In yet another show of support for the opponents of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he believes the opposition will be successful in their "glorious" resistance to the ongoing government crackdown.
Speaking during his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Erdoğan continued his severe criticisms of the Syrian administration.
"We had a friendship that began nine years ago but Syria failed to appreciate this. They [Syrian rulers] did not pay heed to our warnings," Erdoğan said. "But we cannot remain silent in the face of this process. We will continue to display the necessary stance. I believe that the Syrian people will be successful in their glorious resistance."
Turkey, once a close ally of the Syrian president, has gradually toughened its criticism of the Syrian regime for its brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests. Last month, Erdoğan slammed al-Assad, suggesting that Syria would be the next country on the Arab Spring list and that al-Assad would eventually be ousted by his own people.
"Those who repress their own people in Syria will not survive. The time of autocracies is over. Totalitarian regimes are disappearing. The rule of the people is coming," Erdoğan said in September in an address to the Libyan people.
Al-Assad has shrugged off broad international condemnation and calls for him to step down, insisting that armed gangs and thugs are behind the violence, not true reform-seekers.
The Turkish prime minister has reiterated on many occasions that what happens in Syria is an "internal affair" for Turkey, not an issue of foreign policy, given the 850-kilometer-long border between the two countries and deep cultural and historical ties.
On Tuesday Erdoğan also voiced his belief that the Syrians who have been killed by pro-al-Assad forces are martyrs.
"The killing of one person is like the killing of all humanity, but unfortunately there is an administration [in Syria] that massacres and kills people, making them martyrs," he said. "This is an administration that relies on force. This is not an administration which depends on the nation's will."
At the same meeting, the prime minister also praised Turkey for showing an example of solidarity for the entire world to see in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit eastern province of Van on Oct. 23, killing more than 600 people.
He said all 80 provinces of Turkey mobilized to extend a helping hand to the quake victims. Erdoğan added:
"We have mobilized all our means for the construction of temporary shelters and permanent accommodation. We are healing the wounds very rapidly. With its population of 74 million, Turkey displayed a solidarity [for Van] which sets as an example to the world."
Erdoğan also focused on a letter Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu sent him recently regarding an alleged corruption case in Kayseri.
In late 2010, Kılıçdaroğlu alleged that the Kayseri Municipality, the Kayseri Governor's Office and the Kayseri Police Department were all involved in corruption. In a speech made in Parliament during which he criticized the government's management of the economy and the 2011 budget, Kılıçdaroğlu produced a file concerning allegations of corruption in Kayseri province going back to 2007.
Erdoğan said Kılıçdaroğlu has so far failed to back up his allegations regarding the alleged corruption case in Kayseri and that he tries to defame the government by bringing the issue back to the agenda over and over again. The prime minister said he would write a detailed response to the CHP leader.
Al-Assad 'OK's' Arab League Roadmap to End Violence
Syria was expected to agree to an Arab League proposal to end violence between regime forces and protesters, an Arab diplomat said, a day before Arab foreign ministers were due to hold talks on the issue.
"We are dealing positively with the last proposal, which was drafted [at Oct. 30's meeting] in Qatar," said Yusef Ahmed, Syria's representative at the Arab League.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said Tuesday that an Arab League committee charged with seeking an end to the violence in Syria had reached agreement with Syrian authorities, Al Arabiya television reported. Syrian officials contacted by telephone had no immediate comment on the report. Algerian and Egyptian diplomats in Cairo, where Arab League foreign ministers were due to meet Wednesday, said they had no information as to whether an agreement had been reached.
Arab League ministers, including Medelci, met Syrian officials in Qatar on Oct. 30 to seek a way to end the bloodshed in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has staged a military crackdown to crush seven months of protests against his rule. Arab diplomats said the ministers proposed that Syria immediately release prisoners held since February, withdraw security forces from the streets, permit the deployment of Arab League monitors and start a dialogue with the opposition.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country heads the ministerial committee, also said al-Assad must launch serious reforms if Syria were to avoid further violence. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday his country would oppose a Libya-style military intervention against the Syrian regime.
"We have many questions regarding the treatment of international law after the UN Security Council adopted the Libyan resolution," which allowed military intervention to protect civilian lives, and "after the Libyan drama," he said in Abu Dhabi.
"If it depends on us, I don't think we will allow anything of that sort to be repeated" in Syria, Lavrov said after a Gulf-Russian ministerial meeting when asked if such measures could be taken against Syria.
On the ground, thousands of Syrians staged a rally in support of al-Assad in eastern Syria Tuesday as activists reported a counter-rally in the same area. Four people were also killed in violence, including an army officer and a soldier who were shot dead by gunmen in northwestern Idlib province, a rights watchdog reported.
Meanwhile, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry had not confirmed reports that Ankara had established a separate camp for Syrian army defectors. Instead, it said local authorities might take some steps to ensure the safety of Syrian nationals in the camps.
Iraq Declines Turkey's Military Training Offer
Iraq has declined offers from Turkey and Iran to train its forces, after failing to come to an agreement with the United States on a post-2011 training mission, a high-ranking Iraqi official said Tuesday.
"Tehran and Ankara offered to train Iraqi forces, but we did not accept either due to the sensitivity of the situation," the official in the prime minister's office said on condition of anonymity.
"We cannot accept one state without another," the official said. "We prefer that the file of training the forces be outside the framework of neighboring countries." An Oct. 29 statement from the Iraqi presidency said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had offered for his country to help train Iraq's forces, during a meeting with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Oct.21 that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by year's end after failed negotiations with Iraq about a post-2011 U.S. military training mission in the country.
Turkey Joins Probe to Solve Rabbani Murder
Turkey has stepped up to ease tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose tempers steamed after former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated six weeks ago. Hosting the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan Tuesday for a trilateral summit to resume dialogue between the two states, the parties decided to designate a trilateral mechanism for the investigation of the Rabbani assassination.
"We have decided to establish a cooperation mechanism to clarify the Rabbani assassination," Turkish President Abdullah Gül said at a joint press conference with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts.
The mechanism, which will work in parallel with domestic investigators in Pakistan and Afghanistan, will include officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey, a high-level Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
It will also enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to carry out dialogue through the process and present their claims with evidence. The first meeting of the mechanism had yet to be scheduled, the official said. Turkish diplomatic source said intelligence, military and police bodies will participate in the mechanism.
"The cooperation mechanism will begin work at the scene of the attack" where Rabbani was killed, according to a joint declaration released after the meetings.
The decision to set up a trilateral mechanism was decided during Gül's talks with his counterparts Aghanistan's Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's Asif Zardari at an Ottoman palace overlooking the Bosphorus Tuesday.
The meeting ahead of a Wednesday international conference on Afghanistan in Turkey was the first between the two neighbors since the assassination of Rabbani, a former Afghan leader and peace negotiator, on Sept. 20.
Afghanistan accused Pakistan of refusing to cooperate in the murder investigation, which, according to Afghan authorities, was planned in Pakistan and committed by a Pakistani suicide bomber. The meeting arose after 17 people died in the deadliest attack yet against the U.S.-led NATO mission in Kabul.
"I thank both presidents because of their confidence in Turkey," Gül said, stressing the importance of the gathering after the tension flared due to recent killings.
Setting up a cooperation mechanism for investigating Rabbani's assassination was "extremely critical for the peace process, as it has proven terrorism is affecting two countries in a negative way," Karzai said.
"Our desire for peace is misunderstood or misused. We cannot keep talking to suicide bombers," he said, referring to Taliban forces that allegedly killed Rabbani. Gül suggested the assassination was done to block the peace process in Afghanistan.
The three presidents signed agreements enshrining their commitment to cooperate in the fields of education, banking system and joint military exercises. The trilateral meeting is the sixth in Turkey, resulting from a regular consultation mechanism established in 2007 to encourage the two countries to cooperate.
A committee of foreign ministers is also expected to be set up and meet more often than the trilateral summits occur, a Foreign Ministry official told the Daily News.
The trilateral summit will be followed by an international conference today in Istanbul on the theme of "Security and cooperation in the heart of Asia." Nearly 20 countries and international organizations are expected to attend.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed her plans and canceled her visit to Istanbul at the last minute to stay with her ailing mother. U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is expected to replace her.
For Wednesday's meeting the participants have a plan to shape a mechanism for regional security cooperation. A Turkish diplomat said the negotiations were ongoing to reconcile reservations of some regional countries with a set of confidence-building measures as part of this mechanism.
Greek's Referendum Decision Hammers Edgy Global Markets
Prime Minister George Papandreou's shock decision to call a referendum on Greece's bailout drew veiled threats from Germany Tuesday and hammered markets that were already fragile over the Eurozone crisis.
European politicians complained that Athens was trying to wriggle out of the rescue deal agreed only last week, concerned not so much about the fate of Greece as the possibly dire consequences for the entire currency union.
One senior German parliamentarian suggested the Eurozone might have to cast Athens adrift, cutting off its aid lifeline and allowing the nation to default.
Others were stunned by Papandreou's apparent bolt from the blue on Monday on the plan for a 130 billion-euro bailout and a 50-percent write-down on Greece's huge debt, which has unleashed fury among Greeks due to its price: more austerity.
But they also urged caution as the exact question to be put to the Greek people remains unknown. EU officials said they had yet to be officially notified of the vote.
The reaction from Germany, which funds a large part of European Union rescues for Greece as it struggles with a huge debt, was of scarcely disguised fury.
A leader in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition said he was "irritated" by Papandreou's announcement and said the Eurozone would have to consider turning off the flow of money which has kept Greece afloat over the past year.
"This sounds to me like someone is trying to wriggle out of what was agreed -- a strange thing to do," said Rainer Bruederle, parliamentary floor leader for the Free Democrats and a former German economy minister. "One can only do one thing: Make the preparations for the eventuality that there is a state insolvency in Greece and if it doesn't fulfill the agreements, then the point will have been reached where the money is turned off."
Financial markets took Papandreou's bombshell badly. Players scurried for safer investments, hammering stocks and punishing the euro.
"The risk is that a 'no' from the Greeks will completely derail the rescue efforts," a Paris-based share trader said. "We can kiss the year-end rally goodbye."
European stocks were down close to 3 percent and MSCI's all-country world stock index shed 1.7 percent, due not only to the possibility of a disorderly Greek default but chaos surrounding the Eurozone's attempts to stop the debt crisis spreading to more significant economies such as Italy.
The euro fell more than 1 percent versus the dollar and yen.
"The Greek referendum is a real curve ball. Nobody saw it coming and it injects a lot of uncertainty," said Steven Saywell, head of FX strategy at BNP Paribas.
Papandreou, whose ruling Socialist party has suffered several defections as it pushes waves of austerity measures through parliament, said he needed wider political backing for the fiscal measures and structural reforms demanded by international lenders.
Vote Over Euro
"The situation is so tight that basically it would be a vote over their euro membership," Finland's Europe Minister Alexander Stubb told broadcaster MTV3.
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos also warned citizens that eurozone membership was at stake. "It's crunch time," he told lawmakers on Oct. 31. "Citizens will have to answer the question: are we for Europe, the eurozone and the euro?"
Early on Tuesday, Venizelos checked into an Athens hospital with stomach pains but was expected to be discharged later.
CYPRUS Talks End with Some Progress, UN Calls New Meeting in January
The United Nations on Tuesday called a summit for January between leaders of ethnically split Cyprus to settle a decades-old conflict harming Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed optimism that Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu were on their way to resolving long-standing differences.
"Discussions have been positive, productive and vigorous," Ban told journalists, flanked by the two leaders at UN headquarters in New York."This has given me confidence that a comprehensive settlement can be achieved. Both leaders have assured me that they believe that they can finalize a deal."
He said further efforts were needed over the next two months to move to the "end game" of negotiations.
Ban spoke after the United Nations hosted a meeting of Christofias and Eroğlu on Sunday and Monday at a secluded estate in Long Island, New York.
The United Nations has been trying for years to reunite Greek Cyprus, a Mediterranean island split between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup.
The conflict has bedeviled Turkey's attempts to join the EU, where an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot administration represents the whole island in the bloc.
The sides agree in principle to unite Greek Cyprus under a federal umbrella. But there are deep disputes on how to co-govern, territorial adjustments between two future constituent states, and the property claims of thousands of internally displaced people.
Christofias said that difficult negotiations lay ahead.
"The target (until the summit) is to bridge the gap which divides the two sides on various core issues, which is difficult taking into account the differences. But it is not impossible," he said.
Eroğlu expressed optimism that talks were drawing to a conclusion.
"Ban's statement that talks are coming to an end is especially pleasing," he told Turkish Cypriot television. "The Secretary-General made it very clear that first there will be the January summit, then a four or five-way conference after which it will be clear whether an agreement can be reached or not."
The summit, if successful, would pave the way for what Ban described as a "multi-lateral conference," a gathering which would include among others guarantor powers of Cypriot sovereignty which are now Turkey, Britain and Greece.
Sources say of particular difficulty were different interpretations of executive rule.
Greek Cypriots have proposed rotating presidency under a cross and weighted voting system. Turkish Cypriots, which initially backed such an option under a different leadership, now advocate rotating presidency with a separate ballot for each ethnic group.
Peace talks, which have been continuing since 2008, have shown advances on areas of the economy, EU issues and internal aspects of security.
But "there is still work to be done," said Ban, citing governance, property, territory and citizenship.
Cyprus is home to one of the world's oldest UN peacekeeping forces, which polices a buffer zone that splits the island.
The south is populated by Greek Cypriots, who represent the island internationally, and the north by Turkish Cypriots who run a state only recognized by Turkey. The seeds of division were sown in the 1960s, when Turkish Cypriots left a power-sharing administration amid a constitutional crisis, just three years after independence from Britain.
The split has been thrown into sharper focus this year after Greek Cypriots launched exploratory drilling for natural gas off its southern shores, though the issue did not come up in peace talks, diplomats said.
Turkey warns the move will harm talks and says that any potential hydrocarbon wealth belongs to both communities on the island. Greek Cypriots counter it is their sovereign right to explore for hydrocarbons, and imminently plan a new licensing round to auction off exploration plots south of the island.
Quake Response Proves Brotherhood, Turkish Prime Minister Says
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leaders have hailed the outpouring of solidarity after the earthquake in Van as proof of strong bonds between Turks and Kurds -- and a blow to those harboring separatist ambitions.
"The decades-old attempts to incite hostility among our people and tear them apart have been buried under the rubble in Van," Erdoğan said in his party's parliamentary group meeting. "If 80 provinces across Turkey have mobilized all efforts for their brothers in Van, it shows how morbid this [terrorism] ploy is."
A fundraising campaign for Van has collected 118 million Turkish Liras, including a $ 50 million donation from Saudi Arabia, Erdoğan said, adding that the money would be spent mostly on accommodation for the quake victims.
The prime minister also condemned the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, for declaring three days of mourning for militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, killed in a Turkish military offensive, saying the move showed their lack of commitment to the relief effort in Van. He also condemned a deadly suicide bombing in the eastern province of Bingöl in the wake of the earthquake.
Erdoğan pledged that the struggle against the PKK "will not upset the balance between security and freedoms."
"There will be no turning back to the 1990s," he said. "The security forces are showing the utmost care not to harm the people of the region. And their care is winning great appreciation in the region."
Despite lingering tensions with the government, BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak also praised the strong nationwide response to the quake.
"These days of disaster have shown that humanism is still a strong, promising sentiment across Turkey despite the presence of fascists and racists," she said.
MHP Outraged Over Barzani Visit
The opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli lauded similar praise for the aid campaign for Van, but raised harsh objections to an upcoming visit by Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.
"Our nation's solidarity and the way everyone shared the grief has resulted in a spectacular portrait of unity. The aspirations of those who are trying to separate us have been drowned in the deep waters of the Van Lake," Bahçeli told his parliamentary group Tuesday.
Bahçeli questioned whether the government was planning a secret deal to lure the PKK into laying down arms, referring to Barzani's three-day visit, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
"What will they solve through meetings? What concessions will that open the door for? How can you talk with these people when Barzani is supporting terrorists and protecting their camps? We all know of his villainy that has contributed to our defeats." he said.
Barzani Ready to Talk about PKK, KRG Minister Says
Safeen Dizayee, Minister of Education in the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, in northern Iraq, has said they are ready to talk about solutions to the terrorism problem during KRG leader Massoud Barzani's visit to Turkey this week.
Barzani was expected to arrive in Turkey Wednesday and is set to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on Nov. 5.
Barzani's visit comes at a time of increased pressure from Turkey on the KRG regarding the infiltration of Turkey's southern borders by militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, based in the mountainous areas of northern Iraq.
Ahead of Barzani's visit, Dizayee attended an international conference in Istanbul Tuesday titled "The Istanbul Forum."
Not only Turkey, but also the KRG is affected by the PKK problem in the region, Dizayee said.
"For the last couple of years numerous operations against the PKK have been conducted, but the PKK problem still exists. We are ready to talk about solutions, it is an open agenda, we can talk and discuss, but we see the solution inside Turkey," he said.
'We Advised Syrian Kurds'
Dizayee said they have advised the Kurds in Syria "to keep a low profile" during anti-regime protests in the country.
"The Kurds in Syria have been relatively quiet as a result of the developments in Syria. We have advised them to keep a low profile. However, they are also part of the reform process," he said.
There is a very low chance that the Syrian administration might be using the PKK card against Turkey, he said.
"The Syrian regime does not have influence on the PKK anymore as it once did in the past. I don't think the relation is totally eradicated, but it is not like it was," Dizayee said.