President Abdullah Gül brought a de facto end Sunday to a crisis in Parliament, inviting deputies from opposition parties that have been refusing to take the oath of office to accompany him on an official trip.
Responding to a question from the Hürriyet Daily News, Gül said he had invited many lawmakers on similar trips before. "These are elected lawmakers," the president said at a press conference at Atatürk Airport before leaving for Sofia. "I hope this crisis gets resolved as soon as possible."
The parliamentary representatives accompanying Gül on his trip to Bulgaria were Rıfat Sait, an İzmir deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP; Özlem Yemişçi, an AKP deputy from Tekirdağ; Kemal Değirmendereli, an Edirne deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP; Mehmet Siyam Kesimoğlu, a CHP deputy from Kirklareli.
Members of the CHP and independent deputies backed by the BDP have been refusing to take the oath of office after deputies from both parties were denied entering Parliament due to being arrested in ongoing trials. Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek expressed their hopes Friday that the ongoing crisis would be resolved over the weekend.
Delegations from the CHP and the AKP met late Friday and were expected to convene again at 10 a.m. on Monday to finalize a mutually agreed-upon declaration reflecting the political will to end the oath-taking crisis. If a compromise is reached on the content of the text, CHP deputies are expected to take the oath Monday, following a public announcement of the text at 3 p.m. before the Parliament's General Assembly in which the government's new program will be debated.
The AKP is reportedly inclined to announce the declaration verbally, instead of in written form, a move that the CHP is said to have approached positively. The issue will also be discussed during the meeting Monday, where the AKP will be represented by Nurettin Canikli, Ahmet Aydın and Haluk İpek while the CHP will be represented by Akif Hamzacebi, Turgut Dibek and Aydın Ayaydın.
Speaking in Istanbul on Saturday, Prime Minister Erdoğan urged the opposition to act responsibly, saying that those who don't take the oath can't complain and can't talk about a solution.
The text drafted by the parties' top aides Friday highlights Parliament as the place of solution. "With the elections, the nation has pointed to Parliament as the address for a solution. We intend to solve the problems," the text read. "The fact that elected deputies cannot take the oath is a problem for the manifestation of the nation's will. Parliament will take the necessary steps regarding the issue by changing the constitution so such issues stemming from the laws do not happen again. The executive branch cannot interfere with the judiciary, and the judiciary cannot interfere with the executive branch."
Parliament Speaker Çiçek worked to resolve the crisis by visiting members of the opposition.
Israeli Foreign Minister Slams Turkish PM for Furthering Divide
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of having "shut the door" on reconciliation with Israel and having no intention of normalizing relations.
"It is clear that this person [Erdoğan] is looking not for accommodation, nor peace, nor normalization, but wants to humiliate the State of Israel, sap its international standing and harm our status in the region," Lieberman told Israel Radio.
"I'm surprised he didn't also demand that we set the retirement age for women," the Israeli foreign minister said, referring to a recent domestic political dispute. "He has no intention of arriving at normalization with us. He has shut the door."
An Israeli official speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News on Sunday said Lieberman's statement was a direct response to Erdoğan's harsh statements Friday, but that Israel still seeks to rekindle its ties with Turkey.
Speaking to Turkish Parliament on Friday, Erdoğan repeated his past criticism of Israel over its May 31, 2010, attack on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, an aid ship that took part in a Gaza-bound flotilla. The raid resulted in the killing of eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent.
"Normalization of relations between the two countries is unthinkable unless Israel apologizes for this illegal act, which is against all international law and values, pays compensation to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this atrocious event and lifts the embargo on Gaza," Erdoğan said Friday.
"[Lieberman] felt it was necessary to make the statement," in light of the Turkish prime minister's comments, the Israeli official said Sunday.
Lieberman's remarks come as Israel and Turkey failed to reach a consensus during negotiations in New York last week. A UN panel with an Israeli and a Turkish member was set to release a report on the Mavi Marmara incident, but the report has been postponed as the two sides have failed to reach a consensus on the text. Further talks in New York are scheduled to be held at the end of July.
"[Lieberman's statement] does not shut the door on talks. From our point [of view], we will continue to push to get the relationship to where it was," the Israeli official said.
Another diplomatic source told the Daily News that talks have not collapsed.
"Talks [for normalization between Turkey and Israel] were in deadlock, but have not collapsed," a diplomatic source told the Daily News on Sunday, confirming that Lieberman's statement was just a response to Erdoğan's remarks on the normalization of relations.
The Turkish prime minister's statement was seen as "problematic" in Israel and evaluated as "shutting the doors" on the talks, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous.
Fadıl Alirıza contributed to this report from the Daily News' Istanbul bureau and Sevil Küçükkoşum contributed from the Ankara bureau.
Former Head of Turkey's TV Watchdog Arrested
The former head of Turkey's television watchdog and three executives of a conservative TV station were arrested at 1 a.m. on Monday and face up to 18 years in prison for corruption and fraud.
Zahid Akman, the former president of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, and three executives of Kanal 7 – Zekeriya Karaman, İsmail Karahan and Mustafa Çelik – were sent to prison as part of the investigation into the embezzlement of the Germany-based Lighthouse e.V. charity.
They were initially taken into custody three years ago and after a four-day, 50-hour hearing, the four suspects were sent to Ankara's Sincan Prison after a judge's decision.
Akman and the three Kanal 7 executives have been accused of forging documents, fraud and buying Kanal 7 shares with charity money.
Investigation prosecutors are preparing the indictment and the criminal court will be assigned for embezzling millions of euros. If the indictment is accepted, Akman and the three executives will be on trial, facing up to 18 years in prison.
Turkey Wants Cyprus Referendum by Early 2012
Turkey hopes that accelerated peace talks in Cyprus will lead to a referendum on reunification early next year, the Anatolia News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying Saturday.
"We expect and hope that a comprehensive settlement is found to the Cyprus problem by the year-end. A referendum is held in the beginning of 2012 and a united Cyprus takes over the EU presidency in July 2012," Davutoglu said in the Turkish sector of Cyprus' divided capital Nicosia. "This should be our target. It is obvious that open-ended talks will lead to nowhere," he said, according to Anatolia.
Davutoglu spoke following the talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu after UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday set an October target for Eroglu and Cyprus President Demetris Christofias to secure a broad accord on ending the island's 37-year division.
Peace negotiations, under way since September 2008, have so far failed to produce any tangible progress and the UN has said it cannot see talks dragging on for much longer. Key sticking points of disagreement include territorial adjustments, security arrangements and property rights.
Christofias, whose Greek Cypriot government is the island's internationally recognized administration, has said the ideal target date for a solution would be before Cyprus takes on the EU presidency in July 2012.
The previous UN push to reunify the Mediterranean island failed in 2004 when the Greek Cypriots voted down an UN-drafted settlement plan even though Turkish Cypriots gave it overwhelming support. Cyprus, represented only by the Greek Cypriots, joined the EU the same year, while the Turkish Cypriots were left out in the cold.
The conflict remains a major stumbling block for Turkey's own bid to join the EU.
Davutoglu on Saturday renewed an appeal on the international community to ease restrictions slapped on Eroglu's self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece which was then ruled by a military junta.
Turkey's Parliament Speaker Hopes for a Fresh Beginning on Monday
Turkey's Parliament speaker expressed hope on Saturday for a fresh beginning at Parliament on Monday.
"I hope we will make a fresh beginning on Monday," said Speaker Cemil Cicek, commenting on the oath-taking crisis. "Parliament is the most legitimate ground where all problems of Turkey can be solved," Cicek told reporters. Cicek also said all political parties could solve problems by establishing civilized dialogues and by mutual good will.
On June 28, CHP boycotted the oath-taking ceremony at Parliament to protest a court ruling that blocked its jailed deputies from swearing in.
Independent MPs, backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), also boycotted the swearing-in ceremony after Turkey's Higher Election Board (YSK) stripped Hatip Dicle, an independent candidate, of his newly won Parliament seat.
Dicle was one of 36 independent candidates who won seat in 550-seat Parliament after the June 12 general elections.
U.S. Secretary of State to Visit Turkey in July
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Turkey at an invitation by her Turkish colleague, Ahmet Davutoglu.
In a statement released Friday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that Clinton would attend the meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul on July 15 and hold talks with Turkish officials on that day and July 16.
The MFA said that Clinton would be received by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Turkey and the United States are two friends and allies. Talks continue between the two countries at all levels within the frame of a Model Partnership. During Clinton's visit to Turkey, bilateral relations and current global and regional issues will be discussed and views exchanged," the MFA said.
Word 'Kurdish' Not Mandatory in New Constitution, Official Says
Marc Pierini, the head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Turkey, said that the Kurdish issue could be solved by the constitution, but that it was not necessary, however, to use the word "Kurdish." Pierini, speaking to the Sabah Daily Newspaper, said obstacles before a modern democracy could be solved through a new constitution in Turkey, and underlined importance of it for the European Union (EU).
Pierini said Europe was expecting political parties in Turkey to unite for the constitution and to consult civilian society. He also underlined the need for dialogue and compromise.
Pierini said linguistic and cultural rights and regional autonomy issues were solved through the constitution in Europe, and there was no need to use the word "Kurdish" in the constitution. He also said there was need for a good-operating Parliament to solve problems and eliminate obstacles, and CHP and BDP should be at parliament.
Turkish Foreign Minister to Visit Iran
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will visit Iran Sunday to discuss a wave of unrest shaking Middle East countries, a senior Turkish diplomat said. Davutoglu was to travel to Tehran after completing talks in Saudi Arabia, where he flew Saturday evening, the diplomat who accompanied the minister on the trip told AFP by telephone.
He was to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, late Sunday and other Iranian officials Monday "to discuss the latest developments in the region," the official said.
Davutoglu's visit comes as another stage in a regional tour, announced last month, that has already taken him to Egypt and Libya.
He is expected to visit Syria as well, but no date has been announced so far for the trip.
Turkey Officially Recognizes Southern Sudan After Secession
Turkey has officially recognized Southern Sudan as an independent state, a Turkish minister announced on Saturday.
Early in the day, Southern Sudan officially became the world's newest independent state after a January 2011 referendum in which southern Sudanese people voted overwhelmingly to secede from the north.
Turkish Development Minister Cevdet Yilmaz traveled to Southern Sudan's capital where he would attend ceremonies to celebrate the independence of the country.
Cevdet Yilmaz said: "I have handed a letter on Turkey's recognition of South Sudan from our President (Abdullah Gul) to South Sudanese authorities." "We have had very good relations with Sudan before secession. Now, we will maintain these relations with Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan both," Yilmaz told AA.
In recent years, Turkey has launched an initiative to expand to Africa, Yilmaz recalled, adding: "Africa offers a great potential. However, it could not be utilized because of fighting and other troubles. Now I believe the South Sudan will offer significant opportunities with its oil, mines and agriculture."
Yilmaz also said that the South Sudan is a chance for Turkish investors and urged Turkish businessmen to invest in Africa.
Arab Spring Hits Turks
Turkey, with a share of 53 percent, is on the top of a list of countries that were most affected by the uprising in North Africa and the Middle East. Turkey was first hit by rising oil prices and then damaged by bilateral commercial relations or cooperation.
Erdogan: 'We Will Not Break Laws'
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about the decision of the Republican People's Party (CHP) not to take the oath at Parliament: "Everything was obvious when nominating candidate parliamentarians. Nobody should try to break laws, and nobody should expect support from us. We will talk about it at Parliament, but we will not intervene in judicial opinion and decisions."
BDP: 'We Have Been Excluded'
Talks for a solution to the oath-taking crisis are being held between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) and main opposition party, CHP. Officials of the opposition Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are resentful, however.
BDP Group Chairman Selahattin Demirtas said: "We would take oath of office, if we were included in this process, but they excluded us."