|‘Trust us,’ Turkey tells US in drone sale controversy|
|President Abdullah Gül, speaking after talks with US President Barack Obama, has said the US administration is trying to convince Congress to allow the sale of armed drones to Turkey and called on skeptics in Congress to trust and not act “begrudgingly” towards NATO ally Turkey.|
“An ally that is so critical should not be treated with suspicion. It should be trusted,” Gül told a press conference, which included Turkish journalists, on Monday in Chicago, where he attended a NATO summit. Furthermore, some members of the US Congress are believed to oppose the sale because of Turkey’s tensions with Israel. Gül had a half-hour meeting with Obama earlier on Monday to discuss bilateral and key regional issues on the sidelines of the NATO summit. The two leaders were unable to resolve an impasse over the proposed sale to Turkey, with Obama reportedly telling Gül that even though he was aware of Turkey’s need for the drones, the administration cannot sell them to Ankara as long as the sale is blocked by Congress.
“The administration’s position is positive. They are trying to convince Congress,” Gül told the press conference. Referring to Turkish plans to buy about 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US, Gül said these planes were more “dangerous” weapons than the drones. “If drones are dangerous weapons, these [F-35s] are even more dangerous. We are buying these fighters and we are participating in the manufacturing process. These things should be told to the members of Congress.”
Also during the summit on Sunday, President Gül and his newly elected French counterpart, François Hollande, discussed ways to reset bilateral ties, which have been strained mainly because of previous French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s firm opposition to Turkey’s membership in the European Union.
Hollande, who also met with Gül in Chicago, said relations with Turkey will not be a matter for internal politics during his term in office, Gül told a group of journalists accompanying him on his trip.
May 19, Saturday
May 19 -- Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day -- was celebrated with colorful activities across Turkey without any trace of militarism, a picture Turkey has dreamt of for many years. Official ceremonies and military parades were replaced by civilian festivities this year, with people taking to the streets and public squares to mark the day.
Amid a mounting controversy over the source of intelligence that led to the killing of 34 civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border by military jets in December, President Abdullah Gül said there was no cover-up of the incident and that the truth will definitely be brought to light.
May 20, Sunday
Military officers who were expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) after the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention are reportedly planning to file compensation suits against then-higher-ups in the military in which lawyers say their clients may demand up to TL 1 million each in compensation.
Eighteen properties have been returned to their owners in the eight months since legislation that enabled the return of property belonging to minority community foundations came into effect.
May 21, Monday
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) informed a parliamentary sub-commission established to investigate the Dersim Massacre, which took place in 1937 and 1938 in the province of Dersim (now Tunceli), that no documents exist in its archives regarding the incident, raising some questions among the public.
Well-respected Turkish intellectual and scholar Fethullah Gülen said recent acts of violence at football stadiums by hooligans are not coincidental, adding that the events were orchestrated by circles which seek to destroy the peaceful atmosphere of Turkey. Commenting on football hooliganism, the scholar said, “The incidents that took place inside and around stadiums recently are certainly neither ordinary nor coincidental.”
Turkey, which has long been a transit country, particularly to Europe, for illegal migrants, is gradually becoming a final destination as an increasing number of people have been seeking a better future for themselves in the country over the past several years, a recent survey has shown. The results of the survey, titled “Illegal Immigration and Immigrants in Turkey: Characteristics, Methods and Profiles,” carried out by the International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime (UTSAM), were announced at the Anıttepe campus of the Ankara Police Academy. According to the survey, Turkey is still being used as a transit country by 62 percent of illegal migrants, but a further 28 percent see Turkey as a final destination and this figure is growing rapidly.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refuted claims that his government had prior information about military plans to bomb a group of civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border last December after they were mistaken for terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The eighth and final meeting between the government and civil servant unions about pay raises to be applied this and next year failed to yield an agreement, leaving civil servants pondering a general strike to protest what they call the government’s insensitive attitude toward their needs. The government increased its offer to a 3.5 percent raise for each half of the year for 2012 from an earlier offer of 3 percent but the unions remained undaunted in their demand for twice as much as what the government deemed fit.
May 22, Tuesday
A Turkish delegation headed by Prime Minister Erdoğan signed nine protocols and a joint declaration that together aim to bring a new momentum to Turkish-Pakistani relations by enhancing cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, transportation and tourism. Erdoğan and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilanim, attended the second Turkey-Pakistan High-Level Cooperation Council meeting, where the two countries signed the agreements that would lay the groundwork for improved cooperation between the two countries.
The former bodyguard of the late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit continued his testimony at a court hearing in the case of Ergenekon, a shadowy network believed to have plotted to overthrow the government. In Tuesday’s session of the trial, Recai Birgün, a former bodyguard who worked for the then-prime minister, claimed that the Ecevit family had suspicions that doctors at Başkent University -- whose former rector Mehmet Haberal is a suspect in the trial -- attempted to keep Ecevit away from his duties as prime minister by using his illness as an excuse. He said a shadowy group was actively trying to bring down the Ecevit government in 2001.
The Gendarmerie General Command said it has no archived footage from a deadly operation to suppress prison riots in İstanbul which killed 12 inmates at Bayrampaşa Prison alone in 2000. A document sent to the Bakırköy 13th High Criminal Court, bearing the signature of İstanbul Gendarmerie Command Deputy Commander Col. Selahattin Acara, says no video footage from the day of the operation -- called Back to Life, a name given by the Interior Ministry of the time, which had given the order to suppress the riots -- could be located in the gendarmerie archives.
Following Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statements about the possible creation of a Turkish credit rating agency on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey can cancel its contract with Standard & Poor’s (S&P). “If necessary, we may cancel the contract with S&P at any time. There is no such decision for now, but we can take this step in the future. [And] we don’t have a contract with Fitch [credit rating agency],” Babacan said.
May 23, Wednesday
An indictment prepared by an İstanbul prosecutor seeks 10 aggravated life sentences for each of the four Israeli top commanders, including the country’s chief of General Staff, involved in a 2010 Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left eight Turks and one Turkish-American dead, the Sabah daily reported. The indictment reportedly seeks 10 aggravated life sentences for former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Naval Forces commander Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and Air Force Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi.
Prominent figures from the world of sports, the arts and business slammed allegations suggesting that the Hizmet movement [Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen supporters] aims to seize control of Turkish football team Fenerbahçe amid an ongoing match-fixing saga that has been rocking the Turkish football scene since last July. They also agreed that the Hizmet movement has been the target of groundless accusations by those who are uneasy with the altruistic services the movement has provided to millions in Turkey and in many other countries. Former Fenerbahçe Chairman Ali Şen said no one would be able to make him believe that the Hizmet movement was trying to seize control of Fenerbahçe because there was no reason for them to. Fenerbahçe Vice President Nihat Özdemir noted that no one had the right to direct accusations at those who, in fact, prayed for Fenerbahçe’s success.
Amid mounting controversy over which state authority gave a strike order that led to the killing of 34 civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border by military jets last year, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said the order was given by top air forces commanders who watched and analyzed the drone images in Ankara, dismissing claims in the media that the government had prior information about the attack.
May 24, Thursday
The parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which is currently working to draft a new constitution, has failed to agree on a definition of equality, an issue that has been debated by the commission for some time, and has instead chosen to leave the issue for later and to take up the right to life instead. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) want the expression “regardless of sexual orientation” to be included in the phrase that will ensure equality for all. However, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) say the expression “all are equal before the law” should be sufficient and would include homosexuals.
Ahmed Shaheed, a UN special rapporteur charged with examining human rights conditions in Iran, indicated that he is looking forward to gaining access to Iranian refugees within Turkey in order to gather additional information about the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Leyla Zana, an independent pro-Kurdish deputy from Diyarbakır, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, the outlawed PKK, and spreading its propaganda in a series of speeches she made over four years ago.
Over the past six decades scores of political murders and assassinations have been masterminded and orchestrated by a single central entity, according to the evidence of Bülent Orakoğlu, a former deputy chief of the National Police Department’s Intelligence Unit.
May 25, Friday
The İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court gave aggravated life sentences to two men convicted of being responsible for the death of Serap Eser, a teenage girl, in İstanbul after they threw a Molotov cocktail into a city bus during a 2009 protest.
The assessment of an ongoing investigation into the killings of two PKK members and one civilian during a military operation in eastern Turkey in 2009 by the Van Prosecutor’s Office suggests that the victims were killed upon an order that came from now-retired Col. Halil İyigün, who reported to his superiors that the three men had been killed in clashes with security forces, according to a report published by the Radikal daily.
The former owner of the Akşam daily, Malik Yolaç, made significant confessions regarding the role of the daily in the notorious May 27, 1960 coup d’état, the first military takeover in Turkish history, saying that members of a military junta frequented the Ankara office of Akşam and used it as their headquarters in the lead-up to the coup.
In recent days the terrorist PKK has launched several deadly attacks in various provinces across Turkey and kidnapped 10 people in a southeastern province, signaling an end to its winter “hibernation,” the time when it retreats to its hideouts due to poor weather conditions that make it difficult to stage attacks. Once winter ends the PKK typically springs back into action. On Friday two suspected PKK terrorists detonated a car bomb outside police headquarters in the central province of Kayseri, killing one policeman and wounding at least 10 others.