1800 GMT: National Security Council (MGK) convened under the chairmanship of President Abdullah Gül.The meeting's main topic is thought to be Syria, its border with Turkey, other Middle East-related issues, the political crises in neighboring Iraq and the NATO summit. The MGK statement said:
We have drawn attention to the obligation to fulfil all requirements of the six-point Annan plan.
We think that problems in Iraq should be solved within the framework of pluralist democracy and rule of law principles and by restoring unity and solidarity of the country
1140 GMT: Istanbul's Mayor Avni Mutlu said that all the measures for the coming May Day were taken. More than 14 thousand security officers will be on duty on Tuesday.
1100 GMT: Four members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have been captured in the province of Sanliurfa by Turkish security forces. It is claimed that they were well trained in bombing and infiltrated through the Syrian border for an operation.
1045 GMT: Having blocked Israel's participation in NATO's new Partnership Cooperation Menu, Ankara says it will block EU participation in an upcoming NATO summit on Afghanistan taking in Chicago on May 20-21 unless the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also allowed to be present.
1000 GMT: In an explosion in front of the Istanbul Regional Directorate for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, one person is injured.
The Syrian Front
On Saturday, the Assad regime criticised Ankara for raising the idea of military protection, claiming it lacked commitment to international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdisi said in a written statement:
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are continuing to make their provocative statements with the aim of aggravating the situation in Syria and harming bilateral ties. It is disturbing that Erdoğan has threatened to bring in NATO troops to protect its borders with Syria.
The criticism came amidst wider exchanges in Turkey on the country's regional strategy. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Parliament last week that “Turkey will lead the winds of change in the Middle East”, but the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman, Faruk Loğoğlu, said Turkey is not the example for Arab nations and they shall “develop their unique path without the need for foreign models.”
An academic and a former member of the International Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Yakin Erturk, had a more specific objection:
The bad news is there is no plan B for a negotiated settlement. So if this [Annan plan] fails, I fear militarized options like arming the opposition, creating a safe zone or a humanitarian corridor, and the like will gain momentum and Syria could fall into an outright civil war.
Questions: can Prime Minister Erdogan sustain his anti-Assad position if Damascus drags its feet over a political resolution? Can Ankara pursue initiatives in the lack of clear and legitimising international support from the United Nations? How far can and will Moscow and Washington go if the opposition was armed against the regime, at the risk of a renewed civil war?
Turkey’s Cyprus Problem
Turkish EU Affairs Minister and chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis said a new chapter would not be opened in Turkey's EU membership negotiations while the Greek Cypriot administration holds the European Union's rotating presidency. Bagis continued:
Our relations with the commission, parliament and EU member states will continue as before,” said Bağış. “But we will not establish relations with the Greek Cypriot administration just because some countries call it the EU president.
Test of ‘Democracy’?
Amidst a dispute over the influence of civil servants over the decisions of actors and actresses; Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying he would ask his Cabinet to privatise all state-funded theatres, preached to opposition intellectuals about "democracy":
No theaters are being run by the state in almost any developed country. I congratulate Mr. Kadir Topbaş, [the Istanbul Mayor], and I will bring the same [suggestion] to the Cabinet.
They have started to insult us and all conservatives over a change in the City Theaters regulations. For God’s sake, I am asking: Who are you? From where do you get the authority to express opinions on every issue, to argue that you are not the only eligible person to know everything? Are theaters your monopoly in this country? Are arts your monopoly? These days are gone.