Turkey will take tougher measures against terrorists after Ramadan comes to an end, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday, while expressing his anger over the recent escalating terror acts.
"If we show patience, it is because of the holy month of Ramadan," Erdoğan said, adding that their policy will drastically change once the religious holiday has ended.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has increased its attacks against security forces since mid-July when it ended its unilateral cease-fire following the June 12 general elections. The PKK killed 13 troops in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır province on July 14 in the highest casualties recorded in a single attack since late 2008. The government and military have been considering ways to respond to such attacks and decided to give more of a role to police in the anti-terror fight.
Highlighting the increasing number of military casualties due to terrorist attacks, Erdoğan said the situation would not be tolerated much longer. The problem, according to Erdoğan, is not only a security issue but also a diplomatic, psychological and social economic one.
"We will [solve terror] with patience. If we show patience, it is because of the holy month of Ramadan. You can be sure that after Ramadan is over, peace in Turkey will reach a turning point," Erdoğan said, expressing his grief over the Turkish soldiers who were killed by terrorists during the Ramadan holiday.
He did not further elaborate on what would be the new measures. The National Security Council, or MGK, will convene Thursday to discuss the developments and review the state of the anti-terror fight.
More recently, four police officers were injured in southeastern Turkey when their vehicle set off a landmine suspected to have been planted by the PKK, local security forces said. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union, took up arms in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
Slamming the BDP
The prime minister also criticized the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, for not denouncing terrorism and for self-declaring what they call democratic autonomy.
"Those who don't distance themselves from the terrorist organization are partners in the crime," Erdoğan said. "Let me be clear. Those who cast a shadow on peace in Turkey and shed blood will pay the price for their actions, and the payment will be heavy."
Targeting the BDP, Erdoğan once again pointed out that the democratic and legal solution to the problems can only be achieved in Parliament. "No one can set up illegal 'parliaments' in Turkey and operate in the country," he said.
BDP-supported deputies are boycotting Parliament as five of their deputies who were recently elected have not been released from prison.
Erdoğan also dismissed possibilities of a democratic autonomy for Kurds. "There is no such thing in our book. No one can threaten us."
He also criticized the pro-Kurdish politicians for imposing their own Friday prayers in a predominantly Kurdish region in Southeast Anatolia. "[The terrorists] have nothing to do with religion. We have already declared that the Kurds at Imrali are Zoroastrians. But I know that my Kurdish brothers and sisters will say they are Muslims. What [the terrorists] are trying to do is to divide and conquer. They're only watching from the sidelines. But we will not give them credit. We will solve it all, don't worry," he said.
Turkey: Nothing Left to Talk About If Syria Fails to Halt Operations
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu issued a stark warning to Syrian authorities to immediately halt military operations across the country or there will be nothing left to talk about.
Stressing that Turkey will always stand by the Syrian people, Davutoğlu said the Syrian army indeed stepped back for two days after he had talks with al-Assad in Damascus last Tuesday, but has resumed military operations since Thursday.
He stressed the Turkish government has contacted with Syrian authorities every day to stop the bloodshed in the neighboring country, strongly dismissing allegations that Turkey gave time to Syria to stop military operations.
Davutoğlu said his message to the Syrian government is that all operations in big cities must be stopped and the military should be withdrawn from the cities and life should return to normal.
Turkish leaders, who once backed al-Assad, have repeatedly urged him to end the violence and make reforms after street protests against his 11 years in power erupted five months ago.
"In the context of human rights, this cannot be seen as a domestic issue," he told reporters, without taking questions or making clear whether he spoke directly to al-Assad.
Davutoğlu told reporters on Monday after full-scale military operations in a number of Syrian cities since Thursday by Syrian authorities to crush the five-month uprising against the 11-year rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Turkey is demanding that all military operations that result in civilian death must be stopped immediately and unconditionally.
"If these operations do not stop there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken," he said, without elaborating.
"This is our final word to the Syrian authorities. Our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally," Davutoğlu said in Turkey's strongest rhetoric yet against its once close ally and neighbor.
Turkey, a Muslim NATO member that has applied to join the European Union, is one of the few countries in the world that has open communication lines with Damascus. Davutoğlu visited Damascus last week and held talks with Assad.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who spoke last week with U.S. President Barack Obama about violence in Syria, said he hoped Syria would take steps towards reform within 10-15 days.
The bloodshed, however, has continued. The Syrian navy shelled two densely populated residential districts of the main Mediterranean port city of Latakia on Sunday, killing more than 30 civilians, residents and rights campaigners said.
Denmark Starts Trial Against Pro-PKK TV Station
A trial against a Kurdish-language TV station with a Danish broadcasting license has started with the prosecution arguing the channel is promoting a terrorist organization. Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen said Monday that Roj-TV is "glorifying" and promoting the PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Defense lawyer Bjoern Elmquist says the TV station denies having promoted the PKK.
Special Operations Teams to Receive Training in Rural Areas
The National Police Department plans to train officers from its special operations teams in rural areas as part of a change in the education of unit members following an announcement by the interior minister that the police will be used more effectively in the fight against terrorism.
In late July, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said there would be innovations in the fight against terrorism in the near future, stating that the responsibility of the police would be increased in combating terrorism. Prior to Şahin's statement, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced that the government planned to extend the duties and authority of the police in the fight against terrorism.
A total of 600 officers, who will take part in the 41st Special Operations Course, are to receive training in the Ilgaz Mountains, near where Erdoğan's convoy was attacked by terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in May. The facilities of the Kastamonu Police Vocational High School are to be assigned to the Special Operations Unit during their training.
Navigating treacherous terrain, mapping the area, carrying out helicopter and reconnaissance missions and defusing bombs and hand grenades will be among the courses offered as a part of the training in the Ilgaz Mountains.
Experts say that the training in the Ilgaz Mountains in the Black Sea region will help decrease the terrorist activities of the PKK in that area. Intelligence units have found that the terrorist organization plans to establish autonomous teams, composed of specially trained members of the PKK, in the Black Sea region. Intelligence reports have revealed that the PKK plans to carry out kidnappings in order to lure security forces to the mountains and stage their attacks there.
Turkish Foreign Minister Speaks with Iranian FM About PKK Capture
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akber Salehi told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that they did not have information about the capture of PKK leader Murat Karayilan by Iran.
Diplomatic officials said that Davutoğlu called Salehi by phone and asked about news stories that Karayilan was captured in Iran. Salehi told Davutoglu that they did not have such information.
Meanwhile, Turkish ambassadors in Tehran also spoke with Alaedin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee. Boroujerdi told the Turkish Ambassador that he did not mention Karayilan was captured.
Earlier Iran's Fars News Agency quoted Alaedin Boroujerdi as saying that the second person in the PKK was captured by Iranian forces.
"Our country's intelligence forces have carried out an important task and have arrested the second person in the PKK," Boroujerdi said.
Another Iranian news provider, Mehr News Agency, said that Boroujerdi confirmed the arrest of a senior member of the PKK in Iran.
According to the Mehr News Agency, Boroujerdi told reporters at a news conference that the PJAK terrorist organization staged several acts of terror in western Iran after arrest of the senior member of the PKK.
Yesterday, media organizations gave place to allegations that Murat Karayilan was captured in Iran.
Interior Minister Says Name Confusion Behind Karayilan Controversy
Commenting on the weekend's news reports suggesting that senior outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, leader Murat Karayılan had been captured by Iranian security forces, Turkish Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said on Monday that the reports led to confusion as Iran had indeed captured a PKK terrorist named Murat, but whose surname was not Karayılan.
Şahin responded to questions by reporters late Monday as he left a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at THE Justice and Development Party, or AKP, headquarters. Asked about any new developments regarding Karayılan's reported capture, Şahin said: "No, there are none. The terrorist leader captured by Iran has the same first name as Karayılan but has a different surname, which led to confusion over the reports."
Top General in Coup Case Alleges Digital Conspiracy
An Istanbul court postponed a trial against high-ranking military suspects in the "Balyoz" Sledgehammer coup-plot case Monday after defense lawyers demanded that the judges be recused from the case because they lack "objectivity" and "independence."
The court decided to transfer the trial to a higher court so that it can consider the recusal application while also declining the defendants' requests to be released. Twenty-two arrested suspects, including War Academies Commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, the first active-duty top general to be arrested in connection with the alleged coup plans, attended the trial Monday at Silivri court, reiterating their belief that the Turkish judiciary lacks objectivity and independence.
The suspects demanded that they be released on the grounds that the justice system was not effectively working because they had been arrested without a proper accusation.
Şeref Dede, Balanlı's lawyer, said there was no need to arrest people who had already freely submitted their testimony. Balanlı, meanwhile, said there were new plots targeting the Air Force.
According to the indictment, evidence regarding the case consists of written documents, video files and digital material on a flash disk and includes plans to be put into action if the alleged coup plot were to fail. The documents were seized in February from a house that belonged to Col. Hakan Büyük, a member of the intelligence branch of the Turkish Armed Forces, TSK.
Kemal Nevzat Güleşen, the lawyer for suspects Ahmet Dikmen, Doğan Uysal and Onur Uluocak, said he would prove that the digital documents were fake during the trial.
According to Güleşen, the CDs that form the bulk of the evidence were prepared before the day of the raid.
Balanlı's son, İmre Balanlı, told the Hürriyet Daily News that he had no confidence in the Turkish justice system.
"As we experienced in previous cases [regarding coup accusations], despite the evidence presented to the court, the case could last years," said Balanlı, adding that he was both proud and sad during the trial while watching his father read his plea.
"I felt the weight of the situation which has become more desperate," he said.
Sledgehammer is an alleged military coup plot against the leading Justice and Development Party, or AKP, drafted in 2003. According to the allegations, the military planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power. Those measures included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tension with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane that was to be blamed on the Aegean neighbor.