Turkish Cypriot newspaper Star Kıbrıs(02.01.19)reports that Faith Donmez, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister, has said that the Faith vessel’s first drilling was continuing and expressed the hope that the first results would be taken from this drilling within 2-3 months. In statements during a visit to an energy power plant in Turkey’s Bolu area, Donmez noted that Turkey achieved its goals for 2018 and added that the private sector has also achieved its targets to a great extent.
He said: “Our expectation, of course, is to extract natural gas or oil from our own resources, our lands, our seas and not from abroad. This is why we have launched our first drilling with our drilling vessel Fatih. Allah willing, we hope to have the first results within the next 2-3 months. We hope and pray to find natural gas and oil and reduce our dependence on [resources from] abroad”.
Noting that in the middle of February Turkey’s second drilling vessel will come, Donmez recalled that Turkey had two vessels which carried out seismic explorations and added that with two drilling vessels and two exploration vessels, Turkey would be exploring day and night for natural gas and oil, having as slogan that “if there is any we will find it”.
Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeni Düzen(02.01.19)reports that former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has expressed the view that if Tufan Erhurman, self-styled prime minister and chairman of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), stated that he would become a candidate for the “presidential elections” to be held in the occupied area of Cyprus in 2020, no one should be able to say anything about this. “This [candidature] suits Tufan”, he argued in exclusive statements to the paper.
Talat said that the CTP should appoint its own candidate for these “elections” and not a person coming from the so-called “new forces”, like it had decided in 2015 when it had supported the then CTP “deputy” with the “new forces” Sibel Siber, who failed to pass to the second round. According to Talat, this happened because Siber could not secure the support of the CTP’s base.
Replying to a question regarding the arrest of a journalist because he had taken a picture of a man with two women wearing a black veil in occupied Goneyli’s streets, Talat expressed the view that the man in the picture, who [comes from Turkey and] teaches religion in schools, “should be sent home”, because the occupied area of Cyprus is a “country” with a secular education system based on Ataturk’s principles. “I do not think that someone with a family, which wears a black veil, can teach a normal religion lesson”, he argued.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi (02.01.19) reports that the problem regarding the flow of resources between “TRNC” and Turkey, which was interrupted due to system change in Turkey for months now, has been overcome. According to information obtained by Serdar Denktas, self-styled minister of finance, the sum of 100 million TL has been transferred to the “TRNC” just before New Year’s Eve and that this amount covered the 2018 “budget”. Denktas indicated that a new source of cash flow will take place within these weeks, adding that the exact date is not known, but it will be transferred in January.
Under the title “Interference to the way of life”, columnist Basaran Duzgun in Turkish Cypriot newspaper Havadis(02.01.19)reports that thirty years ago, when he had been a university student [in Turkey], they had been continuously discussing whether celebrating the New Year was right or wrong and that their religious colleagues had been saying that “this is not regarded permissible” for Islam. Duzgun recalls statements by some of their teachers, such as Devlet Bahceli, who had been saying that the Gregorian calendar was wrong and that they should use the Islamic calendar. He says that their teachers had been trying to “keep them busy” with lessons on 31 December, adding that “whatever they did, however, we were organizing very good New Year entertainments”.
Duzgun notes that in spite of their disagreements, their religious schoolmates and teachers had been keeping the issue at a debate level and never used violence or interfered violently in the others’ way of life. “However, nowadays there is a very different Turkey”, he says and adds:
“I was shocked when the placard of man with a fez and a floppy moustache punching Santa Claus was hung in Istanbul’s streets, the religious newspapers said in their front page title ‘hey Moslems, this is our last warning’, do not celebrate the New Year’ and the Department of Religious Affairs, which is an official state institution, gave a fetwa [Translator’s note: A religious opinion given by someone who is competent about an issue] saying that ‘it is not permissible’.
If you legitimate the violence against the ways of life which you oppose, you are opening the door for the religious murderers. If you consider punching Santa Claus to be normal, you are normalizing the shooting of innocent people. If you say ‘this is our last warning’, some will go further and ‘punish’ by themselves. And if you officially become a side in this fight, you will not be able to give account for what will happen.
Is it correct to contaminate northern Cyprus with this situation in Turkey? Of course, it is not. And measures should be taken for not being contaminated. The past incidents in Hala Sultan [Translator’s note: Religious college] were evaluated as ‘isolated’ incidents. However, the system, which caused these isolated incidents, is still in force. Persons, who live in Turkey like members of a religious order, come here under the name of a ‘teacher’ and become missionaries. They teach the Turkish Cypriots to live like Moslems according to themselves. If measures are not taken, the end of this will go until social tension. […]”.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris (02.01.19), on its front page, under the title “Illegal real estate agents are deceiving the people”, reports that Hasan Sungor, chairman of the Turkish Cypriot real estate agents’ trade union, said that the unregistered real estate agents, who took the money of dozens of people by deceiving them, are everywhere in the occupied area of Cyprus. He added that the “state” had lost control over this issue.
Sungur argued that foreign students in the occupied area of Cyprus are engaged in illegal real estate in houses and cars, adding that it is forbidden for foreign nationals to do real estate in accordance with the “law”. Moreover, he said that in 1987 only 18 real estate agents were registered in the Turkish Cypriot Real Estate Union, this figure was raised to 23 in 2001, to 43 in 2004 to 180 in 2008 after the Annan plan. Although only 220 real estate agents were operating in 2009, now, he added, more than 1,000 are operating illegally without paying taxes and 800 of them are foreigners.
According to Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi (02.01.19), Turkey’s Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy gave tanning to 393 foreign junior diplomats in 2018, among them and junior diplomats from the “TRNC”. This year (2018), 393 junior foreign diplomats from different parts of the world received training. Within the scope of training programs for Turkish diplomats, 506 ministerial staff received also in-service training. In addition, around to 1,700 people working in different public institutions participated in conferences and seminars organized by the Diplomatic Academy.
According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (01.01.19, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-urges-his-ruling-party-to-work-hard-to-win-ankara-in-local-polls-140180), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 1 called on his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to work hard to win Ankara Metropolitan Municipality and its districts in the upcoming local elections, vowing to defeat the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in two major districts, while he unveiled the names of his party’s mayoral candidates for districts in the country’s capital city.
AKP lawmakers, mayors and party officials should work 24/7 for Ankara, Erdoğan said at a ceremony where he revealed the candidates to run for Ankara in the local elections, slated for March 31. “Our mission will fail if our link with the people is broken,” he said, noting that any lawmaker who fails to work in line with the criteria he set will “lose touch with the nation and will have no place in the AKP”.
“The People’s Alliance will bring forth change in Ankara as of April 1,” the President said, vowing to take the districts of Çankaya and Yenimahalle from the CHP. The AKP is a political party that is “ready for any election, any time”, Erdogan added.
Erdoğan presented three candidates along with three members of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AKP’s ally in elections, for three districts. The AKP decided not to put forth candidates for three districts of the capital, Etimsegut, Polatlı and Gölbaşı, opting to support the candidates of the MHP as part of People’s Alliance between the two. “We will make success as the People’s Alliance in our capital against the malicious alliance,” he said, referring to the alliance between opposition parties. Ankara would be better only if there is a municipality that is in harmony with the ruling party, Erdoğan added. (…)
Erdoğan noted that his government aims to improve quality in education and “establish a training system that will satisfy the hearts of the children”. “The government, for this aim, will open the ‘nation’s gardens’ to keep children away from bad habits,” he stated.
Erdogan also slammed the CHP, accusing the main opposition party of “attacking” the government in its “service to Turkey”. (…)
According to Ankara Anatolia news agency (01.01.19, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/countdown-begins-for-turkeys-local-elections/1353333), the countdown for Turkey’s local polls -- set to be held on March 31 -- kicked off Tuesday, according to an electoral calendar released by the Supreme Election Council. On Jan. 2, the Council will disclose the political parties that will run in the polls.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is expected to take part the race in an alliance with the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is expected to ally with the Good (IYI) Party.
The AK Party has already announced its 74 candidates, while the CHP has announced 36 candidates, the MHP 34 candidates, and the IYI Party 15 candidates.
The AK Party has nominated Mehmet Ozhaseki, its deputy chairman and a former environment and urbanization Minister, for Mayor of capital Ankara in the upcoming election.
Former Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has been nominated by the AK Party for Mayor of Izmir, while Binali Yildirim, current Parliament Speaker and former Prime Minister, will run for mayor of Istanbul.
The CHP, meanwhile, has nominated Ekrem Imamoglu for Mayor of Istanbul and Mansur Yavas for Ankara Mayor.
Turkish local polls are held every five years to elect Mayors of 30 metropolitan municipalities and 51 provincial municipalities.
Along with metropolitan, provincial and district Mayors, voters will also elect municipal council members in cities and -- in rural areas -- muhtars and members of elder councils.
The last local elections were held in March 30, 2014, which saw the AK Party clinch more than 45.5% of the vote.
According to Turkish daily Sabah (02.01.19, https://www.dailysabah.com/eu-affairs/2019/01/02/two-criteria-remain-challenging-as-turkey-nears-visa-liberalization-with-eu), Ankara is drawing closer to visa-free travel to European Union member states by fulfilling 65 out of 72 benchmarks necessary for the liberalization. Yet, two out of seven remaining criteria continue to be challenging hurdles that Turkey needs to tackle. "The recent progress in the complementation of the visa liberalization benchmarks should be regarded as a sign of improvement in EU-Turkey ties," Can Baydarol, an EU relations expert, told Daily Sabah. (...)
Many pundits have been underscoring that even though there are some tangible steps in the five criteria, benchmarks on revising anti-terrorism laws and signing legal cooperation agreements with member states, including the Greek Cypriot Administration [Republic of Cyprus], would pose a challenge for Turkey's journey to visa-free travel to the EU. (...)
Stressing that five of the remaining benchmarks are mostly technical and the planned amendments in the anti-terrorism law is a political, Baydarol pointed out that the main question is whether or not a compromise can be reached on the matter.
To fulfill this benchmark, Turkey has been asked to adjust the provision of "decriminalization of opinions not exceeding the boundaries of journalism and expressed as criticism" into its anti-terrorism legislation.
The EU increased its pressure on Turkey to modify its anti-terrorism laws and to lift the state of emergency at a time when multiple terrorist attacks were taking place and in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Turkish officials have long criticized the EU for disregarding Ankara's security concerns, saying, "Turkey faces terror threats within and along its borders, while the EU does not face such threats on its borders." (...)
"Recognizing Greek Cyprus [Republic of Cypurs] is out of the question for Turkey before a peace settlement can be concluded on the island," Baydarol explained.
However, Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı said Turkey might propose something akin to the Kosovo model to fulfill such benchmarks without de jure recognizing the Greek side of Cyprus, saying, "If there's a will, there's a way."
Today, the visa liberalization process is in its final stages for Kosovo despite the fact that five EU members do not recognize the nascent Balkan state, though the model was developed by the EU. According to the model, the EU assigned a high representative to handle the necessary dialogue and mediate between Kosovo and the five EU member states that do not recognize it.
Commenting on the possibility of the EU refusing such a suggestion, Ferhat Küçük, a lawyer working toward a doctorate in constitutional law, told Daily Sabah that Erdogan could appoint a third party, apart from diplomatic representatives, Ministers and Ambassadors, to conclude international agreements, and this representative may sign the agreement. Underscoring that using a third-party representative will not mean de jure recognizing the Greek Cyprus side, he added that to avoid any discussions in the future, a reservation saying that, "This agreement signed shall not suggest the recognition of the country," be included.
Turkish news portal Turkish Minute (01.01.19, https://www.turkishminute.com/2019/01/01/112-journalists-given-various-jail-sentences-in-turkey-in-2018/) reported that a total of 520 journalists appeared in court and 112 of them were given jail sentences of varying duration including aggravated life, the aktif haber news website reported on Monday. Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek are the journalists who were given aggravated life sentences.
The journalists were handed down the sentences by the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in February after their conviction of attempting to destroy the constitutional order.
In the same year, one journalist was killed and 66 others were arrested while 142 were detained in Turkey, according to aktifhaber.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul in early October. (…)
The news website said there are around 200 journalists in Turkey’s prisons.
The journalists were given the jail sentences mainly on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, leading a terrorist organization or aiding a terrorist organization without membership in it.
Many of the jailed journalists used to work for pro-Kurdish media outlets or in media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15,2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.
A few of the jailed journalists were released in 2018. One of them was Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel who was released pending trial in February 2018 after spending one year in pre-trial detention facing terrorism charges.
Veteran journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan were also released from jail in 2018 after Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that they should be released due to a violation of their rights. (…)
Meanwhile, Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (01.01.19, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/istanbul-police-judicial-action-taken-against-2-500-social-media-users-in-2018-140152) reported that judicial actions have been taken against 2,793 social media users in 2018, Istanbul police have said in a statement.
According to the written statement published on the Istanbul Police Department’s website on Dec. 30, judicial actions were taken against 750 people for conducting “terrorist propaganda” on their social media accounts.
“Legal processes against 236 people who insulted [founder of modern Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk and statesmen have been initiated,” said the statement.
Moreover, judicial actions have been taken against a total of 507 social media users for “making propaganda for FETÖ” and 89 others for “making propaganda for Adnan Oktar’s criminal organization,” the statement said, referring to televangelist Adnan Oktar’s network.
Legal action has been taken against 459 social media users on charges of “provoking the public and inciting hatred and enmity among the public,” the statement said.
Legal proceedings have been initiated against 203 social media users for making “terrorist propaganda” for opposing the Turkish military’s operation in the Syrian district of Afrin.
“Judicial action has been initiated against 81 people for ‘smuggling,’ 16 people for ‘illegal arms sale and trade,’ seven people for ‘child abuse’ and five people for encouraging people to ‘suicide or suicide attempt,’” said the police statement.
According to Turkish daily Yeni Safak (01.01.19, https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/turkish-police-arrest-31-suspects-in-feto-probe-3470537), at least 31 suspected members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, have been arrested in the capital Ankara, a judicial source said Monday.
The arrests were carried out as part of an investigation carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office which issued arrest warrants for some 60 suspects at the Turkish Air Force -- including four colonels and eight pilots, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
The arrest warrants were issued for allegedly having contact to the "covert imams" of FETÖ by payphone, the source added. (…)
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION