Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday that he would not pay a visit to Gaza.
"I will not visit Gaza. But I would like to say clearly that I'm longing to visit Gaza as soon as possible," Erdoğan, who left for the Egyptian capital of Cairo for his visits to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, told reporters before his departure at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.
Nevertheless, Turkey is still ready to extend every kind of support to Egypt during its critical and difficult period, he said.
"During our talks in Egypt, we will underline importance of Turkey's friendship," Erdoğan said.
Replying to a question, Erdogan said that he would not make speech at Tahrir Square, saying he would make statements and speeches there without causing any problem for the future of Egypt.
Mavi Marmara Raid was 'Cause for War,' Erdogan Says
Israel's 2010 raid on a Turkish-owned aid ship in international waters, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American, was a "cause for war," but Turkey acted with patience, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
"The May 31, 2010 Mavi Marmara event, and the attack that took place in international waters, did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was a cause for war. However, befitting Turkey's grandness, we decided to act with patience," Erdoğan said, according to excerpts taken from an interview the prime minister gave to Al-Jazeera and published by the Anatolia news agency late on Sunday.
Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey's warships will be seen more often in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the 2010 raid took place. Last week, he said Turkish warships will escort aid ships headed to the Gaza Strip, currently blockaded by Israel.
Turkey has imposed sanctions on Israel after it refused to apologize for the killings, expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending military agreements with the Jewish state. It has also said it would take measures to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"We will see Turkish ships, I mean military ships, more often in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially in the exclusive economic zone [of Turkey]," Erdoğan told Al-Jazeera.
He also said Israel "condemns itself to isolation" by refusing to offer Turkey an apology and not lifting the blockade of Gaza.
Erdoğan, who begins a tour of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya on Monday, had earlier made it clear that he wants to proceed to Gaza from Egypt's Rafah border crossing, but Egypt is reportedly reluctant to let the Gaza trip happen. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Sunday that Erdoğan's itinerary will be limited to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
"I know my brothers in Gaza are waiting for us. I am in yearning for Gaza as well. … Sooner or later, God willing, I will go to Gaza," Erdoğan said. But he added that he did not want "unnecessary tensions" to break out over his desire to visit Gaza. "We are discussing this with our Egyptian brothers," he said.
'Assad Losing Legitimacy'
During the interview, Erdoğan also reiterated his criticism of the Syrian regime for its bloody crackdown on anti-regime protests and said President Bashar al-Assad's administration is about to lose its legitimacy.
"The administration is unfortunately acting oppressively. The blood of the oppressed is being spilled and thousands of people are in jail as political prisoners," Erdoğan said. "Political leaders ought to establish their future on the basis of justice, not on atrocity and blood. We advise all Middle Eastern countries to strengthen democracy, human rights and freedoms."
When asked whether he still speaks with Assad by phone, Erdoğan said: "I am not calling him anymore. But if he calls me, I'll talk to him."
Turkish Frigates to Confront Israeli Ships in Mediterranean
The Turkish Navy is planning to dispatch three frigates to the Eastern Mediterranean to ensure freedom of navigation and to confront Israeli warships if necessary, a Turkish news report said on Monday.
The Turkish frigates, to be dispatched by the Navy's Southern Sea Area Command, will provide protection to civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, blockaded by Israel since 2007, the Turkish daily Sabah reported. If the Turkish warships encounter an Israeli military ship outside Israel's 12-mile territorial waters, they will advance up to 100 meters close to the ship and disable its weapons system, in a confrontation that resembles dogfights in the Aegean Sea with Greek jet fighters, according to the report.
The report comes days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkish warships will escort civilian aid ships headed to Gaza to prevent a repetition of last year's Israeli raid on a Turkish-owned ship that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American, setting the stage for a potential naval confrontation with its former ally.
Turkey announced a set of sanctions against Israel after it refused to apologize for the 2010 raid, expelling the Israeli ambassador and other senior diplomats and suspending military agreements with Israel. Turkey also promised to take measures to ensure freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said Erdoğan's remarks were "harsh and serious," but stressed that Israel was not interested in a war of words with its once-close ally. "Our silence is the best response. I hope this phenomenon will pass," he said on Friday.
Turkey Eyes Intel Cooperation with Iran, Iraq
Turkey has increased its pressure on administrators in Iraq over the presence and activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the country with demands that they share intelligence and cut the group's logistic channels.
Turkey has also demanded human and technical intelligence from Iran on the PKK's hideouts in the Kandil Mountains in light of Tehran's recent incursions into the region, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkey launched a fresh diplomatic campaign toward its southern neighbors following the rise of militant attacks. Since mid-July, militants have killed dozens of security forces as well as civilians and pushed the government to adopt a new anti-terror strategy. The undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, paid a two-day trip to Iraq over the weekend while Turkish civilian and military officials gathered for a security summit Monday in Ankara. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu informed the summit on the results of Sinirlioğlu's visit.
According to the diplomatic sources, the Turkish envoy's messages to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, aimed to impress upon Iraqi Kurdish politicians Turkey's determination at ending the terror threat posed by the PKK. Sinirlioğlu reportedly made it clear that Turkey would not tolerate the militants seeking shelter in northern Iraq, from which they infiltrate Turkey to commit attacks.
He also said Turkey would not hesitate to use self-defense if there was no halt to the attacks by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
One of Turkey's most important demands from Barzani, whose peshmerga force of nearly 100,000 fighters controls almost all of northern Iraq, is to cut the PKK's logistic channels.
"Barzani controls all roads linking the Kandil Mountains to the settlement areas of northern Iraq from which the terrorists supply their logistical needs. We have repeated to them [that they need] to cut these channels," a diplomatic source told the Daily News.
The source said they perfectly understood the difficulties Barzani would face if he were to take on the PKK in an armed conflict, but added that "this is not a hurdle to cooperating with Turkey in its anti-terror fight."
Turkey also demanded the names of passengers flying to airports in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah from European cities in order to control the PKK's links in European countries, where the organization receives financial assistance. Both cities are linked to a number of European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and others through private airlines.
Another issue the Turkish delegation raised during its meeting with Talabani was Ankara's request that the United States deploy a fleet of unmanned Predator aerial vehicles to the İncirlik base in Adana after U.S. troops pull out of Iraq by the end of this year so that they can be used in surveillance against the PKK. Using the Predators to monitor the Iraqi border would require a separate agreement between Baghdad and Washington, something Sinirlioğlu also mentioned in his meetings with Iraqi officials, according to reports.
Intelligence Sharing with Iran
Speaking at a press conference Monday following a Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç confirmed Turkey's intention to acquire the systems and added that the Foreign Ministry's talks were continuing to this end.
According to sources alongside Iraq, Turkey has also demanded more cooperation from Iran, another neighboring country who is also fighting against the PKK. Iran recently launched a massive operation against the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, an affiliate of the PKK, and reportedly pushed militants back to the Kandil Mountains. Turkey demanded intelligence sharing from Iranian officials about the hideouts and results of Iran's offensive against the armed group's members, sources said.
Sinirlioğlu's visit to Iraq, coupled with Monday's security summit, fueled speculation over an upcoming ground operation into northern Iraq by the Turkish military.
"Don't associate today's meeting with this operation. As our prime minister already said, 'A ground operation is not something to talk about but something to realize.' As you know, Parliament's mandate allows for such an operation until Oct. 17. Whenever it is deemed necessary, it will be realized," he said.
AKP Calls on Iraq
In line with Turkish officials' messages to Iraqi officials, a senior ruling party member also urged Barzani and Talabani to do their job in not allowing their territories to become bases for militants.
"Our expectation from Mr. Talabani is to help us in the developments within Iraq. The best help he can give is not to make their soil a base for terror groups attacking Turkey," Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, told reporters Monday.
In related news, officials from Barzani's office denied reports that Turkey requested the right to establish a military base in northern Iraq to better fight against the PKK.
Israel's Actions will Lead to Global Alienation, Turkish Foreign Minister Says
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Sunday that after killing civilians in international waters, not displaying respect to the people of the region and not behaving responsibly, it was inevitable for Israel to face global alienation.
Davutoğlu and his Brazilian counterpart, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, held a joint press conference following their meeting in Istanbul.
Speaking at the press conference, Davutoğlu said: "As Turkey, we will bring up Israel's wrong attitudes in all international platforms within the boundaries of international laws. Israel will be more alienated from now on."
Asked about what he thinks on the recent remarks made by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Davutoğlu said that he never considered the Israeli Foreign Minister an interlocutor.
"Today is Sept. 11, a day of international reaction to terror. It is highly thought-provoking to read news reports about the Israeli Foreign Minister just before this day. We hope that Israel will prove the statements wrong with its acts," Davutoğlu said.
Syrian President Has Overshadowed His Legitimacy, Turkish PM Says
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has overshadowed his legitimacy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
"When we came to the political power nine years ago, there was a 30-year resentment between Turkey and Syria. We made great efforts to improve relations with Syria, with which we share 910 kilometers of border," Erdoğan said in a televised interview with Al-Jazeera. "We always proposed al-Assad to release political prisoners, make constitutional amendments and start multiparty system. Unfortunately, none of these reforms were made.
"I paid a visit to Aleppo earlier this year. I told al-Assad that we were ready to extend any kind of support. But, Syrian forces began killing defenseless people. Then, Syrian people began migrating into Turkey. We could not leave them there. Therefore, we kept doors for Syrian people. For the time being, around 8,000 Syrian people are living in temporary camps in Turkey," Erdoğan said.
"I sent my special envoy, my foreign minister to Syria to meet with al-Assad. Unfortunately, Syrian president has overshadowed his legitimacy. He is about to lose it. Political leaders are obliged to establish their future on the basis of justice, not on atrocity and blood. We advise all Middle Eastern countries to strengthen democracy, human rights and freedoms," he said.
Turkey's Top Court to Elect New President
The Constitutional Court, Turkey's top court, will elect a new president Wednesday.
Current President, Hasim Kilic, was elected president of the Constitutional Court on October 22, 2007. His term is set to end.
The Court of Disputes will also name its new president the same day. According to regulations, the presidents and vice presidents of the Constitutional Court and Court of Disputes are elected by a secret ballot and with absolute majority of members.
The presidents and vice presidents of both courts serve for four years. They can be re-elected.
Parliamentary Speaker Warns BDP May be Left Out of Charter Plans
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, might not be invited to participate in commission work for a new constitution if it continues to boycott the legislature, parliamentary speaker Cemil Çiçek has said.
"There are still deputies and a political party group that have not yet taken their [parliamentary] oaths. [Commission] work for the constitution is a legislative activity, and participating in these activities requires the taking of the oath," Çiçek told reporters Monday after separate meetings with Nazım Kaynak, head of the Supreme Court of Appeals, and Chief Prosecutor Hasan Erbil, to discuss the new drafting of the new charter.
Çiçek, however, left the door open to the BDP deputies, saying he would send invitation letters to all political parties represented in Parliament to nominate two figures to a constitutional commission he will establish after the legislature re-opens Oct. 1, meaning the pro-Kurdish party could still end its boycott and take the oaths when the new term begins next month.
"We are making our internal evaluations by taking all of this into consideration. But this process will speed up after Oct. 1," he said.
Çiçek hinted that BDP's members would not be permitted to participate in subsequent legislative activities on the new charter. The BDP has been boycotting Parliament because various courts refused to release six colleagues from prison so that they could assume the parliamentary seats they won in the June 12 election.
In terms of the timetable for drafting the new charter, Çiçek will first convene 25 prominent constitutional law experts to discuss the process; the meeting is expected to guide Çiçek's subsequent course of action, which requires sensitivity due to the fragile political atmosphere.
On his meetings with top jurists, Çiçek said he wanted support and contribution from the judiciary and all other related institutions.
"The Constitution is not only important in terms of fundamental rights and freedoms, but also in terms of its effect on regulations among the powers of the state."
Çiçek said the top levels of the judiciary had established their own working groups to contribute to the drafting process, especially on articles regulating the relations between state institutions.
Claims Over Atatürk's House
Çiçek also responded to questions on claims that a house in the northwestern province of Yalova, that was once home to modern Turkish founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, had become a venue for illegal prostitution, saying an investigation had already been launched.
Police had raided the venue in the middle of the night last week, the parliamentary speaker said, adding that staff at the house had been relieved of their duties.
The house is in a compound surrounded by social facilities for parliamentarians and is operated by Parliament.
"We are waiting the result of the probe. We will inform [the public] about it once it is concluded," Çiçek said.
Libya Grateful to Turkey, Transitional Council Head Says
Mahmoud Jibril, Chairman of the Executive Board of Libyan National Transitional Council, has said that Libya is grateful to Turkey for its great efforts.
Replying to questions regarding Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said's upcoming visit to Libya, Jibril said Monday that Turkey was a very special friend of Libya. Turkey extended financial and humanitarian assistance to Libya during its tough days, he said.
Erdoğan is scheduled to visit Tripoli, and Jibril, on September 15. Erdogan and Jibril are expected to discuss political transformation in Libya as well as contributions that Turkey could make to restructuring and economic development process in this country.
Outlawed PKK Demands Own Apology from Israel
Israel should apologize to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, for its role in capturing the group's leader, a high-ranking member of the organization has said.
The statement from PKK leader, Murat Karayılan, comes in response to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's alleged suggestion that Israel could establish contact with the PKK in the face of the mounting diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.
"The PKK is not the [kind of] movement that would allow itself to be used against some other state. If the Israeli state wants to establish relations with the PKK, it must first apologize to the PKK and the Kurdish people for its role in the capture of the PKK's leadership through an international conspiracy and handing [them] over to Turkey," Karayılan said, according to the pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani allegedly told Leyla Zana, a deputy from the Peace and Democracy Party, that Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, might be transferred to an ordinary prison, the daily Milliyet reported.
Öcalan, who was captured in Kenya in 1999, is currently staying in a prison on İmralı Island in the Marmara Sea. Zana met with Talabani in Sulaymaniyah on Saturday. Talabani advised Zana and her party to continue their struggle through peaceful, political means by returning to the Turkish Parliament.
Turkey Second Fastest Growing Country in World
Turkey is the second fastest growing country in the world, and the number one fastest growing country in Europe, according to Turkstat, Turkey's statistics authority.
TurkStat made public growth figures for the second quarter of 2011, saying Turkey grew 8.8 percent.
According to Eurostat, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, and country statistics, China grew 9.5 percent in Q2-2011, taking first place.
The third fastest growing country in the world is Estonia with 8.4 percent.
The biggest economy in the world, the United States, only grew 1.5 percent in the same period. Germany grew 2.8 percent, France 1.6 percent, Britain 0.7 percent and Italy 0.8 percent in the second quarter of 2011.
Japan shrank in Q2-2011 as in Q1 due to negative effects of devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in March. Japan shrank 0.9 percent in the second quarter. Moreover, Turkey was again the fastest growing country in Europe, like in the first quarter and entire 2010, with 8.8 percent growth in the second quarter.
Estonia came the second with 8.4 percent, Lithuania the third with 6.2 percent. Latvia was the fourth fastest growing country in Europe with 5.7 percent and then came Sweden with 5.3 percent.
Greece and Portugal shrank in the second quarter due to their debt problem. The Greek economy shrank 7.3 percent, and Portuguese economy 0.9 percent. The annual growth in 17-member Euro Zone in Q2 was 1.6 percent, and in the 27-member European Union it was 1.7 percent.
Russia, one of the G-20 members, grew 3.4 percent, whereas the growth rate in G-7-member Canada was 2.2 percent in the second quarter of 2011.