Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday maintained that Turkey would remain undivided on the path to a brighter future free from terror, as the country commemorated Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic, on the 73rd anniversary of his death.
Quoting Atatürk's speech from 1927, Erdoğan emphasized that Turkey would stand unified in the face of terror and will only grow stronger through a new, more democratic and liberal constitution.
"No one should have doubts that the Republic is in the right hands," Erdoğan said, speaking at a conference at the National Library."Every person in this country is a first-class citizen. We will not accept or allow any sort of separation, inequality or injustice.
"It is thus our greatest desire to create a constitution that brings the individual and their liberties to the forefront while fortifying the unity of the country. This is the only way we can eliminate terror," he said. "As long as this nation continues to embrace each other in dialogue, friendship and sincerity, as it has done throughout history, terror and those who use it as a tool will once again be disappointed."
Quoting Atatürk's book, "Nutuk," Erdoğan said these words made a particularly significant point:
"Our nation, insisting on unity and ambitions, will make any proud and violating enemy regret their pride and violation. As 74 million Turkish citizens, we will continue insisting. We will never compromise our freedoms, basic rights, and advanced democratic standards. We will not recognize factions and plots," Erdoğan said.
President Abdullah Gül also referred to the new constitution in his speech at the National Library, promising that the new document would reinforce the core beliefs set out by Atatürk.
"It is our main priority to bring to life the structural reforms that will carry the country to the future through this period. Creating a new and more liberal constitution in the direction of the expectations of the citizens will strengthen our country," Gül said.
The first ceremony commemorating Atatürk was held at Anıtkabir in Ankara. State officials, under the direction of Gül, laid wreaths at Atatürk's mausoleum at 9:05 a.m., the exact moment of his death in 1938, followed by two minutes of silence. As tradition, flags were lowered throughout the country, with traffic coming to a halt and citizens honked their horns to mark the moment.
Also in attendance at Anıtkabir were Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Prime Minister Erdoğan, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Constitutional Court head Haşim Kılıç, Supreme Court of Appeals head Nazım Kaynak, State Council head Hüseyin Karakullukçu, commanders of the Armed Forces, Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli and Ankara Mayor Alaaddin Yüksel.
BDP in Crucial Meeting on KCK Operations
The Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, will hold a key meeting on Friday to produce a "roadmap" for laying out the strategy it will adopt in the face of large-scale police operations against the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, during which many BDP members were arrested and put behind bars.
Turkish prosecutors say the KCK is an umbrella organization that includes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and others affiliated with it. On Nov. 3, the BDP announced that its provincial presidents, mayors and party council members would attend a series of meetings to take place in the Kurdish-dominated Diyarbakır province.
The BDP says the KCK operations are a way for the government to crack down on Kurdish politicians. It asserts that the operations target BDP members and seek to silence the Kurdish opposition. Prosecutors say the KCK is an attempt to form an alternative state and that it often intimidates and even terrorizes the citizens of Turkey's east and southeast.
The meetings will last for three days. In addition to the KCK, the meetings will see the start of a new party membership campaign and the filing of a criminal complaint against Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, whose recent remarks portrayed, according to BDP officials, their party as a criminal organization. The results of a meeting between a BDP delegation and Iraq's Kurdish leaders will also be discussed during the meeting.
Hundreds have been detained in the operations against the KCK, including publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and constitutional law Professor Büşra Ersanlı, who both taught classes at the BDP's Politics Academy, a training workshop for young members. Their detentions and subsequent arrests have sparked outrage and frustration both at home and abroad.
Solve Political Disagreements Diplomatically, Talabani Tells BDP
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has advised Turkey's Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, to work toward a political solution to their disagreements with the government over the fight against terror and the Kurdish question and to take an active role in preparing the new charter.
The BDP delegation made up of BDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak and Democratic Society Congress, or DTK, heads Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk visited Talabani late Nov. 9. Solutions for the Kurdish issue, putting an end to cross-border operations, stopping Kurdistan Communities Union, or KCK, arrests and ending the isolation of Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, leader Abdullah Öcalan were discussed during the visit.
The delegation was said to have asked Talabani to help mediate between the BDP and the Turkish government regarding these issues in order to find a political solution. The main message Talibani gave the BDP was to solve the PKK issue through peace, not military intervention and cross-border operations.
"We do not support any solution that involves guns," Talibani reportedly told the BDP leaders. "The Kurdish people can no longer achieve anything with guns. The PKK needs to declare a permanent cease-fire"
Speaking for the delegation was Ahmet Türk, who told Talibani they too wanted a permanent cease-fire, but that the Turkish government had failed to keep its promises.
"They are not giving us the chance to participate in politics," Türk reportedly said, citing the KCK case as the roadblock. "Otherwise, there is nothing preventing us from solving this issue during the new-constitution period. There are steps both the BDP and the government have to take."
In the meantime, the BDP plans to convene in Diyarbakır by next week to determine their road map. Party leaders will meet with provincial chairmen today, municipal mayors and the party assembly on Nov. 13.
The trials against the KCK started last year with 150 defendants, including influential Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir and many local politicians who support Kurdish rights, being put on trial.
Some 100 defendants have been under arrest for nearly 18 months. The case is in a deadlock because the court refuses to allow the suspects to give testimony in Kurdish.
Turkey Dives into Balkan Diplomacy Amid Violence
A silent and meticulous diplomacy between Turkey and Serbia is nearing an end to produce a blueprint for unifying divided Muslims living mainly in the Sandzak region of Serbia.
The diplomacy aimed at preventing Muslims from potential separation from the mainland with provisions that they will have special connections with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey.
"The purpose of our talks with the Serbian side is to establish an Islamic Union in this country, to gather Muslims living under one roof," a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Thursday.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will meet with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic on Saturday in Belgrade for their third meeting in the last three weeks.
Under the shadow of the ongoing Kosovo quagmire, potential problems erupting from Sandzak, which affect both internal stability of Serbia and already fragile ties with neighboring Bosnia, has not received much international attention.
Sandzak, composed by more than 60 percent of Muslim Bosniaks with some minor fundamentalist groups under the influence of Wahhabism, is seen as a potential headache for Serbia as these groups more loudly voice their demands of special autonomy or even of subordination to Bosnia. There are nearly 300,000 Muslims living in Serbia.
"That was Serbia who demanded Turkey's contribution to the solution of this issue," the diplomat said, adding that the entire process has been run by two foreign ministers in frequent head-to-head meetings. "Turkey sees the Sandzak region as a bridge of friendship with Serbia. That's why we have not hesitated in engaging in this process, which could bring stability and prosperity to this region and to Serbia."
Davutoğlu plays an important role due to his close relationship with both Yeremic and Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric of Bosnia, a very influential figure who could change the course of talks in the Sandzak region, especially with his statements that Muslims in Serbia and Bosnia will never be separated. He backed Muamer Zukorlic, Bosniak mufti of the Sandzak region.
The following are elements of a possible deal between Serbia and its Muslim communities, according to information obtained by the Daily News: The division among the Muslim groups will be ended by the establishment of the Islamic Communities Union of Serbia, which will introduce a sustainable organization. The state will not interfere in the Muslims' practices of their religion.
In this respect, Serbia will meet Muslim communities' need of worship through building mosques and will take steps to increase the living standards of this region, which is reported to be the least developed part of the country. Serbia will take steps to meet Muslim communities' regional, societal and political needs.
Apart from these aspects, the deal will also envisage a special connection between Serbian Muslims with Bosnia and Turkey due to their historical, religious and sociological ties.
Time is Right for Advancement
Given Serbia's thorough negotiations with the European Union to move forward in its bid to join the club in return for launching political dialogue with Kosovo, Turkish diplomats believed it was the right moment for advancing a solution on Sandzak.
Serbia will run for parliamentary elections in upcoming months, and there is an important rise in the estimated votes of nationalists, which risks killing off both the Kosovo and the Sandzak processes in the case of their victory.
"The EU process is very important for Serbia to keep on the track. A positive sign from the EU can change many things," the diplomats said.
Prime Minister Censor Motion Withdrawn
The main opposition announced that it has withdrawn a motion of censure against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over his accusations that some of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, municipalities have received funds from German foundations.
The CHP's decision to withdraw the motion was submitted to Parliament early Thursday. Erdoğan had accused some municipalities belonging to the CHP and the Peace and Development Party, or BDP, of receiving credit loans from German foundations that were later used by contractors close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
With the CHP's withdrawal, Parliament will discuss another motion submitted by the BDP against Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin on Tuesday.
CHP Leader to Visit North Cyprus
In a statement released yesterday, the CHP Press Office said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and his wife Selvi Kılıçdaroğlu, had been invited to the Republic Day ceremonies in Turkish Cyprus by Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu.
CHP Istanbul deputy Osman Korutürk, CHP council member Hüseyin Pazarcı and the party's executive assistant, Tuncay Ceylan, will accompany the Kılıçdaroğlu's. Turkish Cyprus was founded on Nov. 15, 1983. It is recognized by Turkey.
The Mediterranean island has been divided into the North and South since Turkish troops intervened in 1974, responding to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece. The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits. Numerous United Nations-mediated attempts at reunification have failed, but recently the leaders of the two sides of the island have been holding intense meetings in order to reach an agreement.
Prime Minister, Speaker of the House Secretly Meet
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek met with the ruling party brass led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Thursday.
There was no statement after the two-hour long meeting. Those attending included deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç and deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Mahir Ünal.
In the meantime, the office of the Parliament Speaker announced that Çiçek would meet with deputy parliamentary group leaders of all parties represented at the Parliament on Nov. 14 to discuss Parliament's legislative activities.
Turkish President Says New Liberalist Constitution will make Turkey Stronger
Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Thursday that a new and liberalist constitution would make Turkey stronger, adding that it was his top priority to implement structural reforms without any delay.
"A new and liberalist constitution, to meet expectations of the nation, will make Turkey stronger," Gül said during a ceremony in Ankara to commemorate Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Founder of Republic of Turkey, who died 73 years ago.
Gül said Ataturk had gained the respect of humanity with his pacifist and reformist characteristic's, as well as his achievements and ideas, and defined him as a leader beyond his age: a great genius, a realistic statesman and commander. Humanity was astonished at Ataturk's work, reforms and his fight to save the country and eulogize the nation, Gül said.
Gül also said it was the common aim of all Turkish executives to make Turkey one of the Top 10 giant economies in the world, turn the Turkey into a prosperous nation, complete full membership negotiations with the European Union, make Turkey a leader country with its economy, politics and military power, raise living standards of citizens to the highest level, broaden individual rights and freedoms, and to make Turkey a productive, rich, democratic and modern country.
Earlier the president, Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Republican People's Party, or CHP, Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as well as pillars of the state laid a wreath at Ataturk's Mausoleum--Anitkabir. They observed a minute of silence in Ataturk's respect at 9:05 a.m., when Ataturk passed away 73 years ago.
Born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, Ataturk was a Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, and Founder of Republic of Turkey, as well as its First President.
Ataturk became known as an extremely capable military officer during World War I. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, he led the Turkish national movement in the Turkish War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. His successful military campaigns led to the liberation of the country and to the establishment of Turkey.
During his presidency, Ataturk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms. An admirer of the Age of Enlightenment, he sought to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, democratic, and secular nation-state. The principles of Ataturk's reforms, upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as Kemalism.
Ataturk died on November 10, 1938 at the age of 57. On November 10, daily life and traffic stops at 9:05 a.m. for two minutes as sirens wailing and people observing two minutes of silence out of respect to Ataturk.
Fear, Fury After Second Earthquake in Van
Tempers flared Thursday after southeast Anatolia was hit by another deadly earthquake Wednesday, claiming the lives of eight and toppling dozens of buildings in the province of Van.
The 5.6-magnitude quake came just two weeks after a killer 7.2-magnitude quake hit the southeastern region and left more than 600 dead.
Frantic search operations continued Thursday as thousands more people were expected to have to spend another night outside in frigid temperatures. New rounds of aid, waves of rescue workers, and thousands of tents have been sent to the new quake zone. Meanwhile, quake survivors gathered outside the ruins of the city's famous Bayram Hotel, where Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and Van Gov. Münir Karaoğlu, who were in the region to visit victims of previous quake, came to view the aftermath of the second quake.
As the survivors started to shout for the governor to resign, police responded with tear gas and batons. The collapsed Bayram and Arslan hotels were the focus of rescue operations, as the other 25 buildings that fell down had been vacated after the last quake. Part of the reason for the protest was the continued use of the hotels and the lack of assessment reports despite the damage.
"Who is going to be held responsible for these deaths? The necessary assessment reports were not completed even after 17 days passed. Why were these people let in these buildings?" said Gülten Kışanak, co-chair of the opposition Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.