Turkish warplanes have bombed 20 suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq in a third day of cross-border strikes, the military said Saturday. Friday's aerial offensive was backed with 85 rounds of artillery fire, according to a statement posted on the military headquarters' Web site.
Turkey launched its latest cross-border offensive on Wednesday, hours after eight soldiers and a village guard were killed in an ambush near the Iraqi border. It came on the heels of escalated attacks by the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, that have killed some 40 soldiers since July.The military released footage that it claimed showed attacks on positions -- apparently pinpointed with the help of intelligence gathered by unmanned drones -- that included a bridge, suspected rebel shelters and caves used as ammunition depots on Mount Qandil on the Iraqi-Iranian border and in the Hakurk area in northeastern Iraq.The rebels have long used northern Iraq as a springboard for hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets in their campaign for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.
Turkey has carried out a number of cross-border air raids and ground incursions over the years but has failed to stop rebel infiltration through the mountainous border.The military statement said all planes returned to their base safely and that work was under way to assess the damage and losses. A PKK spokesman, Ahmed Danis, said Saturday that the Turkish strikes had hit bases already destroyed in previous strikes.
"Our fighters left these bases a while ago and now they are in constant mobility. Therefore, there were no casualties. But there was damage to homes and land in villages which forced people to leave these areas," he said."We do not see any point in launching these strikes on the border areas because the confrontation is taking place deep inside the Turkish areas," he said.
Turkey's Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said troops had killed at least four rebels, including two women fighters, in clashes inside Turkey since Thursday. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1984.
AKP Chairman: State Will Act Like Dove in Street, Hawk in Mountain
Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has said in the fight against terror in the new era, "the state will act like a dove for its citizens in the street and like a hawk against terrorists in mountain." He said that the terrorist organization could make mistakes, but the state could not act like the terrorist organization. "No one should identify Kurdish people with the terrorist organization, PKK, or the Peace and Democracy Party, BDP," he said.
Activists in Southeast Turkey Condemn PKK Attack
A group of activists from southeast Turkey, who call themselves the "Peace Mothers Initiative," has protested a PKK attack on a military convoy last week that killed nine troops in the town of Cukurca.
The mothers left their white veils at the spot of the ambush, condemning the mine attack, and saying, "We wish our bodies would have laid here instead of those of the soldiers."
Erdogan Delivers Harsh Warning to BDP
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey's fight against terror would continue in order to put an end to the Turkish people's grief. Calling on the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, to stop supporting terror, he said: "They should return to Parliament. They have to come. There is no other option. If they prefer to escape, all we can say is as you like."
Escalating PKK Tensions Stir Clashes in City's Heart
Turkey's operation in northern Iraq is still continuing, but the Kurdish Regional Administration says the issue can only be solved through dialogue as it condemns the military attacks.
"It is no longer the time for violence or war. It is the time for peace and dialogue," the administration said in expressing its discomfort. Tensions over the Turkish military's cross-border raids against militant targets in northern Iraq erupted in clashes Sunday in central Istanbul's Taksim Square when police intervened in a group that wanted to protest the army's actions. The protest group, including pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, deputies Gültan Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel and Levent Tüzel, began to conduct a sit-down protest amid police attempts to disperse them.
Strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have been continuing since Wednesday night and Ankara vowed Sunday to continue the cross-border operations until the Kurdish militants are eliminated. PKK attacks have killed more than 30 soldiers in the last month.Turkey's operation in northern Iraq is still continuing, but the Kurdish Regional Administration says the issue can only be solved through dialogue as it condemns the military attacks.
"The fight against terror will continue until it is destroyed to its roots. As you have been seeing, air and land operations to the dens of terror have taken place, and they will continue without hesitation when necessary," Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told reporters Sunday during a visit to the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat, his constituency.
The attacks, however, were met with a sharp rebuke by the Regional Kurdish Administration, which issued an online statement stating that Turkey was not only violating the law of friendship, but also international law.The military offensive followed a series of attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, that have claimed the lives of roughly 30 troops in the last month.
An attack in the eastern province of Hakkari's Çukurca district on Wednesday killed eight soldiers, as well as a village guard, prompting widespread public anger and Turkish jets to begin pounding PKK targets in northern Iraq, especially the group's headquarters in the Kandil Mountains, which are believed to be the location of leaders Murat Karayılan and Cemil Bayık. The National Security Council, or MGK, convened a day after the Çukurca incident and announced a new strategy and era in the fight against terror.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told constituents in the western province of Manisa on Saturday that terrorists would have to pay for the bloodshed. "We will, for sure, get even with them. We'll save our people from this terror trouble."
Amid the ongoing military campaign, Bozdağ asked all parties to show solidarity with the ruling party in the anti-terror fight.
"In the presence of terror, there needs to be a single voice rising against it. Terror can no longer be a subject of internal politics. Terror needs to be a problem that rises above the parties." Bozdağ said.
"All political parties must help the ruling party in an approach where they see themselves as the ruling party too. If we can do this, we can find more productive ways to fight terror, but unfortunately, we have failed to achieve this so far."
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Condemning the Turkish military attacks, the Kurdish Regional Administration said the issue could only be solved through dialogue.
The attacks endanger the peace and security of the people of the region, the administration said in expressing its discomfort and objections.
Local officials said seven people have been killed in the air operations since Thursday. According to a statement by the Turkish General Staff, 20 air attacks and 85 artillery units hit their targets on Saturday, the third day of the raids. The air attacks targeted the Kandil Mountains, as well as the Sinaht-Haftanin, Hakurk and Gara regions using advanced night vision and navigation technologies, while the 85 artillery targets including the Zap, Avaşin-Basyan and Hakurk regions. Meanwhile, a large group of PKK members attempted to attack on the Karakoç Gendarmerie Station in the eastern province of Tunceli early Saturday morning. One PKK member was killed.
Turkish PM Vows to Maintain Fight Against Terror
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to maintain the country's fight against terror within the boundaries of law and without taking any steps back from democracy, justice, equality and rule of law. Speaking at a fast-breaking dinner of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Istanbul, Erdogan said:
"Our government is determined to do every thing necessary in the fight against terrorism, including military operations. Turkey has grown up and become one of the most distinguished countries of the world with its democracy.
"There are some circles trying to ambush our democracy with sabotages, propaganda. They think that they could stop Turkey. But they will fail," he said. "We will not allow them to reach their heinous targets," he said.He said, "I reiterate once again that our government embrace all citizens equally. No one can compare our Kurdish citizens with the PKK terrorist organization.
"Turkey will not descend into a vortex of terrorism. We will not allow terrorists to disturb our social psychology and tranquility. Those who attempt to ambush democracy will receive their due punishment. We will not let terrorism prevail," he said.
"Those who cannot distance themselves from terrorism and murder betray their own people. They should understand the fact that there is no other way except from the legitimate ground which is the Turkish Parliament. There is no other option. They will come to Parliament after the beginning of the new legislative year on October 1. Turkey will never make concessions from its target of further democracy, freedoms, justice, prosperity and tranquility."
EU Will Sentence Terror Market to Bankruptcy, Turkish EU Officials Says
The Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Egemen Bagis, said Friday that they would sentence the terror market to bankruptcy. Speaking at a fast-breaking dinner of several civil organizations in southern province of Antalya, Bagis said that "the PKK was not merely a terrorist organization."
"The PKK also happens to be a gang trading illicit drugs with a large network in Europe," Bagis said. "On one hand, the PKK sprays bullets on our (Turkish) youth and on the other hand they poison the youth of Europe by illicit drugs."
Touching on counter-terrorism, Bagis said that the international platform has become more crucial than ever in the fight against terror organizations. Countries that have double standards in counter-terrorism, act unwillingly and that do not openly make a stance against terrorist organizations would be remembered as countries responsible for bloodshed, Bagis also said.
Turkey Launches Initiative to Dry PKK Financial Resources
Turkey will launch a diplomatic initiative in Europe to dry financial sources of the PKK terrorist organization. Names of companies sending financial aid to the PKK will be sent to the relevant countries. Ankara will also sent dossiers including evidence to the EU-member states and give them the message to put an immediate end to financial support to terror.
Syria Warns Turkey Not to Interfere in Country's Affairs
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent a message to Turkey not to interfere in their domestic affairs. The Syrian leader said that they were planning to hold multi-party elections in February 2012.
Erdogan, Ahmadinejad Discuss Syria
Turkish and Iranian leaders have discussed recent developments with regard to Syria after the world powers called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a phone conversation Sunday afternoon to discuss Syria and other regional developments, the Anatolia news agency reported. Iran and Turkey have been standing on opposite sides regarding the Syrian revolt, with Tehran indirectly criticizing Ankara for intervening in the domestic affairs of its closest regional ally.
An article published in the Sunday edition of the Tehran Times criticized Turkey for its "double-standard stance" vis-à-vis Syria."The Turkish military's recent massive attacks on Kurdish separatists have raised the question of why Turkey is criticizing the Syrian government for its crackdown on armed terrorists," the daily said. Another issue possibly discussed between the two leaders was the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, by Turkey and against the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, an offshoot of the PKK, by Iranian security forces.
Iran denied its claim that it has arrested Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK member, last week in its massive operation against the PJAK on Iraqi border.
Syrian Opposition to Set Up Interim Council in Istnabul
Syrian opposition is planning to establish an interim council in Istanbul to prevent any authority gap in case of the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. The council will include representatives from all ethnic, religious, ideological and geographical groups in Syria.
Caglayan Talks of South Korea, U.S. Visits
Turkey's Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said on Saturday that companies which have run short of operational capability in Europe would come to Turkey. Caglayan, who has returned to Turkey after visits to South Korea and the United States, gave a news conference at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. Caglayan said there would be a very serious inflow of international capital to Turkey because of the problem in Europe's economy.
Referring to his visit to South Korea, Caglayan said there was a bottleneck regarding free trade agreement in South Korea, noting that he met the trade minister of South Korea to overcome this bottleneck.
"Talks between the delegations of the two countries also took place. We hope to sign free trade agreement by the end of this year," he said.
Caglayan said the Turkish delegation also met the CEOs of very strong international companies.
"We have proceeded to the United States, concluding talks in South Korea. We met the CEOs of the world's leading technology companies. We have talked with the Boeing company within the scope of the talks and told them that Boeing should work with the Turkish private sector more.," he said.
Asked how foreigners assessed the atmosphere in Turkey, Caglayan said the Korean and U.S. company executives told him that Turkey's economy was stable and directed correctly. Commenting on Turkey's economy, Caglayan said, "I am saying again and again that Turkey's economy is strong. It will definitely be affected by the crisis as we are a world country. However, we hope to break the exports record of the Republican history this year," Caglayan said.
There could be a shrinkage in exports to Europe, Caglayan said. "The world does not only consist of Europe. We will focus our attention on the Far East. The markets of India, Russia and the United States are a priority for Turkey. There is $6.2 billion direct investment to Turkey in the first half of 2011," he said.
Turkish Envoy Slams Northern Cyprus on Spending
Cypriots are not investing for future generations, but rather are sparing 82.2 percent of their budget for salary payments and similar expenses, according to the Turkish Ambassador to Nicosia Halil İbrahim.
"Residents of Turkish Cyprus are not making the necessary investments for future generations. On the contrary, they are indebting the latter for the sake of their current expenditures," read the 2010 Annual Report on the public finances of northern Cyprus, prepared by Turkey's Aid Committee led by the Turkish ambassador.
Turkey created 1.1 billion Turkish Liras of resources for North Cyprus in 2010, of which 851 million went to the latter's budget whereas the remaining 249 million went to direct payments to people employed in the public sector, without the money being included in the Treasury. Of the 851 million liras Turkey contributed to Turkish Cyprus' budget last year, 475 million liras were used to close the budget deficit and the remaining 376 million liras for investment, defense and support for the real sector. This amount counted for 32.2 percent of Turkish Cyprus' total budget.
Turkey cut its contributions to the northern part of the divided island by 8.7 percent in 2010, mostly because of the sharp increases in the latter's budget deficit in 2008 and 2009. The positive environment created in Turkish Cyprus started to decrease in 2007 and became much worse after 2008's global economic crisis, according to the report.Unlike the majority of countries around the globe that took measures to face the 2008 crisis, Turkish Cyprus failed to take any measures to provide fiscal discipline.
Conversely, fiscal arrangements damaged fiscal discipline were made, as the country moved toward the general elections.The growing 2008 budget deficit kept worsening in 2009 as the newly appointed government started its mandate 2009 and went for another general election in the following year, the report reads.The report also said tax rates on alcohol drinks, personal cars, cigarettes, fuel oil, gambling and casinos and employees' income were increased in the second half of 2010 within the framework of fiscal measures. The withholding tax rate on deposit savings and gambling games was also raised, according to the report. Meanwhile, value-added tax rates were reviewed and the rate was cut from 7 to 5 percent.
The tax application on "super pensions" of retired persons, on the other hand, halted following a cancelation by the Constitutional Court in January. Such a decision gave way to a large fall in tax revenue, which was estimated to reach some 250 million liras.
Fight Against Informality
The measures aiming to increase public revenues were also accompanied by measures focused on the development of monitoring mechanisms to fight against transactions in the informal economy, the report said. It was found that recordings of purchases with credit cards did not match tax statements by companies, which showed that the black market in Turkish Cyprus was larger than thought. Regarding the expenditures side of the budget, staff recruitment remained within limits. Meanwhile, support for agriculture remained as part of the budget and a part of debts from previous years were also paid back in 2010.Measures regarding working hours remained ambiguous and even insufficient as an increase in working hours per week to 39 by law was cut to 36.5 hours per week in practice, after accounting for administrative permissions, the report said.
Without Apology, Turkey Will Decrease Diplomatic Relations with Israel
If Israel does not apologize for the May 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla, Turkey will decrease diplomatic relations to zero level. The charged affairs will be recalled and Turkey will not accept Israel's ambassador.
Turkey: UN Flotilla Report Release Delayed Upon Israel's Request
The release of a UN panel report on a deadly takeover of an international aid flotilla by Israeli commandos last year has been postponed once again, a Turkish official said Monday.
The UN panel investigating the May 31, 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara ship in which eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed was expected to present its findings to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday. The report was then due to be made public on Tuesday.
The release of the report was postponed and the request for the delay came from Israel, as in past postponements, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal said. The Israeli side, on the other hand, has presented a different account, saying Turkey requested the postponement. On Sunday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an Israeli diplomatic source as saying Turkey asked for the postponement.
The U.S. government has expressed its support for the Turkish request to delay the report and Israel has not opposed the move; the decision lies with the UN chief, Haaretz had said. The release of the UN panel's report has been delayed several times in the hope that this could give Turkey and Israel more time to negotiate an agreement to restore their relations. Turkey is demanding a formal apology for the killings, while Israel has said it has no intention to offer an apology. The UN report is expected to endorse the Israeli blockade of Gaza, but criticize Israel for excessive use of force during the 2010 raid.
Israel Prime Minister Still Refuses Apology to Turkey
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday kept up Israel's refusal to apologize to Turkey over a May 2010 raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists.
"The prime minister has not changed his stand over Israel not apologizing," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Saturday that relations with Israel will further deteriorate without an apology from the Jewish state over its commando raid.
"There can be no normalization with Israel if Turkey's demands are not met," the Anatolia news agency quoted him saying during a visit to South Africa.
Diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey have been in crisis since Israeli commandos staged the raid on the international aid flotilla trying to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade on the Palestinian territory. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the operation, and Turkey said its once close relationship with the Israel can only be restored with an apology for the deaths. According to Turkish diplomats, Ankara could further downgrade its representation in Tel Aviv. It maintained a charge d'affaires in Tel Aviv after recalling its ambassador following the raid.
Israel's Apology Refusal will Damage Relations, Turkey Tells U.S.
Turkey has told the U.S. that Israel's decision not to apologize or pay compensation for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a raid on an aid ship last year will not be left unanswered. Ankara said Israel's stance would only lead to a further deterioration in bilateral ties.
Turkey's message came on the eve of the publication of a UN inquiry report on the Mavi Marmara incident and just days after Israel said its decision not to issue a formal apology was firm. According to diplomatic sources, the message has been delivered to U.S. officials many times over the months, but Israel's recent public statement about the issue made it essential to send it once again.
"The Americans have been involved in this process for so long. We are sure they will be working until the last moment" to convince Israel to issue an apology, sources told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.
The deadline is Aug. 23, the date when the UN panel will publish its report on the incident. If Turkey and Israel are unable to agree on a text formulizing the latter's apology, then the panel is unlikely to publish its report, as it contains arguments not favorable for both parties. But the panel is expected to make it public Tuesday if there is no postponement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday relations between Turkey and Israel would only worsen if there was no apology following the report's release. According to media reports, the UN report acknowledges Israel's right to act against those who threaten its stability and security even in international waters, a conclusion that would make Turkey's diplomatic struggle against Israel more difficult.
The report is, however, expected to strongly criticize the Israeli military for using excessive force against civilian activists. Among the steps Turkey is considering to take if Israel rejects apologizing and paying compensation are downgrading diplomatic representation to the level of second secretary, suspending all political and economic relations. Furthermore, a visit to Gaza by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also considered in this context, as it would further complicate breaking Israel's blockade on the enclave. Turkey is also likely to be among the countries that will strongly support Palestine's UN bid.
Turkish Ambassador Responds to Washington Times Article Regarding Mavi Marmara Incident
Turkey's ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan, said Saturday in a letter to the Washington Times, that the flotilla attacked by Israeli troops on May 31, 2010 was not organized by the Turkish government.
Tan's letter came in response to an article by Danny Danon: "Why Turkey should apologize to Israel." Tan said "the aid convoy for Gaza organized in May 2010 was a humanitarian initiative with people from more than 30 countries (including the United States and Israel) in ships sailing under the flags of several nations. While there were private Turkish citizens among participants, the flotilla was not organized or even encouraged by the Turkish government, as Danny Danon alleges in his piece, "Why Turkey should apologize to Israel," published in the Aug. 15 issue of Commentary.
On the contrary, Tan says, "nine people lost their lives when Israeli commandos used excessive, lethal force and violated all established norms of international law by attacking the convoy in the international waters of the Mediterranean, as the UN Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission concluded in its report on the incident. Eight of the nine killed were Turkish citizens and one was an American citizen of Turkish descent.
"As any country -- including Israel -- would be, Turkey was shattered by the loss of its citizens. We also were shocked that for the first time in our history, our citizens were killed by a foreign armed force during peacetime," Tan said. "What has increased our sorrow is that this deplorable action was caused by a country Turkey has long considered a friend.
"Turkey rightly asks for a formal apology and appropriate compensation to the families of those killed. These acts will never fully ease the pain the families and the Turkish people feel, but they are essential to the normalization of relations, from which both Turkey and Israel benefit," Tan said.
"It is meaningful that Mr. Danon, rather than supporting the efforts to leave this incident behind, is appealing to audiences in the United States and that he defines the essential ingredients of normalization as acts of humiliation. He does not recognize that rather than humiliation, these steps represent the cornerstones of civility upon which any strong friendship rests," Tan said.
Libyan Opposition Lowers Kadhafi Flag in Ankara
Libyan opposition groups on Monday pulled down the flag of the Moamer Kadhafi regime at the embassy in the Turkish capital and flew a new flag, NTV television reported. The new flag belongs to Libya's National Transitional Council, which was recognized in July by Turkey as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Opposition groups were also shown staging a protest at the Libyan embassy in Ankara, tearing down the pictures of Kadhafi. NTV broadcasting live showed a crowd in the embassy, but did not say how many people were involved. Dissidents did not allow Libya's ambassador to Ankara, Ziyad Adham Al-Muntaser, to speak to the media, arguing that he was pro-Kadhafi, NTV reported.The celebrations at the embassy began after Libyan rebels entered the heart of Tripoli in a final drive to oust Kadhafi.
Turkish FM Leaves South Africa for Ethiopia
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left South Africa for Ethiopia. During his three-day visit to South Africa, Davutoglu met South African President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Besides Turkey-South Africa relations, recent developments in Syria and Libya were high on the agenda of Davutoglu's talks with South African authorities. Prior to his departure from South Africa, Davutoglu had a telephone conversation with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store. The two foreign ministers exchanged views on recent developments in Libya. In Ethiopia, Davutoglu will hold talks with his Ethiopian counterpart. He is also set to meet Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union.
Famine and drought in the Horn of Africa will top Davutoglu's agenda in Ethiopia.
Agreement Reached in NATO Missile Shield Project
A final agreement has been reached regarding NATO's missile shield project. Patriot missiles will be deployed in a small area in Turkey out of the coverage zone. Turkey takes place in the system of command control.
Turkish President Among Best to Use Social Media
A U.S.-based think tank, the Digital Policy Council, has selected world leaders who use social media most effectively. Turkish President Abdullah Gul made the top 10 list, placing seventh. U.S. President Barack Obama topped the list.
Turkey Sets up Field Hospital in Somalia
Turkey has set up a field hospital in a refugee camp in Hodan district in Somalia as part of its relief efforts for the famine-stricken Somalis. The hospital offers the latest technology equipment.The 21-member medical team of the hospital attends to more than 500 people, most of them children.