The Istanbul public prosecutor's office called in today the chief of Turkey's National Intelligence Agency, or MİT, Hakan Fidan, to testify as a suspect in the ongoing case into the Kurdistan Communities Union, or KCK, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Fidan's predecessor, former MİT Undersecretary Emre Taner, and his assistant, Afet Güneş, were also requested to testify. The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Fidan was known for secretly holding talks with PKK representatives in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. Asked of the allegations, Istanbul Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı said he had no
knowledge of such a request.

Çolakkadı said a prosecutor would have informed the public prosecutor in case of such an incident, but he was not notified of a request for testimony.

"If he [MİT chief Hakan Fidan] was called in, it was done without my information," he said.

When asked if a prosecutor could have requested Fidan's testimony without his consent, Çolakkadı replied "it depends on whether the prosecutor deemed the incident important enough to notify me."

Acting specially authorized prosecutor Fikret Seçen said such a thing "did not happen" when asked if Fidan was called in to testify as a suspect.

CHP Head Accused of International Smear Campaign

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed Tuesday that the main opposition leader was at the forefront of "a very ugly and dangerous campaign to smear Turkey," backed by foreign circles, and vowed further efforts to counter criticism of his government's commitment to democracy.

Erdoğan argued that the actual intention of Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was to discredit the court case into the purported Ergenekon network, which allegedly sought to foment chaos and pave the way for a military coup.

"We will struggle against this black propaganda. We will tell the whole world over and over again that not journalists and writers, but people who plotted a military coup and engaged in terrorist activities are in jail," Erdoğan told his Justice and Development Party's, or AKP, parliamentary group. "We have a situation here that Western intellectuals have never experienced. In the West, journalists do not take part in coup plots, they do not write books to lay the ground for coups."
The government has been on the offensive amid mounting international criticism over the imprisonment of journalists, which culminated with American author Paul Auster's refusal to visit Turkey.

"If that writer [Auster] responds to the CHP's invitation and comes to Turkey, let them go together also to Israel and picnic at a hill overlooking Gaza," Erdoğan said, as he renewed accusations that Auster was speaking out against Tukey but turning a blind eye to Israel's oppression of the Palestinians.

In further remarks, Erdoğan brushed aside accusations that his remarks in favor of raising a "pious generation" confirmed that the AKP has a "secret agenda" for Turkey. He called the wave of criticism "stale" and likened it to secularist alarm that preceded the "post-modern coup" in 1997 and the closure case against the AKP in 2008.

"We are against social engineering. We are against the state standardizing and shaping minds. But we are also against fiats on children by parents who want to raise their offspring as atheists," he said.

He argued that practicing Muslims were oppressed, humiliated and reduced to "second-class citizens" in Turkey in the past.

"We are not interested in measuring piety. But how did you measure secularism for decades?" he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu Tuesday stood behind his description of Erdoğan as "a post-modern dictator" as he continued to take aim at the premier. "Never before a prime minister has been so detached from democratic culture, science and morals," he said to his party's parliamentary group.

Kılıçdaroğlu suggested that Erdoğan's resentment with Auster could have been compounded by the writer's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and his praise for Turkey's secularist founding father Atatürk.

Also targeting the AKP, Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli said that the ruling party was damaging Turkey's unity. "Faith peddling, religion-mongering is the product of this process," he said.

Top Turkish Soldier Meets Azeri President

Chief of the Turkish Military Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel on Tuesday met with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

In his first foreign visit after assuming office as the top commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, Ozel met with Aliyev at the Zagulba Palace in capital Baku. Sources said the meeting had affirmed that Turkish-Azeri relations continued to develop in military field along with all other areas.

Ozel also met with Azeri Defense Minister Sefer Abiyev, discussing relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as the Upper Karabakh problem.

The Turkish general is expected to meet on Wednesday with Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Parliament Speaker Oktay Esedov.

Azeri, Iranian Gas Supply Failure Fuels Shortage Concerns

The flow of natural gas to Turkey from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field, the largest in the Caucasian country, via the South Caucasus gas pipeline, stopped on Tuesday, raising fears among Turks at a time when the demand for the natural gas is rising and gas supply from major providers, such as Iran, is declining.

The interruption of natural gas was the result of a technical issue and will be quickly solved, said Kenan Yavuz, CEO of the energy consortium Socar-Turcas, jointly operated by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, or SOCAR, and Turkey's Turcas, shortly after the news hit online media outlets.

"It will be fixed by the midnight [on Tuesday] or Wednesday at the latest," he said.

Bagis Defiant on Genocide Denial Stance

Turkey's European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis reiterated his denial of Armenian genocide allegations Tuesday in a further challenge to Swiss authorities, who are investigating whether similar comments made last month broke the law.

Bağış said Swiss prosecutors should not lose any time in determining whether he made the comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos and at a concert in Zurich.

"I said there on that day that what happened in 1915 was not genocide and I repeat that today. Nobody should doubt that I will give the same answer every time I am asked," Bağış said in a news conference. "I don't recognize any power that can detain any minister of the Turkish Republic. I am very much at ease on this subject."

Turkey summoned the Swiss ambassador on Monday to complain about the decision by Swiss officials to investigate the EU minister's comments.
"If necessary I will go again to Davos and say the same thing," he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sought to play down the preliminary investigation against Bağış, saying it was a routine procedure launched upon complaints by Swiss Armenians.

"The inquiry was opened following an application by an Armenian association. In Turkey too, a preliminary enquiry is conducted when anyone goes to court," the minister told reporters.
He said the attitudes of the Swiss and French governments on punishing the denial of the Armenian "genocide" were completely different.

"In France, there is a government supporting the law," he said, adding that the Swiss government had opposed a court ruling that convicted Turkish politician Doğu Perinçek there for denying that genocide took place.

"Switzerland has shown that it stands against that by lending support for the creation of a joint history commission with us," Davutoğlu said.

The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, also gave her support to Bağış Tuesday, after they met in Brussels. Oomen-Ruijten said everyone must have freedom of expression.

Bağış was expected to meet European Parliamentary President Martin Schulz, Socialist Group leader Hannes Swoboda and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Brussels. Bağış is also expected to have a meeting with European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle and European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia.

Last month, the French Senate approved legislation criminalizing the denial of the 1915 events as genocide, prompting an angry response from Turkey. Meanwhile, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would not recognize any genocide by law other than the Holocaust, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Syrian President at Dead End, Erdogan Says

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is walking down "a dead-end street" and will inevitably be held accountable for his actions in suppressing anti-government protests, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Tuesday.

Erdoğan also said Turkey was preparing for a new initiative on Syria with the broader international community to stand up to Damascus.

"We will launch a new initiative with countries that stand by the Syrian people instead of the regime," Erdoğan told his deputies during a parliamentary meeting. Turkey will continue to support the efforts of the Arab League, he said without providing details.

Erdoğan denounced Russia and China for vetoing a recent United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, saying they had given al-Assad a "license to kill."

"The people of Syria are not an ordinary people for Turkey," he said. "You can see traces of a common history in Syria in every square meter of land."

With the failure at the United Nations Security Council, Turkey has moved to enhance the Arab League's efforts as part of the "international community's conscience," a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News Tuesday, adding that the initiative did not include military action.

There are different ideas in the international arena, such as the "friends of democratic Syria," and Turkey's move was not an alternative but a parallel effort to those, the diplomat said.

"There is a need for a broader platform on the Syrian issue, including more than just regional countries, the Arab League and Turkey," another Turkish official told the Daily News.

Turkey is maintaining diplomatic contacts with key international actors and institutions that could be involved in the initiative, and the goal of the initiative is different to the one in Libya or Iraq as it did not aim at changing the Syrian regime or launching a military operation, the official said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will travel to the United States Wednesday for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton said Sunday that the U.S would work with other nations to try to tighten sanctions against al-Assad's government.

She has called for the "friends of democratic Syria" to unite and rally against al-Assad's regime, hinting at the possible formation of a group of like-minded nations to coordinate assistance to the Syrian opposition from outside the UN.

Turkey Offers Gulf 'Perfect Match-Up'

Joint investments between Turkey and the Gulf states are crucial as they will benefit all parties concerned, Turkish leaders said Tuesday during the Turkey-Gulf Business Council Forum in Istanbul.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said there were plenty of opportunities for both sides in the energy, tourism, health and agricultural sectors and called the relationship "something like a perfect match-up."

Şimşek said Gulf countries would have to export more than just gas and natural gas due to their substantial current account surpluses and that over the next 10 years they would have a current account surplus of roughly $5 trillion. As such, Turkey and the Gulf countries should sign a free-trade agreement as soon as possible, he said.
The Union of Chambers Commodities and Exchanges, or TOBB, President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu also said in his speech that no one should look at this as a one-way investment, but rather as an opportunity for joint investments in areas like energy, construction and animal husbandry.

"Let's make investments together," Hisarcıklıoğlu said. "You have the money, but we have the courage."

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in his speech that Turkey and the Gulf countries needed to build a railway line to connect them to each other.

"Such a rail line would not only shorten the distance between our countries, but also link the Gulf with Europe and Central Asia," Babacan said. The minister's statement was a reference to the historic Hejas railroad built in early 20th century, which ran between Damascus and Medina.

In 2002, the trade volume between Turkey and the Gulf states was $1.5 billion, Babacan said, but noted that it had increased to $11.9 billion in nine years. Still, the deputy prime minister said, the number was too low given the countries' enormous potential.

"We have to sign a free trade agreement as soon as possible to increase our trade flow and reach our potential," Babacan said, echoing Şimşek's calls.

He also said that the government was working on a more flexible legal framework to make it easier for foreign nationals to purchase real estate in Turkey. In doing so, Babacan added that they planned to export of rental certificates, an Islamic banking sukuk instrument, to minimize risks and widen the Treasury's investment base.

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