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Entries in Syria (5)


Turkey Inside Line: Israel's Unmanned Planes, Iran's Uranium, Trouble with the EU, and More

Turkish-Made Drones to Take Over from Israeli Herons?: Turkish sources stated that the design, detail production, and assembly of the Turkish MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle have been completed and first test flights will be carried out done in the second half of 2010.


Turkey Video Special: Prime Minister Erdogan’s 50 Minutes on US Television (29 June)

Director-General Muharrem Dortkasli said, "We can sell this vehicle for use by many friends and allies. That is our project."

Turkey's Call for Implementation of Iran's Nuclear Swap Deal: Turkey has called on Iran and Western powers to implement the nuclear fuel swap agreement, starting talks as soon as possible.

On Monday, responding to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks that Iran would not join discussions until late August, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin said:
If they do not sit down and talk, we will be in a worse-off situation this time next year. Time is working against a solution.

We would like this swap deal to be implemented and for negotiations to be held to resolve outstanding issues to secure a peaceful settlement to the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

Visa Requirements Lifted with Indonesia: On Tuesday, following a meeting between Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Indonesian President Susilo Bambangu Yudhoyono, agreement was reached to lift mutual visa requirements.

The approach on visas has been a major foreign policy strategy for the Erdogan Government. Requirements have been lifted with Syria, Pakistan, Albania, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Russia, Iran, and other countries.

Turkey and Indonesia also signed eight agreements including cooperation between defense industries, cultural exchange programmes, and sea transportation . The two presidents agreed to increase the trade volume from the current $1.5 billion to $10 billion in the medium-term.

Turkey-EU Relations: Diplomatic sources expect the next chapter of European Union negotiations, focusing on food safety, veterinary safety, and phytosanitation, to be opened at an intergovernmental conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

There are 35 chapters that Turkey needs to fulfill to attain EU membership. Twelve have been opened, but 18 of the other 23 have been blocked, including eight relating to Ankara'ss failure to open its borders to EU member Cyprus.

Turkish Foreign Minister Spokesman Burak Özügergin said:
We expect consistency from the EU. You don’t open negotiation chapters but then say, [The] axis is shifted." The EU should be coherent.

There are 18 chapters which are blocked and we expect Belgium's rotating EU presidency to remove defects caused by the EU in the following period. The EU should consider where it wants to go with Turkey. Turkey recognizes EU membership as a strategic target.

Turkey-Russia Competition: Following the G20 summit in Toronto over the weekend, Turkey and Russia have opened a competition to host the bloc’s 2013 meeting.

Arkady Dvorkovich, a consultant to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said :
As all we know, the next summit in 2011 will be held in South Korea. The 2012 summit will be held in Mexico. Russia wants to host the 2013 gathering. On Sunday, the Russian government made its application. We know that Turkey has also already applied.


Gaza Latest: Varied Reactions to Israel's "Eased" Blockade 

Contrasting messages over Gaza: In an interview with the BBC, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the attack of Israel's "pyromaniac government" on the Gaza aid flotilla increased the chances of war in the Middle East. However, the Quartet of the US, European Union, the UN, and Russia have welcomed Israel's decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

"The Secretary-General[Ban-Ki-Moon] is encouraged that the Israeli Government is reviewing its policy towards Gaza, and he hopes that today's decision by the Israeli security cabinet is a real step towards meeting needs in Gaza," said Martin Nesirky, the UN spokesman.

Gaza: Israel Facing Criticism in European Parliament
Turkey Inside Line: Ankara’s Attack in Iraq; Relations with Israel

Quartet Representative Tony Blair added: "I welcome the Government of Israel’s decision to liberalize the policy on Gaza."

However, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were critical of Israel's decision. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Israel's decision to allow more goods into the Gaza Strip was designed to "beautify" the blockade and mislead public opinion. He added:
The Palestinians are not asking for additional goods to be allowed into the Gaza Strip. Rather, they are demanding the complete lifting of the blockade and the reopening of all the border crossings, as well as freedom of movement for all people.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erakat wrote to his e-mail list that ‘‘the Israeli security cabinet vote to ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip is not sufficient’’ and continued:
With this decision, Israel attempts to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade and its even longer-standing access and movement restrictions imposed on the population of Gaza. In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians continues unabated.

The facts are that a siege against 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip continues. Either Israel lifts the siege completely or it continues to violate international law and basic morality.

Israel has used a so-called “white” list of only 114 items allowed into the Gaza Strip. Palestinian basic needs requires at least 8,000 basic items that continue to be prohibited. These include essential materials for rebuilding and for waste-water treatment for the most basic living standards.

He added, “During the first three months of 2007 36,000 trucks entered the Gaza Strip compared to 3,600 trucks that have been permitted to enter during the first three months of 2010. Today, 90% of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population relies on the World Food Organization and the United Nations Relief Works Agency.’’

US envoy George Mitchell held separate meetings with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday as part of his fourth round of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He told both leaders not to let day-to-day problems divert talks.

Diplomatic circles from Israel stated that the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, would have been forced to withdraw, following the flotilla crisis, if there had been direct negotiations. They also stated that Palestinian officials would be placed at border crossings into Gaza so Hamas would not be given credit for the easing of the blockade.

Gaza Latest (13 June): Rumblings of the Next Flotilla

1400 GMT: Mahmoud Abbas denied that he had asked Obama to prevent the lifting of the naval blockade on Gaza. However, Netanyahu, during a meeting of Likud ministers, said that he supports easing the three-year blockade Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip, but that he would not approve the lifting of the naval blockade.

1315 GMT: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has said there should be international participation in Israel's investigation into its raid of the flotilla. Israel's vice premier Dan Merridor replied: "There will be international elements in the commission which is going to be formed. For the moment it is not totally clear but the commission will be composed of five Israelis and two or three foreigners."

1245 GMT: Nabila Abu Rdineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, said in an interview with local newspaper al-Ayyam, that an international mechanism to end the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip might be formed within a few days. He added: "President Abbas told the U.S. administration that lifting the Gaza blockade is not less important than peace talks."

However, the issue is more complicated than it seems. On Wednesday, following President Barack Obama's political support for the "unsustainable" situation in Gaza along with $400 million pledge to Gazans, Abbas told Obama that the easing of the siege should not bolster Hamas. His suggestion was not to end the naval siege by Israel for the time being.

1200 GMT: Former MP George Galloway is planning a land and sea convoy in September. He said: "Following our negotiations in Istanbul, I can announce to you that the day after Ramadan [September 10], two mighty convoys, one by sea and one by land, will begin. The land convoy will leave from London, will travel though Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan, and it will sail from Aqaba to Sinai and enter the gates of Rafah, and I ask the Egyptian government, in the name of millions of people, open those gates and let the convoy through."

1130 GMT: An EA reader has just reported that 70 Iranian MPs are also volunteered to aboard.

1100 GMT: The Israeli Defense Ministry has announced that Defense Minister Ehud Barak will stay in Israel while the government creates a committee to investigate the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. He was supposed to be present at a new Israeli booth at the Eurosatory 2010 air show in Paris and to meet French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Barak took a decision following pro-Palestinian groups' threats that they would do their best to bring Barak to be justice for his alleged war crimes.

The former commander of the navy and Shin Bet, Ami Ayalon, also called on Barak to "accept responsibility for the consequences of the decision to raid flotilla" and to resign.

1045 GMT: The Voice of Israel reports that the Turkish delegation announced two weeks ago that it wasn’t coming to the conference on International Holocaust Education organized by Yad VaShem (Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority).

1030 GMT:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the former Supreme Court chief justice Yaakov Tirkel will be appointed to head an investigation into Israeli Defense Forces' operation to Freedom Flotilla.

0900 GMT: Agence France Presse reports that the Iranian Red Crescent equipped and loaded two ships with aid and is awaiting the permission of the Foreign Ministry to set sail to Gaza. Iranian officials claim that 100.000 people have already volunteered to go aboard.

On Thursday, Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center warned that extremist Islamic organizations were planning to send more ships to the Gaza Strip.

0800 GMT: The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is the first senior Arab official visiting Gaza since 2007. He met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah crossing, which Egypt is still keeping "temporarily" open,before seeing Hamas officials today to find a basis for the continuation of the reconciliation talks. Moussa said, "This blockade which we are all here to confront must be broken and the position of the Arab League is clear."

Turkey Analysis: Which Way is Ankara Heading? (Yenidunya)

There seems to be a lot of fuss right now about whether Turkey is "turning its face towards the East".

The query, often simplistic, arises from a number of development. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is pursuing a "Zero Problem with Neighbours" policy based on dialogue, various economic agreements, and the lifting of visa requirement. The policy includes a close relationship with both Syria and Iran.

This policy has been part of the uranium swap deal with Iran, dismissed by the West; the friction with Israel, from the "low chair" crisis up tothe  nine deaths on board the Mavi Marmara in the Freedom Flotilla; warming relations with Russia, crowned with a nuclear settlement; and the veto of sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council.

Israeli officials reiterated, following the most recent crisis in high waters, that they view the region separated into two opposite camps. There are "moderates" such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine (West Bank), Jordan, and Israel, There are "extremists" such as Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and (Palestine) Gaza. Israel asks: which will Turkey choose?

That blunt enquiry has been accompanied by some incredibly naive arguments, lacking an apparent notion of the basic principles of international relations. Nuh Yilmaz wrote in Foreign Policy magazine:
"All options are on the table” is the best phrase to describe how Turkey feels about Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid flotilla carrying more than 600 activists from 32 countries... Israel will, most likely, no longer be seen as a friendly state nor an ally, but will be treated as a rogue state by Turkey.

When I say Turkey will imply that “all options are on the table,” I do not mean that Turkey will wage a war against Israel. However, more dangerously, Israel will be seen as a state against which one should protect itself and should consider any possible action because of its unlawful and rogue character.

Others placed Ankara's "adventurism" at the centre of Turkish-American relations. Steven A. Cook of Foreign Policy argued that Turkey had not only shifted its axis but had dared to a challenge the US:
It is hard to admit, but after six decades of strategic cooperation, Turkey and the United States are becoming strategic competitors -- especially in the Middle East. This is the logical result of profound shifts in Turkish foreign and domestic politics and changes in the international system.

Some tried to find a formula for Turkey's "shift". On Thursday, Turkish daily Hurriyet asked whether there would be a "Middle East Union" under Turkey's leadership in the future. This would build on a joint declaration signed among Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, seeking to lift visas and increase the level of cooperation in the fields of energy, health, agriculture, trade and customs.

Let me be blunt with you and with those who are wringing their hands. There has been no change in Turkey's axis.

Ankara's ultimate destination is still full membership in the European Union. Turkey's efforts and regional diplomatic initiatives are a part of its economic development and a part of its struggle to turn into a "strategic" mid-power which can help (re)shape the region.

The tension between a mid-power in Ankara and an American strategic partner --- a Middle East "spearhead" --- in Israel is the outcome of a power struggle between two allies at a time when the latter is under pressures and the benefits of "direct friendly support" of Washington are being seriously being questioned, inside and outside the US. The perception arises that Turkey is trying to fill the space Israel has left/will be forced to leave.

In the context of Turkey's economic boom and diplomatic manoeuvres to increase its credibility in the region, the  complicating factor is that its part to the European Union is currently blocked. Out of 34 chapters to be confirmed to accept Turkey as a part of the Union, only 12 chapters have been addressed so far. Of the other 22, 17 are being blocked by other countries --- eight alone by Cyprus.

The lesson to take from this dead end is crystal-clear: without political concessions on Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, there will be no European Union in the future for Turkey. So Ankara is not only  trying to gain time by looking to its back garden but also trying to knock on Europe's door with an increased credibility.

At the end of the day, Ankara's manoeuvres are not a new invention but the reflection of an active political agenda. As the president of the Washington-based American-Turkish Council, retired Ambassador James Holmes, said, "Turkey is expanding its interests, rather than isolating itself."

The current international alignments are suitable to Turkey's interests, since Washington needs Ankara more than other countries. That is not because of the political swamp in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also because of the ongoing diplomatic track with Iran and Syria, in the aftermath of Bush the Junior's imperial policies and Israel's perceived aggression in the region. Indeed, engagement and diplomacy is preferable to Washington rather than confrontations that could dynamite Obama's  "change", slapping aside unclenched fists and preventing a settlement between Israel and Ramallah.

There are limits to this political agenda. Although Ankara is ready with an economic surplus to deliver to its neighbours, it has not solved its own problems.

The weakest chain of the "Zero Problem" policy rattled in Turkey's relations with Armenia. Ankara couldn't break through long-standing fearsin the face of threats over energy supplies from the "little brother" Azerbaijan.

And, within Turkey, thousands of Kurdish children are in prisons and more officials of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are arrested. Indeed, the war with the Kurdish separatist group PKK is accelerating day-by-day since the Erdogan Government see the Kurdish political movement as a "rival".

And, of course, there are always the Armenian "genocide" issue and the Cyprus problem...

Another limit is Israel . West Jerusalem still means more than a regional power to Washington, remaining and a "friend" and a nuclear "democratic" power. Indeed, Washington sorted out the most recent Flotilla problem and gave a green light to Tel Aviv for an internal inquiry into the violence on the Mavi Marmara. Israel is not discredited in the eyes of Washington just because of a few days, not when military/intelligence relations are indispensable for both sides.

Still, if Ankara can show progress in its Kurdish and Cyprus issues in the near future along with continuing diplomacy advances in the region and a move back from blunter discourse towards Israel, it can continue increasing both its credibility to use as leverage against the EU and to promote its strategic importance to Washington.

Gaza Flotilla Video & Transcript: Hillary Clinton's Statement (1 June)

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Gaza Flotilla LiveBlog: The Politics After the Attack (1 June)

Question: Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?

And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.

Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.

We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.

The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.

We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.

I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.