Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Turkey condemned for not respecting freedom of expression

From EurActiv

In Short:

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for having prosecuted an editor and the owner of a Turkish daily for pro-Kurdish content.

Brief News:

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has sentenced Turkey to pay compensations to the editor and the owner of a Turkish daily Özgür Bakiş, for violation of freedom of expression.

Cihan Çapan and Halis Dogan were prosecuted in January 2000, for disseminating separatist propaganda. The two men were fined, and the editor sentenced to imprisonment. They were charged for having written and published pro-Kurdish articles, namely on the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party(PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, his trial, the PKK's armed struggle and the process of democratisation in Turkey.

The Court considered that even if the articles contained "some particularly acerbic passages and thus painted an extremely negative picture of the Turkis state, they did not exhort the use of violence or incite armed resistance or rebellion" and could, therefore, not justify the interference with Mr Çapan's and Dogan's right to freedom of expression.

In the context of the Orhan Pamuk-case, where Turkey finally decided to drop charges against the best-selling author Orhan Pamuk for insulting Turkish identity (see EurActiv 23 January 2006), the Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, said that "it is clear for me that Turkey needs to fill properly the loopholes of the current penal code, which leave too much room for abusive and restrictive interpretations limiting freedom of expression".

Turkey: author accused of turning people against military

From Pravda

A court in Istanbul ruled that Perihan Magden's article amounted to "heavy criticism conveyed within the scope of freedom of expression" and did not constitute a crime.

Magden was among a string of writers and journalists to stand trial for expressing opinions, despite pressure from the EU to scrap repressive laws and improve freedoms.

She is the second person to be acquitted in recent months. In November, a court acquitted Internet journalist Rahmi Yildirim of charges of insulting the military, the AP reports.

In her column, published in the weekly Yeni Aktuel magazine in December, Magden defended conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan who was sentenced to a record four-year term in a military prison for disobedience after he refused to wear his military uniform. She argued that Turkey needed to establish a civilian service as an alternative to compulsory military conscription.

One soldier killed in landmine explosion in southeastern Turkey

From People's Daily Online

One Turkish soldier was killed and two others injured on Thursday when a landmine planted by Kurdish rebels exploded in the southeastern province of Bingol.

The explosion occurred during an operation of Turkish security forces in the mountainous area of Genc town in Bingol, the governor's office said in a statement.

The injured were immediately taken to a nearby hospital and they were in stable condition, the statement added.

The outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) has launched an armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey since 1984, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Analysis: Turkey eyes nuclear energy

From Monsters and Critics

TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) -- Despite a recent visit to Turkey by Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the country`s plans to add nuclear power are still in their earliest stages, IAEA officials said.

Turkey is aiming to build three nuclear power plants over the next decade, though no locations have been announced and no licenses have been issued. The country also lacks a nuclear regulatory agency, which it must establish as separate from the licensing authority before any project can move forward.

During his early July visit to Turkey, ElBaradei told Turkish officials that 'extensive and rigorous planning is essential, with `cradle-to-grave` considerations ranging from up-front financing and licensing all the way through decommissioning and the future disposition of spent fuel and waste,' an IAEA spokesman said.

'The general situation is this: The IAEA is never in a position to endorse or (prevent) a country`s launch into nuclear power,' the spokesman, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to go on the record with the media, told United Press International.

'We only have an advisory role.'

To that end, the agency can conduct feasibility studies for the area earmarked for a nuclear plant. 'If the area is flooded by monsoon rains, for instance, we might suggest that (building a nuclear plant there) is not the best idea,' the spokesman said.

'Once a country decides on its own to (venture into) nuclear power, the IAEA has an optional service to help the countries build a nuclear safety regime, including seismic studies done according to the latest standards,' he said.

'So far, almost all countries have taken advantage of this service,' and Turkish officials have signaled their interest as well.

Although no sites for nuclear power plants have yet been named officially, the IAEA spokesman said one site at Sinop in northern Turkey was a likely contender. Locals and environmentalists oppose building a plant there.

An earlier proposal for a site in southeastern Turkey was shelved in 2000 because it sat on a seismic fault line, and Greenpeace activists protested Turkish plans to build a nuclear power plant there as early as 1999.

An official from the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency told UPI that he could not elaborate much on Turkey`s nuclear plans, and Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources officials did not immediately return telephone calls.

Earlier this year, as the country`s nuclear aspirations picked up steam, TurkishPress.com collected a cross-section of reactions among Turkish businessmen and experts.

'Except for Finland, no Western countries have established nuclear power plants since 1978,' the report quoted Middle East Technical University chemistry professor Inci Gokmen as saying.

'Nuclear plants contain extremely complicated technologies. Also, Turkey will have to import fuel for those power plants ... we should benefit from domestic and renewable energy sources instead,' Gokmen said.

However, the chairman of Turkey`s Ankara Chamber of Industry came out in favor of the nuclear plans.

'Those who oppose the establishment of nuclear power plants in Turkey should not forget that there have already been plants (established) in neighboring countries ... nuclear power plants in Turkey will create a great atmosphere for investments,' the report quoted Zafer Caglayan as saying.

Part of the push for nuclear comes from Turkey`s growing energy consumption and lack of natural resources. As Turkey makes plans for nuclear energy, it is also angling to become one of the world`s major oil and gas corridors.

The country already boasts several pipelines, including part of the recently inaugurated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil conduit, the second-longest in the world.

BTC brings Caspian Sea oil to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where it goes onward to Europe and possibly the United States in the future. Turkey plays an important role by providing the West with an alternate energy source, but can`t use the vast amounts of oil pumped across the country to provide its own citizens with electricity.

Terror Strikes Blow to Tourism in Southeastern Turkey

From Zaman

The escalating terror activities in southeastern Turkey’s have had an adverse impact on the economy of the region.

The southeastern city of Mardin is most severely affected by the recent terror events.

The cradle of many ancient cultures, Mardin was a popular tourist destination prior to the recent events in Diyarbakir and Kiziltepe with just 25,000 visitors, down from 400,000 in 2005, losing a significant portion of the region’s income from tourism.

Mardin Governor Mehmet Kiliclar reported that although no terror activities have been reported in Mardin, the whole region is considered to be dangerous.

Therefore, Mardin is also perceived to be under threat. A number of shops in the city have virtully closed t reservations have been canceled Kiliclar said.

He also held the media responsible for loss of tourism revenues.

Tourists are able to wander safely and freely in the city center until late at night Kiliclar said, adding that locals are friendly and hospitable.

Mardin Mayor Metin Pamukcu also informed that group tours to the city were canceled after the recent incidents in the region.

In fact, Mardin is one of the safest cities in the region, Pamukcu claimed. He cautioned the media not to exaggerate the events.

Sanliurfa is another regional city suffering economic losses due to the recent terror events, and there has been a considerable decrease in the number of tourists visiting the “City of Prophets,” famous for its Balikli Golu (Fish Lake).

Sanliurfa Trade and Industry Chamber Chairman Ismail Demirkol also complained about damage caused to the local economy.

Demirkol said: “Unfortunately, all cities in the region are assumed to be dangerous for tourists.

Gaziantep Trade and Industry Chamber Chairman Mehmet Aslan said that even though the city of Gaziantep has been least effected by terror events in the region because of its geographical distance from actual attacks, it has seen a 30 percent decrease in the number of tourists in 2006.

Aslan continued: “Terror events effect the region as a whole. Unfortunately Gaziantep has been negatively influenced by the events because of its proximity to the region.

But, thankfully, Gaziantep is the least effected city, however, even minor problems reflect on us.”

Sunday, July 23, 2006

EU to Disclose Next Progress Report on Turkey

From Zaman

The European Union (EU) Commission has announced that its next Progress Report on Turkey is to be revealed on October 24.

In the report, the Commission is expected to focus on the Turkish government's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic.

Diplomatic sources say that the EU may propose the suspension of accession talks.

One third of the EU member states is required to back the proposal to halt the talks, while the support of at least 13 out of 25 members would be needed implement the proposal.

Last year, Turkey had signed the additional protocol of the Ankara Agreement that extended Turkey's custom union agreement to the 10 new members of European Union including Greek Cyprus.

The signing of the additional protocol had been a condition imposed by the EU prior to the opening of accession talks in October of last year.

At the time Turkey made it clear that its signing of the protocol did not extend to recognition of Greek Cyprus.

Turkey has since declined to implement the EU protocol refusing to open its ports to Greek Cyprus, without it first lifting the sanction against the Turkish Cyprus.

However, top EU officials have repeatedly warned Turkey that the failure to meet its obligations in full will affect overall progress in the negotiations.

On June 12 in Luxembourg, Turkey opened its accession talks with the EU in the area of science and research - the first of 35 policy fields that will be dealt with in the accession talks.

The Greek Cypriots had threatened to veto the beginning of Turkey's talks but were persuaded not to intervene after long hours of discussions with EU officials.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey took control of the northern part of the island in response to a Greece-backed coup which aimed to unite the island with Greece.

Peace hopes on the divided Mediterranean island had faded away in 2004 when Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted against the Annan peace plan which was approved by the Turkish Cypriot side in a simultaneous referendum.

The southern Greek side of Cyprus joined the EU as representative of the whole of the island on 1 May 2004.

The TRNC, which is isolated internationally, is only recognized by Turkey.

Neither Turkey nor the TRNC recognize the Greek Cypriot Administration.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

COURT ENDS ASSET FREEZE OF AL-QAEDA LINKED FINANCIER

From Andkronos International

Istanbul, 21 July (AKI) - Turkish Council of State, the country's top court, has overturned a order from Turkey's previous government to seize the assets of a suspected al-Qaeda financier, Yasin Al-Qadi. The ruling on Thursday could jeopardise Washington's efforts to gain Turkish's assistance in co-ordinating its fight against terrorism.

The previous Turkish government, at the request of the United States, had ordered the seizure of the assets of al-Qadi, a Saudi businessman and reputed al-Qaeda financier, following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Al-Qadi allegedly has had business links with Cuneyd Zapsu, one of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top advisers.

The court's decision came two weeks after Erdogan defended al-Qadi as a "philanthropist."

"I know Mr. Yasin and I believe in him as I believe in myself," Erdogan told private NTV television in an interview on July 11.

"It is not possible for Mr. Yasin to establish ties with a terrorist organization and support it. ... He is a person who has no specialty other than being a philanthropist," he said.

The previous Turkish government had issued a Cabinet decree to freeze the assets of al-Qadi and another suspected al-Qaeda financier in December 2001.

Erdogan's spokesman Akif Beki two weeks ago said that the prime minister would not change his opinion on al-Qadi, which was based on their personal acquaintance, until it was proven otherwise.

Beki said the list of suspected financiers of terrorism issued by the U.N. Security Council was not based on any court decision, noting that being included on the list did not necessarily mean they were guilty.

Beki noted that the reason why the list was constantly updated was because individuals on the list were found innocent, adding that they knew that al-Qadi had applied to the U.N. Security Council to be removed from the list.

The Turkish Police Department said last Friday al-Qadi was banned from entering the country because of an order issued by the previous government, but noted that they had no documents or evidence against him.

The Turkish media has accused Erdogan's government of blocking an investigation into reported money transfers to al-Qadi in the late 1990s by one of his top advisers, Cuneyd Zapsu.

The main opposition, strictly secular Republican People's Party (CHP) last week filed a criminal complaint against eight people, including al-Qadi, Cuneyd Zapsu, Abdulaziz Zapsu (a relative of Cuneyd Zapsu), Mustafa Latif Topbas (a conservative businessman and relative of the Istanbul Mayor), Mehmet Fatih Sarac (Qadi’s business partner), Ibrahim Halit Cizmeci (Qadi’s business partner), Wael Julaidan (Qadi’s business partner) and Gaye Zapsu (Zapsu’s mother) for laundering money and financing terrorism.

The assets of al-Qadi, who heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq Foundation, have been frozen by the European Union.

U.S. Treasury officials allege the organization he heads is an al-Qaeda front used to funnel millions of dollars to the global terror organization,

A report - compiled by Turkey's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) in 2004- says that Zapsu, in 1997 transferred 60,000 US dollars to the al-Qadi’s Muwaffaq Foundation. A 250,000 dollar transfer was also made by Zapsu's mother to the foundation in 1999 according to the report.

The court’s decision today could be appealed by the orime ministers office, the finance ministry or the foreign ministry within 30 days.

Turkey Requests New Bid from Eurofighter

From Zaman

The Turkish Air Force requested a new bid from Eurofighter as part of efforts to strengthen its forces by replacing its planes with a new generation of jet fighters.

In response to the Turkish Ministry of Defense’s decision to increase the number of jet fighters it will purchase, Eurofighter’s producer, Aeronautica, began to prepare lower prices for the tender.

The company will also issue a response to Turkey regarding its demands for partnership, technology transfers, and industrial participation.

Authorities evaluate Turkey’s new demand about technology transfers from Eurofighter, which is the competitor of American Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two companies that are opposed to any technology transfers, as an important development.

If both parties reach an agreement, Turkey will become one of the production bases of Eurofighter jet planes and a full partner of Aeronautica along with Italy, England, Spain and Germany.

Aeronautica CEO Giovanni Bertolone emphasized if the agreement is signed, Turkey will have access to all the source codes of Eurofighter. Turkey will also have the ability to make changes in design and in production phases of the plane in accordance with its needs, just as other partners using “System Design Responsibility.”

Bertolone spoke with Turkish journalists during the Farnborough International Airshow in England’s capital London, and emphasized Eurofighter is not just an industrial project.

Bertolone defined the cooperation as having three aspects: Political, military and industrial.

“We see Turkey as the most appropriate candidate country for cooperation in all three of these aspects, and will make our offer accordingly,” Bertolone said.

This statement means that Turkey will not only have the chance to transfer technology with the world’s best selling multi-purpose new generation jet fighters, but will also be able to fly its own planes independently and without restrictions.

Bertolone further said Turkey far exceeds the countries in its region considering its Air Force power and rapidly developing economy, and should only be compared to countries like England and Italy.

The Aeronautica CEO said the United States will use F-35s, also known as Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), combined with the dominant F-22 in its air force to provide maximum air to air and air to land efficiency.

Consequently, Bertolone advised Turkey to use two platforms, JSF and Eurofighter, simultaneously.

The JFS’s constitute an important place in the Turkish Ministry of Defense’s modernization project for the Turkish Air Force.

Authorities estimate that if Turkey orders JSF’s as early as today, the planes will not be delivered until 2014; however, the Eurofighters will be fully operational in three years time.

Constantino Panvini Rosati , head of Eurofighter's Turkey Campaign, said Turkey should evaluate both platforms, from air to air and from air to land, in the frame of empowering its air forces.

Europe Outdates US with Typhoon

The double-engine Eurofighter Typhoon is designed to be able to take off and land on shorter runways, in addition to their high maneuverability capacity. Authorities asset that the European aviation industry has surpassed the American aviation industry for the first time with the “aveonics” system on Eurofighter.

Turkey needs 120 Eurofighters to fully control its air space.

Erdogan Phones Ahmadinejad About Middle East Crisis

From Zaman

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a phone conversation with Iranian President Ahmedinejad on Friday. The two leaders discussed the Middle East crisis and the PKK terror organization.

Erdogan and Ahmadinejad both agreed that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) should play an active role in defusing the crisis in the Middle East.

The Iranian President, for his part, said that the international community was standing on like a spectator before the massacre of the Lebanese people.

Erdogan said that Syria and Iran should contribute to a cease fire and to the end of violence in the region. "Iran should act to extinguish the fire.”

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had phone talks with US President Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday.

PM Erdogan also discussed the PKK terror organization and Turkey's intention to crackdown on the PKK terrorists hiding out in north Iraq.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Truth Still Banned in Turkey, EAFJD Says

From Yerkir

YEREVAN (YERKIR) - The Turkish Court of Appeal, on the 12 July, confirmed the suspended jail sentence which faced Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist.

Mr Dink was initially condemned in October 2005 under article 301 of the Turkish penal code for an article published on 13 February of 2004. In that publication, he had called upon the Armenians to "turn toward the renewed blood of independent Armenia".

The European Armenian Federation is highlighting this new incident against freedom of speech as it occurs only a few days after legal actions were taken by Turkish extremist organizations against Karekin II, the Catholicos of all Armenians.

His Holiness Karekin II was in fact giving a pastoral visit to his flock in Turkey at the end of June. During an interview with the Turkish press, when interrogated on the Armenian Genocide, he had stated that 'historians committees' are no longer relevant since the "Armenian genocide has been studied by
scholars for more than 90 years".

After the declaration of His Holiness, and in order to protect the Armenian minority from the threats it had received, the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, Mgr Mutafyan felt obliged to iterate the denials of Ankara by stating that "the 1915 issue should be submitted to historians
and scholars from each side to achieve a better understanding of the sensitivities of each side".

“It is now clear to everyone that beyond the usual attacks against freedom of speech, Turkey targets specially the truth about the Armenian genocide," said Laurent Leylekian, the executive director of the European Armenian Federation.

"We hail the reaction of the European Commission against this blatant violation of the right to freedom of speech. However, to follow the process to its logical conclusion, the Commission should now assess the Turkish denial policy as such, as it does for freedom of speech, minority rights or gender issues.

It is politically incorrect that this criterion is left out of the assessment process and that it is only skimmed over in the regular reports," concluded Leylekian, reported the EAFJD press unit.

Erdogan: Turkey will Make no Concessions on Cyprus

From Zaman

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had important messages for the European Union upon his arrival in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to attend the 32nd anniversary commemoration of the Turkish operation on the island.

Erdogan was met by TRNC Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer upon his arrival at Ercan Airport, and told him, “We’ve fulfilled our obligations, and the international community should immediately lift the unfair sanctions imposed on Turkish Cyprus.”

Erdogan made clear that Turkey will not make any concessions.

Later on, Erdogan held a joint press conference with TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat following a meeting between the two leaders.

Erdogan reiterated that Turkey wants a UN-backed solution to the Cyprus problem. “The world should remove the isolations imposed on the TRNC so that Turkey may fulfill its responsibilities. We have always supported a peaceful solution, and will continue to do so.”

Furthermore, Erdogan stressed Turkey will continue to be a “brother” to the TRNC as it has done in the past.

Talat also offered support for Erdogan’s peace plan, and called on Greece and Greek Cyprus to do the same.

‘We are pursuing your goals’

United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari’s visit to the island was at the core of the Erdogan-Talat meeting.

Turkey welcomed the message that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan may step in to resolve the Cyprus issue, and highlighted the importance of Greek Cypriot’s starting negotiations.

Erdogan reassured the TRNC saying, “Don’t worry. We will not open Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot traffic.”

Erdogan later met former Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktas at his office.

“We are pursuing your goals. We will make no concessions over the Cyprus issue,” Erdogan reportedly told Denktas.

The Independent: Turkish Cypriots are Europe's Forgotten People

Turkish Cypriots appeared suddenly on Britain’s agenda when a Greek Cypriot sued a British couple who built a house on property he was forced to abandon in Turkish Cyprus.

The British newspaper, The Independent, published a report on the TRNC’s socio-economic status, citing the TRNC has lived in a legal and political vacuum since 1974.

Turkish FM Gul Warns of Anti-western Backlash in Turkey

From Zaman

Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned that vacillations in negotiations for Turkey's European Union membership coupled with the US policies in the Middle East, are fueling an anti-western backlash in Turkey.

In an interview with the London Financial Times on Thursday, Mr Gul said that failure to resolve the Cyprus issue was "tainting" Turkey's EU membership negotiation process.

In addition, the Turkish FM opined that failure to solve the Cyprus issue has had a "global impact" on other areas, such as security cooperation.

Gul went on to stress the backing of Turkish government the latest efforts by the United Nations to re-start the Cyprus peace process with a proposal to set up technical committees to deal with cross-border matters such as crime.

Minister Gul also warned that some EU members using Cyprus as a pretext to delay the negotiations.

Gul added that US support for Israeli actions in Lebanon would result in a backlash throughout the Middle East.

As regards the effect of EU difficulties and the Middle East crisis on the public attitude in Turkey, FM Gul went on to declare, "Moderate citizens (in Turkey) are becoming anti-American and anti-EU."

"If our young, dynamic, educated, and affluent population becomes bitter, if their attitudes and feelings are changed, it is not good. Their views have changed towards these global policies and strategic issues. This is dangerous."

Speaking about the continued presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq, Gul stated, "This is very dangerous…We cannot tolerate this. We will definitely use all our rights under international law.

"Of course we understand the Iraqi government's position, but if they are not able to control their land, they should co-operate with us.

"If they cannot stop it, we will have to take action."

Gul added that the PKK was armed with guns and explosives obtained in Iraq and from the Iraqi army.

CURRENT MIDDLE EAST CRISIS TESTS FRIENDSHIP WITH ISRAEL

From Andkronos International

Istanbul, 20 July (AKI) - Could growing Turkish outrage over Israel's military intervention in Gaza and Lebanon jeopardise the long-standing friendship between the Jewish state and Turkey, its most strategic ally in the Muslim world? On Wednesday,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Israel's assault on Lebanon.

"One cannot hold a country (Lebanon) repsonsible for an act by an organisation (Hezbollah). One cannot annihilate an entire country and all the civilians in it. It does not contribute to global peace."

Ordinary Turks appeared to share their premier's sentiments.

"Israel and Syria stir up trouble. But innocent people die. I support the Palestinians, they have been suffering for years," said Mehmet Demir, a Istanbul-based civil servant.

Pensioner Bedriye Tellioglu, also from Istanbul, was more direct. "I hate Israel. It wants to weaken Arabs with the support of the United States. I'm for the Arabs," he said.

Part of Turkey's anger with the conflict stems from the failure of its attempts to mediate in the early stages of the crisis when it sent a special envoy to meet with Syrian leader Basher al-Assad in a bid to convince Damascus to use its influence with Hamas to secure the release of the Israeli soldier.

Israel's destroying of the Erez Industrial Zone in Gaza further riled Ankara.

But despite political leaders' remarks, the media with its reportages detailing the harm caused to Lebanese and Palestinian civilians by Israeli bombs and anti-Israeli street protests, some analysts believe the Turkey-Israel friendship will survive the current crisis.

"Relations between Turkey and Israel are ultimately based on Turkey's relations with the United States," Bulent Akarcali, a government foreign policy advisor during the 1980s-90s, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"Turkey's national interests prevent it from cutting its ties with Israel. The reasons: Turkey needs the help of American Jewish lobbies to curb the influence of the Armenian lobbies who are working to have Armenian genocide claims to be accepted by Washington," says Akarcali who in 1984 first set up ties between Turkish parliamentarians and Jewish political lobbies in Washington.

Also according to the veteran foreign policy advisor, Turkey knows it can't count on the Arab world.

"Turks know that the Arabs did not support Turkey neither on the Cyprus nor the Armenian issues. In fact, despite repeated calls by Ankara, not a single Arab country has to date recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," he says.

Also business ties between Turkey and Israel are booming. The volume of trade between the two countries amounted to 30 billion dollars in 2005, while almost 400,000 Israeli tourists visted Turkey in 2005, a 30 percent increase over the previous year.

Ultimately, both countries view each other as a bulwarks against Islamic extremism and terrorism, an alliance which continues to be cemented by joint military exercises.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turkey Eases Visa Rules for GCC Nationals

From Arab News

Turkey has announced that it has eased visa rules for nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, including Saudi Arabia, granting them long-term entry visas on arrival at Turkish entry points.

“Saudi passport holders can obtain visas immediately on arrival at any Turkish airport or border point or they have the choice to get visas from the Turkish Embassy or its consulate in Jeddah well before their departure,” Turkish Ambassador Ugur Dogan said in a statement yesterday.

The entry visa, to be issued on arrival at Turkish border points, will be for multiple entries with a 90-day validity. This visa regime is for visitors only; other visas will still require applying at the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jeddah.

The simplified visa procedure is expected to boost business and tourism traffic between Turkey and the Gulf countries.

More than 37,000 Saudis visited Turkey last year, marking a growing trend in the number of visitors to that country from the Kingdom.

Predicting a major increase in Gulf travelers to Turkey this year, Dogan said Turkey had much to offer to visitors from the region as the country represents a blend of history, nature and hospitality, making it a unique destination for Arab tourists.

Turkey has set out a broad vision to tap tourism market of the Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, by holding promotional programs and generating awareness.

“A number of fascinating sites and monuments, facilities and edifices, beautiful mosques from Ottoman and Seljuk eras, sites of pre-Islamic times and above all the nature with mountainous forests, lakes and rivers are major attractions in Turkey,” said an embassy statement.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Official Support for Turkey on Cyprus

From Zaman

The Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a policy think-tank in Brussels, renowned for its policy research studies on the European Union (EU), offered its support to Turkey on the Cyprus issue.

The CEPS report, submitted to the EU term president Finland, reads: “Northern Cyprus, accepting the internationally recognized first and only solution, the Annan Plan, cannot be held responsible for the division on the Island any longer.”

The CEPS also asked for isolations imposed on the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) to be removed.

The report was presented verbally to Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhahen.

The CEPS evaluated Turkey’s EU membership and the Cyprus issue in the report titled ‘Strategic issues in a broader Europe’.

The report reminds the remarks made by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn suggesting that the negotiation process with Turkey is heading towards a “train wreck.”

“These are logical conditions to be put before a candidate country. However, Turkey also has logical demands,” reads the report.

Emphasizing the Greek Cypriot’s rejection of the Annan Plan in a simultaneous referendum on the island, the report criticized the Greek government, saying, “The legitimacy of the referendum is indisputable. However, the Greeks did not use their willpower to renegotiate the plan.”

The CEPS presents three choices to resolve the issue and warns that the EU should not be intimidated by the Greek Cypriots.

The first and potentially most successful of the alternatives involves coming to an agreement by reviewing the Annan Plan, the second involves lifting of all isolations on the TRNC exerting just pressure on the Greek Cypriots by the other 24 EU members.

The final suggestion involves “Disregarding the absurd isolations.”

Frassoni: I Understand Turkey

Monica Frassoni, the co-chair of the Greens Group at the European Parliament, stated that Turkey should fulfill its obligations and implement the Additional Protocol.

“Nevertheless, I understand Turkey’s questions. Turkish Cypriots went to great pains to ensure the approval of the Annan Plan and the continuing strength of Papadopoulos threatens any hopes of a solution on the Island.”

Frassoni, reminding that they opposed the accession of Greek Cyprus to the EU before the matter was solved, noted: “Our warnings proved true.”