Turkey's new charter should be sufficiently designed so that it will not become a topic of controversy after it comes into force, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek said Monday.
"The new constitution should not be a subject of political debates. It should be able to preserve its validity for a long time as a constitution prepared through great consensus," he told reporters during a meeting with trade union representatives.
All political parties promised a new constitution to their constituents before the elections, Çiçek said, noting that made him more hopeful about the prospects of the new charter.
"As far as I know, the parties have launched their own studies on it," he said. "Preliminary work is needed from everyone who will contribute to this process."
Çiçek will play a central role in the making of the new constitution this fall after the opening of the Parliament, as he will likely move to form a parliamentary commission.
"Turkey can no longer move ahead with a constitution whose expiry date has already passed. The new constitution is not just for solving a certain problem in Turkey. It is needed for high-level democratic standards," he said.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has already established its own commission to prepare for the making of the new constitution.
U.S. Credit Rating Downgrade Hits ISE
Deep expectations in the global economic crisis are shaking the markets. A downgrade in the credit rating of the United States hit the Turkish stock exchange most.
The Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) dropped seven percent yesterday. One-week loss in the stock exchange reached 16 percent. The figures of Turkish industrial production index, which were announced yesterday, were considered as the first signals of an expected economic stagnation.
Active Generals Called to Court in Coup Case
An Istanbul court on Monday issued an order for seven active generals, including the former Aegean Army commander, and admirals to be brought to court in connection with an alleged plot to topple the government.
The suspects included Gen. Nusret Taşdeler, the former head of the Aegean forces, who was appointed as head of the army's educational command during the recent Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, and İsmail Hakkı Pekin, the intelligence chief of the General Staff.
Retired Gen. Hasan Iğsız, the former head of the First Army, is also among the suspects, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The other military personnel ordered to be brought to court were Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Gen. Mehmet Eröz, Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu, Gen. Mustafa Bakıcı, Adm. Alaettin Sevim, Col. Sedat Özüer and Retired Col. Fuat Selvi.
The officers were among 22 suspects charged last month in the "Internet Memorandum" investigation for attempting to oust the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government.
The Internet Memorandum is an alleged document by the General Staff about setting up 42 Internet sites to distribute propaganda against the AKP, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and Greeks and Armenians.
Retired Col. Dursun Çiçek, who is currently on trial in four different alleged coup-plot cases, confirmed the existence of the memorandum at a hearing earlier this month.
"The 'Internet Memorandum' is a real document," Çiçek said Aug. 1 at a hearing for the case regarding the Action Plan for the Fight against Fundamentalism. "If this fake plan [the Action Plan] was real, I would have said that."
The court also ruled that the Internet Memorandum case be merged with the Action Plan for the Fight against Fundamentalism case.
That plan allegedly includes strategies to end both AKP rule and the activities of the Fethullah Gülen community, a religious group believed to have links to the government.
Prosecutor Cihan Kansız is expected to seek the arrest of the suspects pending trial once they are brought before the court.
Stop Crush on Citizens or Face Gadhafi's Fat, Davutoglu says
Military operations against protesters must end if the Syrian regime wants to maintain its legitimacy, and not go the way of Libya's leadership, Turkey's top diplomat is prepared to tell Damascus in a visit Tuesday.
Ending the violence in Syria is an urgent demand, not only of Turkey, but of the whole international community, official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News late Monday, on the eve of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria is facing growing international condemnation as the leadership ignores calls to end its deadly crackdown on protesters, putting it at risk of becoming as isolated as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who has also been engaged in a bloody battle against opposition forces in his country.
As unrest spreads across Syria, diplomatic visits to the country have become rare, making Davutoğlu's trip a subject of keen international attention. A senior U.S. diplomat paid a snap visit to Ankara ahead of Davutoğlu's trip to coordinate the two countries' policies vis-à-vis Syria
Following a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late Sunday, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, Fred Hof, held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara, where he entered the Prime Ministry through the back door, presumably to avoid media attention.
Sources close to the talks said Hof's visit focused on Davutoğlu's trip to Damascus and the messages the Turkish foreign minister would convey to al-Assad. Hof also reportedly wanted to know how Turkey would react if Davutoğlu's talks fail to produce any concrete result.
"The situation in Syria is really complicated. There are some minor positive steps but they are far from satisfying," Turkish officials told Hof, citing the removal of the state of emergency that had existed in the country for decades.
The topic was also addressed in a security summit held in Ankara on Monday under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and with the participation of Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel as well as senior government officials.
Sources told the Daily News that the first message Davutoğlu was planning to dispatch to Damascus was the urgency in ending the military operations against protesters. A recent operation launched on the same day as the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan caused widespread fury in the Islamic world. "This [ending operations] is necessary for them to preserve the legitimacy of their regime," an official said, comparing the situation with that of Libya, another Arab country shaken by protests.
"The Libyan regime lost its legitimacy when it insisted on resorting to violence," the official said.
Davutoğlu's second message will be a call for the al-Assad regime to announce a concrete date for free elections in which all political parties that wish to join can run for Parliament. The Syrian regime earlier moved to allow the formation of new political parties but was not clear about when it would hold elections. The move was seen as a positive development but failed to satisfy Turkey and the rest of the international community.
Freeing all political prisoners and taking additional reform steps will also be urged by the Turkish foreign minister in Damascus.
"Al-Assad and his regime know in-depth what they should do to start a meaningful dialogue with their own people. We have offered them assistance in a number of fields," a source told the Daily News.
All Options on the Table
The security summit held at the Prime Ministry on Monday reviewed all potential moves Turkey could undertake if the al-Assad regime decides to go its own way and continue imposing violence. Sources said all possible options – economic, political and security-related – were considered. Economic relations have already been affected by the growing instability in Syria and some joint projects have been suspended, sources said, adding that further implications were also discussed at the meeting.
The participation of Chief of General Staff Gen. Özel in the meeting underscored the military dimension of the situation in neighboring Syria. Though the international community was not able to show a concerted reaction to Syria at the United Nations, the growing violence and bloodshed could increase the volume of calls for a military intervention into Syria. Turkish officials said all options, including establishing a buffer zone in the Syrian part of the border, were being discussed at a technical level.
Political relations between Ankara and Damascus would be affected by future developments, as proven by an exchange of harsh statements between the two capitals over the weekend. Bouthina Shaban, a Syrian presidential adviser, urged Davutoğlu not to give a resolute message if he does not want to hear more resolute responses.
Clinton's Statement Casts a Shadow
Davutoğlu's upcoming visit to Damascus sparked controversy following the U.S. State Department's statement on the content of the Davutoğlu-Clinton phone talk late Sunday. Spokesman Mark Toner said Clinton discussed the U.S. position that Syria must immediately return its military to the barracks and release all political prisoners. "She asked the foreign minister to reinforce these messages with the Syrian government. She also discussed American support for a transition to democracy in Syria," Toner said.
The perceived description of Davutoğlu as Clinton's messenger was not welcomed by Ankara. "We are perturbed by [the statement]. Davutoğlu's agenda already contains all the necessary messages," the Turkish official said.
Davutoglu Travels to Syria with Strong Message
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will travel to Syria today. Prior to the visit, a meeting took place at the Prime Ministry Office with the participation of new chief of the General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel to review Turkey's strategy about Syria.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a telephone conversation with Davutoğlu and asked him the convey the message to President Bashar al-Assad that Syrian troops should withdraw from cities. U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone and Fred Hof, an official from the U.S. Department of State for Syria also held talks with Turkish authorities.
U.S. Ambassador Holds Talks at Prime Ministry
The U.S. ambassador to Turkey held talks with the chief advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the prime ministry in Ankara on Monday.
Officials with the U.S. Embassy said that Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone met Ibrahim Kalin, chief advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan, within the scope of the ongoing consultations on Syria. Kalin and Ricciardone also discussed regional issues in their meeting.
U.S. Department of State deputy spokesman Mark Toner said earlier that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on the phone with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, discussing the ongoing violence and security operations in Syria. Toner said Clinton discussed the U.S. position that Syria must immediately return its military to barracks and release all prisoners of concern and asked Davutoğlu to "reinforce these messages" with the Syrian government.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Kalin, Ricciardone said they made an "overall assessment about latest developments." Asked whether the meeting was related to the telephone conversation between Clinton and Davutoğlu, the ambassador said it was a "follow-up" to it.
U.S. Sends Special Envoy to Ankara to work on Syria Message
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first held a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, then she sent a special envoy to Ankara. It was revealed that Washington and Ankara bargained about several harsh measures against Syrian government.
Syria Concerns Whole World, Not Just Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Says
Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc said that neither the timing nor the method of operations in Syria was unacceptable.
Arinc told reporters following the Council of Ministers meeting, "incidents in Syria concern both the region and the whole world, not only Turkey and Syria. Therefore, it is impossible to expect the U.S. Department of State and the European states to remain indifferent about the recent developments. We think that the United Nations and the international community should take action."
U.S., Turkey's Message to Syria Mirrors Hussein Talks
The critical meeting, which Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will hold with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Tuesday, is reminiscent of Turkey's efforts to convince Saddam Hussein prior to the Gulf War in 2003.
Davutoğlu will hold a tete-a-tete meeting with al-Assad today, conveying Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's message to "stop the massacre of civilians immediately."
U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton's phone conversation with Davutoğlu yesterday, as well as the meeting between U.S. ambassador and Erdogan's Chief Advisor Ibrahim Kalin, show how closely the U.S. is following the visit of Davutoğlu.
All of the Middle East Follows Turkey, President Says
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that the whole of the Middle East was following Turkey.
In an exclusive interview with the Japanese economy paper, Nikkei, Gul said Turkey was assuming more active roles recently compared to the past.
Gul told Nikkei that they were eager to boost relations with the whole region and continents for the country's foreign policy and economic interests.
President Gul said that Turkey attached a great importance to stability in Caucasus and Central Asia.
"We know that there are some problems in our region," he said, but added that Turkey wants current issues in Middle East, Balkans and Caucasus to be solved through diplomacy.
Replying to a question on some EU countries' reaction to Turkey's EU membership process, Gul said that Turkey was a big country and problems take place during the EU process of such big countries.
Turkey was a part of the EU and continued its integration process with great efforts and determination, Gul said.
Answering a question on Turkey's role in the Middle East, Gul said, the "whole Middle East have been following Turkey and get inspired by the country."
Gul said that Turkey was deeply saddened about the situation in Syria, stating that it was clear that Syria needed a reform process.
Iran's Fight Against PJAK Among Top Issues at Security Summit
Turkey's top civilian and military officials met Monday for a security summit in Ankara to focus on Iran's fight against the outlawed Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, among other issues.
The two-hour meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and included Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and other civilian and military officials. A brief statement released following the meeting said "the officials reviewed all issues concerning foreign security issues in their broadest sense."
The statement did not give further details.
According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News, Iran's fight against the PJAK, an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, was largely discussed. It was learned that Iran had launched operation on its own and was not willing to give detailed information about their results.
The PKK's financial and political centers in Europe, and the measures to be taken to cut these links, were also part of the meeting, as were ongoing NATO operations in Libya and Greek Cypriot deals with international companies to begin oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.