[Event of the week] Eight soldiers killed in clashes with PKK in Hakkari

Funeral services for the eight soldiers killed by terrorists on Tuesday were held in their hometowns, after a military funeral held in Van attended by top state officials. (PHOTOSUNDAY’S ZAMAN, Mükremin Albayrak)

June 24, 2012, Sunday/ 12:51:00

The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Tuesday attacked the Yeşiltaş military outpost in Dağlıca, Hakkari province, which borders northern Iraq’s Kurdish areas, killing eight soldiers.

The terrorists began the attack with rocket launchers and rifles, killing eight Turkish soldiers serving at the outpost, in the deadliest assault in recent months. Sixteen soldiers were also wounded in the attack, the governor’s office in Hakkari said in a statement. In subsequent clashes, Turkish troops killed at least 24 PKK terrorists. The terrorists were believed to have crossed the border from northern Iraq to carry out the attacks and then retreated across the border.

Funeral services were held on Wednesday in the hometowns of the soldiers, after a military funeral was held in the eastern province of Van with the attendance of top state officials.

The Turkish prime minister has also vowed that his government will end terrorism “sooner or later” in the first public statement he has made with respect to the killing of the eight Turkish soldiers. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday ruled out setting a time limit on the fight against terrorism and said the government will pursue its goals until the end.

The attack aimed to hamper the country’s efforts to solve the long-standing Kurdish question through democratic and peaceful means, according to terrorism experts, but the Turkish government is not likely to abandon its efforts. However, they believe the attack will not halt the government’s steps; on the contrary, the government will speed up efforts for the solution of the decades-old question.

Terrorism experts complain that the soldiers -- mostly in their early 20s -- were sent to serve in the far-east corner of Turkey after only a couple of weeks of military training and forced to encamp at an unsafe outpost. The outpost, located among high and rocky mountains, was once built as part of Turkey’s efforts to curb smuggling in the region but has been neglected.


June 16, Saturday

President Abdullah Gül refused to reveal whether he will run for president again, saying there is a lot of time in which to think about such a possibility. The Constitutional Court rejected an appeal on Friday that had been filed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) requesting the annulment of a new law that set a seven-year term as president for the incumbent Gül. The court did, however, annul a part of the law that barred Gül from running for another term, saying it unconstitutionally limited his rights. Accordingly, Gül’s first term will end in 2014, and he will be eligible for re-election. When asked whether he will run again for the presidency, Gül said: “We shall see. There is a lot of time before us in which to discuss this. We will talk about it together.”

June 17, Sunday

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has no plans or discussions regarding house arrest for the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, saying earlier remarks of a senior party official about house arrest reflect the official’s personal opinion.

An İzmir court ordered the arrest of 20 suspects over the weekend who had been taken into custody as part of an operation against a military espionage gang. Forty-nine people were detained previously in various provinces as part of the operation. The detainees were sent to İzmir to be interrogated by specially authorized prosecutors involved in the investigation. Twenty-five of the suspects were referred to a court on Saturday for arrest. The court arrested 12 of them and released the remaining suspects pending trial. Also on Sunday, 24 other suspects were sent to the court, with the court ruling to arrest eight of them. The remaining 16 were released pending trial.

June 18, Monday

British intelligence mediated between the Turkish state and the outlawed PKK to launch secret talks aimed at resolving Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem, Radikal journalist Avni Özgürel said in reference to his interview with senior PKK operative Murat Karayılan. Karayılan told Özgürel that three parties have the minutes of the Oslo talks: the United Kingdom, which mediated the talks, Karayılan and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The Oslo talks refer to meetings between some senior PKK operatives and MİT officials in order to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem.

A report prepared by the Mining Exploration Institute (MTA) following a six-year study into Turkey’s fault lines revealed new and longer fault lines, which experts say indicates a major risk of earthquakes. The drawing of the fault line map began in the quake-prone Marmara region and continued with the provinces where fault lines intensify.

A long-debated, controversial and festering practice within the General Staff of refusing to give accreditation to some TV stations and newspapers came to an end in the Anatolia Eagle Aerial Exercise held in Konya. The General Staff had long imposed a media accreditation ban on a number of TV stations and newspapers, including Today’s Zaman and Zaman, the highest circulation newspapers in both English and Turkish in the country. The ban dates from the Feb. 28, 1997 military intervention, known as the postmodern coup.

Prime Minister Erdoğan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Mexico to discuss a new roadmap for the Syrian crisis. “My conversation with Mr. Putin was, of course, about what we can do in terms of future direction. Tonight, Mr. Putin gave directions to his foreign minister on how to proceed on the Syrian issue as did I to the Turkish foreign minister,” said Erdoğan after the meeting. Erdoğan’s meeting with Putin came after the Russian president had talks with US President Barack Obama on Syria.

June 19, Tuesday

EU countries are expected to authorize the European Commission (EC) to start negotiations that would ultimately remove visa barriers for Turkey, EU sources claimed. Turkey first wants to be sure that the Action Plan for the negotiations is directed to visa removal. A Foreign Ministry official stated that Turkey would not be involved in any process that would not bring such a result and is not willing to start negotiations for any further visa relaxation. If there are no surprises in the action plan, Turkey plans to sign it this fall, Turkish sources say.

Erdoğan promised to provide the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with $5 billion during the G-20 summit at Los Cabos, Mexico, where he called on attending countries to develop a roadmap for “sustained and balanced growth” amid a worsening crisis in the eurozone.

With tension in the country high after clashes with the terrorist PKK left eight soldiers dead and dozens more wounded in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Tuesday, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş urged the PKK to lay down its arms. Speaking in a parliamentary meeting of his party, Demirtaş urged the PKK to end its armed activities as he insisted on the idea that the military should also halt its operations. “This fight must end. We shouldn’t sit idly by and watch our youth kill each other. Those who regard negotiations and talks as a betrayal of the country are also responsible for [these] deaths. We are in a period in which we need to defend the notion of peace more than ever,” Demirtaş said.

June 20, Wednesday

Civilian authorities accompanied army members as they uninstalled the black box from the front panel of a helicopter that crashed, killing the former leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP) and five others in 2009, newly discovered photos from the site of the crash revealed. The helicopter crashed in Kahramanmaraş as BBP leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five others were returning from an election rally in March 2009. Thousands of rescue workers tried in vain to locate the crash site, despite snowstorms and heavy fog, in a mountainous area of more than 30 square kilometers. Last year, a video from the site of the crash, which was sent to President Gül by an unidentified military officer, showed four military officers at the scene, one of whom was seen removing the black box containing two recording devices from the front panel of the helicopter, while two others watched. A fourth officer was thought to be the one recording the video. The photos show that members of the Accident Investigation Team of the Civil Aviation General Directorate (SHGM) -- identified as Feridun Seren, Mehmet Sevdim and Kerem Mumcuoğlu -- were also present at the site of the crash and were taking photos of the soldiers as they uninstalled the device from the helicopter.

A man caught with almost two kilograms of C4 explosives, who was allegedly planning to carry out a suicide-bombing attack in the western province of İzmir, is believed to have received orders from PKK terrorist Fehman Hüseyin, who goes by the codename Bahoz. According to undisclosed sources, terrorist Uğur Ç. was planning to carry out a suicide bombing attack in İzmir, and he was receiving orders from Bahoz. A list -- allegedly from Bahoz -- detailing the future actions of the terrorist was reportedly found on him. Another allegation is that Uğur Ç. was going to attack military and police posts using remote-controlled explosives.

The state secrets bill recently adopted by Parliament’s Justice Commission received harsh criticism from representatives of the main opposition CHP, who claim the bill would allow the government to hide its misdeeds in the guise of state secrets. The CHP has two major misgivings about the bill. One of them is the authority the bill bestows on the State Secret Evaluation Board, which is composed of the prime minister as chair, plus four ministers from the ministries of foreign affairs, the interior, defense and justice. The second is the cloak of secrecy under which the government could potentially place its acts if it so wishes.

June 21, Thursday

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has stated that the Turkish military is capable of completely destroying PKK hideouts in the Kandil Mountains and raised the prospect of an air and ground operation in northern Iraq, but terrorism experts are not confident that the gains of such an operation would be worth the losses. The general’s remarks came a day before the killing of eight Turkish soldiers by PKK terrorists in Hakkari’s Dağlıca area, but only received media coverage on Thursday. He said Turkey may launch a major incursion into northern Iraq to strike PKK camps in the Kandil Mountains, but cited three conditions: The government should give the military permission to launch the incursion; US support should be ensured for intelligence sharing; and people in Turkey should be prepared to tolerate a high death toll of soldiers participating in the incursion.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur Josette Durrieu, who paid a visit to Turkey on June 17-21, said the length of trials in Turkey does not comply with democracy, adding that the European Union was following judicial proceedings in the country closely.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that Turkey initialed a long-discussed readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey, envisaging the repatriation of illegal migrants to Europe via Turkey after temporary stays in the country, in response to key steps outlined by the EU for a visa-free agreement with Turkey.

June 22, Friday

The United States is unlikely to consider a Turkish request to purchase armed drones to be used in anti-terror operations before presidential elections in November, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.

 Turkey denied claims on Friday that it transfers weapons to Syrian opposition groups, insisting that its priority is to end the bloodshed. “There is no such transfer to neighboring countries, including Syria,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal told reporters at a press conference in Ankara. Ünal was responding to a report published in The New York Times claiming that weapons paid for by Turkey, Syria and Qatar are funneled into Syria via Turkey.

 Two people were taken into custody and detention warrants were issued for two others as part of the sixth wave of operations in a deepening investigation into the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, popularly known as the postmodern coup. This is the first time civilian figures have been targeted in a Feb. 28 operation.

Even though Turkey has achieved great economic development in the past 10 years, it is still having trouble consolidating its democracy, according to both local and foreign participants of the 27th Abant Platform. In his introductory speech, Sabancı University’s Ersin Kalaycıoğlu said at the 27th Abant meeting, titled “Different Perspectives on Turkey” and held on June 22-24 in the Turkish province of Bolu, that one definition of democracy is competitive free and fair elections between different political parties observing the rule of law.

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