On top of Ankara's routine political traffic, the Iranian and American envoys paid separate visits Tuesday to a senior government official, which raised questions about what's been cooking in discussions on Syria and the fight against terror.
The first visit came from Iranian Ambassador Bahman Hosseinpour to Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Tuesday afternoon. Sources said it was a courtesy visit from Hosseinpour to Bozdağ and was pre-arranged. The meeting lasted only 30 minutes, but no statement was made afterward.
Since the visits came only two days after Iran claimed that it captured a senior outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, member, all eyes have turned to this meeting. Iran's Parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission head Alaaddin Bourujerdi denied the statement he made Sunday with Turkish officials saying there was confusion in the name of the terrorist Iran has captured. Early reports said Iran arrested Murat Karayılan, number two of the PKK.
Two hours after the Iranian envoy's visit, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone arrived in the deputy prime minister's office. The meeting was announced as a courtesy visit to Bozdağ.
Earlier, Ricciardone met with EU Minister Egemen Bağış in the same format. Bağış said the model partnership between the two countries also requires cooperation in the fight against terror. "The U.S. is always on Turkey's side in its fight against terror," Ricciardone said, adding that their support will continue.
The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Iran Warns Against Western Force in Syria
Iran sees no justification for any Western intervention in the "internal affair" of its regional Arab ally Syria, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday, the Agence France-Presse reported.
"The events in Syria are its internal affair and there is no justification for any foreign intervention as it can only create many problems," Mehmanparast said during his weekly press briefing. "Western leaders are used to interfering in the internal affairs of countries and using any pretext to march with their military forces and occupy the country."
Mehmanparast also warned that any intervention by Washington would only stoke "public hatred" of the U.S. in the region. Rights groups say a crackdown by the regime on a popular revolt has killed 1,827 civilians since mid-March.
Eight Soldiers Killed in Clashes with PKK
Alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, shot dead one major and nine Turkish soldiers in an ambush in the eastern province of Hakkari's Çukurca district Wednesday morning. Seven more soldiers were also injured in the attack.
The PKK ended its six-month-old unilateral cease-fire in February and moved to what it calls an "active defense" stance, whereby its fighters defend themselves if threatened. Clashes between the PKK and security forces have increased since the general elections on June 12. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
Ankara Mobilizes to Strengthen Anti-Terror Fight
Turkey's civilian and military officials have mobilized to reinforce its military and political measures against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which could also include an aerial campaign against the terrorists' bases in the northern Iraq.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with the country's top commanders led by Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel on Tuesday in his office. The meeting came two days before the National Security Council, or MGK, meeting in which new measures will be discussed. Erdoğan, who hinted that the government might adopt a tougher stance against the PKK after Ramadan, met with his ministers late Monday to review the current state of the anti-terror fight late Monday. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Necdet Özel, alongside the land, navy, air and gendarmerie force commanders, visited Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek as well.
According to sources, among the options being considered in Ankara, the urgent assignment of special police teams stands as a priority. It has already been decided that the Special Operations Police Teams will be assigned especially to sensitive regions and will once again be given a part in the fight against terror. After recent events, this decision will be executed faster. There are currently more than 6,000 Special Operations police officers. A group of 500 carefully selected from this team will be sent to high-risk areas such as Hakkari, Şırnak and Diyarbakır and will be deployed in the mountains where the PKK militants are known to be.
Steps will be taken toward the Black Sea region to tackle the existence of terrorists there, too. The Special Operations police officers will be deployed in Ordu, Tokat and Kastamonu. To avoid any complications in the cooperation of the police and the gendarmerie, governors will have command over assignments and the administrative aspects in the anti-terror operations taking place in each other's areas of operation.
Air Operations in Kandil Mountains
Operations in the Kandil Mountains are also options being debated in the fight against terror. The Kandil Mountains are known to serve as the headquarters of the terrorist PKK and the government is considering an air operation, by planning related talks with the United States and Iraq. The parliamentary mandate that allows the military to conduct cross-border operations into northern Iraq ends in October. Past aerial operations in northern Iraq were not very useful in ending the existence of terrorists in the region. While the government seems set on carrying out operations against the PKK, concerns remain that clashes might move toward the cities with terrorists targeting metropolitan areas, causing widespread panic. Security forces are already on alert.
No Backing Down from Democracy
While deciding to strengthen the fight against the PKK, the government plans to also continue working toward solving the Kurdish issue by carrying the democratic initiative on through the new constitution, on which work will begin after the Ramadan holiday ends. The prime minister will also speak with academics, NGOs, lawyers and different parts of society about solving the Kurdish issue.
Turkey Readying for Serious Decision Against Al-Assad
Turkey has lost its patience after Syrian forces shelled the country's principal port city of Latakia, killing 31 people. Ankara is getting ready to make a critical decision and has been discussing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy. The Turkish Ambassador in Damascus, Omer Onhon, informed Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem about Turkey's attitude, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to assess recent developments.
U.S. Backs Turkey's Ultimatum to Syria
The United States supported Turkey's Syria ultimatum. U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nulan said it was not surprise for them that Turkey is out of patience. She said they were informed that such a strong statement would be made.
Number of Syrian Refugees in Turkey Declines
The number of Syrian people who fled the violence in their country and took shelter in Turkey dropped to 6,966 on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Turkish Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate, or AFAD. A total of 9,430 Syrians have returned to their country so far. Syrians are staying in six temporary tent-sites set up by the Turkish Red Crescent in Altinozu, Yayladagi, Reyhanli towns and Apaydin village in Turkey's southern province of Hatay. Hundreds of people have been killed during pro-democracy protests in Syria since January 2011.
Turkish Foreign Minister Does Not Want Foreign Intervention in Syria
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey does not want any foreign intervention in Syria, but added that the Syrian army's military operation against civilians was not acceptable.
"We do not want any intervention in Syria from outside the country, but at the same time we cannot accept operations conducted against civilians the way they continued in this holy month of Ramadan," Davutoglu said. "We are determined to take every necessary measure to make sure that operations stop. This is for us an issue that closely concerns our own stability," he told reporters Tuesday in a fast-breaking dinner in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
"We do not want to see the sufferings in Iraq re-occur in Syria, too. We have done everything over the last eight months to prevent worst-case scenarios from materializing. We have worked day and night and we will continue to do anything in our power to make Syria a country free of any conflicts, oppression and confrontation. We have made and will continue to make necessary warnings," Davutoglu said.
Turkey Ceases Military, Defense Cooperation With Syria
Turkey, which carried out joint military maneuvers with the Syrian army and planned to further develop its cooperation in the defense industry, has decided to postpone its military and defense cooperation projects with Syria. Sales contracts for 100,000 wireless sets and coast-guard boats were also postponed.
Turkey Will Not Create Buffer Zone Along Syrian Border
Turkey does not plan to create a buffer zone on its border with Syria, in the throes of a brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters, the Turkish defence minister said Tuesday.
"We do not want to create a new border with mines or a buffer zone," the Anatolia News agency quoted Ismet Yilmaz saying. "On the contrary, we legislated a law to clean the minefield between Syria and us."
Yilmaz also said that companies have already bid to clean the area.
Several media reports recently said Turkey has weighed creating a buffer zone on its Syrian border to prevent the influx of refugees into the country as the Syrian regime's violent repression of protests grows worse.
Currently, Turkey hosts almost 7,000 Syrian refugees in camps in southern Hatay province.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday reiterated his country's calls for an end to the bloody military operations against anti-regime protestors, saying operations had intensified despite talks last week with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Ankara, whose ties with Damascus have flourished in recent years, has repeatedly called on al-Assad to initiate reforms, but has stopped short of calling for his departure.
The Syrian regime has sought to crush weeks of protests with brutal force, killing more than 1,600 civilians and arresting at least 12,000 of the dissenters, rights activists say.
Erdogan Reiterates New Era Fight Against Terrorism
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated that a new phase has begun in the fight against terrorism following increasing tension between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, that has left dozens of Turkish soldiers dead in the past few weeks.
Erdoğan, speaking on Tuesday at an iftar dinner hosted by the Interior Ministry for families of the security personnel killed in PKK attacks, repeated his earlier promise that the government has launched a new strategy in the fight against terrorism, stressing that the struggle against the PKK does not mean stepping back from democracy and freedoms.
Erdoğan said that Turkey is preparing for this "new struggle" to the very last detail, adding that the assignment of professional staff to hot spots is almost complete. Stressing that the government will protect the country forever, Erdoğan said the state will protect the security, peace and happiness of 74 million citizens without stepping back from democracy, law and freedoms.
Turkey's Opposition Parties Slam PM For Terror Comments
Turkey's opposition parties have criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement that the fight against terror will escalate once the Ramadan holiday is over, with main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu saying on Tuesday that military operations were not the solution.
"What does it mean to 'wait until Ramadan is over'?" asked the Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kılıçdaroğlu. "Does that mean it is OK for our soldiers to die during the holiday month? This statement is contradictory.
"Thirty years of experience have shown us that using weapons will not end terror," the CHP chief said. "If terror has not ended in this time, the responsibility belongs to the political institution that has failed to carry out its duties. And now they are at the point of using weapons again.
"We have to use the language of peace, we must embrace everyone," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "We must create a united stance against terror without discrimination. It is everyone's duty to fight against terror, with all political parties participating. Let's all get together and voice our suggestions to end terror, because solving terror is no longer the task of just one party. We need a societal consensus."
Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, Central Executive Boardmember Yıldırım Tuğrul Türkeş also labeled the prime minister's statement as confusing and urged him to take immediate action against terror.
"He is saying that terror will no longer be tolerated, but he is also saying they will wait until Ramadan is over, and, meanwhile, terrorist acts are still being carried out against our soldiers and police officers, and the prime minister is not reacting to it because it is a holiday," said Türkeş, questioning why peace cannot be reached during Ramadan, a holiday that celebrates peace.
"If we show patience, it is because of the holy month of Ramadan," Erdoğan said late Sunday at an event to mark the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, 10th anniversary, adding that their policy will drastically change once the religious holiday has ended.
Kılıçdaroğlu also commented on the resignation of the Turkish Red Crescent Director General Tekin Küçükali.
"He was a successful director who made the institution what it is and promoted it internationally. I was upset by his resignation," Kılıçdaroğlu said.
As for claims that Küçükali met with the Erdoğan prior to his resignation, Kılıçdaroğlu told journalists that the prime minister should reveal the details of the meeting to the public.
Küçükali's surprise resignation on Monday caused controversy as his decision came amid an ongoing campaign for Somalia in which his institution is playing a key role. According to unconfirmed reports, his resignation was demanded by the government last week, especially after he pledged full assistance to Kılıçdaroğlu in visiting Somalia.
"I have realized that my entire body is tired following the recent busy work schedule and that it is now time for me to rest," said Küçükali in his statement posted on the official web site of the Red Crescent early Monday. Tekinali served for the organization for seven years.
Somalia Prepares for Erdogan Visit
Somalia is getting ready to host Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's and his family. Efforts are under way to restore the presidential building in Mogadishu. Meanwhile, Turkish Red Crescent is erecting a tent-city.
Orthodox Christians Pour into Turkey for Mass at Sumela Monastery
Nearly 2,500 Orthodox Christians from Greece, Russia and the U.S. have poured into Turkey to attend a mass at the historical Sumela Monastery in the northern province of Trabzon, which was opened to worship last year after 88 years.
Istanbul Court Bans Ocalan Contact with Four Lawyers
An Istanbul court on Wednesday decided to ban four lawyers for Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the terrorist organization, from seeing their client for one year.
Lawyers Ergun Canan, Servet Demir, Cengiz Cicek and Davut Uzunkopru are under trial on charges that they assisted terrorist PKK organization without getting involved in the hierarchical structure. The lawyers have the right to object the decision.
Turkish Satellite to be Launched
Rasat, the first Turkish satellite, will be launched into space from the Russian-Kazah border.
Rasat was produced by Turkish engineers at the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey-Space Technologies Research Institute, or TUBITAK-UZAY.
The images that will be taken by Rasat will be used in agriculture.