Turkey and France will establish mechanisms to jointly fight against terror, organized crime, and human and drug smuggling as part of a rare substantive bilateral agreement to be inked Friday. It will be the first of its kind for Turkey.

"The agreement has both technical and operational dimensions," French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who came to Turkey for official talks, told reporters in Ankara yesterday. "We will identify threats common to both countries. And we will move against them together. That would surely require joint operations as well."

Gueant met with European Union Minister Egemen Bağış and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and will hold talks with Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin today where an agreement will be signed. Gueant will also be received by President Abdullah Gül on Friday.

Turkish government officials have long been criticizing their European allies for their ignorance in cooperating with Turkey against terror and have even targeted certain countries with claims of financial and political support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The agreement with France will focus on deepening cooperation on the fight against terrorism, organized crime, drug and human smuggling and illegal immigration between the two countries. It will be as substantive as possible and will also include establishment of mechanisms, officials said.

The PKK has an important presence in France, where it collects financial resources to fund the organization's terrorist acts. Paris has conducted several operations to crack down on the PKK's presence in the country and has arrested high-level PKK members, but failed to extradite them to Turkey due to gaps in French laws.

Gueant said that although they would boost cooperation with Turkey on these issues, extradition of PKK members was still up to the French courts. "We, as the executive, cannot interfere in judicial processes," he said.

Gueant was the right arm man of French President Nicholas Sarkozy when he was at the Elysée (office and residence of the President of the French Republic), Bağış said, adding that the interior minister was very much aware of Turkey's sensitivities on these matters.


Exercises Continue Along Syrian Border

The Turkish military's nine days of exercises on its southern border with Syria continued Thursday amid an announcement that the death toll from the Arab republic's seven-month-old uprising is nearing 3,000.

The exercise started Oct. 5, the same day Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lamented the failure of a United Nations resolution to impose sanctions on Syria, saying the veto would not deter Turkey from launching its own sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. More than 2,900 people have been killed in Syria since the start of a crackdown on anti-regime protests, the UN said yesterday, a day before its human rights body was to discuss the situation. Today, the UN Human Rights Council will discuss the situation in Syria, after Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a European-backed draft UN Security Council resolution that would have threatened possible action against al-Assad.

Syrian troops stormed villages close to the border with Turkey yesterday, hunting armed military defectors who fought back in clashes that left at least four soldiers and three others dead.


Hamas Grants Gaza Invitation to Turkish Prime Minister

Hamas' deputy prime minister has expressed expectations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will soon visit the blockaded Gaza Strip following previously abandoned attempts to travel to the Palestinian territory.

"The media has twice announced that Erdoğan was going to visit Gaza, but then we didn't see anything on the ground. Turkey is a great country, and I think Turkish people can find a way to go to Gaza if they want to," Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Awad told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview yesterday. "We would like Prime Minister Erdoğan not only to visit Gaza, but also to discuss every kind of political and humanitarian issue with us. It would be very good to discuss the matters with Mr. Erdoğan face to face," Awad said.

Every part of Gaza is under humanitarian, social, financial and political siege, Awad said, adding that they also needed to discuss how to end the siege with Erdoğan.

"Erdoğan mentioned many times that this siege has to be ended. At least we can discuss this process with him from our point of view. Our people are in a big prison," the deputy prime minister said. "We need all the people to understand our situation and discuss the matter of how to finish the siege. Turkey has a chance to [publicize] the issue everywhere in the world. We would like Turkey to raise our problems in the world."

Touching on the difficulties with the Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, Awad said there had been no progression in plans for reconciliation. Hamas does not support Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' bid to have the UN recognize a Palestinian statehood.

"We need a state of Palestine, but we don't need this Palestine against the right of return of our people. So we have to discuss this matter in terms of how much this step can affect the right of return of Palestinians to their lands. Otherwise, we won't be able to face our people later on when we say that the right of return has been finished with this step," Awad said.

Erdoğan has expressed his intention to visit Gaza more than once in the past, saying:

"If conditions allow, I'm thinking of visiting Gaza," Erdoğan said in July, adding last month that he intended to cross into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip through Egypt's Rafah border gate in reaction to Israel during his official visit to Egypt on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13. Erdoğan was unable to travel to Gaza last month.

Israel Reacts to Erdoğan's Possible Gaza Visit

Israel also reacted to Erdoğan's planned visit to Gaza, saying such a move would harm Turkey's relations with the United States and challenge the legitimacy of Abbas' claim to represent all of Palestine.

Erdoğan's determination to visit Gaza came as relations between Turkey and Israel sharply deteriorated following Tel Aviv's continued refusal to apologize after Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists last year aboard an aid ship that was attempting to break the blockade against the Gaza Strip.

If the trip does occur, it is likely to exacerbate tensions between Turkey and Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group. Turkey has refused to declare Hamas a terrorist group because it was democratically elected.


Turkey's Role In Peace Process Depends on Good Relations with Israel

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Turkey could play an important role in the peace process if it is able to maintain good ties with Israel, but added that Israel has to accept Turkey's demand for an apology regarding an attack on a Turkish aid ship.

"If Israel steps back from their position and apologizes to Turkey [for the killing of nine Turks on an aid ship bound for Gaza last year], Turkey could play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East," he said during a press conference on Thursday, Today's Zaman reported.

"We encourage such a role," he said.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked Turkish ships sailing in open waters carrying aid to Gaza, killing nine Turkish citizens, including a Turkish-American. Turkey downgraded ties with the Israeli state by withdrawing its ambassador and expelling the Israeli ambassador from Turkey.

The United Nations established an inquiry panel to examine the incident, and the United Nations panel's long-awaited Palmer report was handed over to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 2. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the report legitimized the Gaza blockade and opened the door to occupation, adding that Turkey would not accept it. Turkey demanded that Israel issue a formal apology, pay compensation to the families of the victims and end its blockade on Gaza.

Stressing that Turkey has invested a lot in the last decade or so in supporting Palestine, Abbas said: "We knew that Turkey had had strong ties with Israel since the 1950s."

Abbas also disclosed that Turkey's mediation for indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which lasted until December 2008, when the Israeli onslaught on Gaza was launched, was done with the approval of Palestine.

"We were in the picture. We knew if Turkey succeeded in that role, it would be of interest to the region," he explained.

Earlier, during the speech delivered to the assembly, Abbas asked parliamentarians at the Council of Europe, or CoE, to keep putting pressure on states that are both members of the CoE and the UN Security Council.

"We also very much appreciate and are proud of the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly this past Tuesday, calling on the six Council of Europe member states, which are members of the Security Council, to support Palestine's request to become a full member of the United Nations," he said.

Abbas said Palestine appreciated the fact that Europe has invested a great deal of effort and money in supporting the construction of Palestinian institutions and given its people considerable help.


Europe Should Make Brave Decisions, Turkish Finance Minister Says

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said Europe should make brave decisions in order to recover from the economic crisis.

Speaking at the closing session of the 4th Global Economic Symposium in Kiel, Germany Thursday, Simsek said that Europe should make brave and rapid decisions, and implement them to overcome the crisis.

Replying to a question about the standard of life in Africa, Simsek said that African countries should invest in their people, education and research and development, as well as recover investment milieu and prevent weak governing and corruption, which would all increase national income and life standards of these countries.

Simsek will return to Istanbul later in the evening.


Turkey Can Shift Oil Exploration from Black Sea to Mediterranean

Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz said on Thursday that Turkey could shift its oil and natural gas exploration initiatives from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

"We can shift our explorations from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean," Yildiz told reporters aboard a plane to Turkey from South Africa, saying also that South Africa was good at coal technology, and Turkey wanted to make use of it.

On oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean, Yildiz said the Piri Reis seismic ship was collecting seismic data and it was not carrying out drilling studies.

"We are collecting data, but we are not sharing it. You may carry out 2-D or 3-D seismic researches, and you can say that there may be oil at some point, but you may not strike oil when you drill," Yildiz said.

Yildiz said a drilling cost about $150 to 200 million, and the government would not waste that money for just political reasons.

"We sent Piri Reis to that sport totally as a reaction. Normally, we will not enter that field because if we do so, this means that we do not recognize the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)," he said.

Yildiz said if Turkey acquired negative data from seismic studies, it would not launch drilling around Cyprus, but there were places Turkey could drill in the Mediterranean.

"We will not leave the Mediterranean, but we will not drill everywhere," Yildiz said.

Yildiz also said personally, he did not think it was right to order a drilling ship without finding oil, but there was no need to order one at the moment.

On September 21, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and TRNC President Dervis Eroglu signed an agreement in New York on the delineation of the continental shelf between two countries in the East Mediterranean. The deal gives Turkey the green light to search oil and natural gas inside the Turkish Cypriot waters.

The agreement follows a Greek Cypriot move to start offshore drilling for natural gas and oil in the southeast of the Eastern Mediterranean island.

On September 22, the TRNC Council of Ministers gave exploration license to the Turkish Petroleum Corp., or TPAO, to explore oil and natural gas in the sea around Cyprus island.

Eroglu, who met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Sept. 24, proposed to suspend oil and natural gas exploration until a comprehensive solution was found to the Cyprus question. Or, if the Greek Cypriot administration insisted on oil exploration, then a committee shall be set up by the two sides in the island to decide how to share the richness that could be found after the explorations.

The Greek Cypriot side, however, did not give a positive response. Thus, TPAO began, on Sept. 26, geophysical research and seismic data collecting studies on behalf of the TRNC.

In 2010, the Greek Cypriot administration and Israel signed an accord demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the East Mediterranean.

The Greek Cypriot side had signed a deal with U.S.-based Noble Energy to start drilling a 324,000-hectare economic zone adjacent to the Israeli waters.


Bagis Urges EU to Defy Greek Cyprus Veto to Open Energy Talks

Turkey's European Union Minister Egemen Bagis on Wednesday called on the EU to pressure the Greek Cypriot administration into removing a veto on the opening of talks in Turkey's accession negotiations on a policy chapter on energy.

"EU countries must stop the Greek Cypriot side from its refusal to open the energy chapter," Bagis told reporters during a meeting with French Ambassador in Ankara Laurent Bili.

Bagis said the international community and the European Commission should be noticed that the Greek Cypriot administration tried to stall ongoing settlement talks in Cyprus, adding that the Greek Cypriot move to start offshore drilling aimed to push reunification talks to a dead-end.


Turkish PM Rebuffs Opposition's Call for Assault on Kandil

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed opposition calls for an immediate incursion into northern Iraq to destroy Kurdish militant bases in the Kandil Mountains amid ongoing preparations for a visit to Ankara by Iraq's foreign minister.

Erdoğan dismissed calls by the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, to erect the Turkish flag at Kandil late yesterday as "nonsense." Parliament yesterday extended by one year the government's mandate to order military action against bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq.

"We are doing all that is necessary. Will terror end if we erect a flag there? What kind of nonsense is this?" Erdoğan said to reporters on a flight back from South Africa. "There are flags all over our country at the moment. Is terror coming to an end?" he asked, urging MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli to put forward proposals on how his own party could help defeat terrorism.

The MHP hit back yesterday, questioning the purpose of the extended mandate for military action that the government requested from Parliament.

"We want the prime minister to use this mandate. Why did we give him this mandate? Why is he annoyed by the idea of erecting the Turkish flag at Kandil?" MHP deputy Group Chairman Oktay Vural said during a press conference in Parliament while carrying a Turkish flag. "What dirty calculations, what submissive mindset, is tying the prime minister's hands when it comes to destroying the Kandil evil?"

While the war of words raged on, diplomatic sources said preparations were under way for a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Hoshyar Zebari in mid-October to discuss measures aimed at curbing the PKK. Zebari's trip to Ankara is likely to be followed by a visit from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki later in the year for a meeting of the Turkish-Iraqi cooperation council.


D-8 Industry Minister Release Istanbul Declaration at Meeting

Industry ministers of the Developing-8 countries released the Istanbul Declaration at the end of their three-day meeting on Thursday.

The declaration, reaffirming a common wish that member countries encourage industrial and technical cooperation, said that D-8 member states should boost their industrial cooperation in a way that would cover the production of D-8 model cars in the long term.

Member states agreed to hold conferences, seminars, vocational courses, workshops and fairs to exchange know-how and experiences, to increase investments and to support environment-friendly investments and projects for sustainable development.

In the declaration, the states also agreed to increase joint researches on energy to raise use of renewable energy resources, lift technical obstacles before trade, and increase share of D-8 countries in international markets.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Turkey's Science, Industry and Technology Ministry signed a cooperation protocol with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry.

The D-8 Ministerial Meeting on Industry took place in Istanbul Oct. 4 through Oct. 6.

D-8 is an organization for development cooperation among the following countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

The establishment of D-8 was announced officially through the Istanbul Declaration of Summit of Heads of State/Government on June 15, 1997.


More Than 1,500 Arrested in KCK Roundups in Six Months

The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, announced yesterday that 1,548 of 4,168 people who have been detained in the last six months under suspicion of membership in the illegal Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, have been arrested.

Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chairman of the BDP, condemned the latest operations against the KCK, which is believed to be the urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the round up of many BDP members. He said the ruling party never wanted them to be in Parliament to seek their rights.

"When we ended our parliamentary boycott and decided to join Parliament, that's when the operations started," Demirtaş said, speaking during a press conference at the BDP's Bağcılar office on Oct. 5.

The culprit responsible for the sham fight is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Demirtaş said.

"Although [the outlawed PKK jailed leader] Abdullah Öcalan sent a letter saying the boycott should finish one week before Oct. 1, the letter was received on Oct. 3, when the boycott had already ended," he said.

The pro-government media protects the AKP and its policy, Demirtaş said.

"The prime minister slams Israel and faces a fight with that country, but he even cannot provide transportation to İmrali Island where Öcalan is imprisoned," Demirtaş said, adding that if democracy did not come for the Kurdish people, then it would not come for anyone else either.

"If you eat meat for 30 Turkish Liras in Istanbul, it is because villages in the southeast were closed because of the terrorism problem and that killed the cattle sector. Or if you cannot appoint your teachers, it is because of the bombs deployed on Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq," Demirtaş said, adding that despite the detentions, support for the BDP and the Kurdish movement will continue to grow.

BDP deputies Pervin Buldan, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Sabahat Tuncel, Erol Dora, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and artist Ferhat Tunç also attended the press conference.

"The people who have been detained are not part of a coup attempt. They belong to the government's continuing detentions and arrests. Is this a developing democracy or an oppression of opponents?" said Meral Danış Beştaş, BDP's vice chairman responsible for law and human rights. "We are in a time that we cannot calculate the exact number of people detained and arrested. How is the prime minister going to prepare a new charter while attacks against our party continue?"

Beştaş said that since April 2009, nearly 7,750 suspects were detained under suspicion of KCK operations. Of that number, 3,895 were arrested.

Forty-seven out of 100 people who were detained earlier this week under suspicion of KCK operations were brought to Istanbul courthouse on Thursday.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.


Turkish Cypriot Party to Vote Against Turkish East Mediterranean Deal

In response to Greek Cypriot drilling, the main opposition party in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or KKTC, will vote against an agreement with Turkey on the delineation of undersea boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, a step that would pave the way for Turkish hydrcarbon exploration in the.

The surprise announcement from the Republican Turks Party, or CTP, came after a meeting of the party assembly on Wednesday night. A statement released after the meeting said the agreement with Turkey would undermine efforts for reunification of Cyprus and denounced its conclusion without consultations with opposition parties as an act of "grave disrespect against the will of Parliament."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu signed an agreement marking out undersea boundaries in New York last month.

The agreement paves the way for Turkish oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, which comes after Greek Cypriot authorities vowed to go ahead with planned exploration in the south of Cyprus, despite protests from Turkey, which says it and the Turkish Cypriots also have rights in the region.

The KKTC government approved the agreement on Sept. 28 and sent it to Parliament for ratification. It is not immediately clear when the Turkish Cypriot Parliament will vote on the agreement. The ruling National Unity Party, or UBP, has 26 seats in the 50-member Parliament, while the second-biggest party, CTP, controls 15 seats.

The CTP statement said the crisis over hydrocarbon exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean "consumes the energy that ought to be spent on finding a comprehensive resolution to the Cyprus dispute and destroys the motivation and good will necessary to maintain solution efforts."

The statement accused Eroğlu of overstepping his authorities, and excluding the KKTC Parliament from the decision-making process ahead of signing the agreement.

"The agreement does not seek to protect the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots," the statement said. "What kind of negotiations have been carried out, and by whom and where, before this agreement was signed on our behalf?"

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