The start of the talks, which commenced in Ankara on Thursday, were marked by a press conference organized in the EU Ministry in Ankara, where State Minister and Turkey’s Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bağış and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle held a briefing on the new dialogue process.
The “positive agenda” foresees joint progress by the EU Commission and Turkey on the chapters - - policy areas in which EU candidates must open talks - - that have been blocked. Seventeen chapters have been blocked by the EU Council either due to the Cyprus dispute or EU member country opposition.
On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Turkey not to let its European Union membership bid stall due to the Cyprus problem, saying the accession negotiations should not be suspended during the upcoming Greek Cypriot presidency of the 27-nation bloc. “We should be rational, not emotional. We should not miss our goal,” Westerwelle said.
His remarks come as hopes increase for new momentum in Turkey’s EU membership bid in the wake of presidential elections in France. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, a staunch opponent of Turkey’s EU membership, lost the race for re-election to his Socialist rival, François Hollande, who is known to have a more favorable view of Turkey’s EU membership.
In a related development, a report recently released by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) indicates that Turkey is likely to become the most important foreign policy partner of the European Union in the coming years. The report, titled “Europe’s Perception of Turkish Foreign Policy,” also points out that Turkey’s Middle East politics is not regarded as an obstacle in its relations with the EU.
May 12, Saturday
Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew praised well-respected Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for his peace efforts around the world after receiving one of the Roosevelt Institute’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards. The award ceremony for the 2012 Four Freedoms Awards was held on Saturday at the Nieuwe Kerk in Middelburg, Netherlands, with Dutch Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Mark Rutte in attendance.
May 13, Sunday
Two Turkish journalists who went missing while reporting on the uprising in Syria two months ago were released on Saturday with Iran’s help. The journalists, Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun, arrived in İstanbul early on Sunday, where they were greeted by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay.
Prosecutors investigating the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, often called Turkey’s postmodern coup, and its aftermath found that a former İstanbul chief of police, Mehmet Ağar, held talks with the generals of the coup. The prosecutors currently investigating the role of the police department in the 1997 intervention said they would now take a closer look at the possible involvement of Ağar in the postmodern coup.
Intellectuals and journalists who gathered at a workshop for a debate on how the media treats non-Muslims in society said that the media has had a crucial role in imposing official ideology on society. The two-day workshop, “Perception of non-Muslims in the Media,” on May 12-13 was organized by the Medialog Platform of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV).
The terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella network that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and various affiliated organizations, was able to access confidential military documents, investigators have strong reason to believe. According to the latest and third indictment against KCK suspects recently accepted by the Specially Authorized İstanbul 15th High Criminal Court, the press committee of the KCK (or the KCK/PKK as cited in the indictment), which was established to spread propaganda for the terrorist organization, worked as a bridge to facilitate communication between militants and higher-up members of the terrorist group.
Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, the candidate implicitly supported by Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP headquarters won a crucial provincial congress in İstanbul, although the voting was not without controversy.
May 14, Monday
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government was reported to be still working on a new bill to release a number of convicts who were sentenced to prison after the March 12, 1971 and Sept. 12, 1980 coups d’état. AK Party Manisa deputy Selçuk Özdağ said his government was working on an important bill that aimed to reinstate the rights of people who were punished unjustly after the coups.
A secret witness who testified before the court at the 181st hearing of the merged Ergenekon trial said he was ordered by Ergenekon members to prepare propaganda websites against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
A group of teachers barred from the profession for wearing headscarves at the time of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup filed a criminal complaint against the perpetrators of the coup on Monday and demanded the restoration of their rights.
The Foreign Ministry redefined the order of precedence, a symbolically significant indicator of the ongoing normalization process of civilian-military ties, and adopted the order of precedence of the early years of the Turkish Republic set out by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nation’s founder, the Sabah daily reported. According to the daily, the president of the Religious Affairs Directorate moved up to 10th place from 51st, overtaking force commanders, ministers, generals and admirals.
May 15, Tuesday
There was no sign of agreement among the political parties in Turkey over a plan for the release of jailed deputies from prison and it seems unlikely that the parties will reach a consensus regarding the issue in the near future. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Erdoğan -- who is also the leader of the AK Party -- told his party in a parliamentary address that a political formula to save the jailed deputies from prison would not work and advised politicians to leave the issue to courts and judges. “There cannot be a [political] formula for this [release of jailed deputies]. We have to wait for a decision from judicial bodies,” he said.
The İstanbul Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office discovered an illegal wiretapping base at the military-run Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Center (OYAK) used for years to tap the phone conversations of managers of major companies to steal commercial secrets and gain information for the purposes of blackmail. The prosecutor’s office discovered the wiretapping base as it deepened a probe concerning the destruction of footage from security cameras at the Council of State, where a senior judge was killed in 2006.
German FM Guido Westerwelle told Turkey not to let its EU membership bid stall due to the Cyprus problem, saying the accession negotiations should not be suspended during the upcoming Greek Cypriot presidency of the 27-nation bloc. “We should be rational, not emotional. We should not miss our goal,” Westerwelle told a conference in İstanbul.
A secret witness who testified before the court in the 182nd hearing of the merged Ergenekon trials on Tuesday said two key Ergenekon suspects attempted to use now-slain İzmir businessman İbrahim Çiftçi in the assassination of academic Necip Hablemitoğlu in 2002. Hablemitoğlu was killed outside his Ankara home on Dec. 18, 2002. Ergenekon, a crime network that has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government, is suspected of having masterminded the murder.
May 16, Wednesday
AK Party Mardin deputy Abdurrahim Akdağ said the government may consider giving full amnesty to members of the terrorist PKK if the group lays down arms and a peaceful atmosphere is restored in the country.
Beşiktaş Football Club, one of Turkey’s leading football clubs, evaded taxes totaling TL 9.4 million over a two-year period from 2005 to 2007 by declaring less income than it actually earned, a report by the Finance Ministry’s account experts board suggests. The content of the inspection report, released by the account experts board on Dec. 27, 2010, was released to the public by the Radikal daily.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the intelligence that led to the killing of 34 civilians in Uludere, Turkey, last year was in fact provided by US officials to the Turkish side. On Dec. 28, 2011, Turkish fighter jets bombed smugglers, believed to be PKK terrorists, in the Turkish-Iraqi border area near Uludere, sparking outrage in Turkey. The Turkish military stated that the warplanes had targeted the group based on intelligence that suggested a group of armed terrorists would be heading towards the Turkish border to stage attacks against the military. The military did not reveal the source of this intelligence.
May 17, Thursday
Turkey and Jordan were reported to be debating whether Turkey might be a real role model for Middle Eastern countries. Turkish and Jordanian deputies, politicians, analysts and experts gathered together on Thursday at the Turkey-Jordan Media Forum held in İstanbul under the auspices of Turkey’s Journalists and Writers Foundation to discuss the two countries’ economic, political and socio-cultural influence in the region.
Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), met with Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, discussing ways to expand bilateral trade ties and reaffirming their joint commitment to fight PKK terrorism, as Turkey’s already tense relations with Iraq’s Shiite-led government hit a new snag, this time over the behavior of two Turkish diplomats in Iraq.
The head of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, denied a report claiming intelligence that led to the killing of 34 civilians in Uludere last year was in fact provided by US officials.
A member of the May 27, 1960 National Unity Committee (MBK), and one of the architects of that coup, retired Maj. Ahmet Er, urged the government to launch a full investigation into the May 27, 1960 coup d’état, which resulted in the hanging of a prime minister and two ministers.
A bill on transforming disaster-risk areas, aptly called the Urban Transformation Bill, will hand the renovation of buildings on military land to civilian authorities in a move that will enable the “demilitarization” of cities. The bill, which was approved by Parliament, paves the way for the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) to take over the job of fixing buildings on military land where necessary, as earlier requested by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.
Turkey formally requested an explanation from Israel after an announcement by the Turkish military that an Israeli plane had violated Turkish Cypriot airspace on May 14 and been chased away by Turkish fighter jets.
The second annual Istanbul World Political Forum (IWPF) began, bringing together a Davos-like crowd of international politicians, academics and activists to discuss a wide range of global economic, political and social problems.
May 18, Friday
Using a sealed bag and a special courier, the General Staff sent a DVD that is said to include suspected military plans to overthrow the government to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which is the site of the Ergenekon trial, the Star daily reported on Friday.
An ombudsman bill was sent to Parliament by the AK Party government that excludes military actions from the jurisdiction of ombudsman inspections.
Prime Minister Erdoğan dismissed allegations raised by a US newspaper that American intelligence led to a botched air strike that killed 34 people in Turkey, saying that the story was fabricated to put the White House in a difficult position as part of the domestic politics in the US ahead of its upcoming elections. About the Syrian situation, the prime minister also reiterated that his government will continue to support the Syrian opposition fighting against President Bashar al-Assad and said Assad will eventually have to leave power, after the embattled Syrian leader criticized the Turkish stance towards turmoil in his country.
Alevi associations demanded the return of confiscated properties at a meeting in İstanbul focusing on expectations for the new constitution.