The United States is pushing the Syrian opposition to maintain dialogue with Bashar al-Assad's regime, as details emerge of a controversial "roadmap" for reforms that would leave him in power for now, despite demands for his overthrow during the country's bloody three-month uprising, The Guardian reported Thursday.
Syrian opposition sources say U.S. state department officials have been discreetly encouraging discussion of the unpublished draft document, which circulated at an unprecedented opposition conference held on Monday in Damascus. But Washington denies backing it, The Guardian's report said.
Al-Assad would oversee what the roadmap calls "a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy." It calls for tighter control over the security forces, the disbanding of "shabiha" gangs accused of atrocities, the legal right to peaceful demonstrations, extensive media freedoms and the appointment of a transitional assembly.
The carefully phrased 3,000-word document demands a "clear and frank apology" and accountability for organizations and individuals who, "failed to accommodate legitimate protests," and compensation for the families of victims. The opposition says 1,400 people have been killed since mid-March. The government says 500 members of the security forces have died.
It calls for the ruling Ba'ath party to be subject to a new law on political parties – though the party would still provide 30 of 100 members for a proposed transitional national assembly – seventy others would be appointed by the president in consultation with opposition nominees.
Several of the proposed measures have already been mentioned in public by al-Assad, fuelling speculation that he is at least partially following through on some of the document's recommendations.
Turkey Denies Plans to Launch Operations in Syrian Cities
A spokesman with the Turkish Foreign Ministry has strongly rejected allegations that Turkey had informed Western countries that it was planning to stage military operations on a number of Syrian cities.
"These news stories are baseless and they are far from being a truth," Selcuk Unal told the Anadolu Agency in Budva, Montenegro.
Several news reports have alleged that Turkey had informed Britain, France, Italy, Germany and NATO that it might launch military operations inside Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister to Embark on Middle East Tour
Turkish Foreign Minster Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday he was planning to go on a Middle Eastern tour that included Syria.
Speaking to reporters after a summit meeting of the heads of state and government on the Southeastern European Cooperation Process, Davutoglu said his tour was set to begin this weekend, adding that Syria would be one of the stops.
"Syria's future is common with that of Turkey's. The important thing is that the Syrian people and the government get ready for the future with a new vision and to implement a new reforms process," Davutoglu said.
Davutoglu said Turkey had never a secret agenda against another country, adding that on Syria Turkey had always acted openly and sincerely.
"We have conveyed our advices openly to the Syrian government behind closed doors. What we wish is the immediate launch of a reform process in Syria and an end to violence. We are ready to do whatever is in our capacity to achieve that," he said.
Davutoglu's is expected to also make stops include Jordan, Iran and Saudi Arabia during his Middle East tour.
Parliament to Work 'With or Without You, PM Tells CHP
Turkey's prime minister has criticized opposition members who did not take their parliamentary oaths on Tuesday, telling his legislative group Thursday that the body would work with or without the opposition.
"They're saying that I have to solve this issue. What can the prime minister do? Call the judges and give orders?" asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while addressing his lawmakers Thursday.
Independent and main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputies refused to take their oaths on Tuesday in protest of a recent court decision that continued the incarceration of their elected colleagues.
"Those who accuse the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] for the judiciary's decisions act out of old habits. The judiciary might have taken orders from the executive in their time, but it will not take orders from anyone under our rule," he said.
The comment elicited a swift reaction from CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. "We never [suggested that Erdoğan] should call the judiciary and give instructions to it. What we want is the implementation of universal law," the CHP head said.
"Whether or not the opposition comes, there is nothing that will prevent Parliament from being active," Erdoğan said. "And unlike the opposition's claims, the commissions can very well operate without them."
But Kılıçdaroğlu answered, saying that if the AKP violated the Constitution by creating a commission without the CHP, they would also violate regulations and join Parliament without first being sworn in.
"The people who boycotted the oath ceremony in Parliament still cannot accept the separation of powers. No one has the right to ignore the laws. Turkey is not a banana republic, it is a democratic and secular state," Erdoğan said. "The problem is Turkey's problem, and it must be solved together. The opposition has to remain calm and come up with a reasonable solution."
'CHP Losing Esteem in Eyes of the People'
For Erdoğan, the boycott would go down in the opposition's history as an "unforgivable stain."
The obstacle to the national will is not the AKP, Erdoğan said, noting that the opposition was continuously damaging its reputation in the eyes of the people.
"The [CHP] has misunderstood the message of the people. We categorize this period as disorientation. They are the ones hindering the national will. A boycott will get them nowhere," the prime minister said. "We want the CHP to immediately end this disorientation and resume its role as the main opposition."
Erdoğan also said the government "would not bow down to the dominance of the minority," prompting Kılıçdaroğlu to retort that "first, they must learn what democracy is. A regime where the majority exerts pressure is not a democracy."
The CHP is open to solutions, not a "logic of imposition," Kılıçdaroğlu said.
President Abdullah Gül has given the impression that he too wants a solution through compromise, the CHP chief said, but added that the prime minister had not expressed a similar desire.
No Oath Until Solution
Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu spoke to the Daily Vatan and criticized the judges, saying, the "Higher Board of Judges and Prosecutors should intervene. Two judges caused democracy crisis. We could prevent working of the Parliament if we wanted. Oktay Eksi could say, "Parliament opens with 550 parliamentarians. Eight parliamentarians are absent. I am giving an interval until those eight people take oath. Is there any obstacle for this?" Kilicdaroglu said CHP was waiting for a step from the government. "A solution can be found if political will wants. We will not take oath until a solution is found."
CHP Asks for Implementation of Sapanca Formula
Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu met President Abdullah Gul and proposed the "Sapanca Formula," which the Daily Radikal mentioned in its newspaper on Thursday. At the meeting in Cankaya Palace, the parties agreed that change in the Code of Criminal Procedure formula would solve the crisis. In the summit of the ministry in Sapanca, it was proposed to seek for "concrete evidence" instead of "suspicion to escape" for the continuation of detention.
Dicle Crisis Carried into Presidential Race
Independent deputies backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) convened in Ankara yesterday for the first time after the June 12 general elections and they set up a road map. Independents said that taking back Hatip Dicle's deputyship was their "red line." The independent deputies will meet President Abdullah Gul today and ask him to be "mediator" for a solution.
Istanbul Court Rejects Alan's Request for Release
A Turkish high criminal court on Thursday rejected the request of retired General Engin Alan for a release from prison.
Alan is currently a detainee as part of the "Balyoz Plan" (Sledgehammer Plan) case, an investigation into an alleged network accused of aiming to overthrow the Turkish government.
Alan has been elected as a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the June 12 elections.
MHP Chairman Rejects President's Invitatino
Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, on Thursday rejected an invitation by Turkish President Abdullah Gul for a meeting.
Bahceli, who explained why he turned down the invitation, said, "it was very ugly and inappropriate to both show MHP in the same category as the parties responsible for the oath-taking and boycott crisis and consider MHP as a part of ongoing political crisis."
"MHP did not accept the invitation because it believes that President Gul takes position to distract attention of the public and because it is not a part of the ongoing crisis at the Parliament," Bahceli said.
"Mr. President's persuasiveness, his qualification to solve problems impartially and his cohesive specialty broke down because of his role-sharing with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his mission, which he carries out by making the AK Party to his priority."
AK will Continue Road with 'Experienced Friends'
It was learned that during his Justice and Development (AK) Party's group meeting, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, regarding the new cabinet: "We will see a rough opposition period. Thus, we will continue our road with experienced friends."
Ruling Party Lawmaker Cicek to Run for Parliament Speaker
The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has designated Cemil Cicek as its candidate for Parliament speaker.
The Turkish Parliament is expected to elect its new head on Monday.
Mehmet Ali Sahin, the former Parliament speaker, said Thursday that he would not run for the office again.
Turkey Breaks World Record with Growth Rate
Turkish economy grew over the expectations, 11 percent, thanks to special consumption expenses and investments in the first quarter of 2011. According to TurkStat figures, Turkey broke the world record with this growth rate. Meanwhile, year-end expectation was updated to seven percent. With this growth speed, Turkey passed the biggest economies of the world in the first quarter.
Has Mossad Sabotaged in Gocek?
An Irish ship, which would have joined the Second Freedom Flotilla bound for Gaza, was sabotaged. A problem occurred when Saoirse, the Irish ship, was touring shores of Gocek. The ship returned to port and it was found out that the driveshaft was taken off. The driveshaft could cause cracks in the body of the ship when it was moving. The owner of the ship, Fintan Lane, held Mossad responsible for the sabotage saying, "Only Israel can do such a thoughtless act."