After months of relative neglect, the connection between stalled negotiations in Cyprus and Turkish-EU relations garnered considerable attention from Turkey’s domestic press this week. Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağış stated that “all options . . . [including] reunification” are on the table, provided that political equality of Turkish and Greek Cypriots is respected. His comment was rebuked by Andrew Duff, member of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary commission, prompting calls for Turkish annexation of northern Cyrpus. The next day, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the suggestion by the Republic of Cyprus, which will hold the EU’s Presidency starting in July, that the EU’s accession bodies open chapters of negotiations with Turkey on justice and the rule of law. Ankara cited this overture as another attempt to amplify recent criticism of Turkey’s judicial system. On Wednesday, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu compounded the ill will by stating he would not support fresh accession negotiations under the Greek Cypriot EU Presidency, even if they “open 20 new chapters,” resulting in criticism from columnist Fehim Taştekin.While addressing an assembly of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated his recriminations against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and for the first time implied that humanitarian corridors within Syrian territory should be established. President Abdullah Gül, also of the AKP, later restated his and his party’s previous opposition to intervention in Syria by forces from outside the Middle East. Erdoğan officially announced plans for bilateral meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama to take place during South Korea’s Nuclear Security Summit scheduled for March 26 and 27. Following meetings with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, Gül became the first foreign head of state to address the parliament in Tunis since the “Jasmine Revolution.” Davutoğlu conducted a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Iran and Azerbaijan in the autonomous Nakhchivan republic. Melda Onur, a parliamentary deputy in Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), announced that she would provide members of the European Parliament with letters from Professor Büşra Ersanlı and journalists who are incarcerated in association with an ongoing investigation of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). French President Nicolas Sarkozy was officially disinvited to the second Friends of Syria conference scheduled to take place in Istanbul, illustrating lingering tensions over the French Senate’s resolution pertaining to the massacres of Ottoman Armenians in 1915.The daily newspaper Taraf printed front-page analyses of documents posted by Wikileaks from Stratfor which cited a prognosis from Erdoğan’s doctor that he has only two years to live. The ailing Prime Minister rebutted these new claims about the severity of his colon condition. Representatives of Fethullah Gülen rejected assertions found in other recently available Wikileaks documents that a struggle has erupted between his Turkish followers and the AKP government. Prosecutors in the Ergenekon investigation announced that CHP deputy İlhan Cihaner and Rt. Gen. Saldıray Berk will face charges in connection to the alleged ultra-nationalist plot to bring down the AKP government. Friction between the conservative, quasi-governmental Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSIAD) and the AKP was discussed at length this week, with columnist Mehmet Tezkan suggesting the clash could obstruct the parliament’s path to a new constitution. Rumors swirled about the apparent suicide of Hasan Eryılmaz, a former leader in the General Directorate for Security, with details emerging of a desperate call he made to his son, a member of Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT), right before his death. Posta newspaper reported that Turkey’s General Directorate for Security created a new body, the Anti-Terrorism Command Center, tasked with tracking terrorist activities in major Turkish cities.Plans were announced this week to spend US$100 billion in reconstruction projects to increase Turkey’s preparedness for future earthquakes. The municipal government of Diyarbakır made final preparations this week to open an officially sanctioned Kurdish-language kindergarten. Fierce rhetoric marked Turkey’s celebration of International Women’s Day, with Milliyet daily newspaper printing provocative statistics from a survey pertaining to women’s issues in Turkey—among them that 9.8 percent of Turkish women remain illiterate. Figures regarding the influence of commerce from Iran in Turkey emerged also this week, suggesting that one in four new companies founded last year were of Iranian origin. Radikal daily newspaper noted the government-sponsored Turkish Statistics Institute’s announcement that industrial production had slowed in January to 1.5 percent. After a 19-month incarceration, Ferhat Tüzer and Berna Yıldız, two students who demonstrated for tuition-free university education at a panel attended by Prime Minister Erdoğan, were released.
Turkish Press Review