Τρίτη, 19 Απριλίου 2011

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Hamas's unconditional "yes" to Turkey

Hamas leader in Syria said Hamas are unconditionally ready to accept any help from Turkey to unite Palestinian groups.

Hamas leader in Syria said Hamas are unconditionally ready to accept any help from Turkey to unite Palestinian groups.

Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, replied to questions of Turkiye daily newspaper "Türkiye".

Mashaal said, "we are ready to accept any proposal of Turkey that can unite groups in Palestine without laying down any preconditions." Mashaal, who had met Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently, said Turkey's views were important for Palestine.

Mashaal said, "Ankara wants Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad to be a whole. We are saying yes to Turkey in advance in order to be together with our brothers."

"Both Turkish people and government back Palestinian cause. Turkish officials candidly try to solve the issue. I hope that the unity of Palestinian people and groups will be achieved by the hand of Turkey," he said.

He said he thought of visiting Turkey for Necmettin Erbakan's funeral, however he had changed his mind as Turkey might face problems due to that visit.

He has been away from his homeland for 36 years. He is the leader of Hamas in exile. Turkish For


Turkey ignores Israel in '2023 manifest'

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan neglects to address ties with Israel in new political platform ahead of June elections

urkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented an updated political platform Tuesday in preparation for June's parliamentary elections, however he ignored the country's shaky relationship with Israel.

Erdogan has issued his "Manifest for 2023", a document discussing political strategies in connection to countries in the Mideast and around the world. However, the Turkish leader neglected to mention Israel in any way.

The document does not mention any possibility of improving ties with Jerusalem, which were considered close before Operation Cast Lead and reached a new low following the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, when nine Turkish activists where killed during a Navy raid on the Mavi Marmara ship.

Unsuccessful reconciliation attempts have been made in recent months, with Turkey demanding an official apology from Israel and compensation for the victims' families.

Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), is expected to be reelected for a third term this summer. According to the manifest, the AK Party stresses the importance of ties with Middle Eastern countries and with the United States.

Israel is not the only country receiving the cold shoulder from Turkey: In the document Erdogan claimed Armenia's unproductive approach prevents Turkey from normalizing the relationship between the two countries.

On the other hand, it is possible that ignoring Israel is a sign of progress after the Turkish National Security Council defined Israel as a 'central threat' in October 2010.


Turkey's Kurds in uproar over election vetoes

By Mahmut Bozarslan (AFP) – 6 hours ago

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Turkish riot police fired teargas and water cannons Tuesday during pitch battles with thousands of demonstrators infuriated by a ban on Kurdish candidates standing in upcoming elections.

The heaviest violence was seen in Diyarbakir, the main city of the Kurdish-majority southeast, where crowds pelted police with firecrackers but there were also clashes in other Kurdish areas and the largest city, Istanbul.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, urged an extraordinary parliamentary session to resolve the row, warning of fresh unrest in a country long plagued by ethnic conflict.

"It is an issue far beyond the participation of several people in the elections ... It is a process that could drag Turkey into a deep crisis and chaos," BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said on NTV television.

About 3,000 people gathered in Diyarbakir to protest Monday night's ruling of the Higher Electoral Board (YSK), hurling stones and firecrackers at the security forces who in turn used tear gas and water cannons.

Around 20 people were detained, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

"Our political will cannot be stifled," the protesters shouted, also chanting slogans in favour of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in the southeast since 1984.

In Istanbul too, police resorted to pepper gas as Kurdish youths hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at cars, buses and buildings, breaking windows and sparking fire inside a post office, AFP reporters said.

Several journalists were injured after coming under a hail of stones in the clashes in the central Aksaray district, where a metro station was also vandalised.

The unrest broke after some 3,000 people staged a sit-in on Taksim Square, disrupting traffic in the heart of the city for more than an hour.

"Blood for blood! Revenge!," some protesters shouted as other chanted slogans of loyalty to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Similar unrest erupted in the eastern city of Van when the police stopped a crowd from marching on the local electoral office, Anatolia news agency reported.

Petrol bombs sparked small fires at several public buildings and banks, Anatolia said, adding that two policemen were injured when their car hit a barricade set by the demonstrators.

Citing past convictions and legal technicalities, the YSK Monday disqualified 12 candidates from the June 12 elections, among them seven people backed by the BDP.

The barred candidates include iconic Kurdish figures, among them Leyla Zana, winner of the European Parliament's human rights award who spent 10 years in jail before being released in 2004.

The BDP fielded its candidates as independents in order to circumvent an electoral threshold under which parties are required to garner at least 10 percent of the vote to enter parliament.

The threshold is already much criticised as a non-democratic means to hinder Kurdish parties, but the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has rejected appeals to reduce it.

The vetoed candidates have a right to appeal the ruling.

The BDP has threatened to withdraw all its candidates from the elections if no solution is found to the problem.

The main opposition Republican People's Party Tuesday lent support to convening parliament, currently in recess, for an emergency session to amend electoral rules, while the AKP was still to respond.

"The AKP may attempt to capitalise on this situation. This is a sincerity test for them," Demirtas said.

Analysts say the disqualification of prominent BDP-backed candidates is likely to play into the hands of the AKP, which also enjoys strong popularity among the Kurds.


Turkey's Kurds in uproar over election exclusion
Around 3,000 take to the streets in the largest predominantly Kurdish city to protest against an Electoral Board decision to bar prominent candidates from elections

Kurdish crowds clashed with riot police in street demonstrations Tuesday after Turkey's electoral board barred prominent Kurdish candidates from standing in upcoming elections.


About 3,000 people gathered in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the mainly Kurdish southeast, to protest the controversial ruling of the Higher Electoral Board (YSK), pelting the police with stones and fireworks.

The security forces used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd and detained at least five people, an AFP reporter said.

"Our political will cannot be stifled," the protestors shouted, also chanting slogans praising the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in the southeast since 1984.

Similar unrest erupted in the eastern city of Van when the security forces stopped a crowd from marching on the local electoral office, Anatolia news agency reported.

The protestors hurled petrol bombs at the police and on public buildings and banks, sparking small fires, Anatolia said, adding that two policemen were injured when their car hit a barricade set by the demonstrators.

In Istanbul, some 3,000 people staged a sit-in on Taksim Square, disrupting traffic in the heart of the city for more than an hour.

"Blood for blood, revenge!" some protestors shouted as other chanted slogans of loyalty to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Citing past convictions and legal technicalities, the YSK Monday disqualified 12 candidates from the June 12 elections, among them seven people backed by Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

The barred candidates include iconic Kurdish figures, among them Leyla Zana, winner of the European Parliament's human rights award who spent 10 years in jail before being released in 2004.

The BDP threatened to withdraw all its candidates from the elections and urged an extraordinary parliamentary session to discuss a solution to the controversy.

The BDP fielded its candidates as independents in order to circumvent an electoral treshold under which parties are required to garner at least 10 percent of the vote to enter parliament.

The vetoed candidates have a right to appeal the ruling.

Analysts say the disqualification of prominent BDP-backed candidates is likely to play into the hands of the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, which also enjoys strong popularity in the southeast.


April 19, 2011, 4:55 p.m. EDT
Turkey ups Azeri gas imports; EU supply threatened

Turkey said Tuesday it will increase imports of natural gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II project, potentially threatening European pipeline projects, including the European Union-backed Nabucco, that hope to secure shipments from the field.

Turkish state gas and pipeline company Botas said it will begin purchasing gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II--the second development phase of the Caspian Sea project operated by BP PLC (BP.LN, http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifBP) -- when it comes on stream in 2017 and lift imports to 10 billion cubic meters a year by 2020.

Turkey previously planned yearly imports of Azeri gas at six billion cubic meters.

Not only is the country's domestic gas consumption rising, Turkey has become a key player in pipeline projects envisioned to carry natural gas to Europe and is increasing its role as a regional gas hub.

"We expect that we will receive these volumes by 2020," said Levent Ozgul, head of strategy and business development at Botas, said Tuesday. He said a deal will be signed with Azerbaijan in the first half of this year.

Higher volumes to Turkey from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II could mark another blow to the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline project.

Ozgul didn't say how much of the Azeri gas will be for domestic consumption and how much for re-export to Europe, but noted that to ensure supply of Azeri gas to Europe, Botas plans by 2015 to expand and modernize its own network of gas pipelines.

"We already have some agreements with Azerbaijan to supply small volumes of gas to Greece and Bulgaria. In the future we plan to build a links for the supply of large volumes of Azeri gas to Syria, Bulgaria and Greece," Ozgul said.

Three pipeline projects, including Nabucco, are competing to get supplies from Shah Deniz II to send to Europe. Securing Central Asian gas is crucial for the EU's priority of diversifying its energy supply, mainly away from Russia, on whose exports many countries in Eastern Europe are still heavily dependent.

Originally, roughly 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year were expected to flow to Europe from the second stage of Shah Deniz as early as 2017, while 6 billion cubic meters would flow to Turkey for domestic consumption.

Turkey is already buying 6.6 billion cubic meters of gas a year from the first stage of the Shah Deniz development.

In total, production from Shah Deniz is expected to reach 24 billion cubic meters a year, of which 8 billion will come from the first development stage and 16 billion from the second stage.


Turkey, Norway to cooperate in peacemaking efforts

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Norway have signed an accord on exchanging diplomats to facilitate mutual learning from each other’s experiences in peace mediation efforts.


Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Monday that Turkey wanted to work more closely with Norway in relation to developments in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

“We will engage in joint efforts as much as possible, so that peace and stability dominate in these regions,” Davutoğlu said after the signing ceremony with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store.

Davutoğlu hailed Turkey’s relations with Norway as “exceptional” and expressed his delight to cooperate with his counterpart in the international arena, who he said is “one of the most hard-working foreign ministers and particularly stands out with peace initiatives.”

The two foreign ministers discussed bilateral relations and regional developments and both countries are determined to increase bilateral trade volume, which currently stands at $1.1 billion.

Davutoğlu told reporters that he discussed the developments in Libya with Store and said he considers Norway’s mediation experience is quite valuable.

Store said Turkey is an important part of the agenda-making process in current regional and global matters, adding that despite vast historical, geographical and cultural differences, the two countries have complementary characteristics. Store said both countries have a different perspectives in regional stability and harmony and that there is a great potential for cooperation between the two countries.


Enerjisa buys power plant in southeastern Turkey

Enerjisa, the Turkish joint-venture of Sabancı Holding and Germany’s Verbund, bought a power plant in Turkey from Özışık İnsaat & Enerji and its partners.

Özışık will sell its stake in the Alpaslan 2 power plant for $8.9 million to Enerjisa, Özısık’s owners Işıklar Yatirim and Çemaş Döküm said in statements to the Istanbul Stock Exchange after the market closed on Monday.

“Enerjisa added to its portfolio, the license for Alpaslan 2 Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant with 204 MW installed capacity,” said a press release by the acquirer on Tuesday.

The dam is located in the southeastern province of Muş.

Planning to attain a minimum total installed capacity of 5,000 MW by 2015, Enerjisa has accelerated its efforts to expand and diversify its generation portfolio, Sabancı Holding Energy Group President Selahattin Hakman said in the statement. “Our target is to increase the share of renewable energy sources to our generation in order to meet the electricity demand in Turkey in the most reliable and environmentally friendly manner. With the addition of the license for 204 MW Alpaslan 2 Dam and HEPP project to our portfolio, we have taken a major step forward in our hydroelectricity investments.”

Hakman said the project was also important in respect of irrigation of Muş plain and effective flood prevention in the region, in addition to its contribution to meeting the electricity demand of the country.

The portfolio of Enerjisa Power Generation has reached 3,677 MW with the licensed projects that are in operation, under construction and at the engineering stage. In addition to this portfolio, projects with a total installed capacity of 1,035 MW are at the license applications stage.


EU Sees Possible Restart of Turkish Talks After One-Year Pause

The European Union said Turkey’s entry talks may restart in June after a one-year pause, as Turkey faulted the EU’s dominant governments for putting the brakes on the process.

Turkey has a chance to start negotiations on adopting European antitrust and state-aid policies in June, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said.

“If Turkey takes the few remaining steps in time, the competition chapter can hopefully still be opened,” Fule told reporters after an EU-Turkey meeting in Brussels today. “It is in everybody’s interest to give the negotiations a new momentum.”

Turkey and Croatia started the EU entry marathon on the same day, in October 2005. Croatia today moved closer to wrapping up its talks, while opposition by leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has held Turkey back.

“Nobody can blame Turkey” for the deadlock, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. “There is a need for strategic political will by all member countries of the EU.”

While Turkey has started negotiations in 13 of 35 EU policy areas, it has completed them in only one. On merits, Turkey should have been allowed to open 29 and complete 13, said Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s EU entry negotiator.

With elections set for June 12, the Turkish officials also faulted the EU for not moving fast enough to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to European countries.

Fule said Turkey must guarantee “genuine, substantive debate” during the election campaign, while declining to intervene in an uproar over the ineligibility of 12 pro-Kurdish candidates.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif


Russian tourists will prefer Armenia for Turkey and Egypt

Armenia has great chances to increase influx of Russian tourists considerably, said Russian official during round-table discussions on tourism held in Yerevan.

Head of Federal Agency on Tourism Alexander Radkov said Egypt and Turkey, traditional directions preferred by Russians, experience hard times. Therefore, Russians show stronger interest in cultural tourism.

“Due to cold climate in Russia, the sun and the sea are always in demand, but people do not want to visit the same places every time. Nowadays, Russians have become more interested in cultural tourism and Armenia has a good chance to receive more Russian tourists,” he said.

Armenia is interesting for its religious monuments, skiing resorts and cultural directions. He stressed there should be “an Armenian brand” to attract Russians. Alexander Radkov promised to lobby Armenia’s interests in Russia.


his May pipeline consortium to decide on Nabucco route in Georgia

Baku, Fineko/abc.az. Nabucco Gas Pipeline consortium is still unready to make an investment decision on the construction of Nabucco gas pipeline to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey.

Today in Baku NGP head of communications and public affairs Christian Dolezal has informed that in May the consortium plans to decide on the route of the pipeline in Georgia.

"Making of the investment decision is expected before the end of 2011, but depends on negotiations about gas supplies with the members of the partnership on Shah-Deniz Project in Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea,” he said.

In the 2nd quarter of 2012 the consortium is to finish the EIA of its project.

“Nabucco is able to strengthen the role of Azerbaijan as a supplier and a key transit country for gas supplies to Europe for 40-50 years ahead," Dolezal said.

He defined the Nabucco as a European project with European shareholders and partner Turkey.

"The market will decide itself what of the gas pipelines will live,” Dolezal said, meaning http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifNabucco’s competition with project TAP, ITGI, White Stream and South Stream.


Azerbaijani President has received Army Component Commander of Turkey
Baku, Fineko/abc.az. Today President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has received Army Component Service Commander of Turkey Erdal Jeylanoglu.

In the course of the following talk I. Aliyev and E. Jeylanoglu discussed issues of bilateral relations including military field.


Turkey`s Aselsan to establish a plant for electro optical devices in Kazakhstan

Aselsan will establish a plant in Kazakhstan for the production of electro optical devices. An agreement was signed between Aselsan and Kazakhstan Engineering Company for the production plant which will be completed within a year with an investment of USD 30mn. The news is at an infant stage to have a market impact on Aselsan.

Starting with the aim of creating a self-sufficient industry primarily for defence requirements of Turkish Armed Forces, ASELSAN, with tremendous success in the last 30 years in expanding systematically into the local and global markets, today, has become a high technology, multi-product defence electronics company by introducing state-of-the-art equipment and systems solutions for both military and professional applications. Dedicated utmost importance to R&D activities by allocating a remarkable amount of its annual revenue to these activities and through its technological know-how, ASELSAN has achieved the capability to undertake large-scale system integration projects and succeed, in many cases, in developing most sophisticated products.


Turkey military slams plot case detentions

Turkey's armed forces issued a statement on Wednesday criticising, in unusually strong terms, the detention of 163 officers on trial for allegedly plotting a coup against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

"The Turkish Armed Forces is having difficulty in understanding the continued detention of the 163 serving and retired personnel," the military said in a statement, adding it had refrained from actions interfering in the judicial process.

Turkey holds a national election on June 12, and opinion polls show Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, is set to score a third consecutive victory. The military's comments are likely to revive tensions ahead of it.

The "Sledgehammer" case, based on a coup plot allegedly hatched at an army seminar in 2003, is one of several setting the secularist establishment against a ruling party which critics suspect of having a secret Islamist agenda.

"The Turkish Armed Forces has repeatedly made statements... explaining in a way that can leave no doubt what the seminar was, how it was done, what it encompassed and who took part under what orders," it added.


Nomination of Cihaner as deputy candidate creates unrest in CHP

The nomination of former chief prosecutor İlhan Cihaner, who is a suspect in the Ergenekon trial where the defendants are being accused of plotting to overthrow the government, as a deputy candidate by the Republican People's Party (CHP) has created unrest within the party's Denizli branch.

In a last-minute maneuver, the CHP decided to change its parliamentary candidate list on Saturday, and included Cihaner on its list for Denizli. The inclusion has caused unrest within the Denizli branch of the main opposition party. Haşim Asiltürk, one of the prominent CHP members in Denizli, said he was saddened to see that the CHP nominated another terror suspect as a deputy candidate. “Were there not any other candidates? Why did they decide to nominate Cihaner?

We were happy when the candidates were determined after a preliminary election. Now it is a source of grief for me and my party to see that an ‘imported’ Ergenekon suspect has been included in the candidate list,” Asiltürk complained.

Cihaner’s nomination has brought the total number of CHP candidates who are currently on trial in the Ergenekon case to four. Başkent University Rector Mehmet Haberal is running in Zonguldak and Cumhuriyet daily Ankara representative Mustafa Balbay in İzmir. Both of these individuals are currently in prison. Sinan Aygün, former head of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO), is also a suspect in the Ergenekon trial although he was released on bail.

Adil Demir, former head of the Denizli Bar Association, lashed out at the Supreme Election Board (YSK) for allowing the CHP to nominate additional candidates for deputy. Demir recently resigned from his position as the head of the bar association to run in the elections as a CHP candidate. “The YSK killed democracy,” he stated.

If any of the Ergenekon suspects are voted into office, they will be let out of prison during their term in Parliament. Cihaner’s candidacy came as the result of a change made by the YSK with regard to how the nomination lists are compiled. Head of CHP’s Denizli Provincial Branch Himmet Yavaş said the decision had come as a surprise, but added that he believed Cihaner will make important contributions to the CHP.

In the meantime, Cahit Özkan, head of the Jurists’ Association, who is also a candidate for deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said Denizli residents will not allow Cihaner to enter Parliament in the elections. “Cihaner is a suspect who is accused of contributing to the implementation of the Cage Plan in Erzincan. The suspect may have a right to tell lies to people in his daily life. But he cannot tell lies to people if he enters politics,” Özkan stated.

The Cage plan is a suspected Naval Forces Command plot to undermine the AK Party by assassinating prominent non-Muslim figures in Turkey and putting the blame for the killings on the party. The plan was intended to intimidate the country’s non-Muslim groups, which was expected to increase internal and external pressure on the ruling party. In turn, weakening public support for the party was intended to eventually lead to a military takeover.


Russia Launches Third Project 20380 Stealth Corvette

Severnaya Verf shipyard launches third Steregushchy-class corvette

10:03 GMT, April 19, 2011 defpro.com | Russia’s fleet of stealthy next-generation corvettes is continuing to grow, depicting the slow but constant progress in the country’s effort to modernise its ageing defence equipment and sustain the basic capabilities, which its Cold War-era mammoth fleet once guaranteed. As RIA Novosti reported on Friday, the St. Petersburg-based Severnaya Verf shipyard launched the third Steregushchy-class multi-purpose corvette resulting from Project 20380 under the lead of the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau. The ship, which was laid down in July 2005, is to be christened “Boiky” (“Courageous”).

While the Russian Navy plans to purchase up to 30 vessels of this class to meet the minimum requirements of each of its four major fleets, it may take decades before such a number of ships will be operational. The lead ship of the Steregushchy-class entered service in October 2008 after having been launched in 2006, joining the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet. The second Project 20380 corvette, the Soobrazitelny, was launched in early April 2010 and is currently undergoing sea trials and scheduled to be commissioned in 2011.

Designed to provide protection to Russia’s coastal waters and vital sea lanes for oil and gas shipments, the Steregushchy-class corvettes can engage a broad range of targets, including surface vessels, submarines and aircraft, as well as littoral land targets. The ship’s stealthy design significantly reduces its radar signature in a way comparable to other modern naval vessel designs, such as the German K130 Braunschweig-class, the UAE Baynunah-class or the Turkish Milgem-class corvettes. Further improvements in the reduction of its acoustic, infra-red, magnetic and visual signatures are intended to provide the Russian Navy with a state-of-the-art naval asset.

Each of the 105-meter long corvettes has a displacement of more than 2,100 metric tons with a maximum speed of 27 knots. The ships are crewed by approximately 100 sailors and equipped with SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missiles, a 100 mm gun and a variety of air defence and anti-submarine weapons systems.

Following the initiative to restructure the Russian Armed Forces, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced in 2009 that the country would undertake significant efforts to modernise the military during the next decade. In a defence modernisation plan for the 2011-2020 period, released in early 2009, Russia sought to adjust mistakes from former plans and initiatives and to apply lessons learned from the changing strategic environment. Both President Medvedev as well as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for the major modernisation effort and urged national industry to improve its development and manufacturing capabilities in order to remain competitive.

Since then, Russia has also witnessed a growing trend to look towards foreign defence procurements, including negotiations with France for the purchase of up to four Mistral-class amphibious assault ships (see http://goo.gl/DkuSP). The Mistral-class vessels would provide the Russian Navy with a flexible asset to project forces around the world. Furthermore, the possible technology transfer (which remains a controversial subject of the ongoing negotiations) and a co-operation with French shipyards, such as DCNS, could provide a boost to Russia’s future shipbuilding capabilities. (nvk)


Scenarios: Stakes high for region as Syria protests unfoldhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, facing the gravest challenge of his 11 years in power, has tried repression, economic handouts and promises of reform to quell an unprecedented month-long wave of popular protests.

Yet the unrest, which rights groups say has cost more than 200 lives, including 17 on Monday, shows no sign of abating.

Assad and his father before him have ruled Syria under a tough emergency law in force since 1963, bolstered by the Baath party, the military and an array of fearsome security agencies.

While the Syrians demanding freedom seem far from dislodging Assad, no Arab ruler can feel secure in a region electrified by the swift fall of autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia this year.

The Assads, whose country sits on the fault lines of many Middle Eastern conflicts, have pursued relatively predictable external policies. Any political change in Syria would be a big deal for its friends and foes alike in a volatile region.



Israel, Armenia ties not among priorities in AK Party manifesto

An election manifesto unveiled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) does not mention tension ties with former ally Israel and blames Armenia for a stalemate in efforts to normalize relations.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose party is expected to win a third term in the upcoming June 12 elections, unveiled the manifesto, which Erdoğan called the AK Party's manifesto for 2023, on Saturday. The document summarizes strategy with respect to countries both in its neighborhood and beyond. But the document neglects to mention relations with Israel and ways to restore strained ties with the Jewish state. Relations between Turkey and Israel hit the lowest point ever last year after a lethal Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to break Israel's naval blockade.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed by Israeli commandos during the raid. Turkey requests an official apology and compensation for families of the victims. Israel says its commandos acted in self-defense. The party’s manifesto, which includes its foreign policy vision, attaches importance to its growing relations with Middle Eastern countries and stresses ties with the US among its primary priorities, while failing to mention Israel.

Another country, Armenia, whose relations with Turkey seemed on the brink of rescue in 2009 but failed to proceed as the two countries proposed a number of preconditions that deadlocked the process, also was not on the AK Party’s foreign policy priority list. The document says Armenia’s unconstructive approaches prevented Turkey from coming to a desired point in the normalization process with the neighboring country.

“Our position with respect to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and genocide allegations is clear. The AK Party will not allow any solution not based on fairness and justice to be imposed on Turkey. With regard to reciprocal and simultaneous steps for a solution, Turkey will not refrain from doing what it needs to do,” the document notes.

Turkey and Armenia signed twin protocols in 2009 in Zurich to bury a century of hostilities, which also included opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia if their parliaments ratified the protocols. Faced with Azerbaijan’s fierce opposition, Turkey said Armenia needs to display a constructive position on Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks and pegged the ratification of the protocols to a possible breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks.

Armenia suspended the process on April 22 last year and blamed Turkey for blocking the process.

The AK Party document says developments in Turkish-Russian relations present new cooperative opportunities from the Caucasus to Central Asia. Noting that the Caucasus has a direct border with Turkey, the document says the region has a special importance for Turkey, adding that maintaining peace and stability in the Caucasus is a strategic priority for Turkey. “In this framework, improving relations with Caucasus countries and continuation of the normalization process is one of the most fundamental goals of the AK Party government,” the document underlines.

Recalling the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, which Turkey proposed in 2008 after the August war between Georgia and Russia, the document says similar steps contributed to reducing tensions and conflicts in the region.

The AK Party promised that it will continue to consistently and effectively implement its active foreign policy to make the south Caucasus a region of peace, stability and prosperity. “Our goal is to establish a strategic environment based on cooperation and trust among all Caucasus countries and minimize the problems,” the document states.


Israeli politicians afraid of Turkey’s reaction to Armenian Genocide recognition
April 19, 2011 - 15:12 AMT 10:12 GMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - Head of the Jewish community of Armenia Rimma Varzhapetyan said that Israeli politicians know what will follow the Armenian Genocide recognition.

“It will affect Israel’s economy and security,” Varzhapetyan told a press conference in Yerevan.

According to her, the Jewish nation recognizes the Armenian Genocide, as it has also experienced the tragedy of genocide.

“In our opinion, Israel should recognize the Armenian Genocide as a state, but there is policy. Jews residing in Armenia were indignant over awarding the Iranian President in Armenia. But I repeat once again that it is policy. And Turkey is important for Israel as much as Iran for Armenia,” Varzhapetyan said, adding that, in her opinion, Israel may recognize the Armenian Genocide by its 100th anniversary.


Turkey's Kurdish Party Warns of Election Bhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifoycott

Protesters clashed with police in cities across Turkey after several parliamentary candidates, mostly Kurds, were disqualified from June ballots, while the main Kurdish party threatened a boycott.

Turkey's election commission on Monday disqualified 12 candidates for the elections on grounds they had previous terrorism-related convictions. At least half of those disqualified were from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Protesters responded with riots in central Istanbul, in southeastern Turkey's main city of Diyarbakir and in several other locations. Video and TV footage showed police firing tear gas and water cannons, while groups of protesters threw rocks and molotov cocktails. Several people appeared to be wounded.

The candidates have the right to appeal their case. But the head of the election commission said Tuesday that the overall decision was final, Turkey's state-news agency Anadolu Ajansi reported.

Some of the candidates disqualified were among the most popular Kurds running for election. Those included Leyla Zana, who spent 10 years in jail after being convicted in 1994 of supporting the PKK. She angered Turkish nationalists when, after her election to the Turkish Parliament in 1991, she gave part of her swearing-in oath in Kurdish. At the time it was illegal to speak Kurdish in a public forum.

Ms. Zana was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 1995.

A BDP boycott of the June 12 polls risks reigniting Turkey's long-standing, often violent, Kurdish dispute, which in recent years had begun to move toward political, rather than military solutions, analysts said. Conflict between Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdish Worker's Party, or PKK, cost an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 lives since 1984. Ethnic Kurds make up about 18% of Turkey's population. They seek a degree of autonomy, and political and language rights.

BDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas said in an interview with Turkey's NTV television Tuesday that the election-commission ruling would be seen as an attack on Kurds as a whole and could lead to violence. He said the party would consider whether to withdraw from the election altogether.

"Whether we withdraw or not, these elections will not be democratic and the Parliament formed will not be legitimate," Mr. Demirtas said. He called on candidates from the ruling Justice and Development, or AK party, who are running for election in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, also to withdraw.

Galip Ensarioglu, AK party's candidate for Dyarbakir and until recently head of the city's Chamber of Commerce, said in a phone interview that he no plans to step aside. He also called on the BDP not to boycott.

"What is the alternative [to participating in elections]? The alternative is weapons," he said.

Opinion polls suggest the AK party will win re-election in June, but the election-commission decision "has put them in a very difficult position" on Turkey's most sensitive political issue, Kurdish rights, said Soli Ozel, a prominent columnist with the Turkish daily Haberturk.

BDP candidates have to run as independents, because the threshold for getting into Parliament in Turkey's proportional representation system is set at 10%, the highest in Europe. That threshold was tailored specifically to keep Kurdish parties out of Parliament, said Mr. Ozel. Now that remaining route for Kurds to seek political representation appeared to be getting choked off.

"It's a disaster," he said.

The government has so far resisted calls, including from the European Union, to lower the election threshold. On Tuesday, Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party called for an emergency session of Parliament to reduce it.

On Tuesday, the party's leaders were attending a hearing at Diyarbakir's court house, in the continuing trial of 152 Kurdish politicians, including elected mayors, accused of working with the PKK and inciting separatism, among other charges.

The defendants have denied the charges. The trial's progress has been slowed by the refusal of some defendants to speak Turkish, and by the denial of the court to let them speak Kurdish.

Mehmet Ali Shahin, president of Turkey's Parliament and a member of the AK party, called Tuesday for the election commission to reconsider its decision. "All problems we have could be solved in Parliament. [The decision] may be right looking at the laws, but for the democratic process this decision should be reviewed," he said in televised remarks.


Foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey discuss processes ongoing in region

BAKU, April 19. (AzerTAc). As earlier reported, the tripartite meeting of the foreign ministers of the Azerbaijan Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Tuhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrkish Republic has taken place on April 16 in the Iranian city of Urmia.

At the meeting, discussed were issues of good-neighborhood of three countries, the processes ongoing in region, questions of expansion of cooperation in various branches.

Parties agreed to conduct the next meeting in the Azerbaijan city of Nakhchivan to continue the exchange of views on the questions causing mutual interest.

Then, the ministers adopted a statement.

In the framework of visit to Urmia, Elmar Mammadyarov has met with the foreign minister of Turkey A. Davutoglu. The sides had exchange of views on settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, also focused on various aspects of bilateral relations. The parties also exchanged views concerning the processes ongoing in the Near East.

The same day, Minister E. Mammadyarov has met the foreign minister of Iran A. Salehi. Discussed were questions of development of bilateral relations, spheres of cooperation and questions of realization of mutual visits.

Minister Mammadyarov also met with the head of the Iranian Province – the Western Azerbaijan Vahid Jalalzade to exchange views on good-neighborhood relations between Azerbaijan and Iran.


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