A UN panel inquiry's report on Israel's attack last year of a Turkish-flagged, Gaza-bound aid flotilla has been delayed because the countries have not yet reached a consensus on the matter, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.
In the run-up to the UN report's release, Israeli and Turkish representatives had been holding talks in New York in order to find a compromise on the wording of a statement regarding the May 31, 2010, attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, which resulted in the death of eight Turks and one Turkish-American.
The parties have been seeking reconciliation on a statement before the release of the report, which was to be released Thursday.
Asked if the parties had reached a consensus on the statement, the Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News that "we are not there yet."
Ankara has repeated its demand that Israel offer an apology and compensation for the families of those killed and wounded in Israel's attack on the ship, Turkey's foreign minister said.
"We have been saying the same thing since last year. Israel must apologize and pay compensation. This is our principal stance on the issue," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Wednesday.
However, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman restated his opposition to Israel offering an apology to Turkey over the incident on Wednesday.
"An apology is not a compromise, it is a humiliation and it is an abandonment of IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers," the Jerusalem Post quoted him saying at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "We regret the loss of life of people from any nation. There are things we can discuss and things we cannot. We cannot discuss things that will harm Israel. National honor has a real significance. We expect flexibility from the Turkish side as well."
Davutoğlu confirmed that Turkish and Israeli officials were holding talks on normalizing relations. It was natural for Turkish and Israeli authorities to hold talks to meet Turkey's demands and such talks should not be viewed as an extraordinary development, the minister stated.
Meanwhile, Israel and Turkey have not yet agreed on the report of the UN panel, which Ankara, on legal grounds, insists should not contradict with the findings of a previously released UN Human Rights Council report.
Davutoğlu highlighted that the report of the UN, panel led by Geoffrey Palmer, must be in compliance with "criteria of international law."
"An attitude contradicting with the UN Human Rights Council is unacceptable," he added. "We hope Israel will meet our rightful demands on this issue."
The UN Human Rights Council said in 2010 that Israel's military broke international laws during the raid. The report said Israel used excessive force, but implied Israel used "its legal right to impose a naval blockade against the Gaza Strip," a finding which could pave the way for further interventions by Israel in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkish officials said.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli officials are speculating about another option: issuing a statement that would replace the upcoming report.
"It was not certain that the report would be released on Thursday. It could be released later, or not released at all," the Turkish official told the Daily News.
UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters on Tuesday that more time was needed.
"I don't think we are yet at the point where the report would be handed over," he said.
Nesirky responded to some allegations that the language of the report could be toned down.
"What I would say is what we said at the time. And that is that there is clearly a need for the parties concerned to find consensus on the report, and the wording of the report. And that's why more time was given," he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed optimism over the future of Turkish-Israeli ties on Wednesday.
"We are seeking ways of improving our current relations," said Netanyahu, who spoke to journalists during a visit to Romania. "We are trying to make concrete steps. Apart from the fact that Turkey did not participate in the last flotilla [to the Palestinian territory of Gaza], there are other signs allowing us to talk an improvement in our relations. We hope we will succeed.
Bring Israeli Soldier Home, Erdogan 'Would Be King of Israel'
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only figure who can save captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a prominent Turkish-Israeli businessman who delivered a letter from Shalit's father to the premier has said.
"Erdoğan would be the king of Israel if he could bring him home," Eliko Halit Dönmez said Wednesday.
Shalit was captured five years ago by Palestinian groups, and is being held by Hamas as a trump card in negotiations with Israel for the release of Palestinian political prisoners. German and Egyptian mediation efforts have thus far failed to yield a result in his case.
Dönmez, who said Erdoğan had the most influence over Hamas, handed Noam Shalit's letter to the Turkish prime minister last year. In his letter, the elder Shalit asked Erdoğan to get involved in efforts to secure the release of his son, who was 19 when he was captured.
Noam Shalit also asked for a meeting with Erdoğan, but such an audience was never granted. "I have lost all my hope. My last chance is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," Dönmez quoted the elder Shalit saying.
The businessman said the recent uprising in Middle Eastern and North African countries, dubbed the "Arab Spring," has helped cement Turkey's influence and its position as a leader in the region. "The only power to have an influence over Hamas is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," Dönmez told the Anatolia News Agency in an interview.
"Gilad Shalit is the symbol of Israel and a national cause for the country. I think the person who solves this problem will be the national hero of Israel. If Erdoğan would be able to bring him home, he would be the king of Israel," Dönmez said.
He added that Hamas would act moderately in regards to a deal for an exchange of prisoners if Erdoğan stepped in as a mediator for Shalit's release. "In this case, Israel would be more flexible on demands by Hamas," he said.
Dönmez said he met Erdoğan in Ankara just two days after the Israeli commandos' May 31, 2010, raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara. The two men met along with Israeli rabbi Menachem Froman, who works for peace with Palestine. The businessman said they received a warm reception from Erdoğan despite the straining of Turkish-Israeli ties by the killing of nine Turks in the raid.
Turkey to Loan Libyan Opposition Additional $200 Million
Turkey on Wednesday pledged to provide Libyan opposition with $200 million in addition to the $100 million already given.
Turkey and the Transitional National Council of Libya signed the $200 million loan deal in Ankara. The agreement was signed by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Finance and Oil Minister Ali Abdussalam Tarhouni on behalf of Libya's Transitional National Council.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Mahmoud Jibril, head of Libya's Transitional National Council, were also in attendance at the signing ceremony.
After the recent deal, total loans granted by Turkey to Libyan opposition reached $300 million.
Speaking at the ceremony, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan wished Libya a peaceful and prosperous future.
"The happiness of Libyan people is our happiness. Their pain is our pain," Babacan said."We hope Libya achieves advanced democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms as soon as possible."
For his part, Ali Abdussalam Tarhouni thanked Turkey and Turkish people for their support.
"This agreement means a lot to us. With this agreement, we have proved our strategic cooperation," he said.
UN Seeks to Revive Cyprus Peace Talks
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon will seek to jumpstart stalled Cyprus peace talks when he meets its rival leaders in a Geneva showdown on Thursday, aiming to map out a push to end the island's decades-long division.
"The UN would like this meeting to be a game changer with a commitment to maximize effort and for the leaders to deliver on what they have said about wanting a solution," a source close to the UN talks told AFP. "We expect the secretary general to make some strong points about the slow progress of talks in recent months and call for an intensification of talks to overcome differences," he added.
It will be the third three-way meeting Ban has convened with Greek and Turkish-Cypriot leaders in an attempt to revitalize the UN-backed negotiations, which have failed to live up to the international optimism that accompanied their launch in September 2008.
Almost three years down the line, the rival sides are not even close to securing agreement on the divisive core issues.
Face-to-face talks between Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu remain deadlocked on territorial adjustments between the two communities, security arrangements and property rights in a post-solution federal Cyprus.
Eroğlu visits Ankara
What is expected to emerge from the Geneva conference is a clear roadmap on how the leaders intend to secure a lasting peace by tackling those thorny issues.
"We want the leaders to come up with a plan on what they intend to do," the source said.
The meeting follows a similar session in the Swiss city in January, and a previous one in New York last November. But an EU diplomatic source said the process seemed to have gone backwards since the first meeting which did, initially, see the talks intensify.
The talks come after Eroğlu finished a set of meetings in Ankara, meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. He said that he would like to see a deadline imposed on talks and an agreement reached by the end of 2012 that would see a "unified" Cyprus. In the talks in Ankara, the Turkish side reiterated its "one step ahead" policy for Thursday's meeting.
Turkey Announces New Cabinet
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the cabinet of Turkey's 61st government after President Abdullah Gül's approval Wednesday.
The new cabinet consists of 25 ministers. Six new ministers join the cabinet with the rest coming from the previous cabinet.
- Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç
- Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan
- Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay
- Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ
- Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin
- Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin
- European Union Minister Egemen Bağış
- Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün
- Labor and Social Security Ministe, Faruk Çelik
- Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar
- Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
- Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan
- Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız
- Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç
- Food, Agriculture and Stock Raising Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker
- Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı
- Interior Minister İdris Naim
- Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz
- Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay
- Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek
- Education Minister Ömer Dinçer
- Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz
- Forestry and Waterworks Minister, Veysel Eroğlu
- Health Minister Recep Akdağ
- Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım
Parliament Speaker Meets with Pro-Kurdish BDP to Address Boycott
Turkish Parliament's newly elected speaker, Cemil Çiçek, had secret talks with two deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) on Wednesday in hopes of finding a solution to the party's ongoing parliamentary boycott. News reports said on Thursday that Çiçek received BDP Şırnak Deputy Hasip Kaplan and BDP Muş Deputy Sırrı Sakık in Ankara. Kaplan also confirmed the meeting, during which the parties reportedly discussed proposals for a solution to the issue.
CHP Agrees with Cicek on Parliament Oath Solution
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which has been boycotting taking the parliamentary oath, agreed with newly elected Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek on a formula that would pave the way for the party to take the parliamentary oath, the Hürriyet Daily reported on Wednesday. The CHP's deputies have been refusing to take their oaths as part of a group decision to protest the imprisonment of two of its deputies as part of a coup plot probe. They said they will not take the parliamentary oath unless their deputies, who have been prevented from attending the oath-taking ceremony, are allowed to take their oaths.
Erdogan: July 15 Deadline Remarks 'Slip of Tongue'
In what could be seen as a move to soften his stance regarding the main opposition parties' parliamentary boycott, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said remarks by a deputy chairman of his ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary group, who set a July 15 as deadline for the boycotting deputies to take their oaths, were a "slip of the tongue."
Responding to questions from reporters as he announced his new Cabinet, following the June 12 elections, Erdoğan said remarks by AK Party Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Mustafa Elitaş, who said it would be too late for the opposition deputies to take their oaths after July 15 as they may be stripped of their mandates, was a mistake.
"We want the opposition to come to Parliament and take the oath. We have no prejudice. My parliamentary group deputy chairman committed a slip of the tongue on the July 15 issue. I do not want to give any date. The main opposition is the alternative to the government in democracies. A main opposition party should not act marginally. They have serious responsibility for failing to take their oaths," Erdoğan said.
Turkish Police Detain Radio-TV Board Member
Turkish police detained a member of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) within the scope of a German charity investigation on Wednesday.
Police took RTUK member, Zahid Akman, who was the former chairman of the board, in custody in Ankara within the framework of German "Deniz Feneri e.V." charity investigation.
In September 2008, a German court convicted three Turks of fraud for drawing off donations and using them for other purposes outside charity.
The Frankfurt State Court sentenced the three men working for the charity, Deniz Feneri e.V, in Germany to prison terms.
The court sentenced Mehmet Gurhan to five years and 10 months, Mehmet Taskan to two years and nine months in prison. Firdevsi Ermis was sentenced to one year and 10 months in prison, which was suspended on probation.
Court judge Johann Muller had said after the trial that Deniz Feneri e.V. had received a total of 41 million euros of donations over the last five years in Germany and 17 million euros of that had been sent to Turkey.
The prosecution had also said they had reason to believe that Zahid Akman was responsible for some of the crimes.
Turkey Would Turn EU into Global Power with Membership
Chairperson Guler Sabanci of Turkey's Sabanci Holding said on Wednesday that Turkey's membership to the European Union (EU) would turn the union into a global power.
Speaking at a conference held in the German city of Essen, on the occasion of the signing of a cooperation agreement between Sabanci University's Istanbul Policy Center and the German Stiftung Mercator, Sabanci commented on Turkey's EU process.
Pointing to the remarkable contributions Turkey's membership would make to the union, Sabanci said, "EU has to decide whether it wants to be regional or global power."
Describing Turkey as Europe's "energy bridge," Sabanci said the partnership to be established between Turkey and the EU would be of great importance for future generations.
Sabanci also said the current problems between the EU and Turkey stemmed from the economic crisis of 2008, adding that such crisis should be resolved as soon as possible.
The chairperson noted that Turkey's developing relations with Russia and the Middle East would not have any negative effects on its relationship with the union, on the contrary, Turkey's position as a bridge would provide Europe with new opportunities.
Commenting on the latest developments in the Middle East as well, Sabanci said Turkey set an example in terms of democratization for Arab countries.