1800 GMT: Prime Minister Erdogan's meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has ended. Khamenei underlined the significance of "the support for the resistance against Zionism" and said that "Iran supports reforms" while they "reject any American plan for Syria". The Iranian leader implied that this is the position an "independent" and "Islamic" country shall take.
In addition to the emphasis on "beneficial alliance and cooperation"with Turkey, Ayatollah Khamenei said that they were glad to see their "Muslim brothers in power in Turkey".
1645 GMT: Prosecutor Hikmet Usta has appealed the ruling in the Hrant Dink murder trial and argued that the investigation must have been expanded although the court had acknowledged the existence of an organization behind the killing. Usta continued:
The court should have requested that the prosecution collect more evidence if it was lacking. The court rejected our requests to expand the investigation, it did not examine documents related to the Ergenekon gang and did not include people in the case who should have been put on trial with the existing suspects.
1620 GMT: The case of Sledgehammer is nearing an end. Before a court verdict, Istanbul Specially Authorized Prosecutors Savaş Kırbaş and Hüseyin Kaplan who have been investigating the claimed 2003 coup plot asked the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court to give all of the suspects sentences varying from 15 to 20 years on charges of attempting to forcefully overthrow the government.
Among 365 suspects, 250 of which are currently under arrest, there are important names charged of attempting a coup. War Academy Commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, former Air Forces Commander retired Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına, Naval Forces Commander retired Adm. Özden Örnek and former 1st Army Commander Gen. Çetin Doğan are just some of these suspects.
1540 GMT: American ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone gave three messages:
On Syria, Ricciardone said:
Turkey and US believe that the military option is the least desired option. This problem must be solved through diplomatic process and lawfully. This is a matter that has no easy answers, that cannot disappear with magic, that has no easy solution. That is why we are working together to solve this problem.
Regarding the Turkish-Iranian economic relations, Ricciardone said:
Some countries decreased their oil imports from Iran by significant levels. We are waiting similar steps from other countries, including Turkey. We expect from Turkey to have a decision on this.
Lastly, Ricciardone evaluated the importance of bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel:
These two countries are important for regional stability. They shall continue bilateral relations and relations with us. We understand sensitivities of both sides.
1435 GMT: Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)'s leader in Kandil, Murat Karayilan, evaluated the so-called 'new strategy' of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Karayilan said yesterday:
Waging war with PKK on one hand and negotiating with Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) on the other hand is actually an attempt to breed bad blood. Again, giving a role to [Massoud] Barzani withing the scope of the process of disarming PKK is a subtle policy of creating contradiction and confrontation between the southern Kurdistan and PKK. These are vain. I don't believe that BDP and Kurdistan Democratic Party [of Barzani] will fall into trap.
1350 GMT: Confederation of Public Labourers' Union (KESK) members clashed with police in Ankara. KESK members wanted to protest the famous 4+4+4 education bill that will be voted in the parliament this week along with the dradt bill on the modification on Public Personnel Syndicates. KESK members wanted to march towards the parliament yet were not allowed.
1320 GMT: Addressing the Liberal Democrat Group in the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday, freed journalist Ahmet Şık said:
Many journalists who assumed a critical stance toward the AKP [Justice and Development Party] and the Gülen community, the government’s invisible partner, [or] attempted to maintain a dissident outlook toward their policies either lost their job or had to keep quiet through auto-censure.
1300 GMT: Good news from two missing Turkish journalists in Syria. Reporter Adem Özköse, from the Istanbul-based Gerçek Hayat magazine and the Milat daily, and cameraman Hamit Coşkun are safe, said Bahaddin Sherm, a Syrian guide who was arrested along with two journalists. Sherm continued:
I was also arrested with Adem and Hamit. We are anxious as we did not know where we were or who was holding us. We were relieved when we understood that they would not harm us as they wanted to hold Turkish soldiers hostage. [After 10 days] they let me go, but did not release Adem and Hamit. I refused, but Adem told me to go to let their families and friends know that they are healthy. Then I did.
1130 GMT: As Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the head of the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan, makes his first diplomatic visit to Ankara, the Iraqi Kurdish political leader Massoud Barzani has said that “a day will come when Kurds will have self-determination and unite”. Barzani continued: “This reality can’t be ignored. We are no different than Persian, Turkish and Arab nations.”
1100 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There was closed to the press no statement at the end of the 1 1/2-hour meeting behind closed doors.
1000 GMT: Before Prime Minister Erdogan’s meetings in Tehran, it was clear for the Turkish side that its regional influence could not put pressure upon the Iranian warning over “dealing with Syria patiently” With the Arab League in a closed meeting in Baghdad and Tehran confirming its position, Ankara had to consider its line. It chose to tack back towards the Western camp. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Erdogan said:
Even though we used to have a close relationship with Assad, he hasn't stuck to the promises [to make democratic reforms] he repeatedly made to us. Making promises is one of his frequently used tactics.
Before the UN meetings, Arab League meetings and the first Friends of Syria meeting, he [Assad] made similar promises and wanted to have an influence on the decisions of those meetings. Now, he is trying to influence the results of the İstanbul [Friends of Syria] meeting in a tactical move. However, I don't believe him. If only he was sincere.
Turkey confirmed its verdict: Assad must go if the so-called reforms do not satisfy most parties in the country. So, before the international "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul on 1 April, it is in the interest of Turkish officials to marginalise the Assad regime as much as it can.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal reinforced the message: “We hope that Assad's decision [to accept United Nations envoy Kofi Annan's plan] will not turn out to be an act to buy time [to conduct more violence].”
Despite Iran's cold reception to Turkey's calls for detachment from Assad, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the relations between the two nations are at an “exceptionally good level.” And he had support for the view: in Tehran, Erdogan and Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announced readiness to increase the bilateral trade volume from the current $16 billion to $35 billion by the end of 2015.
0930 GMT: European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle has called on Turkey to continue drafting a new constitution with the largest participation possible in a democratic process. Füle also said the best way to strengthen democracy in Turkey is membership talks.