Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced the Syrian government's brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests, describing them as "inhumane savagery," and called for the immediate establishment of humanitarian aid corridors in Syria to help civilians.
Erdoğan, addressing his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Parliament, also asserted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be held accountable for what he has done, unlike his late father Hafez al-Assad, who ordered massacres in Sunni cities during his rule.
"His father was not held accountable for his actions in this world. But his son will answer for the massacre," Erdoğan said. "The bloodshed in Syrian cities will not be left unaccounted for." Erdoğan, once a close ally of Assad, also said the Syrian regime should start implementing an Arab League plan, proposed in January. The plan calls on Assad to hand over power to a deputy and envisages the creation of a unity government as a prelude to early parliamentary and presidential elections in a plan compared to what happened in Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to hand over power after protests.
"Humanitarian aid corridors should be established immediately. The international community should impose pressure on the Syrian government so that aid can be delivered to the people of Syria, especially in Homs. The Arab League plan should be implemented without any more delay and further loss of lives," Erdoğan said.
The "Friends of Syria," a group of about 70 nations that gathered in Tunisia last month to discuss the situation in Syria, urged the Syrian authorities to allow "free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies" in areas worst hit by the conflict.
There has been talk of creating humanitarian aid corridors to help the Syrian population via alternative routes, including one running from the Turkish-Syrian border. But there are concerns that Syria will not allow the establishment of such corridors, making a sort of military intervention necessary.
Facing intense international pressure to grant access for aid, Syria allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to enter some neighborhoods of the battered city of Homs, but the aid group said on Monday that it could not get clearance from authorities to enter the hardest-hit district of Baba Amr.
Also on Monday, UN humanitarian affairs Chief Valerie Amos said the Syrian government had agreed to allow her to visit the country later this week after previously refusing to let her into the country at the expense of sharp international criticism.
Erdoğan also criticized the lack of international action against Syria, a criticism that appeared to be directed at Russia and China, which vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on Assad to leave power.
"I am calling on the countries that remain silent on massacres in Syria and the international organizations that are unable to produce a solution. A single drop of an innocent child's blood is above every strategy," he said.
Annan To Offer Assad 'Honorable Exit' Way
Veteran diplomat Kofi Annan, the United Nations' Arab League envoy for Syria, will offer "a last chance" to President Bashar al-Assad when he visits Damascus on Saturday, a Turkish diplomatic source said Tuesday.
The offer will give al-Assad the chance to "honorably exit the scene," the source told the Daily News. Annan will go to Damascus on the same day Russia joins an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.
The statement suggests that Saturday could be the last date to find a diplomatic solution.
Turkey also called for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor while the United States urged diplomacy to end Syria's violence.
Syria should immediately allow the opening of humanitarian aid corridors and the international community should place stronger pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday.
"The international arena should put pressure on the Syrian administration to distribute humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, particularly people in Homs," Erdoğan said, speaking to his deputies in Parliament. "The Arab League's plan should be implemented without losing more time or lives."
The prime minister "saluted" the Syrian opposition and warned al-Assad that he would pay for the current violence and his father's massacres in Hama.
"The world did not ask for an explanation from Bashar al-Assad's father, but it will ask for an explanation from Bashar al-Assad. This time, bloodshed in Syrian cities will not remain unanswered," he said.
Recalling that the Syrian administration was once more targeting its own people in front of the entire world's eyes, the prime minister accused the UN of being inefficient on the Syrian bloodshed. He also criticized those countries that remained silent on the situation, implying a rebuke to Russia and China for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution against the al-Assad regime.
"Unfortunately, the international community – particularly at the UN – is just watching what is going on in Syria," Erdoğan said.
Resolutions that were not adopted at the UN, and the hesitant approach of some countries, were strengthening the hand of the Syrian administration, even inciting it to stage more massacres, he said.
"I am addressing the entire world, and the countries that remain silent and indifferent and ignore or tolerate the massacre in Syria. I am also addressing international organizations, which cannot produce solutions to this crisis and which encourage its continuation," the prime minister said.
Main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the government's policy on Syria while speaking to CHP deputies. Suggesting that the turmoil in Syria was fast becoming a civil war, Kılıçdaroğlu said the situation was more complex than a simple government-opposition conflict.
"The AKP did not exercise prudence to prevent the turmoil in Syria. They expected a similar international intervention in Syria as happened in Libya. But the Western powers ignored military intervention in Syria," he said.
"The prime minister said 'push has come to shove' before," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "Now blood is being shed in Syria, and he is watching. Erdoğan is also responsible for this bloodshed […] He should take a lead to secure peace in Syria. Turkey, Russia and Iran should come together to secure peace in Syria. If Erdoğan can succeed in this, he would hold an important role in the region."
Turkish Airlines Connects Somalia to World With Regular Flights
Turkish Airlines started flights to Mogadishu this week, the first major international carrier to run a regular service to the Somali capital in more than two decades.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ flew into Mogadishu to launch the twice-weekly Turkish Airlines service to İstanbul via Sudan's capital Khartoum.
"Somalia was cut off but we have now connected it to the world," he told reporters at Mogadishu's airport on Tuesday. "We have repaired the airport and now international flights can use it. We have discussed with the president and Turkey will also do local flights inside Somalia."
Somalia has largely been a security vacuum since a dictator was ousted in 1991. Stability is gradually returning to the capital after rebels were forced out by African Union and government troops last year.
Until now, flights into Mogadishu have been operated by small east African operators linking the Horn of Africa nation to neighboring countries. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Somalia last August, the first non-African government leader to do so in nearly 20 years.
The Turks have since opened an embassy, improved the international airport, offered Somalis university places in Turkey and made plans to build a new hospital.
Erdoğan's visit reflected Turkey's efforts to boost its profile in Africa, as it has done in the Middle East in recent years, and to promote itself as a model Muslim democracy.
Turkey is behind other emerging countries such as China, Brazil and India in the race for new markets in Africa. But under Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, Turkey has boosted trade with the continent and opened several new embassies, particularly in Muslim Africa.
Turkish Prime Minister Meets Media Mogul Murdoch
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday afternoon in Ankara.
The Australian-American media mogul's meeting with Erdoğan followed last month's media reports that his News Corporation was planning to buy Turkish Çalık Holding's Sabah daily and ATV station.
A Turkish official close to the prime minister told The Associated Press that Murdoch has expressed an interest in expanding investments in Turkey and regarded the Turkish media as an "important sector" for investments.
The Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, would not say if Murdoch expressed interest in acquiring Turkey's ATV television and Sabah newspaper.
Murdoch, in 2007, shared with the Turkish government that he "seriously contemplated the acquisition of Sabah and ATV" when they were put up for sale by the state's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund, or TMSF. Following confiscation by the TMSF of Turkish business tycoon Turgay Ciner's Merkez Media Group in 2007, the Çalık Group acquired Sabah and ATV along with other smaller entities for $1.25 billion in 2008. The News Corporation's Wall Street Journal said in late January that the U.S. media giant Time Warner Inc. and private equity firm TPG Capital are also interested in Sabah and ATV.
Murdoch's reputation as a media tycoon was smeared by a scandal last year that forced the British government to make a statement regarding its links to the mogul's media empire. Following the discovery of systemic phone hacking made by Murdoch's News International, police arrested dozens of reporters, as well as a number of executives working for him.
Fighting Erupts in Turkish Parliament
Brawls erupted in Parliament's Education Commission Tuesday during a debate on the controversial education bill after lawmakers from the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, proposed and passed a motion to limit speeches to five minutes.
The commission chairman had ordered a break to defuse the tensions just before 7 p.m. The motion curbing the normally unlimited speaking time was drawn up after a lawmaker of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, spoke for more than two hours following a record 12-hour speech by a fellow CHP deputy during the previous session.
The CHP has vowed to use all procedural means to protract the proceedings and block the bill.
Sivas Massacre Case Should Go On, Victims, Suspects Say
An Ankara court is expected to close the 1993 Sivas massacre case due to a statute of limitations on March 13, but neither the defendants nor the prosecution want the trial to be dropped.
Speaking on behalf of the families of the 33 victims who were burned to death in a fire set by an Islamist mob during an Alevi cultural festival in the eastern province of Sivas, lawyer Şenal Sarıhan said even though the court is to drop the case due to the statute of limitations, they will continue to pursue their rights.
Muhammet Emin Özkan, a lawyer for suspect Muhsin Erbaş, also argued the case should not be dropped, for different reasons.
"The actual ones who burnt the hotel down and killed 37 people [33 intellectuals, two hotel staff and two protesters] should be discovered," Özkan told the Hürriyet Daily News Tuesday by phone. A lawyer for the victims said the charges had been an attempt to destroy constitutional order at the time, but now they say it was a crime against humanity.
The victims were killed on July 2, 1993, when the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was torched. In 2008, after 15 years had passed, an Ankara prosecutor demanded the case be dropped since it had been filed on the charges of attempting to destroy constitutional order, which has a 15-year statute of limitations. Although 79 people have been sentenced to jail so far, six suspects in the case are still missing.
"If the case ends on March 13, we will appeal to a higher court, and if we cannot get a result again, this case will go to the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] in the end," Sarıhan told the Daily News. Sarıhan also argued the court should recognize the case as a crime against humanity, so it would not have a certain time limit.
Meanwhile, Turkey's Alevi Bektaşi Federation Chairman Selahattin Özel condemned the government for "backing the fugitives in the case by doing nothing to have them arrested" and said the government had a policy of systematic discrimination against Alevis.
"One of the suspects in the case, Cafer Erçakmak, was wanted worldwide by Interpol. But he died on July 10, 2011, in Sivas, where he had been living openly. They could have found him easily; they did not want to. The end of the Sivas massacre case will be proof of discrimination against Alevis," Özel told the Daily News.
Erçakmak had called on the crowd who burned the Madımak Hotel to lynch Aziz Nesin, a famous author who narrowly escaped.
Minister of Customs and Trade Hayati Yazıcı also said on March 4 that he hoped the court would not decide for a statute of limitations and the criminals would be punished. Yazıcı had served as a lawyer to one of the defendants.
Child Inmates Moved Amid Call for Debate Following Allegations of Sexual Abuse
Authorities began transferring minors from Adana's Pozantı juvenile prison to Ankara Tuesday following allegations of sexual abuse at the facility, while Turkey's main Kurdish party called for a public debate as to why the children were initially incarcerated.
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said the transfer of 199 minors from the Pozantı jail in Adana to the Ankara Sincan prison began Tuesday morning. Inspectors will complete their investigation over the allegations by the weekend, after which their findings will be shared with the press in detail, Ergin said.
Ergin said Turkey was building facilities to house delinquent kids and the Sincan prison was currently the most appropriate place to house them.
"No one ever promised a paradise. We are trying to do our best given Turkey's capabilities and the physical capacities at hand," he said.
The ministry has come under fire for ignoring warnings about mistreatment at the prison. Ergin told reporters that a deputy had claimed in 2010 that children were being beaten there, but that a subsequent enquiry failed to substantiate the allegations.
The co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Gültan Kışanak, decried the incident as one of the many ramifications of the Kurdish conflict and demanded the immediate release of the children.
"We must first ask why these children are in prison. For the past 30 years, there has been a state that is trying to solve the Kurdish issue through violence, burning villages and forcing millions to migrate. These children are not in prison for throwing stones. They are the children of the people who have been subject to violence from the state for the past 30 years," she said.
"The children must be returned to their families immediately. They have been through enough pain and trauma. Rebellion is not something to be ashamed of. People revolt if they have a sense of justice," she said.
Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli blamed the scandal on the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and said it "would be engraved on the AKP's brow as an unacceptable moral disaster."
Turkey, Netherlands Seek Improved Ties on 400th Anniversary of Relations
Turkey and the Netherlands are seeking to improve their ties on the 400th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu traveled to the Netherlands on Tuesday to meet with his Dutch counterpart and to attend a conference in Rotterdam. Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit will follow next month to mark the anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations in the hope of further advancing ties between the two countries.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Dutch counterpart, Uri Rosenthal, Davutoğlu said events marking the anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands will positively contribute to ties between the two countries, which have been strained at times due to discrimination against the large Turkish community in the EU nation.
Before speaking to reporters, Davutoğlu attended the fifth gathering of the Turkey-Netherlands Wittenburg Conference. He also had talks with Rosenthal, where both officials discussed bilateral relations along with regional developments in the Middle East.
The Turkish foreign minister told reporters that nearly 400,000 Turks living in the Netherlands are playing a positive role in improving relations between the two countries and that the Turkish community in the country is well-integrated.
Davutoğlu also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East with Rosenthal, particularly Syria, and added that Turkey hosts more than 11,000 Syrian refugees fleeing from violence in neighboring Syria.
Rosenthal said she discussed developments in Iran, Syria and the Middle East with Davutoğlu and praised Turkey's steps with respect to Syria as "positive." She also spoke positively regarding Turkey's economic growth and said commercial ties between the two countries are continuing to develop.