An explosion rocked the center of Ankara on Tuesday morning, injuring 15 people and damaging surrounding vehicles, Reuters reported via Turkish broadcasters.
The cause of the blast, whose source was apparently a vehicle in the area, was not immediately clear.
A reporter from broadcaster NTV said surrounding vehicles were thrown around by the force of the blast. Shops near the point of explosion were damaged beyond recognition, he added.
The wreckage of the vehicle was so badly damaged, it was not possible to tell what type of a vehicle it was, NTV reporter said.
Police have cordoned off the area with suspicion of an explosive device. The bomb squad was also deployed to the location of the blast.
The injured were taken to different hospitals in Ankara.
Meanwhile, a woman chanting slogans near the site of the blast was detained by the police.
Missile Approval to be Decided After Prime Minister's U.S. Visit
Rebuffing Washington's demands for speedy approval, the Turkish government has decided to wait until after this week's United Nations General Assembly meetings to complete the procedures necessary to station a NATO radar system on Turkish soil.
The memorandum of understanding signed last week by Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis J. Ricciardone has not been brought to the agenda of the Cabinet to complete the official procedures needed for it to enter into force, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
Since the early warning radar system is part of a NATO agreement, Cabinet approval suffices for its implementation rather than a parliamentary vote. The process will thus have to wait until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns from the United States, where he will hold key talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.
During his visit to the U.S., Erdoğan will be accompanied by the General Staff's second in command, Hulusi Akar, as well as EU Minister Egemen Bağış, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and other deputies and officials, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Before his departure late Monday, Erdoğan addressed reports in the Turkish media that the NATO defense program would not protect all of Turkey. "These are disinformation," he said, adding that such reports aim to create concerns among the citizenry.
"What will be deployed is a radar system and not missiles. If needed, we would consider the deployment of missiles as well. But this is not on our agenda for the moment," Erdoğan said.
The agreement envisions the deployment of a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system at a military installation at Kürecik in the Central Anatolian province of Malatya as part of the NATO missile-defense project. Obama and Erdoğan will likely discuss the fate of the agreement, which has been described by anonymous U.S. officials as the most strategic deal between the two allies in the last 15 to 20 years.
A swift approval of the deal is needed to carry out the technical phases of the radar system's deployment before the end of this year, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. warships carrying anti-ballistic missiles are expected to take up position in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the upcoming months, U.S. media outlets have reported.
As part of the project, missile shield interceptors and their launching system will be deployed in Romanian and Polish territory, in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Senior Turkish officials who are planning to visit Tehran in the coming weeks will seek to diffuse growing Iranian concerns about the deployment of the radar system on Turkish soil. Hakan Fidan, chief of the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, is expected to be the first visitor, followed by Erdoğan.
Sources said the precise plan would be decided following Erdoğan's meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week in New York. Concerned by NATO's recent deployment of radar and interception systems, Iran has meanwhile increased its pressure on Russia for the sale of S-300 anti-ballistic missile systems. The two countries signed a deal on the sale but Moscow has not yet begun the process.
Erdogan to Press Obama on Palestinian State
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will press U.S. President Barack Obama to review Washington's opposition to a Palestinian bid for statehood recognition when the two meet at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Speaking before his departure to New York on Monday, Erdoğan recalled a speech by Obama last year in which he spoke of the imminent emergence of Palestinian state.
"We have difficulties in understanding their position. The U.S. has always advocated a two-state solution," Erdoğan told reporters. "We will show them the minutes [of last year's speech] and ask them how they [can] explain that and what happened to change their position. We hope the U.S. will review its position," he said.
Erdoğan voiced strong support for the Palestinian bid, saying Turkey "will stand by the Palestinians until the end."
Turkey's struggle against Kurdish militants and the continued safe haven they receive in northern Iraq was also expected to be on the agenda of the talks. The deputy chief of the General Staff, Hulusi Akar, was to join the meeting.
The prime minister is also expected to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as foreign leaders in New York.
Erdoğan said the UN panel report that declared Israel's blockade of Gaza lawful, Turkey's bid for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council in 2015-16, as well as efforts to boost Turkey's economic and commercial ties with other countries would be other priorities on his agenda.
U.S. Intel Chief in Ankara
Turkish and U.S. intelligence chiefs met Monday in Ankara for an unannounced meeting to review the current state of coordination on intelligence-sharing and on the joint fight against terrorism.
James Clapper, director of the U.S.'s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, held talks with Hakan Fidan, chief of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, at the MİT headquarters. He arrived in Ankara on Sunday and is expected to leave Tuesday following meetings with ministers. The ministers are thought to be Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who is responsible of the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Clapper's visit came as the Turkish government was intensifying its fight against the PKK and a day before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York.
"We have been demanding Predators for the last two years," Erdoğan told reporters before his departure for the U.S. Monday. He said he will raise the issue with Obama adding their sale to Turkey will contribute to the regional stability and peace.
Turkey and the United States have been sharing real-time intelligence to crack down on PKK terrorists based in northern Iraq. Turkey has also requested deployment a fleet of unmanned Predator drones on its soil for the surveillance of PKK movement along the Turkish-Iraqi border.
Clapper is the head of the U.S.'s 16-member intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA. Sources said Clapper's visit was pre-arranged and its timing had nothing to do with leaked recordings of MİT-PKK secret meetings.
Davutoglu, Clinton Confirm Cooperation Against Terrorism
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Monday that Turkey confirmed cooperation against terrorism with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in their meeting in New York.
Davutoğlu, who is visiting New York for the 66th General Assembly Meeting of the United Nations, had a meeting with Clinton. Afterward, Davutoğlu told reporters, "there are several issues in our agenda. We had a long meeting."
Davutoğlu said his meeting with Clinton was the basis of the meeting to be held between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
"We confirmed our cooperation against terrorism. We brought up our demands on the fight against PKK terrorism from the United States and the international community," Davutoğlu said. "We will exert efforts to establish an international platform on combating terrorism together with Clinton. We also discussed the developments in the Middle East within the context of Erdoğan's visit to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the future of Arab Spring as well as peace and stability in the Middle East."
Davutoğlu said they considered that it was time for establishment of democracy, state of law and administrations respecting human rights in the Middle East.
"Another important issue is Turkish-Israeli ties. This matter was taken up within the context of developments in the Middle East. Our position in this matter is clear," he said.
Noble Energy to Start Drilling Off Greek Cyprus Coast Within Days
Noble Energy will start drilling its natural gas field off the coast of Greek Cyprus within days, the company said on Monday, despite an escalating dispute with Turkey over offshore gas resources.
"We are aware of the situation in the Mediterranean. We have a rig on location at the Cyprus A field and our plans are to proceed with drilling that well," David Larson, vice president of investor relations at Noble Energy in Houston, Texas, told Reuters. "Drilling is expected to begin within days, certainly within a week, depending on how long it takes to prepare the rig."
Turkey has threatened to provide naval escorts for Turkish exploration vessels off Greek Cyprus unless the Greek Cypriot administration halts plans for Noble Energy to start drilling for natural gas at its Cyprus A gas field this month. The Cyprus A gas field, also known as Aphrodite, contains an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, according to Greek Cypriot energy officials.
"Cyprus and license holder Noble Energy are so far holding firm on the end-September schedule for drilling, with major resources at stake as well as a point of principle over the sovereign rights of the Cypriot government to operate as it sees fit in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," analysts at IHS said in a research note.
"Turkey has said that any drilling in Cyprus's offshore will force it and its partners in Northern Cyprus to delineate an agreement on the EEZ of the north of the island, which could see competing claims for acreage and further threats of naval deployments, with the potential for escalation without early outside mediation."
Analysts also said the dispute could still cause delays.
"The dispute could provoke operational delays in the early stages of drilling," David Lea, analyst at the London-based Control Risks said. "Turkey's response by pushing out warships is a replay of what they did when Cyprus had seismic survey ships [charting the offshore gas resources in the seas]."
The vast majority of the gas reserves in question are in waters claimed by Israel and Greek Cyprus.
In 2010, the Greek Cypriot and Israeli governments signed an "agreement on the delimitations of the exclusive economic zone" between the two countries, which sets the maritime borders and the respective rights to explore natural resources within them by a median line. The two countries and their main corporate partners, Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Group, are in well-advanced consultations to jointly access energy reserves.
Noble Energy says the Eastern Mediterranean gas finds have been the world's biggest deep-water gas discoveries in the last decade, with a total of at least 25 cubic feet of gross mean resources. Based on recent exploration, Noble Energy achieved "four consecutive successes based on geologic model and 3D interpretation," the company said in a presentation in September. The four sites are Israeli claimed Dalit, Tamar, and Leviathan, as well as Cyprus A, claimed by Greek Cyprus.
The tension between Greek Cyprus and Turkey is mostly down to the division of the island into southern Cyprus, an EU member state, and the Turkish Cyprus, a state only recognized by Turkey. Cyprus was split in a Turkish intervention in 1974 triggered by a Greek inspired coup.
Turkey argues that any Greek Cypriot natural resources have to be shared by the whole island, and Ankara rejects any delimination of maritime waters, threatening to declare a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, which would reach far into the waters deliminated by Greek Cyprus and Israel, and drill for gas there itself. However, industry sources said Turkish oil and gas company Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, which would likely be charged with the drilling, lacks the financial or technical resources to explore the deep waters in the region. Analysts also said the waters off the shores of Turkish Cyprus looked much less promising than those already explored by Noble Energy and Delek.