Recent remarks by the Armenian leader about "Western Armenia," an area now in Turkey, were not suitable for a statesman and president, the Turkish prime minister said Wednesday, demanding an apology.
"The statements of the Armenian president are not an expression or an approach that suits a president. Equipping the next generations with hatred and enmity does not suit statesmanship," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said while visiting Azerbaijan.
Over the weekend, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian called on Armenian youth to enable the return of "historic territories in Western Armenia" that are currently found in eastern Turkey, as his generation had done with the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking outrage from the Turkish side.
"How will the future of Armenian youth be? Possibly dark in this course. They will look at the incidents with these dark glasses," Erdoğan said. "They should definitely know that there is an occupation in [Nagorno-Karabakh] and the occupiers are evident. Not only we say this, the United Nations also says this. This needs to be resolved."
Erdoğan's visit to Azerbaijan took place upon an invitation from President Ilham Aliyev. During his trip to Baku, the Turkish prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız and Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan.
A flashpoint of the Caucasus, the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh is a constituent part of Azerbaijan, occupied by Armenia since the end of 1994. While internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the enclave has declared itself an independent republic, but is administered as a de facto part of Armenia.
"It is the Armenian side whose approach has been unfavorable up until this moment. Azerbaijan has consistently put forth a constructive approach. [Saying] 'Now that you have taken over Karabakh from us, you will handle [Western Armenia] yourselves when we die.' What kind of reasoning is this?" Erdoğan said. "How could one transmit such a mentality, such a direction, such horizons to the youth? What does this mean? 'Behold, our youngsters! From now on, Armenia can enter war with Turkey as it sees fit.' We reject all this. There is no such statesmanship, no such diplomacy."
"Sarkisian has committed a very serious mistake here. He has highlighted and affirmed a historic mistake. He must apologize and backtrack from his mistake," Erdoğan added.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday also condemned Sarkisian's remarks, which the Armenian president made during a contest on Armenian literature and language. Erdoğan held a two-hour one-on-one meeting with Aliyev in Zagulba Palace to dicuss bilateral relations, particularly military, commercial, economic, social and cultural issues, as well as regional problems.
"We had the opportunity to discuss what kind of steps we can take in the future," Erdoğan said after the meetings, underlining the importance of the Turkey-Azerbaijan High-Level Strategic Council, which he said would hold its first meeting in Turkey. Referring to an agreement related to the shipping of natural gas between the two countries, Erdoğan said relevant officials would convene Thursday and work on some articles.
Erdogan: Turkey Aims to Strengthen Strategic Partnership with Azerbaijan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday that Turkey aimed to strengthen existing strategic partnership with Azerbaijan.
Speaking to reporters prior to his departure from Ankara for Azerbaijan, Erdoğan said he would travel to Azerbaijan by invitation of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
"Visits to Azerbaijan following elections in Turkey have become a tradition. We continue this tradition by visiting Azerbaijan after visiting the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on July 20," Erdoğan said. "My visit to Azerbaijan will give us a chance to discuss bilateral relations and comprehensive cooperation. We will have an opportunity to exchange views on regional developments.
"We will also have a chance to affirm our position to resolve the Upper Karabakh issue by peaceful means that respect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In our contacts with Azerbaijan, we encourage all steps to make contacts between our peoples easier and greater including steps for visa liberalization," Erdoğan said.
Silvan Commanders Removed Over Attack
Some gendarmerie commanders have been relieved of their duties or stationed elsewhere following the Silvan terrorist attacks, but the number of commanders in question is "not important," Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said Wednesday.
Asked whether any were company commanders or battalion commanders, Şahin said that might be the case. One major and one first lieutenant who had been leading the operation in Silvan were removed from their posts, the private channel NTV reported after the minister spoke.
Thirteen troops were killed and seven wounded July 14 in a clash with members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Silvan, part of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Şahin also said the government was engaged in efforts to form a special anti-terror unit for the Black Sea region, where the outlawed PKK has started to gain a foothold. One police officer was killed and another was injured during a terrorist attack in May against a convoy taking some of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's top aides back to Ankara after an election rally in the northern Black Sea province of Kastamonu.
Echoing Erdoğan's remarks earlier in day, Şahin said Wednesday that the Interior Ministry had concluded its report on the Silvan attack, but that there was no need to make it public as the report matched the one that the General Staff announced Tuesday.
Responding to questions from the media prior to his departure for Azerbaijan earlier in the day, Erdoğan similarly said the Interior Ministry had concluded its report on the Silvan attack, but did not release a detailed statement as the report matched the investigation concluded by the General Staff.
"There is no need for a second statement, as the two reports do not contain any serious differences," the prime minister said.
Commenting on the way the Turkish media covers terrorism-related news, Erdoğan also accused the press of "aiding terrorists in their propaganda."
"The media organizations in Turkey are trying to agitate and demoralize certain institutions of Turkey," Erdoğan said.
Arguing that it was impossible to understand the media's support of representatives of terrorism, the prime minister said: "We want all media outlets to be sensitive to [such] issues so we can reach our goal and our country can achieve the national unity and peace for which it has been yearning as soon as possible."
Using the recent deadly attacks in Norway as an example, Erdoğan added: "I talked to the family of the Turkish victim of the Norway incidents, and they told me international press organizations asked for permission before using the young girl's photograph. Do we have this [practice in Turkey]? No, we don't."
Police Role in Counter-Terrorism
Commenting on government-announced plans to include police forces more actively in the counter-terrorism process, Erdoğan said a study was needed to develop new methods and to strengthen coordination between security forces in this fight.
"Our main goal is to conduct this process within the scope of our national unity and brotherhood project, rather than with the help of security forces," the prime minister said. "As long as we see good intentions from the opposite side, we will carry on with this process with an understanding of brotherhood. However, if we see any bad intentions, neither we nor our citizens can display any goodwill anymore," Erdoğan added.
Turkey's New Constitution to be Shorter, Simpler, Prime Minister Says
Turkey's new constitution will be shorter and much less complex than its current charter as it represents the people "using the language of the people," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday.
"We want the new constitution to be shorter and simpler compared to the current constitution. We don't want it to be filled with 'buts,' 'howevers,' and temporary clauses. We want it to be in the language of the people," Erdoğan said, responding to questions from the media prior to his departure for Azerbaijan on Wednesday.
"All my citizens living in the west, east, north and south will be able to say that it is their constitution," Erdoğan said.
The government expects opposition parties to help participate in the drafting of the constitution starting in October, Erdoğan said, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was not trying to impose its own version of the constitution.
The AKP has already begun "doing its homework" based on the recent developments the country has experienced, Erdoğan said.
"There are efforts by non-governmental organizations and efforts to get citizens involved in the process. Our nine-person commission is working on these basic principles and will come to a conclusion. A possible commission created with opposition parties will also meet with NGOs, academics and the media," the prime minister said.
The Republican People's Party, or CHP, however, criticized the AKP on Tuesday, saying it was not being inclusive in its constitutional works.
Asked to comment on the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP's, demand to be exempt from taxes as part of the party's democratic autonomy project, Erdoğan said:
"Turkey, with it's 780,000 square kilometers and 74 million citizens, is a whole. No one should try to [act against] this unity. Everyone has to pay their taxes, and those who don't will pay the price," the prime minister said, criticizing the pro-Kurdish party's request to be exempt from taxes while receiving financial support from the government.
"We support the people in the region so that they have the same opportunities as everyone else. Political parties do not concern us," added Erdoğan.
The AKP promised before the June 12 general elections, in which it received 50 percent of the votes, that a new charter would the priority of the party in the new term.
Erdogan Unfazed by Crisis Talk
Turkey's prime minister has dismissed fears of a new economic crisis, saying before he left for Baku that a possible new global crisis in the West "would not even hit Turkey tangentially this time."
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement Tuesday was an echo of his now-famous words in 2009, when he said the global financial crisis "would pass tangentially to Turkey," barely affecting the country's economy.
In the first quarter of 2009, the Turkish economy contracted by 14.6 percent and closed the year with a contraction of 4.7 percent. In 2010, the economy recovered rapidly and, in the first quarter of this year, broke a world record with 11 percent annual growth.
"Our feet are firmly on the ground. There could be a crisis in Europe, but we are prepared for everything. Turkey is better and stronger," Erdoğan was quoted saying by the Doğan News Agency, or DHA.
"We have to discern something: Will we defend an economy of efficiency or one of extravagance? If we do not tread the latter path, we should not worry," the prime minister added. "[Citizens] can continue spending accordingly. But extravagance threatens families, businessmen and even the government."
Responding to the recent depreciation of the Turkish Lira, Erdoğan said a few years ago members of "many circles" were uncomfortable with the lira appreciating. "Now they are uncomfortable about depreciation. Don't worry, we'll find the middle ground again," he said.
The lira fell below 1.70 per dollar Tuesday and was trading at around 1.693 per dollar at 5:15 p.m. The currency has lost 8.8 percent against the greenback since the start of the year. The euro was trading at just above 2.44 per lira, having gained 17.5 percent against the Turkish currency since Jan. 1.
Turkey's EU Membership Would End Hatred, Racism Behind Norway Attacks: Bagis
The Turkish European Union minister said on Wednesday that Turkey's membership to the EU would put an end to the feelings of hatred and racism which underscore last week's violent attacks in Norway.
Speaking to AA, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bagis said the attacks in Norway show the importance of the fight against terrorism, exposing the escalating racism and xenophobia in Europe.
"The seeds of hatred and racism that have triggered these attacks can be destroyed by Turkey's EU membership. Although in a sad way, EU should understand this reality much better with these incidents," Bagis said.
"EU cannot ignore its responsibility by solely condemning the attacks or releasing messages of sorrow. Aside from condemning the concept of terrorism, the union and all member states should deeply and loudly reject the motives behind terrorism as well," the minister noted.
Describing EU as an institution of peace, tolerance and dialogue, Bagis also said the union would miss its chance for peace without Turkey's membership.
At least 76 people died and many others were wounded in last week's double attacks in Norway's capital Oslo and the nearby island of Utoya.
Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old far-right extremist, is the main suspect of last Friday's car bomb explosion in Oslo, as well as the bloody raid against a political youth camp in Utoya, a holiday island close to the Norwegian capital.