New CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus arrived in Ankara on Monday in an unannounced visit to hold talks with military and government officials about ways to reinforce bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
"This visit from Petraeus was planned two weeks ago," a senior official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. "This is a clear indication that U.S. support to Turkey's fight against terrorism will continue."
Petraeus came to Ankara from Afghanistan, where he handed over the command of his troops to Gen. John Allen. He is scheduled to begin his job as CIA chief in early September.
Petraeus met late Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and senior military officials; he is scheduled to leave Turkey early Tuesday.
Sources said Washington's potential contribution in helping Turkey fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would top the agenda of Petraeus' visit, which was made primarily to thank Turkey for its leadership in commanding the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan and for cooperating with American troops in ending the terrorism threat.
"Petraeus' visit was set two weeks ago with both sides' confirmation that cooperation in the fight against terrorism will be particularly reviewed," a source with knowledge of the meeting said. During her meetings with Turkish officials Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to strengthen efforts to this end. Coming only days after a fatal PKK attack killed 13 Turkish troops, Petraeus' visit is expected to be an important one in terms of discussing new measures to boost cooperation.
Sources said that although American troops would pull out from Iraq by the end of this year, there was still a possibility that they would give more support to Turkey in eliminating PKK elements based in northern Iraq.
With former CIA chief Leon Panetta having been appointed as the new U.S. defense secretary, Turkish officials said this duo will be important for Ankara in establishing direct contacts with Washington on the fight against terror.
Mideast on the Agenda
In addition to the fight against the PKK, Petraeus' and Turkish officials reportedly discussed a wide range of issues common to both countries, including the Syrian regime's crackdown on protesters and diplomatic relations with Damascus, as well as Iran's growing influence in Iraq at a moment when the United States is set to withdraw its troops. The ongoing NATO operation against the Libyan regime and other regional political and security matters were also reportedly analyzed.
No Official Meeting with MIT
As Petraeus has not assumed his job as CIA chief, he made the trip to Ankara in his capacity as the outgoing commander of the ISAF. For this reason, no official meeting with Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, was scheduled, an MİT official told the Daily News.
Turkey, Israel to Hold New Rounds of Talks
Signs that Israel is preparing to offer some sort of apology to Turkey in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident are strengthening: Israeli and Turkish sides are expected to hold a new round of talks this week.
Turkish and Israeli officials are expected to hold another round of negotiations within the week to resolve their differences just before the release of a U.N. report on Israel's 2010 killing of nine activists on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla.
"No date has been scheduled yet but the meeting will take place before July 27," the Turkish member of the UN panel, Özdem Sanberk, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday. "The negotiations might resume in a couple of days," he said.
The United Nations panel is expected to submit its report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 27, and the report is set to be released on Aug. 1. It was originally going to be released earlier, but as the parties concerned failed to agree on the final draft during several rounds of negotiations, it has been delayed.
Sources familiar with the developments told the Daily News that Turkish and Israeli officials could meet one more time in New York either this week or on the weekend, explaining that the report has been delayed to provide the parties concerned with the opportunity to continue talks in order to resolve their differences.
Sanberk told the Daily News that the talks were already under way between the Turkish and Israeli Foreign Ministries. Israel is represented by its deputy prime minister while Turkey is represented by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Ambassador Mithat Rende and Sanberk.
"The restoration of the Turkish-Israeli relationship depends on the common sense to be demonstrated by Israel," he said. "I am optimistic given the political will shown by the Turkish and Israeli governments."
The signals coming from the Israeli side show some parts of the establishment are closer to fulfilling the demand for an apology, something rigidly opposed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Internal discussions, however, between Israeli defense and Justice Ministry officials over the past few weeks have suggested that a cautious apology could stop possible lawsuits by Turkish organizations against Israel Defense Forces officers and bring an end to the issue, reported the Israeli press. That is considered a sign that Israeli government is preparing its public opinion for an apology.
Sources familiar with Israeli politics told the Daily News that as Israel is being ruled by a coalition government, a consensus is first being sought in making decisions; if the members of the government fail to reach a consensus, then a decision will be made by the majority, something which also binds those who object to it. In 2005, Israel's Cabinet gave final approval to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank despite opposition from Sharon's center-right Likud party.
For any normalization, Turkey insists on its two conditions: an apology and compensation for the victims.
"Turkey's position has been crystal clear from the very beginning. The conditions are still on the table," Sanberk said. But he highlighted the difficulty within the Israeli coalition government made the fulfillment of those demands difficult.
"First the Israeli army and then the Defense Ministry – with the exception of the Foreign Ministry – seem closer to an apology. We see some sort of activity to convince [holdouts]. What's rational is that we should leave this dispute behind us," Sanberk said.
The situation of Turkish-Israeli relations appeared on the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's talks in Istanbul over the weekend. Clinton also met with the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
"How is the CHP looking at relations with Israel?" U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon asked the CHP leader. In response, Kılıçdaroğlu said his party favored normalization with Israel, something which would contribute to regional peace and stability, Faruk Loğoğlu, a party assembly member of the CHP, told the Daily News.
Petraeus' First Stop: Ankara
David Petraeus, who had been the commander of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, was appointed as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and then he visited Turkey's capital Ankara. He held meetings with Chief of General Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and congratulated Turkey for the role it undertook in the region.
Erdogan Threatens Freeze with EU During Cypriot Presidency
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to freeze relations with the EU while Cyprus holds the union's six-month rotating presidency from next July in remarks published Tuesday.
"We will not have any discussions with the Cypriot president. Reports with the EU will be frozen," he told the daily Milliyet.
Ankara, which does not recognize the Cyprus government, has called for an accord to end the island's 37-year division between its Greek and Turkish communities before Cyprus takes over the EU presidency.
"We consider it a disgrace to sit down at the negotiating table with them (Greek Cypriots) at the United Nations. We will not negotiate with a country which we do not recognize," Erdogan declared ahead of a visit on Tuesday afternoon to the northern Turkish part of the island to mark the anniversary of the Turkish military intervention on July 20, 1974.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.
The issue remains a major stumbling block to Turkey's struggling bid to join the EU.
Israeli Envoy Target of Instanbul Bombing, Italian Daily Says
A bomb that exploded in Istanbul's busy Etiler neighborhood on May 26 might have been the work of Lebanon's Hezbollah instead of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, according to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
Citing a Washington-sourced report, the Italian daily reported that Hezbollah was targeting Israeli Consul General to Istanbul Moshe Kamhi in retaliation for Mossad's alleged assassination of Iranian nuclear physicist Masoud Ali Muhammedi in Tehran in 2010.
Corriere della Sera reported that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, appeared to be tracing the bombing back to the PKK before reportedly realizing that Hezbollah, acting on behalf of Iran, allegedly perpetrated the attack.
The daily alleged that three members of Hezbollah arrived in Istanbul from Beirut to stage the attack and that assassins observed the route Kamhi took from his residence to the Israeli consulate every day before choosing to detonate the bomb in Etiler.
On the day of the attack, however, Kamhi's vehicle was driving slower than normal and was unaffected by the blast, the report said.
Intelligence sources in Ankara, however, have denied Corriere della Sera's report. "Israel carries out similar disinformation campaigns through newspapers from time to time," one source said.
Eight people were injured in the explosion. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials pointed to the PKK, suggesting that the goal was to foment chaos ahead of Turkey's June 12 elections.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkey Can Stage Cross-Border Operation, If Necessary, Deputy PM Says
Turkish government could instruct the armed forces to stage a cross-border operation if necessary, said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
"In such a case, a cross-border operation can be staged, however, we have not talked about such an operation or such a need in today's meeting," Arinc told reporters after the cabinet meeting in Ankara.
Arinc said the cabinet asked the Interior Ministry to launch an investigation into the PKK terrorist attack that killed 13 soldiers and wounded seven in an ambush in Silvan town, in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. Turkish Armed Forces said seven terrorists were killed in the clash.
Arinc also said the General Staff had launched an administrative investigation into the attack, the results of which would be presented to the prime minister.
Interior Ministry Launchces Investigation in PKK Attack on Silvan
The Council of Ministers discussed the terrorist attack which killed 13 soldiers and wounded seven others in Silvan town, in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that the Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the attack, saying: "A cross-border operation is staged, if necessary."
Kiliclar Appointed Temporary Chief of Security
Governor Mehmet Kiliclar of the central Anatolian province of Eskisehir was temporarily appointed as head of the Chief of Security Department. The principal appointment of Kiliclar is expected to be made in coming days.
Iran Takes Control of Three Kurdish Rebel Camps
Iran has taken "full control" of three camps of the Iranian Kurdish rebel PJAK movement inside neighboring Iraq, a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards told the official IRNA News Agency on Monday.
"All three camps on Iraqi soil that were backing the terrorist group have fallen under our control and we have full control of the area," said Colonel Delavar Ranjbarzadeh, who commands the Revolutionary Guards in the border town of Sardasht. He added that operations launched on Saturday inside Iraq was still continuing in other areas.
Turkey, Iraq Agree to New Border Gates
Turkey and Iraq on Monday signed a protocol on construction of new border gates.
Silopi Subgovernor Bunyamin Yildiz said the new border gates that would be opened on the Iraqi border will be constructed in the Ovakoy-Karavela and Sinova-Aktepe regions.
Yildiz said the existing border gate between Turkey and Iraq was not sufficient, noting the parties reached an agreement to build new gates.
"Around 6,000 vehicles are passing from Habur Border Gate every day, which causes problems. Studies have been initiated to broaden ways of trade and to integrate our citizens," Yildiz said. "We have established a technical working group to construct new border gates. Iraqi party is also eager to open those border gates. We also aim to establish a free trade zone," he said.
Davutoglu Receives Libyan National Transitional Councilmember
Turkey's foreign minister received on Monday Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) member in Ankara on Friday.
Abdul Razak Mukhtar, meeting with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said Davutoglu's visit to Benghazi had a positive reflection in the geography.
Mukhtar briefed Davutoglu on recent developments in the country; Davutoglu referred to last week's meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul.
Davutoglu also talked about the assistance Turkey was planning to extend to Libya during Ramadan.
The Libya Contact Group meeting took place on Friday at Istanbul's Ciragan Palace under the co-chairing of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which hosted the third meeting of the Libya Contact Group.
At the end of the meeting, the group released a declaration in which it said that the al-Qadhafi regime no longer had any legitimate authority in Libya and that al-Qadhafi, and certain members of his family, must leave the country.
The contact group members had agreed to deal with the NTC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.
The former meetings of the Group took place in Qatar, Italy and the UAE.
The Libya Contact Group was established on March 29, 2011 at the London Conference to solve the Libyan crisis and coordinate international efforts made in this direction.
Erdogan to Pay Official Visit to Northern Cyprus
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay his first official visit abroad to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) today as the prime minister of the 61st government of Turkey. Erdogan will attend ceremonies to be held for July 20, which is Peace and Freedom Day. Erdogan is expected to give important messages on this visit. Erdogan's visit is of great importance, as a final stage has been reached in the UN negotiation process concerning the Cyprus issue.