The first meeting of the inter-party Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, originally scheduled for Thursday of this week, has been moved to Oct. 19, when commission procedures and guidelines will be discussed by representatives of the political parties in Parliament.

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek previously asked all political parties represented in Parliament to nominate three members for the commission that will draft a new constitution.

Last week, Çiçek sent a written notice to the parties in Parliament highlighting the long-standing debate about the problematic 1982 Constitution, which he named as the source of many of Turkey's social problems.

"Our country's need for a new constitution based on social consensus has been voiced by all of our political parties before and after the elections, as well as by professional and civil society organizations," Çiçek wrote. "There is wide consensus that the new constitution should be created with the free and active participation of all segments of society, primarily political parties, workers' organizations, civil society groups and academia. Our people expect the 24th term of Parliament to lead the way toward drafting a new constitution."

The Justice Ministry on Wednesday posted previous Turkish constitutions as well as the constitutions of 11 EU countries on its Web site to aid work on the new constitution. It said that a vast majority of the public is expecting a new constitution; therefore, a cross-party commission was created to meet public expectations. The Justice Ministry Web site,, posted the current and previous Turkish constitutions in a comparative table.

The latest amendments to Turkey's current Constitution were made on Sept. 12, 2010, in a referendum that authorized changes to various articles, including the structure of the judiciary and military courts.

Turkey to See Huge Tax Hikes

The Turkish government has increased special taxes on cars, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and mobile phone prices prior to the announcement of a medium-term program. The plan forecasts 2011 growth at 7 percent

Turkey's medium-term program announced yesterday features increased social welfare programs, but depends heavily on a boost in privatizations, as well as an eleventh-hour tax increase, according to economists.

Despite a revised growth forecast, the plan also dashed hope for a drastic narrowing in the current account deficit, the Achilles heel of the well-performing Turkish economy.

"Sustaining the stable growth process, increasing employment, continuing the fiscal discipline, raising domestic savings, narrowing the current account deficit and as a result, strengthening the economic stability" are the priorities of the new program, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said Thursday during a press conference in Ankara.

The government will privatize 12.5 billion Turkish Liras of assets in 2012, compared to 4.3 billion liras this year, according to the plan, which was also posted on the State Planning Organization's website.

Government Increases Taxes

The special consumption tax, or SCT, rate on cigarettes rose from 63 percent to 69 percent, according to the Official Gazette published Thursday. A flat tax on beer rose to 0.53 liras (29 cents) per liter from 0.44 liras, and to 19.82 liras per liter for sparkling wines from 16.12 liras.

The special consumption tax rate rose for all non-electric passenger cars with engines larger than 1.6 liters. The new tax levels range from 15 percent to 130 percent, up from 10 percent to 84 percent. For mobile phone sales, the tax rate rose to 25 percent from 20 percent. A flat tax of 40 liras on mobile phone sales went up to 100 liras.

Speaking at the meeting, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said the government expected 5.5 billion liras in income annually through its economic measures.

The current account deficit will peak at 9.4 percent of GDP this year and decline to 8 percent next year, falling to 7.5 percent in 2013 and 7 percent by 2014, Babacan said.

Right Perception of Gap

"We observe that there is a meaningful perception change about the current account deficit compared to previous unrealistic deficit forecasts by the government," Özgür Altuğ, of BGC Partners, wrote in a note to investors, adding that the government's inflation forecasts for the coming years looked "optimistic."

The government's forecast for growth this year is "aggressive," Yarkın Cebeci, an Istanbul-based JPMorgan Chase economist, said.

Turkey's Mid-Term Economic Program Announced

Turkey's Mid-term Economic Program was announced in Ankara on Thursday, with Turkey's Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek saying that the government expected an income of 5.5 billion Turkish lira (TL) through recent economic measures.

Nearly 771 million TL of this amount will be collected from taxes on alcoholic beverages, while 2.7 billion TL from tobacco and products, 920 million TL from motor vehicles, 660 million TL from cell phones and 350 million TL from the Resource Utilization Support Fund, or KKDF, Simsek said.

He noted that an increase in KKDF rates, as well as rise in Special Consumption Tax, or OTV, on cell phones were measures they took against a current account deficit. Simsek said they would not raise taxes or rates from now on.

PKK Will Not Poison Bilateral Ties with Turkey, Iraq's Foreign Minister Says

Turkey has lost patience in the fight against terrorists based in camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said yesterday.

"We can no longer tolerate terrorist actions from Iraq territories," Davutoğlu said during a press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in Ankara.

Davutoğlu once more praised Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki's recent remarks on taking a clear stance toward the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, but asserted Turkey's right to unilateral action against threats posed by militants from northern Iraq. Emphasizing the bilateral cooperation against terror, Davutoğlu said there would be further unilateral operations in Iraqi territories.

"The presence of the PKK terrorist organization in Iraq is against the Iraqi constitution. The Iraqi side reaffirmed the determination of the prime minister of the Republic of Iraq to eliminate the PKK and all other terrorist organizations in Iraq, a joint statement released after the press conference said. "Both countries will enhance their cooperation in their struggle against terrorism in accordance with international law."

During the press conference Iraqi foreign minister Zebari said the PKK Kurdish rebels' presence in the north is unacceptable and that the problem could only be resolved through "good neighborly relations" between Turkey and Iraq.

"The presence of PKK elements in mountainous areas is not legitimate under the Iraqi Constitution," Zebari said. Iraq and Turkey will resolve the problem through the framework of bilateral agreements, he said. There were some serious initiatives to solve the problem and this problem would not last forever, he said, adding that Iraq understands Turkey's legitimate concerns.

Zebari declined to elaborate on offerings for new solutions when asked what further measures Iraq would take to eliminate PKK elements in their country.

"This is a long-standing problem and can't be solved with a single visit," he said, adding that Iraq was willing to increase pressure on the PKK, but that his country did not have the resources now to defeat the group.

The ministers said the United States, Turkey and Iraq have decided to re-launch their tripartite mechanism in the fight against the PKK. Baghdad also plans to take extra measures against alleged PKK links to the Makhmour refugee camp, a United Nations camp in northern Iraq that Ankara claims is a recruiting ground for Kurdish militants.

The ministers also announced plans to hold a meeting of the bilateral High Level Strategic Cooperation Council in November. According to the ministers, Turkey and Iraq would address and cooperate on the water issue, which was suspended due to the uprising in Syria, by utilizing technical committees and the tripartite mechanism between Turkey, Iraq and.

They two countries also plan to prepare a bilateral agreement on opening new border gates along the Turkish-Iraqi frontier in time for the next meeting of the high-level council.

PKK Terrorists Attack Police Station in Hatay

PKK terrorists attacked a police station in the Denizciler hamlet of Iskenderun, a town in Hatay.

Police officer Kadir Alcioglu was killed; two other police officers and a civilian were injured.

One terrorist, who was reportedly carrying a bomb, was also killed.

Germany Vows Zero Tolerance of PKK Terrorists

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany would not be tolerant of Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, activities in Europe, reiterating his country's position that the PKK is a terrorist organization.

In a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, following their talks in İstanbul, Westerwelle said the German government places a large emphasis on fighting against terrorism, saying: "We are not supporting the PKK."

Westerwelle's remarks come at a time when German prosecutors say they have arrested a Turkish man on charges of belonging to the PKK. According to the federal prosecutors' office, Ali İhsan K., 45, was arrested on Wednesday in Hamburg. His full name was not released in accordance with German privacy laws.

On Thursday, prosecutors said the suspect was believed to have served as a leader of the PKK for the greater Hamburg region from 2007 to 2008. He is charged with organizing other members and collecting funds to support the group.

Asked about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's earlier remarks alleging German associations indirectly funneled money to the PKK through business deals with municipalities, Westerwelle said he discussed this issue with the prime minister and that "some misunderstandings were solved," without elaborating further.

The German Supreme Court of Appeals decided last year that the PKK is a terrorist organization, noting that the organization is listed as a terrorist entity by Europe.

Responding to the same question, Davutoğlu said Erdoğan did not utter a phrase that German foundations "funnel money to the terrorist organization."

PKK members have been using Iraq as a launching pad for attacks on Turkish targets in a war for autonomy in Turkey's southeast. In the latest violence in Turkey, suspected PKK members attacked a police station near the southern city of İskenderun, killing one policeman and wounding three others on Thursday, Gov. Celalettin Lekesiz of İskenderun province told the state-run Anatolia news agency. One attacker was killed at the scene and others fled after firing from speeding cars, he said.

Davutoğlu said Erdoğan is planning a visit to Germany in early November to mark the 50th year of Turkish immigration to the European Union member state, adding that Westerwelle will be in İstanbul at that time to attend a conference on Afghanistan.

Both foreign ministers comprehensively discussed Turkey's EU membership talks, Davutoğlu said. Germany and Turkey consider ties between Turkey and the 27-member club through a strategic perspective, he said, adding that the economic crisis, regional development and Turkish-EU relations have displayed just how invaluable Turkish-EU relations are.

Davutoğlu said he also discussed visa facilitation talks between the EU and Turkey with his German counterpart and blasted the EU for double standards against Turkish nationals by denying visas.

The Turkish foreign minister also said commercial relations between Germany and Turkey have accelerated recently; there are now 4,500 German companies operating in Turkey and 70,000 Turkish companies in Germany. Trade volume between Germany and Turkey are currently $29 billion. Turkey hopes it will advance further this year, Davutoğlu said.

Turkey to Give Military Support to Azerbaijan

Turkey is ready to extend support to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said yesterday in Baku.

"We are ready to support, cooperate and join in production with Azerbaijan Armed Forces," Yılmaz told journalists after visiting former Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev's grave in Baku. "A bilateral strategic cooperation agreement [between Turkey and Azerbaijan] has been signed. Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and [Azerbaijani] President Ilham Aliyev have also decided on the establishment of a high advisory council."

The council will be the basis for the relations between the two countries, Yılmaz said, adding that there were good and sound relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Yılmaz is currently visiting Baku for meetings with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Sefer Abiyev and was received by Aliyev upon arrival.

Turkish Ambassador to Baku Hulusi Kılıç and Turkey's defense attaché in Azerbaijan, Brig. Gen. Yücel Karauz, were present at the meeting between Aliyev and Yılmaz yesterday.

German Foreign Minister Urges EU to be Fair to Turkey

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has criticized the European Union in its negotiation process with Turkey, saying it should act more fairly during the accession of candidate's negotiations to join the bloc.

"The European Union should act respectful and fair to Turkey in the negotiation process," Westerwelle said during a visit to Turkey Thursday.

Westerwelle met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Istanbul Thursday; later in the day, Westerwelle and Davutoğlu later holding a joint press conference.

Westerwelle said Turkey's accession process to the EU should go on without a break.

"Once the train has stopped, it is very difficult to get it moving again. Therefore, the train should not stop and the next chapter, which is the competition chapter, should open soon," Westerwelle said, adding that they talked about the German foundation issue during his meeting with Erdoğan.

The Turkish prime minister has accused German foundations of indirectly supporting the local administrations run by the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Regarding the German foundation, Davutoğlu corrected the question of a journalist during the press conference, saying Erdoğan did not say the German foundations were financing the terrorist group.

Westerwelle said they cleared away any misunderstandings regarding the issue of the German foundations.

"Both German foundations and German banks are highly appreciated in Turkey," Westerwelle said.

One-Sided European Perspective Makes Turkish-EU Relations Difficult, Davutoglu Says

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Thursday that the EU Progress Report 2011 mentioned positive developments in Turkey, but that a one-sided European perspective still existed on issues such as Cyprus, a perspective that still bothers Turkey.

Speaking at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Istanbul, Davutoglu said that "such a European perspective made it hard to establish Turkish-EU relations."

"A trilateral meeting will take place on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31," Davutoğlu said. "A progress in Cyprus negotiations until the trilateral meeting will help Turkish-EU relations. We request from the EU countries, and primarily Germany, to send a strong message to the Greek Cypriots in this regard. This is highly important for us."

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