"Turkey attaches a special importance to the Balkans in its foreign policy and maintains its efforts to contribute to peace, stability and welfare in the region. Turkey strongly supports principle target of the regional countries to integrate with European and European-Atlantic institutions and extends any kind of support in this respect."

Heads of state and government of 12 member countries, as well as high ranking representatives of some countries and EU, NATO, UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and BSEC, will attend the summit.

A statement related to daily regional and global issues is expected to be adopted at the end of the summit.

The summit will mark the end of the one-year rotating Montenegrin SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office, which will be taken over by Serbia.

The summit will end on July 30.


Turkey's Main Opposition Leader Traveling to Greece

Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu will leave for Greece to attend a Socialist International Council meeting.

The CHP press center said on Tuesday that Kilicdaroglu would leave for Athens on June 30 and attend the meeting on July 1 and 2.

Kilicdaroglu will also visit Thessaloniki, Komotini and Xanthi. He will return to Turkey on July 2.



Turkey will likely place a purchase order for a batch of six F-35 next generation aircraft before the end of the year, but disputes continue among parties

Turkey plans to buy the U.S.-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II, a stealth multirole fighter jet, to meet most future needs for its Air Force's next generation fighter planes. It has voiced willingness to buy around 100 F-35s over the next 15 years, but as the program's limited production stage begins, it so far has not formally committed to the program. To do so, it needs to submit a purchase order for a first batch of six aircraft before the end of the year.

"We will have talks [with the Americans] in the months ahead in an effort to resolve some matters. If we manage to reach an agreement, we expect to order the first six aircraft this year," Murad Bayar, chief of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, the government's defense procurement agency, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News. "We expect to reach a deal."

The F-35, whose production is led by the U.S.'s Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense company, will be built by a consortium of nine countries, including Turkey. Other members of the consortium are Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and Denmark.

A few years ago, when Turkey's purchase of around 100 jets was expected to cost around $10 billion or $11 billion, Turkish companies grabbed project work around $5 billion, meeting nearly half of the expense. But the unit price has gone up considerably over the past two years, exceeding $13 billion.

Now Turkish companies seek to raise their share to more than $6 billion to stay near the planned 50 percent figure. In addition, the United States remains reluctant to share millions of lines of source codes that make the plane's flight possible. Turkey, however, wants access to part of these source codes related to operational needs.

Placing an order for the first six aircraft before the end of this year is mostly related to early deliveries, by 2014 and 2015, but a failure to do so would not be the end of the world.

"If we don't place the first purchase order by year's end, that would not necessarily mean that we have failed to agree, it may mean that we at this point may not have the finances," Bayar said. "Anyway, we hope that none of this happens."

The F-35 mainly has three versions.

The F-35A is the conventional takeoff and landing variant intended for the U.S. Air Force and other air forces. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft, and is meant for the U.S. Marines. The F-35C carrier variant features larger wings with foldable wingtip sections, and is meant for the U.S. Navy. A fourth variant, the F-35I is an export version for Israel.

Separately, Turkey has a plan to develop a second fighter aircraft in the 2020s. Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, has about 18 months to develop the specifications for this second fighter jet, which should replace most of the Vietnam War-era F-4E Phantoms.

The European consortium Eurofighter has repeatedly asked Turkey to do the job together, but Ankara prefers to develop the fighter from scratch, probably with another country. The Eurofighter consortium already builds the Typhoon. Other options for Turkey include South Korea or Brazil.


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