High-level negotiations to mend Turkey-Israel relations continue in New York ahead of the release of a United Nations report on the Gaza flotilla raid, as Turkish and Israeli officials search for the "right word with the right meaning" in a last-ditch effort to restore relations.

"The main focus of the negotiations now is not about the word but about the meaning of the word in terms of responsibility," an Israeli official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday, when officials from both sides held another round of negotiations in New York. Ankara's demand for a formal apology for Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel seeking to break the Gaza blockade, has been a sticking point as the two countries try to repair their ties and the United Nations puts the finishing touches on its investigation of the incident.

"Who is responsible for what? This is the importance of the word that will be used because the responsibility has moral and legal implications," the Israeli official told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We are looking to put this behind us, to find some sort of compromise, to avoid legal grievances. We want to finish this by finding the right word with the right meaning." They also confirmed that Israel sent its deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya'alon, to New York for a meeting with Turkish officials.

Obviously, the contacts are focused on bilateral issues that concern both our countries," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor.

"Mr. Ya'alon will meet with a number of Turkish officials who have been mandated by the Turkish government to deal with this [Gaza flotilla] affair," Palmor said.

Dictionary of choice

The Daily News has learned that the Turkish delegation includes Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu; diplomat Mithat Rende, the country's contact point with the United Nations for the inquiries into the May 31, 2010, raid; and Özdem Sanberk, the Turkish member of the UN panel.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry would neither confirm nor deny that the meeting had taken place.

The Daily News previously quoted a senior Israeli official saying that "if Turkey and Israel want to reach an agreement, they only need to open Webster's Dictionary to find a different word for 'apology.'" Asked about this statement, Palmor smiled and said: "Well, I personally prefer the Oxford English-Turkish dictionary. I find it much more useful. I have one copy at home. I really do."

Ankara has been firm in saying that it will not normalize ties with Tel Aviv unless Israel issues a formal apology and compensates the victims of last year's raid, which left nine people dead. Israel is known to prefer to use a word such as "regret" or "sorry" because it considers the dispatching of the ship by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, to be a provocative act. Asked what word he would choose from the Oxford dictionary to resolve the stalemate, Palmor said: "Well, I am not a member of the negotiating team. I cannot make any proposal, but I have my own ideas on which words to use.

"For the moment, the negotiations continue and the contacts continue at the highest level, proof of [the issue's] seriousness and how important the relationship with Turkey is for us," he added. "Once we agree on a formula, once there is a compromise, it will be the end of this story and it will not return to bother us in the future," Palmor said.

The UN is expected to publish its report on the Mavi Marmara incident sometime this week. The Daily News has learned that the draft report says the Israeli blockade on Gaza is legal under international law and therefore Israel is entitled to stop all ships trying to break the blockade. The report will also criticize the Israeli military for using excessive force.


U.S. Not Pressuring Turkey, Israel to Mend Ties, Ambassador Says

A top U.S. diplomat in Turkey has said that Washington did not put pressure on Turkey or Israel to mend bilateral relations, which bitterly deteriorated after Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists last May.

"We are not using pressure. We do support both of our friends. We believe that the two countries will work together again not just to settle their differences but for the stability and the security of the region," Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador in Ankara, told reporters on Tuesday.

Ricciardone said he believed that both Turkey and Israel were aware that their national interest, such as the security and stability of the region, were at stake.

Responding to a question over U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's expected visit to Turkey, Ricciardone said plans were not yet clear about her official Turkey visit, adding that Clinton would participate in a July 15 meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul.


Turkish Foreign Minister in Tahrir

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Benghazi, Libya the other day. On the way to the airport, Davutoglu decided to visit Benghazi's "Tahrir Square," which got its name from the Egyptian square where anti-government protests took place. In the "Tahrir Square" of Benghazi, Davutoglu addressed hundreds of Libyans. Davutoglu said that Turkey and Libya had a "common history and a common future."

U.S. Welcomes Turkey's Recognition of Libyan Opposition Group

A spokeswoman with the U.S. State Department said the U.S. government has welcomed Turkey's recognition of the Libyan Transitional National Council, or the TNC, as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

"We very much welcome the step that the Turkish government has taken, including its provision of aid to the Transitional National Council," Victoria Nuland told a daily press briefing.

Nuland also said that the United States considered the TNC "the legitimate and credible interlocutor for the Libyan people and we are working very closely with them on the full range of issues associated with the transition."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has declared during a visit to the opposition stronghold Benghazi that Turkish government recognized the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

The Turkish foreign minister said Turkey pledged an additional $200 million worth of support to a previous $100 million the country donated in June.


Turkish Cypriots Seed EU Presidency in 2012

Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu seeks to hold the European Union presidency as a unified Cyprus by 2012, an official tells the Daily News. He is set to hold trilateral talks in Geneva on Thursday to set a definite agenda. Eroğlu recently called for talks to be concluded within the next three to five months to reach an agreement

The Turkish Cypriot leader is attending a tripartite meeting with the Greek Cypriot leader and UN chief in Geneva on Thursday to conclude negotiations at the latest in 2012 and take the European Union presidency at that time as a "Unified Cyprus" with Greek Cypriots.

"We expect the UN chief to propose an action plan for a more comprehensive and intensified schedule of talks that will lead to an agreement and referendum on both sides in 2012, so that we can then take the EU term presidency as a unified Cyprus," a Turkish Cypriot official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday.

Eroğlu will attend a tripartite meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva on Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, Eroğlu held talks in Ankara with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on late Monday and with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Tuesday. The Turkish Cypriot leader then left for Geneva.

The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have been conducting U.N.-brokered talks on a solution to the Cyprus problem in a bid to reunify the island since 2008. Greek Cyprus, an EU member country, will take the presidency of the union in mid-2012. Turkey still has not officially recognized the Greek Cypriot administration, which has led to difficulties in its own membership negotiations with the bloc.

Even though the Turkish side urges the parties to set a calendar for negotiation talks between the Cypriot leaders, but Christofias rejects any sort of deadline for the talks.

"In any case, talks with the Greek Cypriots have a natural calendar. That is the EU presidency of Greek Cypriots in 2012 and upcoming elections for the southern part of the island in 2013," the Turkish Cypriot official said.

Turkish side optimistic

But UN chief Ban Ki-moon already had expressed his unease with the slow pace of talks in his recent reports, the official said.

"He shared his idea with us that these talks cannot be open-ended and they should not be held just to make talks. In Thursday's tripartite meeting, we expect Ban Ki-moon to propose an action plan for an intensified and comprehensive negotiation process without deadlines, but setting the agenda and dates for upcoming meetings," the official added.

Eroğlu said late last month that if an agreement to reunite Cyprus is ever going to be reached, it will occur within the next three to five months.

"If an agreement is to be made, the process cannot continue forever," he said at the time.

Turkish Cypriots are not optimistic about the UN chief implementing a deadline on the Cyprus talks, since Christofias categorically rejects it. However, they hope Ban will push the talks so Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots can reach an agreement by the end of 2012. "After keeping negotiations until the end of this year, we can hold an inter-governmental conference with the participation of guarantor counties and then we can take the agreement to referendum on both sides of the island," the Turkish Cypriot official said.

In talks with Ankara, the Turkish side reiterated its "one step ahead" policy for Thursday's tripartite meeting and urged Greek Cypriots to accelerate negotiations, an official from Turkish Foreign Ministry told the Daily News on Tuesday. In recent remarks, Turkish Cypriot leader Eroğlu said if no agreement was reached on Thursday, then Ban should make his stance clear.


Egypt to Use Turkish Constitution to Model Its Own

The Turkish constitution has been translated into Arabic, as part of studies on changes to the Egyptian constitution. A committee of Egypt's Culture Ministry, consisting of legal experts, linguists and academics, translated the Turkish constitution adopted in 1980 and amended by a referendum last year.

The ministry organized a symposium in Cairo to introduce the translated version of the Turkish constitution to legal experts, academics, opinion leaders and the media in the country. The symposium was attended by Turkish Ambassador to Egypt Huseyin Avni Botsali, Egypt's first female judge Tahani Al Gebali, several political analysts and journalists.

Many speakers of the symposium highlighted Turkey's experience on secularism and underscored that Turkish democracy was a model for co-existence of Islam and modernity.


Syria Calls for Return of Syrian Nationals in Turkey

Syrian authorities reiterated their call for the return of thousands of Syrian citizens who fled violence, crossing into Turkey, assuring them that the Syrian government would embrace all of them and ensure security of life.

"[The] Syrian people can return home in safety," Abdul Rahman Attar, head of Syrian Red Crescent, told reporters after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart in the southern Hatay province.

More than 15,000 Syrian nationals have fled to Turkey in the last couple of weeks to escape a government crackdown on anti-Assad protesters. So far, nearly 5,500 of them have returned home. The Syrian people are staying at six tent-sites set up by the Turkish Red Crescent in Hatay. Attar is in Hatay to meet the Syrian nationals staying at tent-sites.

"[The] Syrian government will embrace these people and ensure security of life for them. We want them to return to Syria voluntarily. I have got a promise from Syrian government to guarantee their lives. We expect them to go back as soon as possible," Attar said.

Syrian people demand freedom and transition to democratic system, Attar said, adding: "Now, Bashar al- Assad started these reforms and made many decisions. Some of these reforms have already been enacted."


Constitutional Court Rapporteur Denies Dicle Chance to Appeal Supreme Court

Constitutional Court rapporteur has presented a report saying that Hatip Dicle –whose deputyship was abolished-- could not appeal to the Supreme Court under the Constitution.

The rapporteur assessed Dicle's application to the Constitutional Court, and said that according to the Constitution, Dicle could not appeal to the Supreme Court.

Following the June 12 general elections, Turkey's Higher Election Board stripped Hatip Dicle, an independent MP, of his parliament seat due to a past conviction for spreading propaganda of a terrorist organization. Then, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)-backed independent deputies did not attend the oath-taking ceremony at Parliament. They were also not present at the Parliament in a bid to protest the decision of the election board.

According to the Constitution, those who are sentenced to imprisonment terms of a year or more cannot be elected MP. Dicle lost his chance to become a lawmaker as he was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison.

Dicle was elected an independent deputy from the southeastern province of Diyarbakir in the June 12 parliamentary elections.

The report, which is not binding, has been distributed to Constitutional Court members.

The Supreme Court delegation will hold a meeting on Thursday to assess Dicle's application.

Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office with Special Authority filed a lawsuit on March 31, 2008 against Dicle on charges of disseminating propaganda of a terrorist organization.

In 2009, Ankara Criminal Court sentenced him to one year and eight months in prison, but Dicle appealed the verdict. The Supreme Court of Appeals' Criminal Department upheld Dicle's prison term in March 2011.


BDP Will Not Join Ankara Unless Stance Toward BDP Changes

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) group chairman, Selahattin Demirtas, said if a radical and historical change was not made in the stance towards them, BDP would not participate in the politics in Ankara.

BDP deputies gathered under the chairmanship of Demirtas in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Tuesday.

Demirtas said that if there were politicians who wanted to solve the problems with goodwill, then BDP could debate under which conditions it would join the Parliament.

Following the June 12 general elections, Turkey's Higher Election Board stripped Hatip Dicle, an independent MP, of his parliament seat due to a past conviction for spreading propaganda of a terrorist organization. Then, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)-backed independent deputies did not attend the oath-taking ceremony at Parliament. They were also not present at Parliament in a bid to protest the decision of the election board.

Demirtas said that it was not a crisis of oath-taking, adding that it was a crisis rooted between democratic politics and the politics with a status quo.

Demirtas also said that BDP would convene in Diyarbakir every week and continue to make politics.


Cicek Becomes Turkey's New Parliament Speaker

Cemil Cicek became the new parliament speaker of Turkey in an election that was overshadowed by the jailed deputies crisis. Nonetheless, the oath crisis continues, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "If the Republican People's Party (CHP) members do not come to the parliament, we will consider them absent." Erdogan signalled that his Justice and Development Party (AK) could make a new constitution together with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Bahceli proposed a new formula for a solution: "Let's add an expression to the Article 76 (regulating the rules to become a parliamentarian) and solve the crisis."

Erdogan Opens Door for Possible By-Elections

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "As long as deputies do not swear in, they are considered absent," and implied that the memberships of 134 Republican People's Party deputies and 35 independent deputies, backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), can be dropped. Thus, Erdogan opened up the door for by-elections.

According to Article 84 of the Constitution, lawmakers who fail to attend without excuse or permission, five (parliament) meetings in a period of one month, can lose their membership. If the memberships of CHP deputies are dropped, there will be a by-elections in 48 provinces. Erdogan's remarks also bind BDP MPs who decided to boycott the parliament after Hatip Dicle's parliament membership was revoked and did not take the oath at parliament.

Forty Generals Arrested in Balyoz Case

Five generals and one colonel were arrested Monday under the "Second Balyoz" case, an investigation into an alleged network accused of aiming to overthrow the Turkish government. With the latest arrests, the total number of generals arrested in the case rose to 40.


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