Turkey accused the European Union of bias and bigoted attitudes towards the EU candidate country on Monday and blamed it for undermining the Turkish public's trust in the bloc.Source: Reuters
Turkey criticized the European Commission's latest report on its progress towards EU membership as it presented for the first time its own report highlighting its reforms over the last year.
Turkey began accession talks in 2005 but the process has ground to a halt due to an intractable dispute over Cyprus, the divided island state which Turkey does not recognize, and opposition from core EU members France and Germany.
Despite waning domestic support for joining the EU, Ankara has continued to push for full membership of the union and has said it wants to join before 2023, the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.
"We observed that this year's Turkey Progress Report was overshadowed by more subjective, biased, unwarranted and bigoted attitudes," Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said in a statement accompanying Turkey's own 270-page report.
Bagis said it was unacceptable that the European Commission report released in October had ignored Turkey's "courageous" reforms over the last year and that this undermined the EU's trustworthiness in the eyes of the Turkish public.
The minister previously voiced his disappointment with the report in October, saying it failed to be objective, ignored the expansion of rights for religious minorities and had criticized the judiciary too sweepingly.
A recent survey by the German Marshall Fund think-tank found a majority of Turks view the EU negatively, illustrating the declining enthusiasm for EU membership.
Ankara has completed only one of the 35 policy "chapters" every candidate must conclude to join the EU. All but 13 of those chapters are blocked by France, Cyprus and the European Commission.
Talks have also been blocked by the Commission which says Turkey does not yet meet required standards on human rights, freedom of speech and religion.
"Today there is no government in Europe which is more reformist than our government," Bagis said.
"While EU countries are struggling in crisis, our country is experiencing the most democratic, prosperous, modern and transparent period in its history," he said.
"The 'sick man' of yesterday has got up and summoned the strength to prescribe medication for today's Europe ... and to share the EU's burden rather than being a burden to it," he said.
The progress report prepared by Turkey, released on the website of its EU Affairs Ministry, cited the passage of reforms in the areas of the judiciary, education and workers rights as examples of progress over the year.
Bagis told Reuters in Dublin earlier this month Turkey was hopeful France will unblock talks over EU membership on at least two policy chapters in the coming months ahead of a visit by President Francois Hollande.
While Hollande has stopped short of endorsing Turkey's EU candidacy, he has said it should be judged on political and economic criteria - a contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's position that Turkey did not form part of Europe.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on December 21 the current standstill in negotiations over Turkey's membership bid was unsatisfactory and the new year offered an opportunity to tackle outstanding issues with renewed vigor.
Monday, 31 December 2012
Sunday, 30 December 2012
It's notable that this disgraceful measure was announced on Christmas Eve, when no one would be paying attention.
Apparently the EU is also considering abolishing visa requirements for Turks completely.
The European Union Commission announced it would life visa requirements for Turkish citizens who provide service to Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, asking that the booklets handed out to border officials in those countries be changed accordingly, Anatolia news agency has reported.Source
The new change allows for Turkish citizens providing service to stay for 2 months in Germany, and 3 months in Netherlands and Denmark without holding a visa.
The EU Commission recalled the European Court of Justice’s 2009 resolution ordering Turkish citizens residing and exercising their activities in Turkey and wishing to enter the territory of a member state to provide services there, would be exempted from visa in a written statement on the upgrading of the Schengen booklet to Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.
The commission detailed the guidelines on the movement of Turkish nationals crossing the external borders of EU member states in order to provide services within the EU. According to that statement, the visa exemption for Turkish citizens applies only to Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark among the 26 Schengen countries.
Turkish architects, builders, lawyers, computer scientists, commercial agents, scientists and lecturers, artists, fitters and instructors installing or repairing machinery or informing of the use thereof, professional athletes and trainers, truck drivers and others established in Turkey are considered to be employed in jobs that provide services. They must prove their status with written statements at the borders.
Apparently the EU is also considering abolishing visa requirements for Turks completely.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
One in three German Turks send money back to Turkey - on average around €1,300 per person per year, a new study revealed on Tuesday.Source: The Local
The majority of Germans with a Turkish background - 57 percent - have their own income, revealed the study, carried out by Berlin-based research institute Info and published in the Handelsblatt newspaper. Seventeen percent receive social support.
Info director Holger Liljeberg attributed the transactions to Turks' "very strong" connection to their homeland. The study also found that some 18 percent of German Turks send goods and food to their friends and relatives - at an average value of €250 a year.
Altogether that amounts to around €90 million in goods and a billion euros in money.
Around half of the 1,000 German Turks asked in the survey said they owned property either in Germany or Turkey, while a third had property in Turkey.
"These figures also underscore the desire of many Turks to make provisions should they move back to Turkey one day," said Liljeberg.
The study also found that the strong connection to Turkey led many to travel there on a regular basis. "On average the Turks in Germany travel to Turkey 1.9 times a year," said Liljeberg, adding that one in four Turks travel to Turkey three or four times a year.
"The strong family connections guarantee lively traffic between the two countries, and ensure that contacts don't break," he said.
Monday, 17 September 2012
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated that Turkey recognizes anti-semitism as a crime, while not a single Western country recognizes Islamophobia as such.Source: Today's Zaman
Speaking to journalists in Sarajevo after a series of visits to Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Erdoğan commented on the 14-minute trailer for "Innocence of Muslims," an obscure film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, which sparked violent riots across various Muslim nations.
Erdoğan said he will talk about the movie that has angered Muslims on Sept. 25 at the UN General Assembly. He noted that the reaction against the movie in Turkey has been restrained. “In the last past 10 years, extremes [in Turkey] have been curbed. In a way, we acted like a lightning rod.”
He said the Turkish government has made its statement on the movie, giving messages in Yalta, and later during his visit. He said reactions against the movie continued and increased, noting statements from Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, who defined the movie as an “aggression on Islam,” has played a role in this.
Erdoğan said he will continue to give messages at the next UN General Assembly meeting about adopting international legislation against insulting religion. “I am the prime minister of a nation, of which most are Muslims and that has declared anti-semitism a crime against humanity. But the West hasn’t recognized Islamophobia as a crime against humanity -- it has encouraged it. [The film director] is saying he did this to provoke the fundamentalists among Muslims. When it is in the form of a provocation, there should be international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred, on religion. As much as it is possible to adopt international regulations, it should be possible to do something in terms of domestic law.”
He further noted, “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start. You can say anything about your thoughts and beliefs, but you will have to stop when you are at the border of others’ freedoms. I was able to include Islamophobia as a hate crime in the final statement of an international meeting in Warsaw.”
Erdoğan said the government will immediately start working on legislation against blasphemous and offensive remarks. “Turkey could be a leading example for the rest of the world on this.”
The prime minister also shared his opinion about the difference between the Turkish reaction and Arab reactions at the film. He said his government has acted like a lightning rod and extremes in Turkey have been curbed. “If this hadn’t happened, it would be like the pre-1980 times here. We have girls here [Bosnia] who come to us and say, crying, ‘You opened the door of universities [for headscarved women], and the imam-hatip schools.’ The percentage of female students [from Turkey] studying here has fallen to 35-40 percent from 60 to 75 percent.”
In response to a question on whether relations with Israel seem to be normalizing, Erdoğan said, “Israel has not found itself a good position in the eyes of the Islamic world. They are also not making any effort to start a normalization process.” He said Israel only has ties with Turkey and should make an effort to maintain good relations. Erdoğan said the Israeli government had sent him a businessman who will act as a go-between, but did not name this person. He said he’d told this person -- who he said is the richest Jewish businessman in the world -- that Turkey has three conditions for normalization, which are an official apology to Turkey for a May 2010 attack on a Turkish passenger ship bringing aid to Gaza, paying compensation for the attack that left nine Turkish citizens dead and ending the blockade of Gaza.
Erdoğan said he was hopeful about a recent initiative launched by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whereby the foreign ministers of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will be meeting this week.
Saturday, 15 September 2012
So much for the Turks being so civilised and European. It seems they're just a bunch of savages like all the rest. Who'd have thunk?
Some 300 people gather outside one of Istanbul's main mosques on Friday protesting a film they say insults the Prophet Mohammad. They chanted anti-US slogans and waved placards reading "God damn America" and "The United States is responsible for what happened" outside Beyazit Mosque.Source: Reuters
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Turkey is using illegal immigration as a weapon against Greece and Europe, islamising the content and exerting pressure to exact political concessions from the EU. This should provoke a devastating response from European governments. Instead, these spineless fools continue their policy of endless appeasement.
Greece now has a million illegal immigrants in a country of 11 million, many warehoused in camps under atrocious conditions.
"What's going to become of these people? What will they do when they are released?", asks a French official whose service term is coming to an end. His observation is sombre: "Greece is becoming the prison of Europe."Source: Valeurs Actuelles
...The police chief of Orestias [just over the border from Turkey], Giorgos Salamangas, is direct: "Up to 2009, the number of immigrants was still moderate and manageable, he says [3,500 arrests for the sector he is in charge of]. It's in 2010 that things changed [36,000 arrests for the same sector]… »
That year, Turkey, without consulting anyone, decided to suppress visas for nationals of countries like Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. Revolutionising as it did so migratory flows towards Europe. "Today, from Algeria and other cities in North Africa, you can get to Istanbul with a low cost flight for only 70 euros, says Giorgos Salamangas.
Now, hardly anyone risks the Mediterranean. Too expensive, too long and too dangerous. The illegals from Sahel and the Maghreb, like the Asians, now pass through Turkey and Greece. "Turkey has become the crossroads for illegal immigration towards the countries of the Schengen Area, especially thanks to the opening of low cost air links," confirms the 2012 report of the European agency Frontex, responsible for coordinating surveillance of the external frontiers of the EU.
The Turkish government closes its eyes. In addition to the economic benefits it gains from the transit of thousands of people through its territory, it is using immigration as a means of pressuring the EU. A Europe to which its own citizens only have access with a visa - "unjust", according to the Minister of European Affairs, Egemen Bagis. Ankara demands its abolition, pure and simple.
In the evening, in some streets in Omonia, a district located in the heart of Athens, it's not uncommon to have to step over the bodies of drug addicts to get into a building or even simply to walk past. In this capity city (almost 4 million inhabitants) without suburbs, the squats of the illegal immigrants are concentrated in Omonia. Drugs, prostitution, delinquency, AIDS: the place has become a sort of grey zone. Best not to linger there. Police officers (whose salaries have been cut by 30% compared to the previous year) admit their anxiety: "We are sitting on a time bomb," warns one of them. "As far as crime is concerned, all the indicators are in the red. Home jackings, burglaries, bag snatchings, all the figures have exploded."
80 police officers were wounded on Saturday, one of them seriously, amid heavy rioting at the edge of a so-called Kurdish cultural festival in Mannheim. Most were injured by thrown stones or bricks or bottles, said the police. Fireworks were also ignited. 13 police vehicles were smashed up. The officers used pepper spray. There were 31 arrests.Source: Bild
Around 40,000 Kurds from all over Europe came to the cultural festival in Mannheim. For hours, around 2,500 violent or violence-willing Kurds and 600 police officers confronted one another in the Maimarkt area. Mannheim university clinic initiated its emergency plan: 40 doctors and 60 carers maintained a state of readiness; five operating rooms were ready for use.
According to police, the riots may have been triggered when a 14-year-old wanted to unfurl the flag of a prohibited organisation on the festival grounds. Event marshals had attempted to prevent it. When this failed, they had called the police for help. Then the police were suddenly attacked by multiple visitors.
The Kurds engaged in the violence were loudly supported by many thousands of other visitors attending the event. A police spokesman said they had "no chance" of being able to calm the situation. Calm was only restored when the event ended in the evening.
Tunahan Kuzu, a Dutch Labour party (PVDA) candidate in Rotterdam, has released a self-promotional video for the forthcoming elections in Turkish.
The biggest media trial in Turkey's history has begun in what human rights groups say is an attempt by the government to intimidate the press and punish pro-Kurdish activists.Source: Guardian
A total of 44 Kurdish journalists appeared in court in Istanbul on various terrorism charges, including accusations that they have supported the KCK, an illegal pan-Kurdish movement that includes the PKK, the armed Kurdistan Workers' party. Of those, 36 have been in pre-trial detention since December.
The hearing was delayed after the defendants made an attempt to defend themselves in Kurdish, their mother language, a request denied by the judge. Twelve of the defendants are said to have led a terrorist organisation and 32 are accused of being members of a terrorist organisation. Prosecutors have demanded prison sentences ranging from seven and a half to 22 and a half years.
The contentious case comes amid an escalation of Turkey's 28-year-old Kurdish insurgency, with renewed clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces. Over the past 14 months, the country has seen its worst violence since the PKK's leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was captured and jailed in 1999. Since June 2011, at least 708 people have been killed, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. The victims include 405 PKK fighters, 209 soldiers and police, and 84 civilians, it said.
Meanwhile, a peaceful initiative by Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) to improve Kurdish rights has fizzled out. Instead, thousands of non-violent Kurdish politicians and sympathisers have been arrested and charged with terrorism offences. The journalists are the latest group to go on trial, activists say.
"This is bad for Turkey's international image," said Hüseyin Bagci, of Ankara's Middle East Technical University's international relations department. Bagci described Erdoğan's Kurdish political initiative – unpopular with many Turks – as dead, but said the government remained divided over how to deal with the worsening insurgency, with no clear strategy.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the Turkish government for the prosecution of pro-Kurdish politicians, activists and journalists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.
Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher of Amnesty International, said: "[This] prosecution forms a pattern where critical writing, political speeches and participation at peaceful demonstrations are used as evidence of terrorism offences."
More than 100 journalists are currently in jail in Turkey, more than in Iran or China. Many of them work for Kurdish media outlets. About 800 more face charges and many journalists have been fired or have quit their jobs because of direct or indirect pressure from the Turkish government.
In a recent speech, the interior minister, Idris Naim Sahin, compared writers and journalists to PKK fighters, saying that there was "no difference between the bullets fired in [the Kurdish south-east] and the articles written in Ankara".
The government maintains that none of the journalists on trial have been arrested for their work as members of the press. However, the 800-page indictment includes charges for "denigrating the state" against one journalist who wrote about sexual harassment at Turkish Airlines. Özlem Agus, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Tigris News Agency (DIHA), was singled out for bringing to light sexual abuse of minors in the Pozanti prison in Adana. Other offending articles include interviews with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) leader Sebahattin Demirtas, and reports on casualties in the fights between the PKK and Turkish armed forces.
"All of the defendants are on trial for doing their jobs," the defence lawyer Meral Danis Bektas said. "A free press and freedom of expression are cornerstones of democracy. Without them, democratic political participation becomes impossible. Erdoğan now openly threatens journalists or dictates [what to write]. This attitude creates a terrible climate for press freedom."
A report by the International Crisis Group to be published on Tuesday blames both sides for the worsening situation. It says the government needs to "reform oppressive laws that jail legitimate Kurdish politicians" and to "make amends" for the excessive behaviour of its security forces. But it adds: "The Kurdish movement, including PKK leaders, must abjure terrorist attacks and publicly commit to realistic political goals. Above all, politicians on all sides must legalise the rights most of Turkey's Kurds seek, including mother-language education, an end to discriminatory laws, fair political representation and more decentralisation."
The report also claims Ankara has "zigzagged" on its commitments to Kurds' rights. At times it has given "positive signals" including scheduling optional Kurdish lesson in schools. "At others, they appear intent on crushing the PKK militarily, minimise the true extent of fighting, fail to sympathise with Kurdish civilian casualties, openly show their deep distrust of the Kurdish movement, do nothing to stop the arrest of thousands of non-violent activists and generally remain complacent as international partners mute their criticism at a time of Middle East turmoil."
Since 2009, 8,000 pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, academics, writers and members of the media have been arrested on terrorism charges.
The new media trial "is clearly political," said the investigative journalist Ertugrul Mavioglu, who faced terrorism charges, dropped last December, for interviewing the KCK's leader Murat Karayilan, who operates from a base in northern Iraq.
Mavioglu said: "The government wants to set an example, it wants to intimidate. Journalists are being told: 'There are limits on what you are allowed to say.'"
Thursday, 6 September 2012
Turkey’s bid to join the European Union is “stalled” and Cyprus is to blame, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said.Source: Businessweek
Cyprus, its northern part occupied by the Turkish army, has used its veto power as an EU member to freeze Turkey’s entry talks since mid-2010. The Cypriot government now holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, making progress before 2013 unlikely.
“Were it not for some challenges from one of the members of the European Union, Cyprus, we would have made more progress when it comes to Turkey,” Van Rompuy told a Brussels conference today. “I acknowledge that negotiations on enlargement are stalled for the time being because one of the members of the club has problems with the process.”
Since opening the entry negotiations in 2005, Turkey has completed talks in only one of 35 EU policy areas. Its failure to advance contrasts with Croatia, which started the process at the same time and is scheduled to join the bloc in July 2013.
“Intensive discussions are ongoing and I hope to visit Turkey to get that message across,” Van Rompuy said.
Thursday, 23 August 2012
Nine-time Russian champions Spartak Moscow on Thursday accused fans of their Champions League play-off rivals Fenerbahce of hacking into the club's website and threatening violence.Source: AFP
The charges stemmed from a fiery first leg in Moscow on Tuesday, which the Russians won 2-1 after their fans set fire to a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the first president of modern Turkey.
"The Father of All Turks" has the effective status of Turkey's national symbol, and portraits and pictures of him on horseback adorn family rooms and buildings across the country.
The Russian government's official newspaper said the Fenerbahce fans had hacked the website overnight on Wednesday and posted a message in Turkish reading: "We do not let crime go unpunished."
Spartak are due to travel to Istanbul for the second leg next Wednesday.
The Spartak site was running again by Thursday afternoon after the club used its Twitter account to blame the incident on "Turkish hackers".
The winner of the head-to-head encounter will qualify for the group stage of Europe's elite club competition.
The image above shows the fans holding up an anti-mosque placard as well as burning an image of the butcher Ataturk.
According to this report of the incident in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, UEFA is considering punishing the Russian club even though it is the Muslim Turks who have broken the law and threatened the use of violence!
Turkish flags were also burned by the Spartak fans, according to a report penned by an observer from European football’s governing body, UEFA.Source: Hurriyet
An official response is yet to come from UEFA, but Russian media reports hinted at a possible end to Spartak's Champions League journey if the team ends up being disqualified.
Friday, 17 August 2012
The statement that Islam is the one true religion is found ever more often. 62 per cent of the Turks in Germany say that they prefer to be only with Turks. Almost half (46 per cent) say that they would like there to be more Muslims than Christians in Germany.Source: Die Welt Via: PI
These are the results of a new representative study of the opinion research institute Info GmbH, for which 1011 migrants from Turkey were questioned by telephone. [The definition of migrant will include second-generation immigrants.] The 300-page study “German-Turkish life and value worlds” was published in Berlin on Friday morning.
Proportion of strictly religious increasing
"The results speak clearly for an increasing role of the Islamic religion in the value system of the Turks in Germany", says managing director Holger Liljeberg. 37 per cent of those asked are strictly religious, only 9 per cent describe themselves as “not religious”. The proportion of those who are strictly religious has increased since 2010. 44 per cent pray at least once per day; 34 per cent even perform all five prescribed prayers per day.
Surprisingly, the highest proportion of at least quite religious is found in the youngest age group. “Especially in religious aspects, the youngest generation shows itself to have somewhat more radical views than the older,” says Liljeberg. The older Turks have mainly immigrated themselves and are therefore characteristed politically by securalism and Kemalism.
Young people with a Turkish immigrant background are especially in favour of the free distribution of Korans in the German language, a campaign of radical Islamic Salafists in German pedestrian zones. 63 per cent of the 15-29-years-olds think the “Read!” campaign is very good or quite good. However almost 70 per cent of older Turks speak out against it.
Prejudices towards atheists and Jews
In direct comparison Germany is judged superior to Turkey with regards to social welfare, living standards, education and laws, while Turkey is considered to be more liveable, more attractive, generously tolerant and sympathetic. The proportion of those who want to “return” to Turkey sometime increases to 45 per cent.
"The social insurance systems prevent a major wave of emigration", says Liljeberg. "This could change with another business upswing in Turkey."
The director of the study considers the increase in religious prejudices worrying. 46 per cent of the immigrants questioned agreed with the statement “I would like there to be more Muslims than Christians living in Germany”. In 2010 it was only 33 per cent. 25 per cent of the opinion that atheists are inferior people. 18 per cent consider Jews inferior.
Monday, 9 July 2012
The propaganda of the Muslims and their apologists grows ever more absurd. In this preposterous article in the Huffington Post, the presumably Muslim Zaman Stanizai argues that Europe's economic woes can be explained by the fact that it has failed to let Turkey into the European Union.
The Turks found an answer in the cause and clause of its European rejection and turned to the Muslim East where its economy thrives along with its many welcoming trade partners. Had Europe treated Turkey fairly and admitted it into the Union, its formidable growth engine would have pulled Europe out of such doldrums. Erdoğan's prophecy at Oxford is coming true in suggesting that "Turkey represents a burden-relieving dynamic for the EU."Not content with this absurd claim, he goes on to assert that Spain lost its superpower status because it kicked out the Muslims.
Europe's religious bigotry has also resurfaced in Spain, whose economy, like that of Greece, was saved by the EU's bank bailout, but where Muslim immigrants get targeted for the Spanish police "arrest and fine" quotas. Lest they forget that it was the Reconquista and Inquisition campaigns scaring away the best and the brightest that lead to the decline of Spain as a European superpower.Source: Huffington Post
Of course this is nonsense too. The Reconquista, completed in 1492, ushered in the golden age of Spanish history.
But the propaganda keeps coming. And, in the public sphere, only the multicultists and the Muslims have a voice. Our dissent is confined to the fringes of blogs and comment sections. Even there, the truth is outlawed. I posed a comment politely disagreeing with the author on the Huffington Post site. Censored out.
It is, fundamentally, the practice of censorship that illustrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the left. Ideas that cannot survive strong dissent do not deserve to survive. It was the experience of censorship on the Guardian website that originally inspired my own transition from left to right when I saw perfectly reasonable comments come under the censor's scythe.
As a side note, I've noticed that the Huffington Post posts a lot of pro-Turkish propaganda. Isn't that weird, considering it's owned by a Greek?
Sunday, 8 July 2012
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country was determined to improve bilateral relations with France.Source: TurkishPress
"We have deep-rooted and historical ties between Turkey and France, and our both countries are committed to move relations forward in a visionary and positive spirit," Davutoglu told a press conference in Paris after a bilateral meeting with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius on Thursday.
Davutoglu said there would be more frequent high level talks between the two countries’ officials and their parliaments, adding that cooperation would be also be boosted in many regional issues.
Davutoglu said France had become "more positive" over Turkey’s European Union accession bid, adding that he had called for the removal of France’s blocking on five policy areas in Turkey’s membership negotiations and that France was likely to assume a more positive stance in that respect.
The Turkish FM said Turkey had lifted sanctions it started imposing on France after a row in January over a French legislation that made it illegal to deny Armenian allegations on the incidents of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.
The law was later annulled by France’s top constitutional authority.
Davutoglu said Turkey was set to open two consulates in Bordeaux and Nantes as well as a culture center in Paris.
Meanwhile France's new president Hollande has confirmed that he still intends to fulfil the commitment he made during the campaign to introduce a law criminalising denial of the Armenian Genocide. Should be interested.
Saturday, 30 June 2012
U.S. Intelligence, Contradicting Ankara, Indicates Aircraft Was Shot Down by Syria in Its Own Airspace, Officials SaySource: Wall Street Journal
By JULIAN E. BARNES, ADAM ENTOUS and JOE PARKINSON
U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria's account and at odds with Turkey.
A Turkish military truck transports a mobile missile launcher in Hatay province near the Turkish-Syrian border on June 28.
The Turkish government, which moved tanks to the Syrian border after the June 22 incident, says the debris fell in Syrian waters, but maintains its fighter was shot down without warning in international airspace. Ankara also has said the jet was hit too far from Syrian territory to have been engaged by an antiaircraft gun.
Damascus has said it shot down the plane with an antiaircraft battery with an effective range of about 1.5 miles.
"We see no indication that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile" as Turkey says, said a senior defense official. Officials declined to specify the sources of their information. The senior U.S. defense official cautioned that much remains unknown about the incident.
A Turkish official said he wasn't aware of the American doubts, and reiterated the government's position that a Syrian missile downed the plane in international airspace.
The Turkish government has scheduled a special meeting for Saturday morning on Syria. A spokesman for the prime minister said the U.S. intelligence on the incident would likely be discussed.
The downing of the jet spurred fears of a widening regional conflict and led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, following a presentation on Tuesday by Turkey, to condemn Syria's action.
The use of antiaircraft fire would suggest the Turkish plane was flying low to the ground, and slowly, U.S. officials said—though Syria said the jet was traveling at 480 miles an hour.
If hit by antiaircraft fire, the jet likely came closer to the Syrian shoreline than Turkey says, U.S. officials said.
The plane's pilots haven't been found, and the Turkish Navy has continued to search for them. U.S. officials say they believe the pilots perished.
Syria in the Spotlight
Take a look back over the highlights of the past year in Syria in a timeline, and review the latest events in a map.
More photos and interactive graphics
Some current and former American officials believe Ankara has been testing Syrian defenses. The version of the Turkish F-4 Phantom that was shot down typically carries surveillance equipment, according to U.S. defense officials.
A former senior U.S. official who worked closely with Turkey said he believed the flight's course was meant to test Syria's response. "You think that the airplane was there by mistake?" the former official said.
"These countries are all testing how fast they get picked up and how fast someone responds," said a senior U.S. official. "It's part of training."
The Turkish official said the plane wasn't on a surveillance mission. "All NATO members have condemned the Syrian hostile act and have supported Turkey," the official said.
The emerging discrepancies could prove embarrassing to Ankara and strain continuing discussions between the U.S. and Turkey, a NATO ally that shares a long border with Syria.
Turkey occupies a critical role in the U.S. and Western strategy for dealing with the Syrian crisis. American officials and defense analysts say the U.S. approach depends largely on Turkey's willingness to keep pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
NATO officials said Turkey's presentation on the incident on Tuesday was very detailed, but diplomats didn't closely question the Turks on their version of events. The U.S. backed Turkey and, American officials said, pushed NATO to issue a statement sharply condemning Syria.
The incident has put NATO in a tough spot. Alliance members are eager to back Ankara, but don't want to be dragged into a military conflict in Syria.
If the plane had been struck by a missile, a senior military official said, it would be an indication that Damascus had authorized the action. But the use of antiaircraft fire may mean a local commander decided on his own initiative to fire at the Turkish plane, according to officials and analysts.
U.S. defense officials said they weren't alarmed by Turkey's movement of forces to its border with Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Turkey's "very measured" approach. "I've asked them, and they are not seeking to be provocative," Gen. Dempsey said.
The U.S.-Turkish relationship is unlikely to be affected by the apparent discrepancies in accounts of the downing of the jet. Cooperation between Ankara and Washington has grown closer in recent months, after a period of significant strain in 2009 and 2010.
That marks a turnaround for Turkey, which 18 months ago moved to cultivate relations and trade with neighboring Muslim regimes, including Mr. Assad's, while downgrading ties with former ally Israel, raising concerns in Washington.
The revolutions of the Arab Spring, however, upended that policy. In a major change, Turkey agreed last fall to house a NATO missile-defense system, which was designed by the U.S. to contain Iran.
Turkish analysts said the debate in Turkey is now focused on the escalating tensions along the country's 565-mile border with Syria.
"What's important for most Turks is that the government has been seen to respond by boosting troop capacity on the border, which will further pressure Assad," said Atilla Yesilada, a partner at Istanbul-based political risk consultancy Istanbul Analytics.
Monday, 25 June 2012
El País had an article yesterday about "Spanish" Muslims who had been killed fighting against the Assad government in Syria. The Muslims were from Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in Africa, adjacent to Moroccan territory and inhabited by large numbers of ethnic Moroccan Muslims who are outbreeding the Europeans resident there. For more on Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish exclaves in Africa, see here.
The article recounts the story of some Muslims from Ceuta who travelled to Syria and got killed there. (Nice one, Assad!) It's full of the usual stuff from family and acquaintances about how he "seemed so normal, he wasn't a fanatic". They came from the neighbourhood of El Príncipe, next to the Moroccan border, and travelled in the company of known Moroccan jihadists, flying from Madrid to Turkey and hooking up with jihad groups there who helped them cross the border into Syria.
Ceuta, with around 80,000 inhabitants, has the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe at 60%. There are also record-breaking educational failure rates. 38.8% do not finish the period of compulsory schooling, but El Príncipe beats even these records.Source: El País
..."We knew this was going to happen. No one is surprised by it. Young men have already travelled from Ceuta to Afghanistan and Iraq, so why wouldn't they go to Syria now? This problem is not just one of security. There is a very large element of social uprooting and marginality”, according to an official of the intelligence services.
...The mosque of Las Caracolas is controlled by the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España (UCIDE), which is represented in Ceuta by Laarbi Mateeis, director of the movement Jamaat Tablighl. ...Thirty of the 32 mosques in the city are controlled by this hardline group which preaches peace but which has occasionally produced terrorists like Mohamed Atta, who directed the suicide attackers of 9/11. All the mosques in Ceuta have Moroccan imams and the majority are paid by the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs.
No doubt it won't be long before the Muslims in Ceuta don't need to travel to do their jihad. I expect a Kosovo-style insurgency to break out there within a few decades.
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
A senior Cypriot diplomat has blamed Turkish "intransigence" for the blocked talks on reunifying the divided island.Source: The Parliament
Addressing a Brussels conference on Cyprus, Theophilos Theophilou also insisted the country was "well prepared" to assume the presidency of the EU on 1 July.
Theophilou, permanent representative of Cyprus to the EU from 2000-2004, said that as well as the ongoing economic malaise, the presidency priorities would include the long-term EU budget and a 'common asylum' policy.
He added, "A great emphasis will also be on achieving what could be called a 'better' Europe. By that I mean one which is closer to its citizens and responds more to their needs."
Theophilou, who helped steer the accession of Cyprus to the EU in 2004, said he believes presidencies run by smaller member states can be more effective.
"They have no vested interest or hidden agendas," he told this website. "Cyprus will be an honest broker."
Theophilou, who was born in what Greek Cypriots describe as the "occupied", Turk-controlled northern part of the island, said it was "in the interests" of both sides, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to resolve the current impasse.
He appealed to Ankara to "make concessions", including the withdrawal of up to 30,000 Turkish troops from northern Cyprus and the "removal" of "settlers" in the north.
"Turkey continues to be intractable and is responsible for the lack of progress on the peace talks. This is disappointing and I would hope it will be more forthcoming and show responsibility. Cyprus is too small to be divided. It is big enough for all Cypriots."
The Nicosia-based lawyer was a keynote speaker at a debate organised by the Brussels-based Centre for European Studies and the Hans Seidel Stiftung think tank.
His comments come after S&D leader Hannes Swoboda said Turkey must respect the fact that Cypriot president Demetris Christofias is not only representing Cyprus from 1 July but the whole of the EU.
Speaking after meeting with Christofias, the head of the second largest party in parliament said he was "disappointed" with the lack of respect shown by Turkey to Cyprus and its upcoming presidency.
"It is a European presidency. Turkey cannot expect from Europe compromises if it doesn't respect the decisions of the EU.
"President Christofias is not representing only Cyprus, he is representing the EU in these six months and this has to be respected by Turkey."
Swoboda called on Turkey to make moves to push forward its EU accession path, like proving more "helpful" towards the reunification of Cyprus.
Monday, 18 June 2012
The Turkish regime is gradually suppressing freedom as its society moves steadily toward a more hardline Islamic identity. Keep in mind that Turkey has been a very self-consciously modern and secular country. While there were always restrictions on freedom – especially regarding the expression of Kurdish nationalism – it was miles ahead of the usual Middle Eastern standards in that regard. And Istanbul was the ultimate expression of modern, secular Turkey.Source: Jerusalem Post
Thus, a minor incident is of immense psychological importance. Here’s one of many. A woman wearing sweatpants sought to board a public bus and a dozen or more passengers blocked her way. One man said, “Look at her. Her head is not covered, shame!” Nobody on the bus came to her defense and the driver did nothing.
Why is this especially significant? Because the implication is that head covering for women should be mandatory in public and that those who advocate such measures will use intimidation to achieve this goal, unafraid of any possible consequences. On the contrary, it is those who would advocate freedom of choice who are intimidated.
Then there’s the new law requiring that every shopping mall, movie theater and indeed every public facility in the country have a Muslim prayer room. One newspaper columnist who ridiculed this idea wrote, “Have you ever heard any conservative or religious person in this country complaining: ‘I can’t live my religion if there are no [mosques] in opera or ballet houses?’”
In other words, such legislation is not happening because there is a burning need for such things but because the government is Islamizing the country. It should be pointed out that anyone who wants to pray could easily find an existing mosque not far away and, indeed, a dedicated room isn’t even a requirement for Muslim prayer.
OF COURSE, it should be understood that the government is offering a lot of incentives for becoming not just a practicing Muslim but an Islamist. Consider. You want a high-level career, especially in government. Do you go to an academic high school with a tough curriculum or to an Islamic school which focuses not only on religion but on an Islamist interpretation?
The number of students attending such religious (imam-hatip) schools has tripled in 10 years, rising to seven percent. The gap is narrowing, especially true for “regular” students since enrollment at open admissions schools fell from 50% to about 25 percent. The rest go to selective schools (21%) or vocational schools (50%).
The government has now decreed that Islamic schools be accorded equal status with academic schools for purposes of admission to university and also that Islamic junior high schools will be established. These decisions will accelerate the relative growth of education that indoctrinates students with the regime’s ideology.
THEN THERE’S Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s announcement that virtually all abortions will be banned, even if the woman was raped.
The court-authorized prosecution of a famous Turkish concert pianist, Fazil Say, for sending tweets critical of Islam is another sign of the times. So is the sentencing of a student to eight years’ imprisonment solely for the crime of holding up a sign demanding free education at an Erdogan rally. So is the sentencing of a former top general to one year in prison for telling a villager in a personal conversation that the regime had sold out the country.
Most recently, the government has decreed that it will choose two-thirds of the Turkish Academy of Sciences’ members. Until now, the existing members chose the new ones, and one-third of them resigned in protest.
Then there’s the foreign policy realm, where there are also dozens of examples of the regime’s Islamist orientation. The basic trend is anti-American, ferociously anti-Israel, and supporting Iran and radical Islamist movements. Despite differences with Tehran over Syria – the Turkish regime wants a Sunni Islamist government there; Iran wants to keep its allied incumbents in power – the two countries are constantly expanding their trade to hitherto unprecedented levels.
When a US airstrike against terrorists went astray and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, Erdogan quickly demanded a US apology and called the dead “our martyrs.” It symbolized his eagerness to take the side of any Islamic country or movement against the United States. The Turkish regime has ignored, with US permission, the sanctions on Iran and the media in both countries is full of reports about their ever-tightening relations. The large portion of the Turkish media controlled by the regime systematically spreads anti- Americanism and public opinion polls show ever-rising hostility to the United States.
Toward Israel, the regime is so unrelentingly hostile that the leader of the opposition asked whether Erdogan intended to go to war against that country. It has now decided to file criminal charges against Israeli officials involved in the attempt to stop the ship Mavi Marmara from running the blockade on the Gaza Strip, a situation in which Turkish jihadists were killed after assaulting Israeli soldiers. It should be noted that the Turkish government was directly involved in working with a terrorist group – defined as such by the United States and Germany – in mounting that deliberate provocation.
Since then, Erdogan has had three non-negotiable demands: that Israel apologize, admitting it committed a crime; that reparations be paid to the families of the dead extremists on the basis of Israeli guilt; and that Israel stop all sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. In response, Israel offered to express regrets and pay compensation on a humanitarian basis. Erdogan has refused all compromise – as indicated especially by his third demand – and has no desire to settle the issue.
Erdogan’s anti-Israel campaign has continued with such actions as insisting that NATO installations in Turkey not provide information to Israel, that Israel be excluded from joint maneuvers in which it formerly participated, and that Israel not be permitted to attend a NATO meeting and an international counter-terrorism conference. (The real problem with the counter-terrorism group is that the Obama administration made Turkey the co-director and didn’t even include Israel as a member when it launched the project last September 11.)
I have no problem if individual Turks want to be more pious in their religious observance. The problem is that this quickly slides over into intolerance, repression, extremism and a radical foreign policy. Moreover, in the long run the spending, restrictions and anti-intellectual policies might undermine Turkish democracy, stability and economic progress.
The writer is the director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. He also publishes the Rubin Report blog http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/
Saturday, 16 June 2012
Since its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Turkey has claimed that it was acting as a protector and guarantor of the island’s security. But a closer examination of its actions on Cyprus indicates motivations of a very different character. Turkey’s invasion resulted in hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriot refugees, who have been unable to return to their homes for almost 40 years. The international community has repeatedly condemned the illegal military occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops. The United Nations Security Council has passed 75 resolutions calling for Turkey to allow Greek Cypriots to return to their homes and to withdraw its troops from Cyprus. Yet Turkey continues its occupation.Source: Washington Times
More than 40,000 heavily armed Turkish soldiers are occupying the northern part of the country, with one Turkish soldier for every two Turkish-Cypriots. The presence of this overwhelming force cannot be justified by the claims that they are needed to prevent any renewal of violence. In fact, since the 2003 opening of the border between the two communities, more than 17 million intercommunal visits have occurred without conflict.
The result of this occupation by foreign troops is that many Cypriot neighborhoods in the occupied areas remain vacant or in a state of disrepair. One of the most tragic examples is the Varosha region of Famagusta. Once an important commercial and tourism center for the island, Varosha was fenced off following the invasion, and access has been prohibited for all except Turkish military forces. Over the years, this area has become a virtual ghost town.
The desolation of Cypriot properties and cultural sites is not restricted to Varosha but is a reality in all the areas under Turkish military occupation. In fact, an estimated 520 Greek Orthodox churches and chapels, and 17 monasteries in the occupied areas have been pillaged, vandalized or destroyed. Often these religious sites have been converted into stables, bars, nightclubs, casinos or hotels, leaving more than 15,000 religious artifacts unaccounted for. This widespread destruction of Cypriot historic, religious and cultural identity certainly does not seem like the behavior of a “protective guardian.”
Turkey also continues to interfere in the domestic affairs of Cyprus, especially the negotiations on reunification. The goal of these talks is a Cypriot-developed, mutually agreeable settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, including a single sovereignty, single citizenship and single international presence. But instead of allowing the representatives from the Turkish-Cypriot community to engage freely in the talks, the Turkish government has imposed its own criteria, which has made an agreement all but impossible.
Turkey also has tried to limit Cyprus‘ sovereign rights to develop its energy resources. Despite the island’s critical energy needs, Turkey declared last year that it had “nullified” the exploration agreement between Cyprus and Israel even though it has no right to do so. Turkey escalated the conflict by sending its own ships to the region and even threatened military action if Cyprus continued in its project with Israel. Although from the beginning, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias guaranteed that any energy resources discovered would be used for the benefit of all Cypriots, Turkish officials claimed their actions were to protect the rights of the Turkish-Cypriots.
Reports by the Turkish-Cypriot media indicate that the Turkish government continues to promote illegal immigration by Turks to the northern occupied areas of Cyprus with the goal of changing the demographic composition of the island. According to people administering the occupied area, there are an estimated 160,000 settlers from Turkey, many of whom occupy the homes of the evicted Greek-Cypriots. However, reports in the Turkish-Cypriot press from Turkish-Cypriots who live among the Turkish settlers put this number between 500,000 and 800,000. A recent “census” in the north indicated that the total population in the north had increased to nearly 300,000 people. Just 88,900 of them were native Turkish-Cypriots, who are outnumbered by illegal Turkish immigrants by a ratio of almost 2-1.
Ankara’s support for these illegal immigrants is not welcomed by the native Turkish-Cypriot community. In fact, Stella Altziman, who resides in that region of Cyprus, wrote in 2010: “Due to constant migration from Turkey, [the northern occupied area] is like a Turkish province” and the native Turkish-Cypriots have become a minority in their own land. Last year, many Turkish-Cypriots protested Turkey’s policies toward Cyprus, with some carrying banners that read, “Ankara, get your hands off our shores.” Yet Turkey continues to flood its areas of occupation with illegal Turkish immigrants. In his visit to Cyprus last year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan mocked the Turkish-Cypriots, stating, “If you don’t want us to send people, you need to have more babies.”
By its occupation, Turkey is “guaranteeing” nothing but a creeping annexation. It is time for Turkey to withdraw its military troops, end all support for illegal immigration to Cyprus and let the true inhabitants of the island determine their own future. Only then will the long-suffering Cypriot people finally enjoy the peace and security they have been trying so desperately to achieve for decades.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Monday, 11 June 2012
As I've reported a few times, part of the multicult indoctrination in Austria and Germany involves teaching the Austrian and German children Turkish "to help integration". One Austrian mother doesn't seem too thrilled with the practice. As you can see from the photograph, she send the Turkish vocabulary sheet back to the teacher with the words "SICHER NICHT" [DEFINITELY NOT] written on it.
Source: SOS Heimat
Sunday, 10 June 2012
European Union diplomats are expressing growing concern at what they see as the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey's ruling Islamists.Source: AFP
They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the government as a tool to jail and silence opponents and compromise the country's secular credentials by introducing Koran studies in public schools.
Other measures include lowering the age at which parents can send their children to Islamic religious schools, increasing pressure on those criticising Islam and restricting abortion.
Turkish authorities accuse the so-called Ergenekon network of being behind several plots to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dozens of retired or serving senior military figures, intellectuals, lawyers and journalists been put behind bars.
On Thursday Stefan Fuele, European commissioner for enlargement, cited this and other obstacles in the way of Turkey's membership bid while in Istanbul for talks.
"I have used this meeting to convey our concerns about the increasing detention of lawmakers, academics and students and the freedom of press and journalists," he said.
Changes due to take effect when the new academic year starts this autumn also have also ruffled feathers. The Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is introducing Koran lessons.
And from the end of primary school, more parents will be able to opt out of the secular education system and send their children to Islamic religious schools. Previously these schools could not recruit children under the age of 15: now children as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.
There is concern too over plans by state broadcaster TRT to launch a religious channel and proposals for prayer rooms in newly built public buildings such as creches, theatres and even opera houses.
"A series of recent moves show that the conservative tendency has the upper hand and faces no opposition," said Marc Pierini, a former head of the EU diplomatic team in Turkey.
"Civil society exists, but it is hardly audible," said one Ankara-based diplomat.
"The media are for the most part directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP and the opposition is powerless," the diplomat added.
Plans to restrict the abortion laws and other moves that critics say will would make Islam a more visible part of daily life are added areas of concern.
Comments last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he compared abortion to a botched attack by the military that killed 34 civilians last December, brought a sharp response from a senior EU diplomat.
Erdogan had said of abortion: "You either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference."
And in a emotive reference to the attack in Uludere, in which Turkish warplanes killed civilians they had mistaken for Kurdish separatists, he said "every abortion is an Uludere."
"Some politicians made comparisons that are not appropriate," Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, told journalists.
Turkey is preparing a bill to slash the time limit for abortions from 10 weeks to between four and six weeks.
Thousands of women have demonstrated against the proposed changes, defending the existing abortion law, which dates back to 1965.
Turkey's acclaimed composer and pianist Fazil Say faces trial in October on charges of insulting religious values in a series of provocative tweets about Islam. If convicted, he could face up to 18 months in prison.
In April, Say told the Hurriyet daily that he felt completely ostracised by Turkish society since having declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance.
One European diplomat in Istanbul remarked: "It's not just the fact that he is being put on trial, but also what the pro-government newspaper Sabah says, which has made a hero out of the guy who denounced him."
The Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit has lavished praise on the person who alerted the authorities to Say's comments on Twitter, with one headline describing him as "The man who gives no respite to the enemies of Islam".
Erdogan has also just announced that a giant mosque is to be built on one of Istanbul's most hills, which will become one of the city's most visible landmarks.
This latest announcement on top of the other developments have been seized on by the critics of Erdogan and the AKP, who suspect the government has a covert agenda to promote Islam -- and undermine Turkey's secular traditions.
"He fuelled this debate himself recently with certains utterances, one example being that he and his party wanted to see 'the emergence of a religious generation'," noted Semih Idiz, a leader writer for Milliyet newspaper.
Wednesday, 6 June 2012
It's a bird! It's an Israeli spy! It's a — well, it's probably a bird.
Turkish authorities are investigating a dead bird they think could might be an Israeli spy, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
According to the report, a farmer found the dead European bee-eater and noticed that its leg was banded with a ring that said "Israel." (Bird-banding lets ornithologists track migration routes.)
He handed the bird's body over to the government, and security officials investigating it found what they reportedly considered cause for alarm: Its suspiciously sized nostrils.
The nostrils were large enough for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to have implanted a surveillance device inside, according to the report.
But a bird expert told Yedioth Ahronoth that the bee-eaters often pass through Israel and Turkey during their migration from Europe, and a conservation society confirmed that the bird under investigation was banded four years ago.
Birds banded in Israel have triggered suspicion in the region before. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, last year Saudi Arabia detained an Israel-banded vulture carrying a GPS transmitter with Tel Aviv University's name on it, suspecting it of an espionage plot.
Sunday, 3 June 2012
This is potentially ominous. If Cyprus does seek a bail-out, there is a good chance the Eurocrats will demand a quid pro quo in the form of Cyprus lifting the blocks it has imposed on Turkey's EU accession.
Cyprus could be the next eurozone country to seek an emergency bail-out, its president Dimitris Christofias has suggested.Source: Telegraph
The tiny country, with less than 1m population, joined the euro in 2008 and is heavily exposed to the Greek banks.
Mr Christofias said he wouldn't rule out the possibility that the government may tap the European Union's bail-out fund to recapitalise the island's second-largest lender, Cyprus Popular Bank, which is the most heavily exposed to Greece.
"Certainly, I don't take it as a given that we will negotiate our induction into the support mechanism. But I don't want to exclude it entirely," Christofias said.
Cyprus Popular, which sustained record losses after taking a 74pc write down on its Greek government bond holdings, is struggling to meet a June 30 deadline to replenish its capital reserves.
Cyprus, faced with soaring bond yields hovering around 14pc on the 10-year bond, and with its debt considered junk status by two of the world's leading ratings firms, has few places to turn to cover its financing needs. Late last year, the country negotiated a €2.5bn (£2.02bn) bilateral loan from Russia. Now, Cyprus is in talks with China for another bilateral loan, of an undisclosed amount.
Mr Christofias said the government is looking to clinch another loan, but wouldn't elaborate. The government will unveil another austerity package later this month to meet a promised deficit target this year of 2.5pc of GDP.
The European Commission urged Cyprus earlier this week to further rein in spending and meet its deficit target as the economy is projected contract this year by 0.8pc of GDP before rebounding to a meagre 0.3pc in 2013.
"Cyprus is starting to feel the effects of the Greek crisis and may have no other recourse but to ask for European aid," Alex Apostolides, an economics professor at Nicosia's European University, told the Wall Street Journal. "There has been a narrowing of all other options that were available, to the point where going to the EFSF [European Financial Stability Facility] looks increasingly likely, almost inevitable."
The woes of Cyprus have emerged after a tough week on the markets, following week jobs data in the US and data which showed the UK manufacturing sector was shrinking at its fastest pace in three years.
The only bright light to shine on the gloom of the eurozone was the Irish voting in favour of the fiscal treaty on Friday, which has been as key vote of confidence in the austerity package that the European politicians want to impose on the eurozone. José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, welcomed the vote: "This Treaty is a key component of the EU's response to the current economic crisis. Restoring sustainability to public finances remains an important objective."
Saturday, 2 June 2012
A court here on Friday charged Fazil Say, a classical and jazz pianist with an international career, with insulting Islamic values in Twitter messages, the latest in a series of legal actions against Turkish artists, writers and intellectuals for statements they have made about religion and Turkish national identity.Source: New York Times
Mr. Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation,” the semiofficial Anatolian news agency said. A trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18, with Mr. Say facing up to 18 months in prison if convicted.
It is unusual for Twitter posts to be the subject of an indictment in Turkey. Some of the messages were written by Mr. Say, but one, which poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife, was written by someone else and passed along by Mr. Say via his Twitter account. Likening heaven’s promise of rivers of wine to a tavern and of virgins to a brothel, it referred to a poem by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, Mr. Say said in a text message from Slovenia, where he had just arrived for a concert.
Another Twitter post, this one written by Mr. Say, joked about a muezzin’s rapid delivery of the call to prayer, asking if he wanted to get away quickly for a drink. The messages are no longer available online. The pianist, who has frequently criticized the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party government over its cultural and social policies, publicly defines himself as an atheist — a controversial admission in Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
In his text message from Slovenia, Mr. Say said he was only one of 165 people who shared the Twitter post on the vision of Islamic paradise.
“I just thought it was a funny allegory and retweeted the message,” he said. “It is unbelievable that it was made into a court case.”
He continued, “This case, which goes against universal human rights and laws, is saddening not only when judged on its own merit but also for Turkey’s image.”
Many intellectuals and writers have faced similar charges in recent years, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate, who last year was fined $3,700 for saying in a Swiss newspaper that Turks “have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians.”
The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, and other international organizations have criticized such actions as violations of free speech.
Mr. Say, who has served as a European Union culture ambassador, has a busy international career, with frequent engagements in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia and the United States. He has performed with major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Say is also known in music circles for his eccentricities during performances, like conducting phrases with a free hand, giving range to facial expressions and humming along.
His last recital in New York was in April, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in connection with the opening of the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.
Anthony Tommasini, in reviewing the concert for The New York Times, said Mr. Say drew a “large and enthusiastic audience.” Of his performance of Leos Janacek’s Sonata “1.X.1905,” Mr. Tommasini wrote, “Mr. Say brought improvisatory freedom and vivid colorings to this harmonically misty, elegiac and restless music.”
Why is this guy a European Union cultural ambassador, given that Turkey is not and hopefully never will be a member of the European Union?
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
By Ayla AlbayrakSource: Wall Street Journal
Turkey’s prime minister this weekend waded into a politically charged debate over family planning, causing a furor by likening abortion to a botched military airstrike which in December killed Kurdish smugglers.
Speaking to his ruling AK-Party’s women’s branches on Saturday in Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I see abortion as murder… I am asking you: what’s the difference between killing a baby inside a mother’s womb and killing a baby after birth?”
The prime minister went further, comparing abortion—which is legal in Turkey up to 10 weeks from conception—to the December killing of 34 Kurdish civilians in Uludere, on Turkey’s Iraqi border, by a Turkish military airstrike. The incident has put Turkish government under intense political pressure.
“Each abortion is one Uludere,” Mr. Erdogan said, adding that abortion and caesarean births were part of “a sneaky plan to wipe the country off the world stage” by slowing the growth of Turkey’s population.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, this weekend reacted furiously, while civic rights groups said the comments showed how the powerful prime minister was increasingly trying to legislate on every aspect of Turkish society.
“The prime minister should stop guarding vaginas,” said CHP lawmaker Aylin Nazliaka on Saturday.
On Sunday, women’s rights activists waved banners outside Mr. Erdogan’s office in Istanbul, stressing that the prime minister should “know his limits” and “pull his hands off women’s bodies.”
The prime minister’s comments were always going to be controversial, but the impact was magnified by the fact that they were unexpected. Turkey’s population—almost 75 million, according to the latest census—has a high birth rate, making it exceptionally young by European standards. In Turkey, unlike in the U.S. and some European countries, abortion has not been a major subject of political debate, despite the fact that Mr. Erdogan’s ruling AK-Party follows an Islamic-conservative line. Nor has abortion been a major source of public debate for clerics in Turkey. There is no clear consensus on the subject in Islam.
However, this weekend’s statement was not the first time the prime minister had rhetorically entered citizens’ bedrooms. Mr. Erdogan has for years promoted his own ‘three-child policy,’ recommending that Turkish citizens should have at least three children to keep the country’s population and workforce dynamically youthful.
Turkey’s cabinet fanned out across the airwaves on Sunday to back the prime minister’s comments. Family and Social Policies Minister, Fatma Sahin, said that criticism against Mr. Erdogan’s words was not “scientific.” She said the ratio of caesarean births in Turkey is dramatically higher than in other comparable countries and that the method has its risks. Ms. Sahin said that recent reports showed that nearly half of all births in Turkey were from caesarean sections.
It is unclear what the Prime Minister’s comments will mean for Turkish family planning policy.
Turkey’s Health Minister Recep Akdag on Saturday warned that measures could be taken against hospitals which have caesarean rates deemed “unnecessarily high” by the government.
But Ms. Sahin didn’t imply that there would be any change in Turkey’s abortion law, saying that every family has the right to plan its size.
“As the political administration, we are not in the position to interfere with that right,” Ms. Sahin said on Sunday, according to Anadolu news agency.
Monday, 28 May 2012
ISTANBUL — Turkey is ready to try four Israeli commanders held responsible for the killing of nine Turkish activists in a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Anatolia news agency reported Monday.Source: AFP
An Istanbul court unanimously approved an indictment finalised Wednesday by Turkish prosecutors, who want life sentences for the Israelis for their alleged role in the deadly flotilla raid, the agency said.
Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade, on May 31, 2010, leaving nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.
The raid triggered a crisis between Israel and Turkey, once regional allies, and resulted in a dramatic downgrade in diplomatic relations and expelling of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey. Military ties were also cut.
The 144-page indictment called for nine life sentences to be given to each of the four commanders, including Israel's former chief of the general staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
The date for the trial is not yet announced, but it would be held in the absence of the accused, Israel having ruled out any prosecution of those who took part in the attack.
A United Nations report into the raid last September accused Israel of acting with "excessive force" in the operation.
Friday, 25 May 2012
According to a story in the Austrian edition of Today's Zaman, several schools in Austria have instituted bans on speaking Turkish, not only during class or when addressing teachers, but anywhere within the school precincts. This is to encourage the children to learn German and to allow teachers to intervene outside of classes if inappropriate language is being used or an argument is developing.
Some Turkish colonist children have been aggressively defying the ban, however. One stood in the playground, yelling continuously in Turkish and was eventually punished. This provoked an angry reaction from the Turkish colonist community which insisted that the use of Turkish in the school area should not be a punishable offence as using their language was a human right and constituted an essential element of their identity.
Source: Vorarlberg Online Via: SOS Heimat
Friday, 18 May 2012
ANKARA, Turkey—Turkey on Friday called on major international oil and gas companies seeking licenses to search for gas deposits off Cyprus to withdraw their bids, saying it will not allow exploration to go ahead and threatening to ban them from Turkish energy projects.Source: Boston Globe
Companies such as Russia's Novatec, Italy's ENI, France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas are among 15 firms and consortiums seeking licenses to carry out exploratory drilling off southern Cyprus. The island has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south since a 1974 Turkish invasion that followed a coup by supporters of unity with Greece.
Turkey says an offshore gas search by the Greek Cypriot government flouts the rights of the Turkish Cypriots and last month began exploratory drilling of its own. Last year, it sent a warship-escorted research vessel south of Cyprus, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that his government would "retaliate even more strongly" to any further search for mineral deposits around the island.
The small Mediterranean island is reeling from Europe's financial crisis and hopes to tap energy sources, both to meet its own energy needs in future decades and for export.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said Friday that some of the fields in question "conflict" with Turkey's continental shelf while others overlap with areas Turkey and Turkish Cypriots plan to explore.
"As announced in the past, Turkey will not allow any activity in these fields," the statement said. "We call on the countries concerned and the oil companies to act with common sense, not to engage in activities in maritime fields that are under dispute due to the Cyprus issue and to withdraw from the bidding."
It said the companies would be held responsible for any tensions that arise from exploration in fields under dispute and would be barred from Turkish energy contracts.
"It will be out of the question for companies that cooperate with (southern Cyprus) to be included into energy projects in the future," the ministry said.
Italy's ENI, which is involved in pipeline projects in Turkey, refused to comment on the Turkish threat. There was also no immediate comment from Novatek and Total.
Cyprus' commerce minister said last week companies from Canada, Britain, Norway, Israel, South Korea and the United States had applied for a license to drill, surpassing the small island nation's expectations.
The companies are bidding in a second round of licensing off the Mediterranean island. In 2007, U.S. firm Noble Energy was the only company to seek a license to drill during an initial round of licensing. Last year, it discovered a natural gas field estimated to be at 5-8 trillion cubic feet (140-230 billion cubic meters).
Cyprus' government said it is scheduled to appraise all bids by the end of the year. Licenses would be granted by mid-2013 following negotiations with the winning bidders.
Thursday, 17 May 2012
ISTANBUL - A last-minute deal has cleared away a dispute over the attendance of senior European Union officials at the NATO summit opening in Chicago Sunday. Analysts saw the dispute as an example of Turkey flexing its growing diplomatic muscle within the military alliance.Source: Voice of America
With only days to go before the NATO summit, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and the head of European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, finally received an official invitation to attend.
The delay was a result of objections by Turkey over what Ankara perceives as a lack of equal treatment between NATO and EU officials.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal explains.
"Many countries have questions and wonder why two EU chiefs are invited, while the NATO secretary-general is not invited," said Unal. "Second, why are other international and regional organizations who also deal with NATO not invited or thought to be invited?"
According to Turkish spokesman Unal, the impasse was resolved after it was agreed that the EU leaders will attend the opening ceremony but will be restricted to only certain sessions of the summit, including those related to Afghanistan.
Turkey's stalled EU membership bid is seen as the underlying factor for Ankara playing diplomatic hardball before the summit, says former senior Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen.
"It is an indication of how much frustration, disillusionment and even now antagonism has been built over Turkey's accession process, and this is leading to this type of negative environment, where Turkey is trying to leverage with its own relationship with NATO, to put pressure on the EU. In many ways, we are definitely seeing a much more assertive and robust Turkish foreign policy," said Ulgen.
Political observers say the confidence of Ankara to stand up to the EU comes from Turkey's growing regional importance. Turkey borders Syria, Iran and Iraq. And with its charismatic prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan - whose influence and popularity extends across the Arab Spring countries - Ankara has become an increasingly important ally to the United States.
Cengiz Aktar, an international relations expert at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, says Washington's support gives Ankara an important strategic advantage.
"Turkey has a sort [of] comparative advantage over other countries in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and even Europe," said Aktar. "The government is using and abusing this situation to the bitter end to push its own agenda."
A report this month by the influential U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations said the growing importance of Turkey is resulting in Washington cultivating stronger ties.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Unal denies Ankara is following a more assertive policy.
"Countries like Turkey in NATO who are not EU members, but who are NATO members, they have to defend their legitimate rights and interests stemming from NATO membership," he said.
With Turkey increasingly playing an active role in NATO from Kosovo to Afghanistan, political observers warn the potential remains for tensions between Ankara and Brussels to be played out within the Atlantic alliance.
Monday, 14 May 2012
With conservative Muslim believers becoming more visible in Turkey these days, a movement founded by a charismatic Islamic theologian, Fetullah Gülen, is attracting increasing outside interest. The Gülen movement's public profile is defined mainly by a worldwide network of schools that it operates, yet little is known about the inner workings of the organization's educational component.Source: The Atlantic
I was recently invited to visit one of the movement's showcase, high-achieving schools, Fatih Koleji, located on the European side of Istanbul. The visit provided greater clarity on a particularly controversial aspect of the schools' operations - religious instruction.
The Gülen movement's stated aim is to create a "golden generation" of educated Muslims, an aim shared by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At the Fatih Koleji school, statues in Ottoman-era garb and children's artwork sparsely decorate the interior of the sleek, multi-storey school building. Male teachers wear suits, while nearly all the female instructors wear long, white jackets. The obligatory image of the Republic of Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, hangs in nearly every room.
However, portraits of Gülen, who currently lives in the United States, are not to be seen. Students interviewed I interviewed claimed that they only know about the cleric from reading newspapers stories and books; Fatih Koleji, which has students ranging in age from four to 18, does not offer specific instruction about the movement's founder, they said.
The methods and approach of Gülen schools toward religious instruction has fueled lots of speculation about the movement's intentions. Governments in Central Asia in particular are suspicious that the Islamic values espoused by the Gulen movement could potentially pose a challenge to the political status quo in the region.
Hoping to dispel misconceptions, the 37-year-old vice-principal of Fatih Koleji, Metin Demirci, who taught for five years in the movement's schools in Kazakhstan, stressed that all the schools closely follow the curriculum of the public schools in whichever country they are operating.
In Turkey, he said the basic tenets of Islam are taught in a weekly class lasting 80 minutes that also offers instruction on other world religions. "Students learn our religious principles and other religious principles," Demirci said. Faculty members, he claimed, try to serve as role models of Islamic piety, leading by example.
While Fatih Koleji has a prayer room, no student is forced to pray, Demirci continued. Out of 200 students at the school, only about 10 percent of the children follow the Muslim practice of prayer five times a day, he estimated. "They must want it."
One foreign teacher at another of the movement's estimated 30 schools in the Istanbul metropolitan area commented that most students are drawn from religious families, but their faith does not appear to "rub off" on more secular classmates.
One ritual from Turkey's ardently secular public schools, though, appears less prominent at Fatih Koleji. Demirci played down the importance of "Our Oath," a nationalist pledge that students usually recite daily. "It is related to democracy and improving democracy," he said. "I believe in the next two years, we will stop saying this because we don't need it. With democracy, every small child has the right to say anything they choose."
Whether secular or religious, Fatih Koleji's students appear to hail from wealthier families. Tuition stands at 20,000 Turkish lira per year, or about $11,325, nearly the equivalent of Turkey's average per capita income of $14,600. The fee does not include books or transportation to school. Financial assistance is available to qualifying students.
Eager for their children to gain an educational edge amid an overcrowded and underfunded public-school system, many Turkish parents willingly swallow the relatively high cost. "In Turkey . . . the private schools of Gülen are incomparably more successful than the public schools," emailed Bayram Balci, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, who has tracked the movement for several years.
"The high quality of the education in these schools is stressed by everybody, even by those who don't like the conservatism of this movement," Balci added.
One 14-year-old boy, playing chess with a girl about his age, said his parents had transferred him to Fatih Koleji from another private school for its higher quality of education and smaller class sizes.
All boys in the school wear blue shirts, girls wear yellow. Class size averages about 20 students, roughly half the size in most Turkish public schools, according to Demirci. Many of the school's classrooms feature digital blackboards controlled from the teacher's laptop that are used for interactive forms of instruction.
Gülen school students begin to learn English in kindergarten, as supposed to 4th grade in Turkish public schools. From the 6th grade, students have the option of learning Spanish or Russian. Special preparatory centers that ready Gülen school students for university entrance exams provide an additional advantage, Balci said.
How the schools are financed remains a murkier detail. Representatives of the movement claim there is no centralized bookkeeping system. Nor even a master roster of how many Gülen schools exist around the world. A senior Gülen movement member, who wished not to be named, told me that "[n]o accurate data is really possible on the number of schools since they are highly localized both economically and management-wise."
Money for Gülen schools is first raised locally, through donations from private individuals and businesses that support the movement, he said. In Turkey, a "sister school" program with longer-established Gülen schools also is a source of funding.
When financial assistance is required outside of Turkey, schools simply bring that "need" to Turkey, the Gülen movement member said.
Some of those schools' students may end up working for the Gülen movement after graduation. Demirci added that the opportunity to travel and to be part of a community attracts many alumni to the teaching profession. "There is an advantage in this," Demirci said. "We have friends everywhere."
Sunday, 13 May 2012
Everything in this report is consistent with the view that Turkey is deliberately facilitating this illegal immigrant invasion to further the islamisation of Europe. The Turkish government has signed visa-free travel treaties with virtually every Islam-dominated country.
Then they use their inaction over these illegal immigrants as an extortion tool to get the EU to grant visa-free travel to Turks! And Europe's leaders are so weak they give in to this!
There is a clear solution to this problem. Whenever the system picks up an illegal immigrant who has made his way into Europe from Turkey, an invoice should be created for the costs of housing and processing him. Interest should be added and the invoice should be continually updated as new costs arise. Until Turkey takes the immigrant back, the costs continue mounting. If the Turkish government refuses to pay, the EU should impose import duties on all imports from Turkey and recover the money in that way. Within a few years of introducing a system like this, I estimate that the problem of illegal immigration from Turkey (80% of all illegal immigration into the EU) would largely have been solved. The problem only exists because the Turkish government tacitly condones it. But Europe's leaders are paralysed by their own psychological weakness.
Saturday, 12 May 2012
On May 3, Moscow criticized Turkey's plans to explore natural gas deposits around the divided island of Cyprus, under the protection of Turkish naval and air power. Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry's chief spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, cautioned Turkey that its actions "may exacerbate the situation on the territory of Cyprus".Source: Asia Times
The Greek Cypriots and Israel are coordinating their plans to develop offshore gas deposits and export the product in partnerships with international companies. One export route under consideration would run via mainland Greece into Europe.
The Republic of Cyprus, Greece and, recently, Israel are all involved in disputes with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Explicitly siding with the Greek Cypriots (and implicitly with Israel and Greece), Moscow is positioning to bid for offshore gas exploration licenses, also hoping for control of the delivery route.
These gas projects and potential exports to Europe are creating an economic basis to the geopolitical alignment among Israel, Cyprus and Greece. The swing factor in this development is Israel, now turning toward these historic opponents of Turkey, after Ankara's reversal of the Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership.
Israel, Cyprus and Greece have been holding intensive talks in recent months at the prime minister, ministerial, and chiefs-of-staff levels, about offshore gas projects and regional security.
Greek and Greek Cypriot observers commonly suggest that a Greece-Cyprus-Israel triangle is necessary to counter-balance the increasingly assertive Turkey. The official consultations within this triangle are developing, however, in bilateral formats, carefully avoiding the appearance of a tripartite grouping, although the agenda is largely a shared one.
Turkish naval and air force activities around Cyprus are perceived as intending to discourage offshore exploration and development. Potentially, this affects Russian interests there no less than Western interests.
The Republic of Cyprus (Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia) holds that it is fully entitled to develop offshore mineral resources within the state's internationally recognized borders and exclusive economic zone (as delineated by agreement with Israel).
According to Nicosia, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC, which Turkey alone recognizes) could share the benefits of such development, if and when a federal solution reunifies the divided island.
Ankara and the TRNC argue, however, that Nicosia may not unilaterally initiate exploration and development at offshore deposits, including those off the island's southern coast. Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country with an exclusive economic zone, opposes mineral projects there in the absence of a political settlement, and deems such activity prejudicial to the island's reunification.
Turkey initiated seismic research and exploration drilling for gas and oil off the island's southern coast in September 2011 and off the northern coast in April 2012. Ankara has warned the Greek Cypriots and Israel that Turkish warships and planes based in the TRNC are on hand to escort Turkish exploration vessels.
The Greek Cypriot government has hinted via the press repeatedly that it would allow Israeli warships and planes to operate in its waters and air space. Israel, however, shows no appetite in becoming involved even indirectly in the Cyprus dispute, or otherwise "containing" Turkey.
The process of demarcating exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean is far from complete. The Lebanese government officially claims a portion of Israel's Leviathan gas deposit, the richest in Israel's exclusive economic zone.
The Hezbollah movement threatens unspecified "asymmetrical" actions from Lebanon to back up that claim. Syrian claims would likely overlap with Israeli and Cypriot claims, but the Syrian government is currently too distracted by internal unrest to act in the maritime area.
Russia seems willing to put its friendship with Turkey at risk by endorsing the "triangle's" position on zoning and exploration rights, against Turkey's position. Moscow's minimal objective is access to Cypriot offshore gas deposits for Gazprom and Novatek, in the framework of the Greek Cypriot government's international tender for 12 offshore blocks.
Russia's maximal goal is to aggregate Cypriot and Israeli offshore gas volumes for transportation and reselling via Gazprom on international markets. Toward that goal, Gazprom recently concluded a preliminary (non-binding) agreement to purchase liquefied gas volumes from Israel's Leviathan project.
Meanwhile, Gazprom is one of the bidders for DEPA, the gas transmission pipelines in mainland Greece. If successful in that bid, Gazprom would undoubtedly strive to increase its intake of Cypriot and Israeli offshore gas, transport it (probably in liquefied form) to mainland Greece, and use DEPA pipelines to re-sell it on European markets.
Vladimir Socor is a Senior Fellow of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation and its flagship publication, Eurasia Daily Monitor, and is an internationally recognized expert on the former Soviet-ruled countries in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Socor is a regular guest lecturer at the NATO Defense College and at Harvard University’s National Security Program’s Black Sea Program. He is a Romanian-born citizen of the United States based in Munich, Germany.