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Entries in Turkey (13)


The Latest from Israel-Gaza-Palestine (5 February)

Latest Post: Welcome to the Israel-Palestine Future, Courtesy of the Likud Party

9:30 p.m. Israeli newspapers reporting that Israeli troops killed a Gazan with a grenade on the border.

8:45 p.m. According to Reuters, the discussions on an Israel-Gaza settlement are foundering on the specifics of control and reopening of crossings. Hamas says Israel is offering re-opening of 75 percent of crossings and full re-opening after the freeing of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped in 2006. The offer is vague, however: Israel has not defined the "capacity" of crossings, making the 75 percent hard to measure, it has not specified which goods will be allowed into Gaza, and it has insisted on the right to re-close the crossings for security reasons.

Hamas, for its part, is insisting on the right to vet Palestinian Authority security members put on the crossings and requiring that they come from Gaza.

7:35 p.m. Egypt is definitely striking back at Hamas after the failure, in its view, to put suitable proposals to Israel. Hours after the suspensions of talks on Thursday, members of the Hamas delegation were stopped at the Rafah crossing with between $7 million and $9 million and 2 millions euros ($2.5 million) in cash in their suitcases. The money was confiscated as the delegates continued into Gaza.

Hamas is paying its employees in cash while Israel tries to restrict any movement of currency into Gaza.

7:20 p.m. Keeping Abbas on a String. Israel has agreed to allow $43 million of Palestinian Authority funds, or "tax money collectedl..on behalf of the Palestinian Authority" into Gaza to pay PA employees. The amount, however, is less than that requested by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Israel has offered no response to Fayyad's declaration yesterday of a $600 million reconstruction programme for Gaza.

4:05 p.m. Dumbest Headline of the Day. Reuters reports on this morning's Israeli seizure of a Lebanese ship carrying aid to Gaza (see 11 a.m.): "Israel Seizes Gaza Freighter; No Arms Aboard".

Which, given that this was clearly a ship loaded with medicine, food, and blankets, is kinda missing the point. How about "Israel Seizes Gaza Freighter to Maintain Blockade; Roughs Up Crew"?

3:50 p.m. Ali Yenidunya offers the following analysis of yesterday's Abu Dhabi meeting of foreign ministers from nine Arab countries:

There are two important results from this meeting: Support for Fatah and warning to non-Arab countries in order not to intervene to Arab and Palestinian affairs. After Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hospitability on Tuesday to the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, this declaration is aimed at cutting the Shi'a penetration in Palestine by giving support to Fatah.

Although the target of this statement is commonly understood as Ahmadinajed by every media organization, this has gone unnoticed by the Turkish public. Some Turkish media have started asked if this declaration is aimed at Turkey’s increasing influence in the Middle East after Prime Minister Erdogan’s walkout in Davos. In response, ‘Arab betrayal’ discourses are being triggered in Turkey, referring to Arab proclamation of independence during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

11:50 a.m. Take That! Egypt, extracting some retribution for the failure to get a suitable proposal from Hamas for transmission to Israel (or for a suitable Hamas reaction to an Israeli proposal), has shut the border with Gaza to anyone and everyone: "The border is closed as of this morning. No humanitarian, media or medical delegations will be allowed through, nor will medical aid deliveries be permitted."

11 a.m. Details are emerging of the Israeli interception of the Lebanese ship with aid for Gaza, and it's not as straightforward as we reported at 5:50 a.m. An Al Jazeera correspondent on the ship reports five Israeli troops boarded the vessel:

They are pointing guns against us - they are kicking us and beating us. They are threatening our lives.

The owner of the ship says the Israelis destroyed all communications equipment and confiscated phones.

8:45 a.m. Egypt, in its version of the negotiations for an Israel-Gaza settlement, says it will be Saturday before Hamas makes its response to Israeli proposals. Hamas said yesterday that Israel had given an insufficient response to its proposals.

It's close to irrelevant who offered the proposals --- nothing will happen before the Israeli elections next Tuesday and while Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas is making his own maneouvres to represent the Palestinian position. The game right now is simply to claim the diplomatic high ground when and if meaningful negotiations do begin.

Morning Update (5:50 a.m. GMT; 7:50 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Israeli forces have stopped a ship, The Lebanese Fraternity, with 50 tons of aid. The ship was intercepted 20 miles off the coast of Gaza.

Indeed, the one area where international co-operation is succeeding on Gaza is control of arms shipments by sea. The US, Canada,and seven European nations met in Denmark on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Today's Obamameter: The Latest in US Foreign Policy (2 February)

Latest Post: Obama vs. the Generals on Iraq
Latest Post: No More War on Terror
Latest Post: Obama Outsourcing Torture?

Current Obamameter Reading: Cloudy with Signs of Thunder

7:45 p.m. "The Cable" reports that US intelligence analysts from the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Intelligence Council will hold a closed/Top Secret/Codeword briefing on Iran for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday afternoon.

5:20 p.m. Complications and possibly worse from Sunday's provincial elections in Iraq. Tribal leaders in Anbar Province, upset at the apparent dominance of the Sunni religious Iraqi Islamic Party, have claimed widespread fraud and threatened violence if the results are upheld. The head of the Anbar Tribes List warned:

We will set the streets of Ramadi ablaze if the Islamic Party is declared the winners of the election. We will make Anbar a grave for the Islamic Party and its agents. We will start a tribal war against them and those who cooperate with them.

The turnout in parts of Anbar was as low as 25 percent.

5:15 p.m. More trouble in Somalia, only days after the election of a new President. Reports of 16 to 39 dead after a roadside bomb targeting African Union peacekeepers exploded, and the soldiers opened fire in response.

2:45 p.m. One to Watch This Afternoon. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will brief President Obama on Monday afternoon about the plans to send up to 25,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Almost 4000 have been deployed already, 17,000 are in three brigades to be sent soon, and 5000 are support forces.

2:30 p.m. Following our weekend exclusive secret US-Iran talks, there is a further revelation today. Senior Obama Administration officials have told The Wall Street Journal that California Congressman Howard Berman planned to meet Iranian Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani in Bahrain in December. At the last minute, however, Larijani withdrew.

The meeting was brokered by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, which had organised the Manama Dialogue on regional security in Bahrain.

11:40 a.m. Today's Country on Notice for Bad Behaviour: Turkey. We're not the only ones to notice Turkey's shifting foreign policy and the aftermath of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Israel at the Davos Economic Forum. The Washington Post features an editorial by Soner Cagaptay which shakes a big finger at the naughtiness in Ankara:

The erosion of Turkey's liberalism under the AKP [Justice and Development Party] is alienating Turkey from the West. If Turkish foreign policy is based on solidarity with Islamist regimes or causes, Ankara cannot hope to be considered a serious NATO ally. Likewise, if the AKP discriminates against women, forgoes normal relations with Israel, curbs media freedoms or loses interest in joining Europe, it will hardly endear itself to the United States. And if Erdogan's AKP keeps serving a menu of illiberalism at home and religion in foreign policy, Turkey will no longer be special -- and that would be unfortunate.

It is purely coincidence that Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the stridently pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

10:10 a.m. Juan Cole offers an overview of early returns from the Iraqi provincial elections. His interesting evaluation is that parties supporting a strong central government (such as Da'wa and some Sunni parties) have done better than those (Kurdish parties and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) favouring more power for provincial governments.

9:45 a.m. A senior United Nations official has been kidnapped in southwest Pakistan. He is John Solecki, an American who is head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Quetta.

9:40 a.m. A Taliban suicide bomber has killed 21 people in an attack on a police training centre in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan.

Morning Update (9 a.m. GMT; 4 a.m. Washington): The signs of thunder comes in the revelation, first set out by The Los Angeles Times on Saturday and analysed by Canuckistan in Enduring America today, of a complexity in President Obama's rollback of Dubya-era orders permitting unlimited detention and torture.

White House staffers are telling the media that "rendition", the practice in which detainees are transferred by the US to other countries who may or may not carry out the torture that Obama has banned, will continue. The leaks appear to be an assurance to the military and the CIA that they can continue to pick up enemy suspects and not worry about legal issues, provided they get the bad guys into the hands of foreign allies.

The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (1 February)

Latest Post: "Israel Needs to Invade the Hague"

10:55 p.m. A total of six Israeli airstrikes, one on a Hamas police headquarters and five on tunnels, now reported.

9:30 p.m. Reuters now reports three Israeli airstrikes, one in central Gaza and two on tunnels near Rafah.

9:04 p.m. Israeli aircraft have attacked a target, reported a Hamas security headquarters, in the central Gaza strip. No casualties reported. Witnesses say the area was evacuated after Israeli forces telephoned warnings.

8:55 p.m. Reuters has further detail and analysis of the visit of a Hamas delegation, including political director Khaled Meshaal, to Iran (see 5 p.m.). CNN is reporting the praise of Meshaal for Tehran's support.

7:42 p.m. Tomorrow's discussions in Cairo, with Egypt moving between Hamas and Palestinian Authority/Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, could be interesting but far from productive. Hamas is talking up the idea of a 12-month cease-fire proposal to be presented to Tel Aviv; indeed, a spokesman for Gaza prime Minister Ismail Haniya has indicated that the plan has already been submitted to Israel for its response: events are "moving in a positive direction".

Hamas' initiative can be read not only as a manoeuvre with the Israelis but also an attempt to assert leadership of the Palestinian movement. That is why Abbas, rather than emphasise the cease-fire proposal, responded today with an attack on Hamas. Talks were impossible with them, he said, because they had rejected the Palestinian Liberation Organization: "They... have taken risks with the blood of Palestinians, with their fate, and dreams and aspirations for an independent Palestinian

7:40 p.m. GMT: A series of mortars --- 10 according to the BBC --- have landed in southern Israel, along with the rockets we reported earlier today.

7:30 p.m. GMT: Some more details on the Iran front, this time with attention to the evolving Turkish-Iranian relationship. Iran’s Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani called Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and thanked him on behalf of Iran’s people and Parliament. The former Speaker of the Parliament Gulan Ali Haddad Adil also thanked Erdogan in the Parliament and ended his speech with “long live Erdogan” in Turkish.

Ayatollah Nasir Mekarim Sirazi stated that PM Erdogan prevented a new war and contributed to the peace process: “If the ones who are responsible from Nobel Prize have fairness and courage, they will give it to Erdogan.” He added that Erdogan’s stance gave power and morale to the Palestinian resistance. (entry by Ali Yenidunya)

5 p.m. GMT: This will put the cat amongst the pigeons, both in diplomacy and in public reactions. Hamas political director Khaled Meshaal has met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini in Tehran, giving a detailed account of "victory" over Israel in the Gaza conflict. Meshaal saw Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad later in the day.

2:20 p.m. GMT: We've covered the Israeli battle with Turkey, or at least Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for the dominant position on the Israel-Palestine issue.

The contest continues today, with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni pushing Ankara to take a tough stance on both Hamas and Iran: "Despite the street demonstrations, despite the difficult images from Gaza ... Hamas is everyone's problem. And most countries in the region, in the Middle East, have understood this more than the Turks." Other countries should "understand that Iran is everyone's problem".

1:05 p.m. GMT: Al Arabiya reports, from Palestinian sources, that Hamas will agree to a one-year cease-fire on Monday, when a delegation visits Cairo. According to the sources, "Palestinian Authority forces [would} manage the crossing,...the Hamas Government would be able to send inspectors there and the two sides would cooperate and coordinate their activities".

The opening of the crossings would not be linked to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held in Gaza since 2006, although his case would be mentioned in the announcement.

10:40 a.m. GMT: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed a "disproportionate response" after four rockets were fired into southern Israel this morning.

10 a.m. GMT: Peter Beaumont in The Observer:

Gaza's 1.5 million people are facing a food crisis as a result of the destruction of great areas of farmland during the Israeli invasion.

According to the World Food Programme, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack, which followed two years of economic siege.

8 a.m. GMT: Three Qassam rockets have landed in the western Negev in Israel this morning.

Morning Update (7:25 a.m. GMT; 9:25 a.m. Israel/Palestine): The tour of US envoy George Mitchell continues, relatively quietly. He was in Jordan on Saturday and arrived in Saudi Arabia late last night, where he met Foreign Prince Saud al-Faisal and will speak with King Abdullah.Yesterday Abdullah called for Palestinian unity, “The competition between them is a big mistake. It will do them more harm than that done by Zionism. I appeal to them again to stand united in order to strengthen their cause."

No significant signs so far of what Mitchell will take back to Washington, although it is clear that Washington needs --- both for the Israel-Palestine process and for wider regional issues --- to establish a secure footing with the Saudis.

Papers in the Arab world are buzzing with the story, after Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad's meetings with US delegations this week, that Damascus wants "better ties" with Washington.
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