Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (28.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-eu-agree-to-accelerate-relations-erdogan-129401) reports that Turkey and the EU “agreed to accelerate relations” at a high-level summit in Varna on March 26, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, while adding it would be “self-deceiving” to say all negativities between Ankara and Brussels have been left behind.
“We have particularly stressed the importance of keeping channels of dialogue open. There is full consolidation on this subject. We have agreed that in order to accelerate relations with the EU, more frequent consultation on regional subjects would be beneficial,” Erdogan told reporters on board his flight returning from Bulgaria, following lengthy meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk.
“I told them that a constructive attitude toward Turkey - instead of unfair criticisms and double standards - would help reconcile our ties and facilitate the [resolution of] issues,” he said.
Erdogan’s words echoed those of Tusk, who openly said there had “not been any concrete compromise” on issues that were discussed in Varna. However, both sides underlined the need to continue engagement.
“Of course, it would be deceiving ourselves to say that ‘everything is perfect and all negative things have passed.’ But it was important to gather at the leaders’ level, to sit at a table together and to speak in a sincere manner. There is an agreement to pursue dialogue and to accelerate relations,” said Erdogan.
One of the issues discussed between the two parties was the EU’s promise to transmit 6 billion euros in two phases to be used to aid Syrian refugees sheltered in Turkey as part of a comprehensive deal.
“They have stated that the second transaction of 3 billion euros will be sent. If it is possible, we want the [3 billion euros] to be transmitted to us directly, not through intermediary institutions. Because when intermediary institutions are in the picture, part of the money is spent on commission,” Erdogan said.
“They discussed a money transfer within the framework of a project and there is a certain procedure for this issue. Both our EU Ministry and our Foreign Ministry will closely monitor these subjects and the necessary assessments will be made,” he added.
Erdogan said he had raised Ankara’s expectation to start negotiations to update the Customs Union, as well as to have a “balanced progress report” analyzing Turkey’s performance in meeting the EU acquis for accession. The latest annual report is due to be released in April.
The Turkish President also said a delegation would hold talks in Ankara next month to discuss Turkey’s proposals to meet the required conditions necessary to launch a visa waiver for Turkish nationals.
Another top issue on the table was the fight against terrorism and Turkey’s criticism of the EU for “not taking concrete and efficient measures” to stop the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Europe.
“We said we will not make any concessions in our struggle against terrorist organizations like the PKK, as well as its Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units [YPG], or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL],” he said.
“We said we do not have any problems with Kurds, we only have problems with terrorist organizations. We drew attention to the fact that it is wrong to regard our operations as being against Kurds. Indeed, most Kurdish citizens in Turkey support our party,” Erdogan added.
Turkey’s relations with Greek Cyprus and Greece were also discussed in Varna, with Erdogan stressing that “Turkey is against Greek Cyprus’s unilateral hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean, accusing the EU of not being impartial on the matter.”
“What we say is that southern and northern [Cyprus] should come together and decide to work with whichever international company they want. International law obliges this,” he argued.
Meanwhile, both Juncker and Tusk called on Turkey to release two Greek soldiers recently arrested after crossing the border into Turkish territory, Erdogan stated.
“We said this subject will be tackled by the judiciary. The soldiers’ families and Greek Consulate officials are visiting them. They told us: ‘You are a great country. You are a great President. So let these two soldiers be released.’ I responded to them: ‘I am not greater than justice. This issue is in the process of the judiciary and we should wait for the decision to be given by the judicial authorities,’” he said.
“I also noted that those who place such emphasis on the issue of these two soldiers do not mention our extradition demand for soldiers who escaped to Greece after participating in the coup attempt in Turkey,” he added.
“Of course, no connection should be made between the two incidents. But the fact is that those who participated in a coup attempt are still in Greece. They have not extradited them, despite our requests. Those who say nothing about that issue are now talking about the necessity of releasing two Greek soldiers. I told them that this issue is under the control of the judiciary and the ruling should be awaited,” Erdogan said.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (28.03.18) reports that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has alleged that a period of uncertainty started in Turkey’s accession negotiations to the EU, after the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the Union. Addressing the parliamentary group of his party yesterday, Yildirim assessed the results of the Summit between Turkey and the EU, which was held recently in the Bulgarian resort of Varna, and claimed that during the meeting they did not see any indication that the EU’s approach towards Turkey will become “fairer”. “The deadlocks, the crises and the unfulfilled promises, which exist since we started the full membership negotiations in 2005, were once more put on the table in Varna”, he argued. Referring to a “process of uncertainty” in Turkey’s accession course, Yildirim alleged:
“Starting with the unilateral accession of the Greek Cypriot sector [Translator’s note: As he described the Republic of Cyprus], so many obstacles were put in front of us in the Union that, the issue now is not to eat grapes but to beat the grower. Even though some chapters have opened for negotiation, these discussions have not much meaning because critical chapters were blocked. Sixteen out of 35 chapters could open, one closed, the rest are frozen and 14 are still blocked. […] In spite of the fact that we fulfilled our commitments, in spite of the fact that we decreased to 50 the 7,000 daily crossings of refugees, the EU did not keep its promise and we came to the present. Because of the many bureaucratic obstacles, it was not possible to achieve the expected progress in the use of the 3+3 billion euros, which they promised us for the Syrians who are in our country. […]
This Union cannot cover a big distance today together with those who handed over the future of great Europe to the caprices of the Greek Cypriot sector, which has rejected the solution proposals of the UNSG. If this issue will happen, it should be in accordance with the interests of both sides. If it will not happen, the EU will decide this before us”.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (28.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-fm-says-he-expects-positive-steps-in-ties-with-eu-129408) reports that positive steps are expected in Turkey’s ties with the European Union, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on March 27.
“We will see concrete steps. We are here to take concrete steps too,” said Cavusoglu in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, attending a conference on the neighboring Afghanistan. Cavusoglu told reporters that the EU’s role on the ground will not be as effective without Turkey, reflecting on the Turkish-EU summit held in Varna, Bulgaria on March 26, describing talks at the meeting as “frank.”
He also stressed that the EU will benefit more from closer ties with Turkey.
Topics discussed in Varna included Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin, Jerusalem, Cyprus, and the migrant issue, said Cavusoglu.
He also stressed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly laid out Turkey’s expectations from the EU. “We need to go forward on the basis of mutual respect,” he said. Cavusoglu said most EU member states want Turkey to join the union and see its potential role in the bloc. The summit might be a turning point, he added.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (28.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/mhp-leader-bahceli-voices-doubts-on-turkeys-eu-bid-129355) reports that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli has voiced skepticism about Turkey’s long-running EU membership bid, saying membership is “not an existential question” for the country.
“Turkey is not a satellite state or a fake country that can stay within the EU’s orbit while handing over its sovereignty,” Bahceli told MHP lawmakers in Parliament on March 27.
He added that the EU had “completely closed its doors to Turkey.”
“It is an obligation to give the necessary response to the EU while showing a national stance,” said Bahceli, whose party is in an alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Bahceli’s remarks came after the March 26 Turkey-EU summit between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Varna, Bulgaria.
In a joint news conference after the meeting, Erdogan said it would be a “grave mistake” for Europe to push Turkey out of its expansion policy.
Bahceli said the EU has not been frank during negotiations with Turkey.
“Either the path for honorable, equal and esteemed membership is opened, or everyone goes their own way. [Turkey’s EU membership process] could end, it would not be the end of world,” he added.
Illegal Bayrak (28.03.18 http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=cyprus-problem-and-eu-debated-in-parliament) broadcast that he Cyprus problem, the EU’s latest Resolution as well as aid from the Republic of Cyprus received by Maronites living in the breakaway regime was amongst issues debated during yesterday’s session of “parliament”.
The issues were raised by the main opposition UBP “deputy” Oguzhan Hasipoglu who stated that the outcome of the EU summit was a true disappointment and that he was expecting “both the president and the Foreign Ministry to issue statements on the matter”.
Also touching upon the issue of aid delivered to Maronites living in the breakaway regime, Hasipoglu questioned “whether the Maronites residing in the TRNC truly needed this aid”.
“Deputy parliamentary speaker and UBP deputy” Zorlu Tore who also spoke said that “the European Union took sides on the Cyprus problem and that the Turkish Cypriots had to act together with Turkey”.
Responding to the comments, the “deputy prime minister and foreign ministerKudret Ozersay said that the EU was adopting a wrong stance towards the Turkish Cypriots”. He said that this was due to the fact that the “Greek Cypriot administration”, as he called the Republic of Cyprus, as an EU member is influencing the other EU members.
Stating that the “European Council had acted like a court, accusing Turkey of violating international law, Ozersay said that these statements were not even funny”. Ozersay also stated that the EU was adopting Resolutions by hiding behind the term solidarity. He drew attention to the decision taken by the International Court of Justice against Turkey regarding the issue of maritime zones, particularly in such a short period of time. “These statements are not even funny. The issue is not a legal one, it is political” Ozersay alleged.
Also responding to a comment by the UBP “deputy” Hasipoglu that in order to be an actor within the EU, the Turkish Cypriots needed to be in Brussels, Ozersay said that the Turkish Cypriot side’s efforts and activities will continue.
“Please do not try to lay the blame of the EU’s biased stance and the responsibility of the decision on the foreign ministry and the government which has only be in office for the past 30 days” he said.
On the issue of aid to the Maronites, Ozersay also said that it would be wrong to perceive the changes made to an earlier decision to end a 40 year long practice as a step backwards.
“The way to end the Greek Cypriot side’s policy of portraying themselves as the victims passes through open mindedness and winning the hearts and minds of these people” Ozersay said.
Turkish Cypriot daily Diyalog newspaper (28.03.18) reports that Recep Akdag, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and responsible for Cyprus affairs, said: “Early elections and the change of government in the TRNC have slowed down the speed, but I believe that we will continue this cooperation in the coming days”.
Speaking in a meeting with the self-styled minister of health Filiz Besim and her accompanied delegation in Ankara, Akdag said that he is responsible on behalf of Turkey’s government for the “economic cooperation with the TRNC” and the development issues, adding that he is very happy with this duty.
Reminding that there is a “3-year cooperation programme between Turkey and the TRNC”, Aksam noted: “We have a long-term cooperation programme. While the works are conducted within the framework of 2016-2017-2018 programme, I started to work eagerly on adding new products or by speeding up the work.”
Stating that the field of health has a special place for him amongst the other areas where cooperation exists between the two “countries”, Akdag said they could realize a transformation in the “TRNC’s health system” similar to the one they had succeeded in establishing in Turkey which had won the world’s admiration.
Besim for her part expressed her condolences to those who were martyred during Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. She said that “the health system is amongst the top priorities of the newly established government in the TRNC”.
“One of the biggest reasons why we could not establish a successful healthcare system is our failure to establish a general health insurance system. Introducing a general health insurance system is being discussed in the TRNC since 2000 but we haven’t shown the necessary will nor have we been able to find the funds. In the end, we could not build the system within the framework of the general health insurance” Besim said.
Stating that “laws” regarding circulating capital and patient rights could not be ignored, she said “it is both the governments and my priority to build a system on solid foundations and to create a better health system.”
Moreover, Besim explained that they work closely with Akdag, adding that they are already doing kidney transplants with a team from Hacettepe Univeristy and they have also had a protocol of cooperation with the Medical Faculty of Antalya Mediterranean to start very soon heart transplants.
Under the title “Open all the ways and crossing-points”, Turkish Cypriot daily Ortam newspaper (28.03.18), in its front page, reports that the “Famagusta Initiative” and the organization “Famagusta Our Town” made a call to all to participate in the event that will be held on Saturday, March 31, at 10.00 p.m. for the request to open the Deryneia crossing-point.
In a statement read by Okan Dagli on behalf of the Famagusta Initiative, “The city of Famagusta is divided into two. The one side is condemned to live with us as a lifeless body. We cannot accept this and we cannot approve it”.
Dagli further said: “Our demand is the opening immediately of all the crossing points and ways that will unite us”.
In a statement read by Pavlos Iakovou on behalf of the organisation Famagusta is our town, “the aim is to create a homeland in which people will feel themselves not as Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot but as Cypriot”.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (28.03.18) reports that representatives of various Turkish Cypriot organizations have paid a working visit to Evora area, in Portugal, financed by the European Union and organized by the TAPS project [Technical Assistance to Build the Capacity of Local Stakeholders (Including BSOs) and Enhance the Competitiveness of the Private Sector] with the aim of developing cooperative businesses and clusters. Representatives of the Craftsmen and Producers Marketing Cooperative [of which the Chamber of Turkish Cypriot Tradesmen and Craftsmen (KTEZO) is also a member], the “bank of development”, the “ministry of tourism”, the “EU coordination center”, the “chamber of industry” and KOBI-GEM (SME’s) participated in the visit.
According to a statement issued by KTEZO, during the four-day visit, they had the opportunity to examine the Regional Development and Coordination Center, which is approved and supported by the EU and to exchange views on the development program. The Turkish Cypriot delegation visited also the Evora University, where they discussed the role of research in the regional development.
Hurrem Tulga, coordinator of KTEZO, said that they have been working for six years with the producers on the issue of cooperatives and clusters and therefore their visit to Portugal is very important from the point of view of sharing experiences.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (28.03.18) reports that the “draft-law” regarding the “elections and referenda”, which also includes a provision for holding the “local elections” on 1 July, was urgently discussed yesterday in the “assembly”. “Prime minister”, Tufan Erhurman said that for protecting the four-year “term of duty” [of the “municipal authorities] it would be more appropriate to hold the “local elections” on 1 July, 2018, instead of 10 June. He noted that the “resolution” refers to July as the period of holding this “elections”, but their aim is to hold them on 1 July.
Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (28.03.18) reports that the so-called minister of interior of the breakaway regime Aysegul Baybars refered to the issue occurred regarding the opening of a political branch of the ruling in Turkey Justice and Development Party (AKP) in occupied Lefka.
According to Baybars, there is no “law” to prevent the opening of such an office in the breakaway regime.
Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (28.03.18) reports that a positive result was achieved in the efforts exerted by the so-called “TRNC University Sports’ Federation” to join the European University Sports Union (EUSA). The “federation” acquired the right to participate in all games to be organized by EUSA. As a result of an initiative, which was undertaken by the “federation” and was approved with majority by EUSA, “university teams” from the occupied area of Cyprus will participate in all organizations under EUSA’s flag and will be able to play in the games with their own school flags.
Speaking during a press conference yesterday, the chairman of the “federation”, Huseyin Askin Kiraci said that their “universities” were able to participate in international games until today due to the possibilities offered to them by Turkey’s University Sports Federation and explained how they reached the above-mentioned result.
Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (28.03.18) reports that the new director of illegal TAK news agency is Turkish.
According to the paper, the new director of TAK is Fehmi Gurdalli who worked previously in NTV and Turk TV.
Turkish daily Yeni Safak (28.03.18) reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday received Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al-Thani in Ankara, according to the presidency's official website.
A closed-door meeting continued for one hour and 45 minutes in the presidential complex.
Turkish daily Sabah newspaper (28.03.18 https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/03/27/erdogan-putin-discuss-syria-summit-confirm-determination-to-improve-bilateral-relations) reports that Turkish President Erdogan talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over the phone Tuesday on the trilateral summit on Syria between Turkey, Russia and Iran scheduled for April 4 in Ankara.
The two leaders also confirmed that both countries are determined to develop bilateral relations even further in every field.
Taking place in Ankara with the participation of both leaders, as well as Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, the summit will discuss ongoing de-escalation efforts in Syria.
Turkish daily Sabah newspaper (28.03.18 https://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2018/03/27/turkish-court-denies-release-of-two-greek-soldiers-caught-crossing-the-border) reports that a court in western Turkey's Edirne denied yesterday the release of two Greek soldiers pending trial on charges of military espionage and trespassing into a forbidden military zone.
Greek lieutenant Aggelos Mitretodis and noncommissioned officer Dimitros Kouklatzis were detained after being discovered by patrolling Turkish troops near Pazarkule on March 2.
The soldiers claim that they got "lost" while following "suspicious footsteps on the snow" in the border area and crossed into the Turkish side by mistake.
Yesterday's court session was to review the earlier arrest order of the court. Their lawyer argued that the soldiers had freely provided passwords for their personal cellphones, and the local Greek Consulate had submitted a written letter guaranteeing that both officers could reside in the city during the trial.
The Edirne court denied their release, arguing that both posed a flight risk and law enforcement officers were yet to compile and analyze all the evidence.
Investigators are still analyzing the contents of the USB drive as well as two personal phones and a military-issue encrypted phone the two men had in their possession.
Mitredotis had earlier denied all the charges brought against them. He said the video on the phone was shot on the Greek side.
A judicial source told Anadolu Agency there is a concrete evidence showing that the crime has been committed by the suspects, and the envisaged punishment for the act is 5 years imprisonment.
The arrests have further strained relations between the two NATO allies who have longstanding disputes over maritime boundaries and commercial rights.
Greece has asked for assistance from the European Union, NATO and the United Nations for their release.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (28.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/purchase-of-russian-s-400s-does-not-affect-purchase-of-american-f-35s-defense-minister-129365) reports that Turkey’s prospected purchase of Russian S-400 anti-missile defense systems will not affect its purchase of F-35 fighter aircraft from the United States, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said on March 27, rejecting earlier comments from Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission head Volkan Bozkir.
“Turkey entered the F-35 project many years ago and their deliveries will start next year,” Nurettin Canikli told journalists.
The Defense Minister said Turkey has fulfilled its obligations for the project.
“We are paying the cost, it is unrelated [to the purchase of the S-400],” said Canikli, while pointing to the international agreement on the purchase of F-35 fighter jets.
Bozkir had said the U.S. was “not positive” on selling F-35 aircrafts to Turkey if Turkey bought the S-400 missile systems from Russia.
Turkey and Russia have completed the negotiations on the S-400 deal and the first deliveries are scheduled for early 2020.
The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system with a capacity of carrying three types of missiles capable of destroying targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
The system can track and engage up to 300 targets at a time and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers.
Meanwhile, Turkey had already placed an order for the first two F-35 jets for the projected fleet of 100 F-35A aircraft in 2014 and plans to deploy the aircraft by 2019.
The modern F-35 fighter is being developed and built by the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin for the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Italy, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada in a project worth about $400 billion, making it the world’s most expensive weapons’ program.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (28.03.18 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/foundation-to-be-laid-for-akkuyu-next-week-with-attendance-of-erdogan-putin-pm-129363) reports that the foundation will be laid for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant next week, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said.
Speaking in a parliamentary group meeting on March 27, Yildirim said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend the groundbreaking ceremony.
Turkey’s first nuclear power plant will be built by Russia’s Rosatom in the Akkuyu district of the southern province of Mersin for a $20 billion price tag.
Yildirim was also optimistic about Turkey’s estimated growth rate for 2017. In the same speech, he said Turkey grew between 7 and 7.5% last year.
The official growth data for the fourth quarter of 2017 will be announced by the Turkish Statistic Institute (TUİK) on March 29. As the data for all four quarters of 2017 will be announced, the 2017 data will be calculated partly. TUİK will release the final data for 2017 in September.
“Turkey’s 2017 growth rate will be between 7-7.5 %. This is a record,” said Yildirim.
Turkey aims for an annual economic growth of 5.5 %until 2020 in its medium-term economic program.
“Despite all the negative campaigns against Turkey,” Yildirim also said tourism bookings for this year were on the rise compared to previous years.
“According to the estimations, we will be hosting 38 million guests in Turkey this year,” he said.
Turkey hosted over 32 million tourists in 2017, bringing in $26.5 billion in revenue.
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