Turkey has opted to impose step-by-step sanctions on Syria over its brutal crackdown on an eight-month uprising that claimed thousands of lives as the Arab League endorsed a set of sanctions on Sunday to push the Syrian regime to stop its bloody crackdown.
Turkey says it will follow the Arab League sanctions but it failed to deliver its own sanctions despite Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's promise in September that Turkey will press ahead with sanctions on the Syrian regime.
Arab states agreed on Sunday to impose economic measures -- the toughest against a member state -- that include a travel ban on top Syrian officials and a freeze on assets related to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
"Turkey has taken up the issue of sanctions in line with the decision made by the Arab League on Sunday," İbrahim Kalın, Erdoğan's chief foreign policy adviser told a Turkish network on Monday. "We have been working on our own measures for a while. Our priority at this stage is that these measures are implemented as soon as possible."
Turkey fears its neighbor, and once-close friend, could descend into a sectarian civil war, but Erdoğan has run out of patience with al-Assad's repressive methods and has called on him to step down.
Earlier, Turkey ruled out that it would cut the electricity it shares with Syria out of humanitarian concerns, but said last week it might reconsider cutting power after pro-regime protesters stormed Turkish diplomatic missions across Syria and burned a Turkish flag.
Turkey is currently releasing an average 517 cubic meters per second instead of the required 500 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own energy needs in the process. But both Iraq and Syria accused Turkey of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. Any cut in water flow to Syria will also affect Iraq, wrecking swaths of farm land and threatening drinking water supplies.
Turkey previously threatened Syria with cutting water supplies in the early 1990s when Syria was believed to be abetting the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and tolerating PKK camps. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu categorically rejected last week that Turkey will consider cutting water to Syria.
Today's Zaman learned that the some of ministers had talks over the weekend to discuss possible sanctions on Syria which will be implemented step-by-step. Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan had talks with relevant ministers and bureaucrats. Turkey will adjust Arab League sanctions to itself and impose gradually. The sanctions will be imposed in a way that will not hurt Turkish economy or Syrian people.
After Erdoğan approves the sanctions, they will be put into play. Among the planned sanctions, there will be no water or electricity cut to Syria.
Land and air transportation from Turkey to Syria will continue by now, money transfers will be tightly monitored but assets of Syrian embassy will not be frozen. Turkey is also planning to freeze financial assets of Syrian regime in Turkish Central Bank without waiting a relevant United Nations decision.
Civilian flights will continue but the number of flights might be reduced gradually. Turkey will ban trading with Syrian state and leading members of the Syrian regime will be banned from traveling. But the Turkish government is still discussing who will be banned from traveling. It is expected that the ban will include only al-Assad family.
Turkey Says Syria Humanitarian Corridor is Not on Agenda
Turkey will follow the Arab League in imposing economic sanctions on Syria, but setting up humanitarian corridors on the ground to aid civilians is not on Ankara's agenda for now, an advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.
France has proposed the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to civilians in what would be the first international intervention on the ground in the poular eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
İbrahim Kalın, Erdoğan's chief foreign policy advisor, told A Haber TV in an interview that the idea was "not on the agenda right now."
The French idea is for a corridor that provides access from frontiers such as Turkey and Lebanon, or even to an airport where a plane could land or the coast where a ship could moor.
Aid agencies, like the International Red Crescent, would be expected to deliver aid to beleaguered towns and cities with non-armed monitors in place to see that the Syrian authorities did not interfere.
Turkey, with its 800-kilometer (500-mile) border with Syria, would provide a likely starting point for any such scheme. Turkey's priority, however, was implementing economic sanctions against al-Assad's government, Kalın said.
Arab states agreed on Sunday to impose economic measures -- the toughest against a member state -- that include a travel ban on top Syrian officials and a freeze on assets related to al-Assad's government.
"Turkey has taken up the issue of sanctions in line with the decision made by Arab League on Sunday. We have been working on our own measures for a while. Our priority at this stage is that these measures are implemented as soon as possible," Kalın said.
Kalın said the sanctions being weighed by Turkey, Syria's largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $2.5 billion last year, will not affect ordinary Syrians. He ruled out steps such as cutting water or electricity supplies to Damascus.
"These measures should be calculated, assessed, analysed in detail so as to prevent any harm to civilians, and to discourage the regime and those who carry these operations and resume killings," Kalın said.
He also said Turkey was reluctant to be sucked into military involvement in Syria, including setting up a buffer zone, although he did not rule it out if there was a mass influx of refugees across the border.
"Setting up a buffer zone is not on our agenda yet. The circumstances that require a buffer zone have not emerged yet," Kalın said. "To bring a buffer zone to the table, hundreds of thousands of people should start migrating into Turkey. The same goes for a military intervention. It will bring more harm than benefit."
Paris Invites Ankara to EU Meeting on Syria
A European Union decision on whether to invite Turkey to a key meeting on Syria will be critical in determining whether the bloc will become a "global power" or remain a "political dwarf," according to Turkish Foreign Ministry officials.
France announced Sunday that it suggested non-EU member Turkey be invited to a foreign ministers' meeting on the ongoing unrest in Syria because of Ankara's key role in the Arab republic's crisis.
"We are aware of the French initiative, but we have not yet received an official invitation. We have made it clear that we would join the meeting if the EU extends an official invitation," a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News Sunday afternoon.
Paris' invitation to Ankara is significant as France, along with EU heavyweight Germany, has long expressed skepticism at Turkey's bid to join the 27-member union.
There was no information on why the official invitation had not yet been extended to Turkey, although some said it might have been prevented by the Greek Cypriot government.
"There could be some resistance within the EU," said the official without further elaborating on the issue. "This will show whether the European Union is ready to become a global power or not."
Greek Cyprus often vetoes Turkish participation in the EU's foreign political meetings despite other member countries' willingness to bring Turkey to the table, especially at meetings on foreign policy issues.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was set to depart for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Monday where he will hold talks. In the event of an official invitation from the EU, however, Davutoğlu will head to Brussels from Jeddah to join the meeting, the official said.
During the EU meeting, ministers will listen to Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi's presentations on Syria. Turkey's participation in the meeting will be an important one in terms of creating more coordination between the 22-member Arab League, the EU and regional power Turkey, the Turkish official added.
"We have proposed that Turkey be invited to the foreign ministers' council to discuss the situation in Syria," French spokesman Bernard Valero said.
The French proposal is a product of growing cooperation between Ankara and Paris over the Arab Spring in recent months – especially after the unrest spread to Syria, in which both countries have special relations and interests. The idea of Turkish participation in the EU's meeting was born during French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's visit to Ankara, the official said.
The EU foreign ministers will discuss imposing more sanctions on Syria and revise ways to create a broader international consensus on the Syrian case.
Turkish Measures Await PM's Approval
Diplomatic sources said Turkey's own measures against Syria were drafted late on Sunday at a meeting and would be implemented following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's approval. The measures, described as "smart sanctions," aim solely to hurt the Syrian administration without affecting people's daily lives, according to officials.
Departing from the sanctions imposed by the Arab League, Turkey is not planning to suspend commercial flights to and from Syria and cut off the sale of electricity to its southern neighbor.
Turkey Could Bypass Syria for Regional Trade, Minister of Transportation Says
Turkey plans to bypass Syria for regional trade if conditions in the neighboring country deteriorate, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday.
"If conditions aggravate in Syria, we are planning to shift (road) transport to Iraq by opening new gates," Yildirim was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
Turkey's move comes after Arab foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to a list of sweeping sanctions designed to cripple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has defied international pressure to halt a bloody crackdown on protests.
Yildirim said the Arab sanctions against Damascus were not yet fully implemented.
"Turkey is supporting this work (Arab League decision) to some extent but our principle is that the restrictions to be imposed should never victimise the Syrian people," he warned.
Syria is a transit country for Turkey's trade with Middle Eastern countries. Turkey and Syria, once allies, abolished visa requirements in 2009.
Ankara has been increasingly strident in its criticism of the Syrian regime and has already halted joint oil exploration and threatened to cut electrity supplies.
EU Will Ask Turkey to Join, Ex-Official Says
Turkey has to forget about the European Union and continue doing things that are right for Turkey, said Richard Balfe, a former member of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary commission for more than 20 years and member of the European Parliament for more than 25 years.
"Turkey should make clear its interest to the EU and should look for a partnership, not for a supplicant," Balfe said in a Hürriyet Daily News interview. "[Turkey should] not always be saying 'please be kind to us.' Because, actually, the EU has too many problems and it will not be too many years before the EU is asking Turkey to join it."
Balfe came to Istanbul to attend a roundtable discussion organized by the Economic Development Foundation, or İKV. On the sidelines of the discussion, he said he would not be surprised if in 10 years the EU did not ask Turkey to join.
"After all, Turkey has a much younger population profile than most of Europe. And it is a dynamic country. I often am asking in Britain, 'Who else is going to pay for my pension if we do not let the Turks in?'" Balfe said.
Balfe also said he believed there was a level of hypocrisy in the EU's policies toward Turkey.
The EU had taken in many countries much weaker than Turkey, both economically and in terms of human and social rights, he said, and Bulgaria and Romania were way behind Turkey.
"If you look at Latvia, you have got a country with a large minority population of Russians who are denied all civil and political rights. So, suddenly the EU realized it has some countries in it that are fundamentally a long way behind Turkey," he said. "Even the EU has to stop occasionally and think how far hypocrisy can go."
Bagis Offers Taiwan Model for Northern Cyprus
Turkey offered to bow to European Union demands and open its ports, airports and airspace to Greek Cyprus under what it called a "Taiwanese-style" diplomatic arrangement to help drive Cypriot reunification talks that resumed Sunday under United Nations pressure for a breakthrough.
Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış said he believed a simple arrangement could help free up talks over the east Mediterranean island.
"The minute a British Airways, an Air France, a KLM, a Lufthansa plane lands at Ercan airport [in Turkish Cyprus], Turkey is ready to open all of her airports, seaports and air space to Greek Cypriot planes and vessels," Bağış said.
Turkish Cyprus in the north, recognized only by Ankara, has direct air links only with Turkey. It is also excluded from international sport, finance and trade. Greek Cypriots, who represent the whole of Cyprus in the EU, but whose authority is effectively confined to the island's south, fear any recognition of Turkish Cyprus as a state could make partition permanent.
"The fact that an Al Italia or an Air France plane is landing at Ercan would not mean they recognize [Turkish Cyprus]," Bağış said in an interview late Sunday. "This would be like the Taiwanese model – a trade relationship."
Many states, forced by Beijing to choose between mainland China and breakaway Taiwan, choose diplomatic ties with the former. But Taiwan retains international contacts on a trading basis.
It was the first time Turkey had officially invoked the "Taiwanese model," seeking explicitly to decouple such ties from any suggestion of diplomatic recognition. Greek and Turkish Cypriots were due to meet a UN special envoy Sunday for the first time since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summoned them to New York earlier this month to try to expedite a deal.
"Turkey has a 'Plan B,' Turkey has a 'Plan C,' a 'Plan D' and even a 'Plan F' [should talks to reunite the island fail]. But let's keep it to ourselves for now," Bağış said.
Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, said they would always be with Turkish Cyprus to overcome the unfair isolation, speaking at the Forum and Exhibition on Higher Education Services in OIC Member States that was held in the Turkish Cypriot city of Kyrenia.
Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu and Turkey's Ambassador in Nicosia Halil İbrahim Akça are attending the conference, which was co-organized by the OIC and the Turkish Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The forum will continue until Dec. 1.
Eroğlu said Turkish Cyprus wanted to cooperate with Muslim countries and his country's future lay in tourism, education and trade. He also called on Islamic countries for support in politics.
Prime Minister Made Detention Term Vow to EU, CHP Head Says
Turkey's government has promised European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle that it intends to shorten the country's lengthy detention periods, the main opposition has said following a meeting with the commissioner.
Füle reportedly criticized the long periods of imprisonment without conviction when he spoke to Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Brussels on Saturday, according to party sources.
The commissioner also described the negotiations between the EU and Turkey on the latter's accession to the bloc as a "disappointment."
"The AKP [Justice and Development Party] government does not have a constructive approach toward the EU," he was quoted as saying by CHP sources.
Füle called the CHP to maintain its contribution to the cross-party Constitution Conciliation Commission in Parliament, which has been tasked with drafting a new charter for Turkey.
"The CHP would make a great contribution to the freedom of speech and women's rights," the commissioner reportedly said.
Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, focused on the judiciary's transformation under 2010 constitutional amendments in the meeting with Füle. The CHP leader gave Füle a booklet in English titled "The Referendum of September 2010, Judicial Independence and the HSYK case," which aims to illustrate CHP assertions that the government has taken control of top judicial bodies.
The booklet, penned by the CHP Deputy Umut Oran, explained how the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutor, or HSYK, was transformed under a package of constitutional amendments approved in a Sept. 12, 2010, referendum.
The amendments "may be seen as more democratic than previous laws, but the HSYK lost credibility during the election of the new members," the booklet said, adding that a list of candidates, referred to as "the Justice Ministry list," was circulated among judges and prosecutors before the vote and that all who were laced on the list were eventually elected.
The booklet included quotes from Orhan Gazi Ertekin, the prosecutor who initially supported the amendments, but later wrote a book titled "The Problem of Justice Is Resolved," recounting how the government installed the candidates it favored at the HSYK.
"One of the most important statements showing the conditions and the perceptions regarding the HSYK elections is the statement of a senior and obedient judge: 'I would vote even for a donkey if it were nominated by the Justice Ministry,'" Ertekin was quoted as saying.
Dersim Is Not 'Material for Political Gain'
There is a great danger in converting the Dersim killings of 1938 into "material for political gain," according to two filmmakers best known for making a recent documentary about the massacre.
The issue has dominated Turkey's agenda for days after a Republican People's Party, or CHP, deputy from Dersim, now known as Tunceli, said republican founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was aware of the military attacks on the region, which killed thousands.
Last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized for the killings in the name of the state, but the debate and recriminations about who was responsible has continued to rage.
"We knew from the beginning that our documentary would provoke debate. We had not expected the issue would be discussed to this extent and cause such political uproar," Kazım Gündoğdu, the co-producer of "Two Locks of Hair: The Lost Girls of Dersim," recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and his family were also victims of the incident, Gündoğdu said, adding that he had conducted his own investigation into what happened. But "he concealed the truth when politics was in question because he is under pressure. Kılıçdaroğlu is denying his own reality," he said.
Despite the current debate, Erdoğan's "explicit" description of the event as a "massacre," is "extremely important," Gündoğdu said.
The two producers, Kazım and Nezahat Gündoğdu, have roots in Dersim. Since the start of their research in 2007, they have been uncovering stories of individuals who were forcefully removed from the area during 1938, as well as the stories of their families. Many of those displaced were girls.
Among others, the documentary features two women, Huriye and Fatma, both of whom are now past the age of 80. It depicts their removal by the military, their ensuing trauma and their loneliness before their eventual return to their homeland to be reunited with those they left behind.
Hamas Requests Mosques from Turkey
If Turkey accepts Gaza's offer, the first Turkish mosque in 161 years would be erected in Gaza. Officials of the Gazan administration said that they presented a project to Turkey for new mosques and the repairs of existing mosques.
The Gazan administration requested the repairs of 161 mosques that were damaged in the war of 2008-09; the administration also requested the reconstruction of 34 mosques that were completely destroyed.
An amount of $14.8 million is needed for the reconstruction of 34 mosques, and $180,000 is needed for the repairs of 20 mosques out of the 161.
Turkish Prime Minister in Good Condition After Surgery
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has undergone surgery on his digestive system and is now in good condition, his office announced Sunday.
Erdoğan completed a successful laparoscopic operation at Istanbul's Marmara University hospital on Saturday, the statement said; the prime minister will return to work after a period of convalescence to be determined by doctors.
Erdoğan was last seen in public on Friday, when he held prayers at a mosque in Istanbul.
The operation came two days after he addressed a meeting of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, where he extended an apology over the killing of thousands of Alevis in a 1938 military operation in Dersim, present day Tunceli, igniting a row over the role of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, in the atrocities.
He travelled to Istanbul that evening after a meeting with Qatar's prime minister.