"There is a lot of inspiration from southern Sudan," said Barham Salih, Iraqi Kurdish leader on the first day South Sudan has borned, on his twitter account

On the day the newest African nation was born, Barham Salih, an Iraqi Kurdish leader, used his iPad to tweet his feelings to the world: "Watching history in (the) making as South Sudan goes independent," he wrote."Moral of [the] story: Right to self-determination cannot be denied by genocide."

With the emergence of a new nation in Africa, and uprisings against autocracies across the Arab world, Kurds in Iraq's semi-autonomous north are speaking in louder voices about the possibility of increasing autonomy if, as some Kurds fear, Iraq's central government becomes more authoritarian.

"There is a lot of inspiration from southern Sudan," said Salih, prime minister of the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq. "But more important is the deep concern that most of us feel about the direction of the politics of Baghdad as it goes towards centralization and authoritarianism."

South Sudan's independence came exactly six months after southerners voted almost unanimously to split with their former civil war enemies in the north. For decades, until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with the north, leaving the region in ruins, millions of people dead and a legacy of mutual mistrust

Iraq's central government and the Kurdish region, three of Iraq's 18 provinces, have unresolved issues over borders and oil rights. Northern Iraq has 45 billion barrels of crude reserves. Kurds are an ethnic group with a population of about 30 million, largely Muslim, living in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. After the first Gulf War in 1991, Western powers provided a safe haven for Iraq's Kurds, allowing them to use their natural resources to start building a modern state. Notions of Kurdish nationalism were reinforced by the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein as much of Iraq tumbled into sectarian warfare that threatened its survival as a single state.

"For the first time in their modern history, the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, at least, are cautiously ascending," said author Michael Gunter, who has written on the evolution of Kurds in the two countries. From the streets of Syria's Qamishli, where Kurdish protesters call for freedom, to the Citadel in Arbil, where a Kurdish flag waves over Iraq's biggest boomtown, many Kurds see a promising future for pan-Kurdish nationalism. Exiled Syrian activists living in Iraqi Kurdistan are using social media tools such as Facebook, and collect donated money to support protesters at home.

"If this regime falls, it would be better for the Kurds. They will be free to work in their own regions," said Mahmoud Ya'aqub, 34, who administers Facebook groups in Erbil.


Turkish PM Draws the Line for Cyprus: Unite or Split

The Turkish prime minister drew a hard line on the long-standing Cyprus issue Wednesday, saying the divided island must be united by the end of the year or remain split.

"Everyone should know the existing window of opportunity on Cyprus will not always be open. The Turkish Cypriot side is working for peace and solutions against all injustices. It's not bearable anymore," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, accusing Greek Cypriots of blocking talks and warning that time was running out.

Erdoğan called for Cyprus to be reunited as a two-zone federation, something both sides have agreed on, in principle. They remain at odds, however, over implementation issues.

The situation has taken on new urgency as Cyprus is scheduled to assume the EU presidency in 2012 for six months.

"An urgent and permanent solution to the Cyprus problem should not be sacrificed for daily political interests and poisonous prejudices," Erdoğan said Wednesday, speaking to thousands of supporters waving Turkish and northern Cypriot flags during a ceremony in Turkish Cyprus for Peace and Freedom Day. The holiday marks the anniversary of Turkey's 1974 intervention.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan discussed the Cyprus issue with northern Cyprus' second Prime Minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, who said he had close relations with Erdoğan both in the 2004 referendum period and in the negotiation process starting from 2008.

"The island has a strategic importance. If they want the future to be better than today, historical facts should be known well," said Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu. "We established a state on the geography created by the 1974 peace operation ... We have created an economy. Turkey was always with us while we were doing all those things."

Turkish President Abdullah Gül, meanwhile said, "Turkish Cypriot has shown the whole world that it will not surrender to any pressure, [will] protect its freedom and independence, and will not give up its legitimate rights in its national cause for which it has been fighting for years"


Egypt's Military 'Seeks Future Turkey-Like Political Role'

Egypt's ruling generals are seeking to enshrine a future role for themselves with considerable independence from civilian leaders and possibly an authority to intervene in politics.

The push appears to be driven by the military's fear of losing the near-autonomous power it has enjoyed for nearly 60 years, but activists worry it will open the door for the army to dictate politics in a democratic Egypt.

"We want the military's role restricted to protecting our borders," said Khaled Abdel-Hamid, who was among the young activists who organized the 18-day wave of protests that forced Hosni Mubarak's ouster. Last week, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body of generals that has ruled the country since Mubarak's Feb. 11 fall, announced it would put together a set of guidelines for a new constitution that is to be written after elections planned for later this year.

It raised concerns because of the military's domination over the process of setting the guidelines, combined with signals by generals on the council that they want to carve out an exclusive, untouchable role for the military. Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a key member of the military council who is leading the process for drawing up the guidelines, said that the country's next constitution should safeguard the armed forces against the "whims" of any future president, practically asking for the armed forces to be given virtually complete independence. One of the legal experts that the military is consulting in the process, Hisham Bastawisi, has gone further, proposing that the military in the future have the role of "guaranteeing supra-constitutional principles."

In his formulation, that would appear to mean powers to intervene to protect basic democratic rights. The "protector" idea would appear to give the military a role similar to that in Turkey, where the army has carried out several coups or otherwise intervened in the elected government over past decades to enforce the secular nature of the state. It did this even without a mandate in the Turkish constitution, instead relying on its own internal law that empowers it to defend the nation against "external and internal threats."

The military's moves appear to be an attempt to wrest back its place as the ultimate source of power, which is deeply threatened by the uprising against Mubarak.

The generals took power after Mubarak's fall, but they also lost much of the legitimacy they long had to justify their behind-the-scenes domination of the country. The military has been the most powerful institution in Egypt since army officers toppled the monarchy in a 1952 coup, giving the country its four presidents since and wielding significant influence and economic power since.

The military has over the years enjoyed perks and privileges that no other institution in Egypt had. It has ventured into business in recent years, winning lucrative government contracts for the construction of dams, roads and even seaside resorts. Retired generals are routinely given well paid government jobs. But the army's so-called "1952 legitimacy" has been taken over by the "January Revolution" which was launched on the principle of government by the will of the people and which, unlike the officers' coup 59 years ago, was a popular uprising in which millions of Egyptians took part.

The military, sour over its loss of prestige, is fighting back. Increasingly, generals on the council have tried to present themselves as a key part of the uprising, rather than subordinate to it.

Chants of "the army and the people are one hand" rang out for days at Tahrir Square though there were also occasions when the military stood by while Mubarak supporters attacked protesters. Lately, the ruling generals have come under heavy criticism by the protesters.


Turkey Lays out Options for Cyprus Electricity Plan

Turkey's bid to supply electricity for the whole of Cyprus has been based on two plans: Building a nuclear plant on the island or laying underwater cables from Turkey, according to Turkey's Chamber of Mechanical Engineers.

The claim has been certified by the Turkish Cypriot authority as well as the chamber.

Turkey has already set all the options on the table for meeting the energy needs of the island, Haluk Direskeneli, a board member of the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers and head of its Energy Committee, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Russia's barge-mounted nuclear power plant might be built in northern Cyprus," he said, adding that such a facility would generate electricity "not only for the Turkish part [of the divided island], but also the Greek part."

A nuclear plant on the island was also discussed in the Greek Cypriot parliament a few years ago, Direskeneli said.

"Both options were mentioned in a recent master plan," an official from the Turkish Cypriot Economy and Energy Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Turkey's government is currently working on an energy master plan for the island," Direskeneli said, noting that Greek Cyprus was seriously struggling to provide electricity after a deadly blast at a military base last week knocked out the country's main power plant.

The idea of a nuclear power plant in northern Cyprus was brought up at a seminar in the British Council's Ankara office Jan. 16, 2007, with nearly 30 people in attendance, mainly from academic circles and interested "public and private enterprises," Direskeneli said.

Still, the political uncertainties and conflicts on the island would pose a strong challenge in building a nuclear plant there.

"There are almost no fossil-fuel resources, no oil, no gas, no coal on the island," Direskeneli said, noting that all fossil fuel to generate energy should be purchased abroad and transported by ferries to the island.

Another option to transfer energy to the island is laying underwater cables stretching from the southern Turkish province of Mersin to northern Cyprus, he added.

Turkey plans to build its first nuclear power station at Akkuyu, in Mersin, under a deal signed last year with the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, or Rosatom. The Turkish government plans to start construction of three nuclear power plants within five years.

Despite the serious concerns expressed by Greece and Greek Cyprus about the power plant to be built in Akkuyu, "it would be in their best interest now," according to Direskeneli, as the plant could generate electricity for Greek Cyprus as well. "Current electricity supply difficulty might push Greek officials to reconsider joint projects with Turkish Cyprus," he added.

Greek and Greek Cypriot officials have reacted negatively to Turkey's nuclear plans.

"We believe there should be a collective approach by the European Union in order to exert adequate pressure on Turkey to reconsider its plans," Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias said at an EU summit in March.

After meeting his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Sunat Akın, in Ankara on Monday, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said his ministry had prepared a widescale master plan for the island that would meet the energy needs of all of Cyprus by 2023.


Turkish PM Wants to Visit Gaza

Turkey's prime minister said Tuesday that he was considering visiting the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, a move likely to anger Israel amid diplomatic efforts to overcome already strained bilateral ties.

"If the conditions allow, I'm thinking of visiting Gaza," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters. "The foreign ministry will be working on it. I wish to make such a visit, depending on the outcome."

He said he would like to cross to the Palestinian enclave following a planned visit to Egypt, the date of which has not yet been determined.

The trip, if it happens, is likely to exacerbate tensions between Turkey and Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group.

The two one-time allies have been in the grips of a severe crisis since last May when Israeli troops killed nine Turkish activists aboard an aid ship that tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Israel has slammed previous contacts between Turkey and Hamas, which took control of Gaza in 2007 after routing Fatah loyalists.

But Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government insists that peace cannot be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Hamas is excluded from the process.

Erdogan, whose frequent outbursts against Israel have earned him a hero's status in the Arab street, has rejected the "terrorist" label for Hamas, defending the Islamist group as "resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land."

A Hamas official in Gaza welcomed Erdogan's intentions.

"We welcome this visit by Mr. Erdogan, which will be historic if it goes ahead as it shows Turkish support for the Palestinian cause and political and moral backing to break the political siege imposed on Gaza" by Israel, Ismail Radwan told the AFP. "This visit will encourage Arab and Muslim leaders to break the siege and visit the Gaza Strip," he said.

The Israeli foreign ministry would only say that any potential Erdogan visit was the concern of Egypt, which borders Gaza, and Turkey.

Erdogan announced his intention to go to Gaza shortly after a Turkish official voiced hope that Israel would apologize for last year's bloodshed on the Mavi Marmara ferry, as part of fence-mending talks between the two countries.

"I would be surprised if there were no apologies since both sides have the political will to resolve this crisis," Ambassador Ozdem Sanberk, a member of the UN panel probing the Israeli raid, told AFP on Tuesday. "We are heading toward a solution probably toward the end of the month.Bilateral contacts are ongoing, not on a regular basis... I expect positive developments."

Israel's Haaretz Daily News reported on Sunday that the defense establishment in the Jewish state wanted to see ties with Turkey repaired, even supporting an apology to Ankara over the 2010 raid.

Ankara demands an apology and compensation for the victims' families as a condition to repair ties.

Israeli lawmakers, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have said publicly that the Jewish state will not apologize for the raid, warning that expressing any such sentiment would be humiliating.

But Haaretz said that defense and justice ministry officials have, in recent weeks, suggested that Israel could in fact head off potential lawsuits by Turkish human rights organizations by offering an apology.

Israeli officials also acknowledge that upgrading relations with Ankara is a high diplomatic priority and that Israel would benefit from a return to good ties.

The once-flourishing relations began to visibly deteriorate after Erdogan's fierce criticism of Israel's devastating offensive on Gaza at the turn of 2009, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.

Last month, Erdogan renewed a call on Israel "to lift as soon as possible the inhumane and unlawful blockade" of Gaza and allow the entry of goods, notably construction materials, to rebuild infrastructure destroyed during the offensive.


Global Crisis Begins to Worry Top Officials

Despite its fast recovery from the global economic crisis, Turkey should be ready for negative outcomes from the current problems faced in the U.S. and European economies, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan warned Wednesday.

"We hope that the right decisions are made in Europe and that the political concerns over the debt limit in the United States will be solved," Babacan said during a press meeting in Ankara with World Bank head, Robert Zoellick. "If these [issues] are solved, there will be no problem, but if not, we should be prepared for [possible] negative scenarios as well," he said.

The deputy prime minister made his comments when asked about remarks by the ruling party's deputy president, Bulent Gedikli, who said Tuesday that a new crisis was nearing for the global economy. Gedikli called for Turkish people to be cautious, saying: "Hold on to what you've got. Don't spend too much."

Babacan also said the government was considering the situation in Europe and the entire world while preparing its Medium-Term Economic Program, according to an Anatolia News Agency report Wednesday. The World Bank chief also warned that the crisis in Europe might affect the Turkish economy.

Economic growth had slowed in the region due to developments in the European economy – something that could affect Turkey's exports and direct foreign investments in the country, Babacan said. "However, I believe that Turkey's economic program is very strong," he added.

Zoellick, on the other hand, said the fact that some countries were growing rapidly and others slowly could pose a problem for Turkey in the future.

"Rising economies might be exposed to inflation problems in such a situation. As a fast-growing country, Turkey should be alert to inflation risks," he said.

According to Zoellick, Turkey is important for both the regional and global economy. Strong growth in emerging economies, notably Turkey, could be a background factor supporting Eurozone countries as they fight a debt crisis, he said, according to a report by Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

Zoellick said his aim was to discuss with Turkish authorities what the country could do to reach its goals and to identify areas where the World Bank and Turkey could cooperate.


Government Prioritizes Drafts Against Financing Terror

Following a warning by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone, the ruling Justice and Development Party has sped up work on a draft law on the prevention of financing terrorism. If enacted, the legislation would bring severe punishments to those who are involved in suspicious money transactions.

Under pressure from international bodies, the Turkish government is planning to give priority to the draft bill after Parliament reopens in October, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

The United States has officially requested that Turkey pass the draft bill swiftly. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, meanwhile still describes Turkey as a "high-risk jurisdiction" in terms of implementing global standards in fighting money laundering and terror financing.

Turkey was given a June 20 deadline to complete the necessary legal regulations and meet demands by the Financial Action Force, or FATF, a group working on the behalf of the OECD. Turkey was placed on its "black-gray" list, which includes such countries as Syria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Bolivia.

Ambassador Ricciardone, in a meeting with recently elected Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, demanded Parliament give priority to the legislation of the government-prepared draft bill, which could not be passed in the last legislative year due to a heavy workload. Sources told the Daily News that Çiçek said he would do his best to this end, recalling Parliament's determination in contributing to international efforts against terrorism.

The draft was signed Feb. 1, 2011, by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was sent to Parliament, but was not passed in time, and will thus be renewed in the new term. The draft includes important regulations regarding the matter outlined by decisions by the United Nations. As the draft bill was ready, it will not take much time for the Parliament to conclude talks on it and pass the legislation, if no unexpected developments come to dominate its agenda, sources said.

The draft law includes enforcements and stricter regulations such as freezing the accounts of those funding terrorist organizations, as well as heavy penalties and fines. If passed, the law gives up to five to 10-year sentences to those funding terrorist organizations or terrorists, even if the money is not directly used for a terrorist crime. Individuals, companies or organizations listed by the United Nations will also have their funds frozen immediately after the decision is printed in the Official Gazette.

All decisions regarding the freezing of funds must be published in the Official Gazette, which will serve as a notification to the individual in question. The Financial Crimes Investigation Board, or MASAK, will be in charge of executing the freezing of funds.

In order to prevent funds from aiding terror, individuals with frozen funds must seek approval from the Financial Crimes Investigation Board before accessing real estate, movable estate, partnership interests in companies and the contents of safe-deposit boxes. Those who neglect the requirements of the decision will be sentenced to six months to two years in prison, or a judicial fine of 10,000 to 100,000 Turkish Liras.

If a foreign country requests the freezing of the funds of an individual, Turkish or foreign, the Evaluation Commission will make the final decision based on the principle of reciprocity between the two countries.

The draft also outlines that Turkey can request for funds to be frozen in other countries. As for freezing funds in Turkey, a criminal complaint must be filed to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.


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