Syrian border guards blocked an infiltration attempt from Turkey by about 35 "armed terrorists," the official Syrian news agency SANA said on Tuesday, as Syrian forces battle a growing threat from army defectors and rebel fighters.
SANA said some of those who came over the border were wounded and escaped back to Turkey where they received aid from the Turkish army. The wounded were transported in Turkish military vehicles, SANA said.
Relations between Syria and Turkey have disintegrated since the government of President Bashar al-Assad began using force to suppress a popular revolt. Turkey has said a buffer zone may be required on its 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria if the violence causes a mass exodus of Syrians fleeing the cities.
A rebel Free Syrian Army of defectors and al-Assad opponents is believed to be smuggling fighters and weapons into Syria from Turkey to launch attacks on al-Assad's forces.
"The border guards' forces suffered no injuries or losses. They warned they would stop anyone who even thinks of touching Syria's security or its citizens," SANA said.
The agency earlier reported the funerals of seven army and police members killed in fighting with armed rebels. Syria says the latter are "terrorists" organized and financed from abroad.
Clashes erupted on Tuesday between army defectors and security forces in the town of Dael in southern Deraa province, the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"There were raids and arrests ... and random gunfire and stun grenades exploding to terrify the people," it said. All phone lines and mobile phone connections were cut off.
What began nearly nine months ago as a peaceful protest against al-Assad, inspired by the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, has moved closer to civil war as armed opposition groups organize and protect city districts.
The United States, the European Union, Turkey and Jordan have called on al-Assad to step down in order to bring the violence to an end and permit democratic elections for a new government in Syria, where the al-Assad family has ruled for 40 years.
At least 4,000 people have been killed in the unrest, according to the United Nations. About a quarter of them were from the security forces, according to activists.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have stalled and Syria is now the target of international economic sanctions and a travel ban on VIPs close to the regime. Syria has said it may sign up to a peace plan by the 22-state Arab League which calls for forces to be withdrawn to barracks and Arab observers allowed into the country.
But it says, as a precondition, the Arab League would have to revoke economic sanctions it imposed earlier this month and unblock Syria's frozen membership of the League.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby suggested on Tuesday holding an urgent meeting at ministerial level to evaluate Syria's position. No date was proposed.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to meet members of the opposition movement for talks later on Tuesday in Geneva, her second meeting with al-Assad's opponents since the unrest began in March.
She will meet Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun, who has said a post-al-Assad Syria would align itself with the Arab League and the Gulf, and end its special relationship with Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
EU Foreign Ministers Receive Turkey's Decision to Freeze Relations with 'Sadness'
European Union foreign ministers received Turkey's decision to freeze relations with the Greek Cypriot term presidency in the second part of 2012 with "sadness" and expressed that the term presidency implementation took place based on the EU constitution.
Although not present on the draft document presented by the EU Commission, the EU foreign ministers decided to respond to Turkey's decision to freeze relations with the EU during the Greek Cypriot term presidency and adopted Greek Cypriot arguments concerning drilling activities in the Mediterranean.
The EU supported the Greek Cypriots in their unilateral drilling activities in the Mediterranean and made a call on Ankara to refrain from all activities that would cause tension with an EU member country.
In their decision, the EU foreign ministers said they felt sadness over Turkey's not fulfilling its obligations, stemming from the Additional Protocol, and not opening its ports to the Greek Cypriots.
The foreign ministers noted that Turkey had not made any progress in normalizing relations with the Greek Cypriots and they expected progress in the matter without more delays.
Veterans Raid Libyan Consulate in Istanbul
Some 20 anti-Gadhafi fighters brought to Turkey for medical treatment raided the Libyan Consulate General in Istanbul Monday, while another group of Libyan veterans attempted to infiltrate the Libyan Embassy in Ankara.
The Libyan veterans who occupied the consulate general in Istanbul's Gümüşsuyu district were later taken into custody by law enforcement officials, after the consul general and security forces managed to persuade protesters to call off their act.
The incident in Ankara also ended peacefully, as embassy officials succeeded in talking the veterans out of the stand-off, according to reports. Both Libyan groups allegedly decided to initiate the raids after financial assistance to them was cut off from Libya.
When the Libyan veterans in Ankara attempted to enter the embassy, police officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and refused to let them inside. Following the arrival of dozens of police officers to the scene, however, embassy officials eventually agreed to meet three individuals from the group.
The incident ended when the veterans finally left the embassy.
The news comes after an assailant of Libyan origin was captured dead by security forces in Istanbul's Topkapı Palace Museum last week after he wounded two security personnel and initiated a gunfight lasting about one and a half hours.
To date, more than 1,800 Libyans have received medical treatment in Turkey for injuries they received in recent conflict that saw the downfall of strongman Moammar Gadhafi, according to figures provided by Libyan Minister of Martyrs, Wounded and Missing People Abdurrahman el-Kisa.
Match-Fixing Bill Causes Friction Between Parties
Turkey's President Abdullah Gül and government appear headed for a collision over a controversial bill reducing penalties for match-fixers, as the ruling party has openly ignored Gül's advice to find a balance between the crime and punishment.
Parliament was scheduled to discuss the bill at the Justice Commission Wednesday, and will likely vote on it Dec. 11, in an obvious challenge to Gül, who vetoed the legislation late last week on the grounds that it hurt the people's conscience.
Opposition parties stood behind the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, on the matter, arguing that it was protecting the will of the Parliament, but some observers speculated that their stance stemmed from a desire to drive a wedge between Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
"We are in favor of resending the bill without any changes to the Presidency. There is nothing for us to change concerning this bill," Nurettin Canikli, a deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, told reporters Monday. "We have no indication that our president would take the bill to the Constitutional Court," he said, hinting that they expected the president to approve it.
The Hürriyet Daily News has learned that Canikli's statement came only after he consulted with Erdoğan, who is recovering after a serious Nov. 26 surgery. Erdoğan also recently met with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç to discuss the developments.
Parliament's three biggest parties approved the bill reducing penalties for match- fixers in the wake of a probe that was launched in July and resulted in 31 football figures being jailed pending trial. If the amendments to the law had been accepted, jail sentences of five to 12 years for rigging matches would have been reduced to one to three years. Gül's veto inflamed a political debate in the capital, causing a deep rift between the president and his former political party for the first time.
Erdoğan favored Parliament's stance on the law, according to the AKP's deputy group chairmen, the Daily News has learned.
CHP, MHP Back AKP
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, also said they would join the AKP in resending the law without any amendments.
CHP Deputy Chairwoman Emine Ülker Tarhan said there was an imbalance between the crime and the punishment according to the current law.
"There may be an 18-year sentence due to a sports-related crime, which is against the public conscience. I'm standing behind my signature," she said.
MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli also said they would support the bill if it were brought to Parliament again.
"We can't accept the national will to be weakened. We expect the same determination and approach from other parties. The AKP and the main opposition party should remain faithful to their decision as well," he said at his party's group meeting at Parliament.
Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş, however, announced plans to oppose a reduction in the penalties for match fixers. The BDP will vote against the bill if it is brought to the General Assembly, Demirtaş said.
Parties Plan to Ratify Vetoed Match-Fixing Law
Three political parties represented in Parliament said on Tuesday that they favor the approval of a law calling for shorter jail terms for match-fixers for a second time in Parliament without any changes, despite President Abdullah Gül's veto of the law last week.
The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Nurettin Canikli said there is still consensus among political parties in Parliament regarding the law, which was passed late last month. Stating that Gül's veto "reflects his own opinions," Canikli said the AKP wants to bring the law to Parliament for a second time without any changes after Gül's veto.
"We as the AK Party group are in favor of sending the law to [the] Çankaya [presidential palace] as is," he said.
If the law is approved in Parliament for a second time, the president has no authority to veto it again, but can take it to the Constitutional Court for annulment. The bill, drafted through consensus among parliamentary group deputy chairmen of all political parties in Parliament, calls for shorter prison terms for individuals convicted of match-fixing, who can currently receive a maximum of 12 years in prison. The bill aimed to reduce the maximum sentence to three years.
The bill was prepared amid a major match-fixing probe currently under way in Turkey. The investigation concerns allegations that some club officials and footballers rigged games in the Spor Toto Super League (first division) and the Bank Asya League 1 (second division).
The president vetoed the law on the grounds that the sentences spelled out in the new law were not deterrents and that it was wrong to amend the law soon after the beginning of a match-fixing probe.
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, also announced full support for the government's planned move to refer the amendment back to Parliament without changes.
"I have reviewed the text of this law, commonly called the match-rigging law, through the eyes of a jurist. I stand by my signature," CHP parliamentary group Deputy Chairwoman Emine Ülker Tarhan said on Tuesday. She said the principle of proportionality between the offense and the crime, the reason Gül cites for sending the amendment back, had been observed in the vetoed law.
CHP Deputy Chairman Erdoğan Toprak also made a statement, claiming that the veto might spell the start of a chaotic era in Turkish football.
"Today, our football suffers from ambiguity and low morale, which gets worse with every passing day. The [adoption of the law] took place with the consensus of all the parties in Parliament. Later, this law was referred to as the 'match-fixing law' to purposefully mislead public opinion," Toprak said, adding that the claim that the amendment was specifically intended to rescue the individuals currently in jail as a result of the match-rigging probe had no basis.
Opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli also spoke on the veto, strongly criticizing Gül's decision. He also said his party will support the ratification of the law without changes.
"If the law is brought to Parliament again without any changes, we will stand behind our words," Bahçeli said on Tuesday during his party's parliamentary group meeting.
However, the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, said they backed the president's veto decision, saying they wouldn't allow any "fixing" in Parliament about match-fixing. BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş said if the law is referred back to Parliament without any changes, they will vote against it.
Demirtaş claimed that the changes were the result of political maneuvers.
"Behind this are people who might not be parties to the ongoing trial right now; there are ties to politics and politicians. The prosecutors conducting this investigation should do their best to take this to the end," he said.
EU Minister Bagis Departs for Denmark
Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis departed from Istanbul on Tuesday and is on his way to Denmark where he will hold bilateral talks.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport prior to his departure, Egemen Bagis said that "the EU would not be the only topic on our agenda in Denmark. We will discuss cooperation against the terrorist organization PKK."
Denmark will assume the EU term presidency in January. We believe that it is the right time to share Turkey's sensitivity on the EU with Danish officials. We will meet with the representatives of the Turkish community living in Denmark, Bagis said.
"Surely, the EU will not be the single topic on our agenda. We will discuss cooperation against the terror organization PKK in Denmark," Bagis said. "We will bring up the activities of Roj TV that calls on people to be a part of the PKK terror. I believe that the Danish judiciary is also working on Roj TV. Our current trip to Denmark would be beneficial for Turkey at a time when a court case against Roj TV continued."
Bagis will meet Danish Minister of European Cooperation Nicolai Wammen.
Bagis will deliver a speech at a conference titled "EU-Turkey relations and Danish Term Presidency." Bagis will meet the Danish Speaker of Parliament Mogens Lykketoft.
U.S. Energy Companies to Hold Talks in Turkey
A United States delegation consisting of representatives of 17 companies headed by Francisco J. Sanchez, the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, will hold talks in Turkey regarding business opportunities with Turkish companies until Dec. 9.
The delegation will hold talks in the western province of Izmir on Wednesday and in Istanbul on Dec. 8 and 9. The U.S. companies are operating in the areas of solar energy, renewable energy and energy productivity.
Arab Natural Gas Pipeline Project Will Continue, Energy Minister Says
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz said Tuesday that the Arab Natural Gas Pipeline Project would be kept out of the political tension in Syria and would continue.
Speaking in a live program on Haberturk TV Channel on Tuesday, Yildiz said that the Arab Natural Gas Pipeline Project involved Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Project will be kept out of the political developments in Syria and will go on, Yildiz noted.
"This is a project that would benefit the whole region. We may send natural gas to Syria and Lebanon via Turkey," he said. "At the present time, four billion cubic meters of natural gas comes from Egypt. However, as countries' demand for natural gas increases with time, we may need to send natural gas ourselves. Energy issues are not part of the sanctions against Syria."
The Arab Gas Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline in the Middle East. It exports Egyptian natural gas to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with a separate line to Israel. It has a total length of 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) at a cost of $1.2 billion.