NATO will not interfere with Turkey's fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, because it is a national issue, but welcomes the share of intelligence and information between the member states, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen, confirming there would not be any intelligence sharing with Israel from the NATO radar system that will be deployed in Turkey's eastern province of Malatya, said the alliance would not be involved in any tension between Israel and Turkey; the two countries have been rowing over Greek Cyprus' gas drilling efforts in the eastern Mediterranean.
"We consider [tension in the eastern Mediterranean Sea] a bilateral relation and a matter between Turkey and Israel. But, of course, all parties should look for ways and means to ease these tensions," Rasmussen said in an interview with the Daily Hürriyet.
Moreover, NATO will not interfere with national decisions such as the fight against the PKK, Rasmussen said, adding that he appreciated Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government has tried to find peaceful solutions.
"Against that background I find it not only disappointing, but also outrageous, that the PKK continues horrific attacks against people in Turkey," he said.
Responding to a question on Turkey's cross-border land operation against the PKK, Rasmussen expressed NATO's solidarity with Turkey, saying that NATO will not interfere.
"Of course, NATO allies would stand ready to assist each other when it comes to relevant information and intelligence," Rasmussen said, adding that NATO is not going to deploy military capabilities against the PKK.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Rasmussen also said the decision has not been made yet on whether Israel will establish missions at NATO headquarters.
When asked whether the change of axis in Turkey worries NATO, Rasmussen said: "Turkey plays a crucial role in its cultural bonds with countries in the region and beyond, which makes it a key player. Turkey stands as an excellent example of how freedom and democracy can bring positive progress to a country," and Turkey can also serve as a model in the region.
As NATO prepares to begin a campaign for the 60th anniversary of Turkish membership, Rasmussen said this was an opportunity to meet younger generations who "tend to take peace and security for granted because they don't remember the Cold War."
Gül Blames EU for Deadlock in Cyprus
The European Union strongly encouraged the absence of a settlement on the divided island of Cyprus, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Saturday.
Speaking to the Turkish Parliament, Gül blamed the EU for contradicting its own principles by including Greek Cyprus as a member before the divided island solved its problems.
"Obviously this puts the European Union in a position where it ends up strongly encouraging the absence of a settlement," Gül said. "It is the Greek Cypriot administration that lacks the will to reach a settlement in the Cyprus problem and many members of the EU hide under the skin of the Greek Cypriot administration as an excuse."
Meanwhile, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said Saturday that exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas deposits will continue despite Turkey's strong opposition.
Greek Cyprus's right to search for potential mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone is non-negotiable and that any foreign meddling is unacceptable, the Associated Press reported Christofias saying.
Turkey says the south's gas search disregards Turkish Cypriot rights and has sent a warship-escorted research vessel to also look for gas off Cyprus.
Christofias repeated that the island's natural resources belong to all Cypriots.
Turkey Delivers Harsh Warning to French Presidential Candidate
Turkey has reacted harshly to French Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande after he promised the Armenian diaspora to bring forth a draft regarding the incidents of 1915 back to the agenda of the Senate.
The Turkish ambassador in Paris, Tahsin Burcuoglu, sent a letter to Hollande expressing Turkey's harsh reaction, saying the enactment of the draft, which envisaged to consider a denial of the 1915 incidents as a crime, would badly affect Turkey-France relations.
Burcuoglu said the draft had already caused a serious uneasiness in Turkish public opinion. And, if enacted, will cause serious damage in bilateral relations.
Hollande met representatives from the Armenian associations in Alfortville, 7.5 kilometers from the center of Paris, where he promised to bring the draft back to the agenda of the Senate.
The French Senate rejected to debate the draft.
Turkey, U.S. Economic Partnership Commission to Convene in Ankara
The seventh meeting of between Turkey and the United States Economic Partnership Commission will take place in Ankara on October 3.
Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Political Affairs and Public Diplomacy Selim Yenel and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez would co-chair the meeting, Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Efforts to further improve economic, commercial and investment relations will be discussed during the meeting.
Çiçek Rolls Up Sleeves for Constitution Panel
A long-expected drive to rewrite Turkey's constitution is set to kick off this week with the formation of a cross-party commission in Parliament to work on drafting the new charter, which, the president said, "should not bear the seal of any party, ideology or doctrine."
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has prepared letters asking the four parties in Parliament to assign two representatives each for the commission by Friday, parliamentary sources said, adding that the invitations were expected to be sent out as soon as Monday.
In a further effort, a delegation of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is set to meet this week with counterparts from the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, to discuss the constitution-making process.
The AKP requested the meeting in a letter it sent late Saturday, shortly after the pro-Kurdish lawmakers took their oaths at Parliament's opening session, formally ending a boycott over five colleagues who remain in jail.
In his inaugural speech for the new legislative year, President Abdullah Gül told Parliament on Saturday that the new charter "must be of a flexible character based on freedoms."
"The basic principle should be to refrain from using the constitution as a means for controlling different political views," Gül said. The overhaul "should strengthen and guarantee the concept of equal citizenship in every aspect," he added, stressing the right "of every segment of the population to live as itself."
The AKP team has already held talks with the two other opposition parties, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that work on the new charter should be wrapped up in the first half of 2012, prompting angry reactions from the opposition that the AKP intended to rush the process and impose its own priorities on the charter.
Erdoğan insisted Saturday the process should be swift.
"We have mobilized our people on this. We can finish the job through a swift consensus if we manage to complete the commission work this year and then submit [the draft] to Parliament," he said.
BDP Back with Defiant Message
Despite the easing of political tensions after the BDP's return to Ankara, the party maintained its criticism of the government and sent a defiant message that it would continue to support Kurdish street protests.
BDP co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, denounced a government motion seeking a one-year extension of a mandate for military action in northern Iraq against separatist Kurdish militants, which Parliament is expected to vote on Wednesday.
"Not a war motion, but a peace project should have been the Parliament's most urgent task," Demirtaş said, adding that his party was returning to help create "a civilian constitution for a Turkey in which everybody will feel themselves as equal citizens."
He said, however, that "all oppressed must raise their voices in the streets" and vowed that the BDP would "keep up a policy of resistance on every platform without surrendering everything to parliamentarianism."
CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for his part, voiced disappointment that President Gül failed to mention in his speech the eight lawmakers who remain in jail.
"Barring several paragraphs, the speech was like a government program," he said.
Among the lawmakers sworn in Saturday was iconic Kurdish activist Leyla Zana, who returned to parliament 20 years after her first appearance sparked outrage when she spoke in Kurdish. Zana eventually spent a decade behind bars for collaboration with Kurdish militants.
Turkey's Oil Exploration Vessel to Complete Research Monday
The Turkish oil exploration vessel, Piri Reis, will complete its seismic research on Monday within coordinates set by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, in the Mediterranean.
Huseyin Avni Benli, director of Dokuz Eylul University's Naval Sciences and Technology Institute, told the A.A on Monday that the Piri Reis vessel continued to gather seismic data in the south of Cyprus and was expected to complete its studies within coordinates set by TPAO.
The ship would keep carrying out research in the region, he said.
"TPAO may give new research coordinates today," he said. "Even if the vessel is not given a new task, it will keep making research there. It will also conduct some researches that were planned earlier."
Nationalist Movement Party Prepares Draft for New Constitution
The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, has prepared a draft for the new constitution following the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.
The MHP has extremely distinct red lines regarding the new constitution. The MHP, like the CHP, does not want three articles to be "touched." The three articles mentioned include the form of the state, the features of the republic, the integrity, the official language, the flag, the national anthem and the capital city.
The MHP is particularly concerned with the maintaining of the "Turkish identity."
It wants the Turkish identity to be protected; it opposes any arrangement that recognizes political and legal status for various ethnic identities. It also argues that the unitary status based on "one nation-one state" in the constitution should be kept as it is.
Instruction in mother tongue is another one of its sticking points, defending education in Turkish and opposing another language for education being included in the constitution.
The MHP, which absolutely wants the unitary structure to be maintained, does not want powers to be assigned to local governments that may appear like a federation or autonomy. It opposes the concept of "being from Turkey" ever entering the constitution.
The MHP is also not very open to the change in the definition of being a "Turk" in the constitution. The MHP, which does not agree to substitute the Turkish nation concept with the bond of citizenship, rather, it opts for the existing arrangement to be kept.
The MHP will defend these sensitivities in the commission. The latest rumors allege that if the MHP's conditions are denied, they will withdraw from the commission.
Erdoğan Signals Further PKK Talks, 'If Needed'
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signaled that further talks are possible with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, while PKK militants continued their attacks in the southeast.
"There will be talks if needed. Why is there the National Intelligence Service, or MİT? It is for these struggles. When a moment comes, we will decide if there should be talks," Erdoğan on Sunday told a group of journalists.
Erdoğan also denied that a protocol had been hammered out in earlier talks. "There is no protocol between [the Turkish] state and İmralı [where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned]. They reflect the talks as if they were a protocol," he said.
A record of a secret meeting held between Turkey's intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, and senior members of the PKK was leaked to a Web site last month, prompting reaction from opposition parties while ruling party officials said the talks were held between the PKK and the state, not the government.
Restriction on Meetings
Öcalan's meetings with his lawyers have been restricted and he could see only his first-degree relatives, Erdoğan said.
The prime minister also said neither the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, nor the PKK represented Turkey's Kurdish population.
"The PKK is not a representative of the Kurdish people. It's a terrorist organization. Neither is the BDP representing the Kurdish people. If it were, they would get more votes from the south and southeast," he said.
Supporters and militants of the outlawed group, meanwhile, continued their attacks in eastern Turkey and Istanbul.
A group of PKK supporters set a public bus on fire Saturday night in Istanbul's Nurtepe neighborhood. The protestors threw Molotov cocktails at the bus; the passengers barely escaped, the Anatolia news agency reported. Police launched an operation in the neighborhood to catch the attackers.
Also on Saturday night, a group of PKK militants raided the construction site of a new airport in the eastern city of Bingöl.
According to a written statement made public on Sunday by the Bingöl Governor's Office, a group of four militants arrived at the construction site around 9 p.m. and took 18 workers as hostages. The militants then set a building and a vehicle on fire before fleeing the area.
Syrian Opposition Opens Talks in Istanbul
The Syrian National Council, or SNC, which is trying to unite President Bashar al-Assad's opponents, was holding negotiations behind closed doors here with rivals on Saturday.
"We have been holding discussions for several days with Burhan Ghalioun, there are also Kurds and representatives of tribes," said a member of the SNC, Khaled Khoja, who also said several opposition movements are trying to create an alliance, the AFP reported.
Ghalioun, an academic based in France, was recently designated the leader of a rival opposition grouping, the National Transitional Council, that has Islamist and nationalist supporters.
"When the SNC meets, there will be a new assembly, which will be expanded to these new movements," Khoja said, adding that the meeting scheduled to be held on Saturday would not take place before Sunday, at the earliest, due to the negotiations.
The SNC, the largest and most representative Syrian opposition groupings, was founded in Istanbul at the end of August; the group has 140 members, with nearly half of them living in Syria. The Istanbul meeting of members currently outside Syria is due to elect the president of the SNC and heads of various committees.
SNC spokeswoman Basma Qoudmani said the grouping also hoped to secure the support of the influential Muslim Brotherhood, which has long survived, in the face of savage repression by the regime, and of a pro-democracy movement formed in Damascus in 2005, in Syria.
Diplomatic sources in Damascus said the SNC's rise could result from an agreement between the United States, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and unite the main opposition strands of nationalists, liberals and Islamists.