President Abdullah Gül criticized Israel on Wednesday, saying its "insincere" commitment to peace in the Middle East has alienated even allies of the Jewish state.
Gül, speaking at a British think-tank during an official visit to Britain, said Israel has become a burden on its allies because of its current policies, lamenting that it builds houses in east Jerusalem despite promises that it is committed to peace with Palestinians.
"Maybe not everyone says openly what they think, but you can hear it when microphones are accidentally left on," Gül said, apparently referring to a recent conversation between United States President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during which the French leader called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "liar."
"I can't stand him anymore, he's a liar," Sarkozy said. "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day," Obama replied. The exchange, overheard by journalists, took place during a G-20 summit in Paris earlier this month.
Gül said Israel must analyze the new situation in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions and called on the Jewish state to avoid policies that would antagonize neighboring Arab countries.
"A suppressed anger is surfacing. Therefore, Israel should really adopt a strategic stance and agree on a return to the 1967 borders," he said, referring to the boundaries that existed before a 1967 war Israel fought against several Arab states.
Gül also criticized Israeli domestic policies as "weird," saying a three percent election threshold allows too many parties into parliament, making the country "ungovernable."
Gul Warns Syria over Cross-border Raids
Ankara could be forced to launch a cross-border operation against Syria if Damascus were to allow the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to attack Turkey from its territory, President Abdullah Gül said during a state visit to Britain.
"I don't think the Syrian government would make that kind of mistake" in allowing the PKK to conduct attacks from the Arab republic's territory, Gül told The Guardian on Monday, adding that "terrorist groups" had been trying to sabotage the process of reforms in Turkey.
Gül's comments were part of a wider verbal attack against the Syrian regime, which cannot survive, according to the president.
"Unfortunately, Syria has come to a point of no return," Gül said during a speech in London at the Wilton Park conference, a forum of dialogue for leading opinion-makers.
At present, the whole region could be dragged into "turmoil and bloodshed" by the crisis, he said. "The Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people. Violence breeds violence."
Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the demands of the Syrian people, Gül said, adding that Turkey was trying to convince the Syrian regime to begin a democratic transformation.
He said the fate of Syria, where the risk of civil war is looming, was "important for the entire region since the country sits on top of sectarian fault lines.
Speaking after Monday talks with Gül, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We have had important discussions on Syria, where now a full-scale civil war is a real possibility."
Israel Risks Isolation
During his speech Monday, Gül also took aim at Israel, warning it of increased isolation if it maintained its present course of action.
As long as Israel does not respect international law and maintains an uncompromising attitude toward a fair, valid and comprehensive peace with the Palestinians, it will remain isolated, Gül said during a speech in London at the Wilton Park conference, a forum of dialogue for leading opinion-makers.
"I am calling on Israeli authorities to approach the peace process with a strategic mentality instead of tactical moves," he said. "Not everyone says what goes through his or her mind, but it is clear what [Israel's] loyal allies think about them when the microphone incident occurred," he said, referring to the recent "hot mic" gaffe at the G-20 summit earlier this month when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "liar."
Gül said Israel had not displayed an open-minded attitude during the peace process. Although Tel Aviv has said peace should be assured, it has contradicted itself by constructing mass housing units in the occupied territories, he said.
Meanwhile, answering a question on Iran's nuclear program, Gül said the issue should be solved through diplomatic means.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II hosted a dinner in honor of Gül and his wife, Hayrünnisa, at Buckingham Palace on Monday. Gül was scheduled to attend a luncheon at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and was also expected to attend an event hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Clarence House Hotel.
PKK Kills Three in Oil Field Attack in Southeastern Turkey
Alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, killed three people in an attack on an oil field in southeast Turkey overnight, security officials said Tuesday.
PKK militants shot dead two security personnel and an electrician as they got out of their vehicle at the Selmo oil field at Kozluk in Batman province Monday night, a officials said Tuesdays.
The Canadian firm Transatlantic Petroleum Ltd. operates the Selmo field and describes it as the second largest in Turkey. Transatlantic said in a statement it was working with local authorities to investigate the incident.
An air-backed operation was launched at dawn in pursuit of the PKK members, security officials said.
Batman Governor Ahmet Turhan said operations at the oil field were continuing.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984.
Turkey Strikes Oil, Gas Deal with Shell
Turkey has signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell for energy exploration and production sharing in the Mediterranean and southeastern Anatolia.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız rejected suggestions that the deal was in response to a Greek Cypriot and Israeli oil exploration off the coast of Cyprus.
"The deal is a result of technical work and has nothing to do with international speculation," Yıldız said at a ceremony Monday.
The agreement, which covers seismic research off the Mediterranean province of Anatolia, as well as onshore drilling work near the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, was signed between the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, and Shell.
According to TPAO General Manager Mehmet Usyal, seismic research will be conducted off Anatolia until 2014, after which exploratory drilling will begin. Shell and TPAO will share output equally if oil or gas is found.
Shell's Exploration and Production Chairman Malcolm Brinded, after identifying soil formation in Turkey's southeastern Anatolian region, said they would initially open five wells and could expand to more than 10 wells in the future.
Greek Cyprus signed a deal with the United States energy company, Noble, for exploratory drilling off the south coast of the island. Turkey retaliated by sending a ship to explore for gas in the Mediterranean after signing an accord with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot government angered Turkey further by seeking to extend cooperation with Israel in the exploration and export of natural gas.
Yıldız said the projects Israel and Greek Cyprus are maintaining in the eastern Mediterranean are against international law and all Cypriots should benefit from energy projects.
Prime Minister Issues First Official Apology for Dersim Killings
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized Monday "on the state's behalf" for the Dersim killings in the late 1930s, marking the first time a representative of the Turkish Republic has ever apologized for the attacks.
Erdoğan insisted that the Republican People's Party, or CHP, which ruled Turkey under a single-party regime at the time, was responsible for the military operation in the rebellious Alevi-populated region, the present-day province of Tunceli, and must apologize.
"If an apology is required on behalf of the state, and if such precedents exist, I am apologizing," Erdoğan said at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP. However, "if someone is to apologize for and face up to this tragedy, it is not the AKP and the AKP government but the CHP, the author of this bloody episode, as well as the CHP deputies and the CHP chairman who hails from Tunceli."
The CHP leader withheld any immediate reaction, but his aides promptly issued condemnations.
Doğu Ergil, a political scientist, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the apology was remarkable and that the prime minister should not stop at one apology.
"I wonder if Erdoğan would have done the same thing if the perpetrators had been close to his political views," he said. "And the debate should not be limited to Dersim killings. Turkey should apologize for the 1915 Armenian killings and the Sept. 6 and 7, 1955, events, which resulted in the mass exodus of minorities from the country."
Erdoğan slammed CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for likening his stance on the Dersim killings to the Armenian diaspora's "genocide" campaign, saying he would "put in his place" anyone who would make such a comparison.
Arguing that the bloodshed in Dersim reflected "the CHP mentality" of oppression, Erdoğan said the Dersim killings had been planned in advance "with all pretexts tailored," contesting the official history line that a rebellion prompted the crackdown.
He referred to an official report that called for "definitive action against the dangerous boil" of Dersim, a decade before the crackdown, and to papers that put the death toll at 13,800 in the period from 1936 to 1939, in addition to at least as many people forcefully resettled.
Kılıçdaroğlu withheld any immediate reaction, but his aides promptly issued condemnations as the issue continued to stir intra-party tensions.
In a surprise twist, the CHP provincial chairman in Diyarbakır, Muzaffer Değer, extended an apology to the Dersim people after Erdoğan's speech and urged his party to follow suit. But shortly afterward, a CHP statement said Değer had been removed from the post earlier in the day and his apology had no value on the party's behalf.
In Ankara, CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin said: "With his statements, rhetoric and language, the prime minister has placed dynamite at the foundations of our nation's unity."
"An apology into this massacre has been our demand for years, and this is progress," said Cemal Yücel, vice chairman of the Dersim Associations Federation. "The prime minister said archives are open, but the archive of the General Staff is not."
Yusuf Cengiz, head of the Tunceli Chamber of Industry and Commerce, agreed the CHP was responsible for the massacre.
"Erdoğan is not right to put the blame only on the CHP, since it was the sole political party at the time," Cengiz said. "The party meant the state. Both the state and the CHP should do their part for reconciliation."
'Miserable EU to be Led by Half State'
Turkish President Abdullah Gül slammed the prospect of Greek Cyprus taking over the European Union presidency next year as "half a country" leading a "miserable union," Turkish newspapers reported Monday.
His comments to Turkish journalists during a visit to Britain underscored Ankara's frustrations with its European Union accession process, which came to a standstill over the division of the Mediterranean island and opposition from France and Germany.
Gül said the failure to open new chapters in Turkey's negotiation process was harming the 27-nation bloc's reputation, possibly making it suffer its biggest loss of credibility in 2012, when Greek Cyprus takes over the rotating EU presidency in July.
"Now this half a country, this incomplete country will take over the EU presidency," Gül was quoted as saying by the Hürriyet Daily News. "There will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union. It is a miserable situation, [the EU] has to question itself. This is the most miserable situation that the EU could have been in."
Gül also said that almost all the chapters in Turkey's EU accession process cannot be opened, calling this disreputability for the EU. Meanwhile, Turkish Cyprus President Derviş Eroğlu said the EU would have to face its mistake when Turkey freezes relations with the governing body after Greek Cyprus takes over the EU presidency.