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Turkish Cypriot and Turkish Media Review-18.04.18


No. 74/18                                                                                                                                           




1. Ozersay attends ECO meeting in Dushanbe

2. Turkish Cypriot politicians evaluated the dinner between Anastasiades-Akinci

3. Atai: The Turkish Cypriot side should give specific dates regarding the opening of the crossing points

4. Columnists assess Akinci’s stance

5. Data on the number of crimes in the occupied area of Cyprus

6. Atakan alleges that they will carry out a tramline from occupied Famagusta to occupied Morfou

7. EU Commission unable to be objective and balanced, says Turkey’s foreign ministry

8. Turkey to extend state of emergency for 3 more months

9. MHP calls for snap election in Turkey, Erdoğan and Bahçeli to meet

10. Opposition parties on MHP leader’s move for snap elections

11. “Why has Turkey started debating an early election process?”

12. Stoltenberg:Turkey set to join NATO task force

13. UK envoy: Erdogan ‘right to address use of conventional weapons’ in Syria


1. Ozersay attends ECO meeting in Dushanbe

Illegal Bayrak television (18.04.18 ) reports that the self-styled deputy prime minister and foreign minister Kudret Ozersay attended the 23 Council of Ministers meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization held in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe.

“The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s status as an observer at the organization, under the title Turkish Cypriot State was renewed for another three years at the meeting”, according to Bayrak.

Addressing the council, Ozersay said that the “TRNC’s observer status at ECO since 2012 was a concrete step towards removing the unjust isolations imposed on the Turkish Cypriot people”.

He also underlined the importance of the continuation of the organization’s support in this direction.

Özersay claimed that “Turkish Cypriots experienced numerous constraints ranging from travel restrictions with TRNC passports, to representation in international organizations as well as commercial, educational and sports activities”.

He also alleged that “this only served to further encourage the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigence regarding efforts to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem”.

“Every single day the isolation continues, the Greek Cypriots grow further and further away from the idea of sharing power and wealth with Turkish Cypriots” he said.

Özersay also said that the “TRNC” was ready to work together with the ECO and its members on drawing up a road map to help remove or end “the restrictions which prevent Turkish Cypriots from becoming a part of the international community”.

Calling on the ECO for solidarity with the Turkish Cypriot cause, Özersay underlined the importance of the 4 different ECO meetings which will be held in the TRNC.

On the sidelines of the Council of Ministers meeting, Özesay met with heads of the participating delegations and held a face to face meeting with the Economic Cooperation Organization’s General Secretary.


2. Turkish Cypriot politicians evaluated the dinner between Anastasiades-Akinci

Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (18.04.18) reports that Turkish Cypriot politicians commented on the informal dinner between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci hosted by the Deputy Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, at the Chief of Mission’s residence in the buffer zone on Monday night.

Armagan Candan, secretary of foreign affairs of the Republican Turkish party (CTP), said that he believes that the Turkish Cypriot leader will brief them regarding the dinner, adding that the dinner was an opportunity for the leaders to see where they are standing after Crans-Montana. Noting that the Turkish Cypriot side had already said before that if there is a new process then it should be shaped in a way that will focus on the results and to produce a final outcome, Candan stressed that it is important for the Turkish Cypriots for this to be also understood by the international community. He concluded by saying that at this stage he does not want to comment further and it is too early to say something.

Afet Ozcafer, general secretary of the Democratic Party (DP), argued that the dinner was not surprising and it happened as it was expected. She further argued that the Greek Cypriots protect their position to “continuously postponing” and added: “Even the president (Akinci) said that there was not any forward-looking change. The political parties should sit and talk about what it should happen after this, something that we have already said for a long time now”.

Dursun Oguz, general secretary of the National Unity Party (UBP), said that the expected results was announced and that the Greek Cypriots’ stance is at the same place. He argued that the Turkish Cypriot side has taken every step that it would take and after this the Greek Cypriot side should also take steps. He added: “It can be said that it was an expected result, anyway as the name implies, the meeting was a social one… The dates regarding the opening of Apliki and Deryneia have been given for a while. We wish that this time it will materialize”.

Yenal Senin, the general secretary of People’s party (HP), said that the things seem dire. Senin added: “Unfortunately, the course of events is not positive… This is obvious. If the negotiations are carried out in the same way, if everyone keeps the position in Crans-Montana, then no progress will be obtained. In this sense, it is clear that no positive step will be made. In our opinion, the two sides should talk sincerely about what each understands regarding what a federation stands for.

Ercan Hoskara, general secretary of the Social Democracy Party (TDP), said that either the understanding or the conditions should be changed, adding that no new conditions are being observed. He further argued: “It is difficult to get somewhere with the same understanding and the same conditions. I wish new conditions to be formed in order the understanding to be changed. However, at this point, it does not seem like it. But the idea of separatism will not lead us anywhere, because there is no solution at this moment”.

On the same issue, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (18.04.18) reports that the dinner between Anastasiades and Akinci was also discussed during the session of the “parliament” in the occupied area of Cyprus. Asim Akansoy, “deputy” with the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) said that such kind of meetings are important, adding that the lack of meetings between the two sides will be loss for both sides. He also said that one of the important results of the meeting was the dates for the opening of the crossing point Apliki and Deryneia, adding that they do not have to open simultaneously as he has said before. Finally, Akansoy noted that the CTP supports the resumption of the Cyprus talks within the framework of Guterres’ document.

Meanwhile, Zorlu Tore, “deputy” with the UBP, argued that during the process they have realized that there will not be any change of the mentality of the Greek Cypriot side. He alleged that there are two states in Cyprus due to the Greek mentality and that the pursue of the United Cyprus has become a dream. He also argued that works on establishing a naval and air base of Turkey should begin and asked for this to be done within the framework of the “Defence cooperation agreement”.

Oguzhan Hasipoglu, “deputy” with the UBP, claimed that the UN should declare the failure of the Cyprus process, as it happened in Kosovo, and for the so-called parliament to decide whether the negotiations will continue or not.



3. Atai: The Turkish Cypriot side should give specific dates regarding the opening of the crossing points

Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (18.04.18) reports that the fact that the Greek Cypriot side gave specific dates regarding the opening of the crossing points in Derynia and Apliki raised hopes. The Greek Cypriot side made this announcement during the dinner between the two leaders.

Commenting on the issue, Serdar Atai, deputy chairman of the Turkish Cypriot association MASDER which is activated in occupied Famagusta, stated to the paper that they also want to hear from the Turkish Cypriot side specific and defined views regarding the opening of the crossing points. He also said that they expect the Turkish Cypriots “officials” to commit to the opening of the crossing points at the same date as announced by the Greek Cypriot side.


4. Columnists assess Akinci’s stance

Writing in Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (18.04.18), columnist Basaran Duzgun reports that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has “forcibly” participated in the meeting the night before yesterday with President Anastasiades in the residence of Elisabeth Spehar, UN’s Special Representative in Cyprus. “For nearly a month he said so many pessimistic things regarding the meeting that those who were listening to him felt, of course, that Akinci was going ‘forcibly’ to the meeting”, notes Duzgun adding that “especially with his statements after the meeting [Akinci] ensured that this feeling became official”. The columnist argues that following:

Akinci has now officially become ‘a negotiation opponent’ and afterwards a ‘man who does not believe in the solution’. Very well, does Akinci deserve all these? It is not correct to give percentages as if you gamble, but I think that he is being wronged to a great extent. Akinci is face to face with an injustice, the results of which were created by himself. In the following manner:

After the Crans Montana catastrophe, Akinci drew the profile of a leader who has totally lost his belief in a solution. He was seen and elected with the people’s support as ‘the leader who will secure the solution’ and afterwards he created the image of exerting intensive efforts for reaching a solution. […] Undoubtedly, it is not possible to reach a solution in Cyprus only with Akinci’s wishes and demands but the spokesperson of the opposite situation is also not Akinci. In brief, Akinci, who until the recent past had ben disseminating  hope that reaching a solution was possible, recently has actually become an Akinci who was explaining how bad the Greek Cypriot side is and why it will not be possible to reach a solution. And this has automatically created great disappointment and depression among his supporters.  […] What has caused the actual trauma was his statement that ‘we must look our own way now’. He further established this trauma with his statement after the 16 April meeting that ‘nothing changes in the Greek Cypriots’.        

The finding that ‘nothing changed in the Greek Cypriots is correct. However, the opposite also is correct. Nothing changed in Akinci and Turkey’s front. The sides insist on their positions. This was registered again during the dinner. No one expected the opposite.  […]

Very well, if the sides preserve their positions, what will be the benefit of reestablishing the bargaining table? Behold, this is the crucial point of the matter. If Akinci has no intention of giving more concessions, let him not start this job at all and let him continuously explain to us how intransigent Anastasiades is. The same thing is valid for Anastasiades as well”.

Meanwhile, writing in Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (18.04.18), columnist Sener Levent reports that a friend had shared a video of one speech delivered by Akinci during one rally in the past. Noting that Akinci had then said that “the Turkish Cypriot people are determined to draw with their own hands their fate”, Levent argues that Akinci has changed and writes: “[…] What did he say to us after coming out from the dinner last night? ‘There is no change of mentality in the other side!’ Correct. The other side did not change and you did? You have changed a lot. […] You have lined up with Denktas, whom you had strongly criticized during that rally. If Denktas was the one who participated in the dinner with Anastasiades and not you, I have absolutely no doubt that he would have said to us the same things. He would have said ‘there is no change of mentality, let us look after our own affairs’. We are hearing now from you the same things which we have been listening from Denktas for forty years.

What is that you call change of mentality? They do not want to share the administration with us? They do not see us as an equal entity as community? They consider us minority? Then you should have tested Anastasiades. You should not have insisted so much on your conquering demands. How many times has Anastasiades said that he accepts our political equality and that he is only against the numerical equality? In any case, have you not stated that you do not demand numerical equality? […] Do you not realize the meaning for the Greek Cypriot community of the rotating presidency on which you exist? The other community is the island’s eighty per cent. And you will insistently put a Turkish president on their head. Moreover, this president could be from Turkey and not a Turkish Cypriot. If you were a Greek Cypriot, would you accept this? Or what about the guarantees? How can you impose to that community Turkey becoming a guarantor again after so much pain suffered in 1974? 

In the 1960 agreements there was no rotating presidency. Only the vice presidency had been left to the Turkish Cypriots. However, he had as much power as the president. The power of veto, that is, no decision could be taken without passing from his approval. Is veto not enough for you? It was enough in 1960, but now it is not? Behold, this is a change of mentality. […] After conquering the half of the island by the force of arms, the mentality also changed. […] Again, I wonder, what is the change of mentality you expect from the other side? Is it to accept the existence of the Turkish troops? To say yes to the rotating presidency? To say yes to the map which you will determine? To approve the restriction of movement of the Greek Cypriot citizens in the north? To accept that the citizens from Turkey will benefit from the four freedoms? […]

Do you know how heavy will the cost of the non-solution be for our community? You think that this is cleaning the front of our door. […] What is cleaned up is not the front of our door, it is our community which is exhausted a little bit more every day!”

Finally, writing in Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (18.04.18), columnist Serhat Incirli notes that even if the Greek Cypriots accepted all Turkish demands and said no only to the issue of the security and guarantees, an agreement could not be reached in Cyprus. “[…] Akinci cannot sign this agreement, he has no such power or competence”, he argues noting that the only thing which Akinci can do is to open the crossing points in Deryneia and Apliki and participate in feasts. “The key of the solution of the Cyprus problem is in Ankara’s hands”, he notes.



5. Data on the number of crimes in the occupied area of Cyprus

Under the title: “Frightening picture on crimes”, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (18.04.18) reports that the increase of crimes in the “TRNC” during the last 12 years has been uncontrollable. 

According to figures provided, the “criminal court”, has examined during the period of the last 12 years 6,501 cases, concerning drugs, assassinations, armed conflicts, stabbings, battery, arsons, serious injuries, use of violence and threats, forgeries and sexual abuse crimes.

According to data given by the “criminal court” covering the period between January 2006-December 2017, the “court” examined 22 cases of murders, 586 cases of attempted murders and serious injuries, 537 cases of use of explosive weapons, use of violence and threats, a total of 2,494 drug related crimes, drug trafficking and 160 cases concerning sexual abuses and assault crimes.



 6. Atakan alleges that they will carry out a tramline from occupied Famagusta to occupied Morfou

Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (18.04.18) under the front-page title: “Tram is coming”, reports on statements by the so-called minister of communications and transport, Tolga Atakan, who in statements to the online-edition of the paper, claimed that the “ministry” is working towards light rail transportation.

Atakan claimed that the “ministry” has completed a “feasibility study” for a tramline (light rail transportation) between “Famagusta- Tymbou, Tymbou-Lefkosia and Lefkosia-Morfou”.

Stating that public transport is  very important, Atakan explained that due to the fact that there is an old railroad a remnant of the past, the goal to build a tramline between “Famagusta-Morfou” will be an “iconic project” for them.

Atakan explained that with the completion of the “project”, the transportation of people living in villages and also of those who do not own a car will be eased. He further claimed that along with the “project”, they will implement an automatic payment system and an automatic tracking system.



7. EU Commission unable to be objective and balanced, says Turkey’s foreign ministry

Ankara Anatolia news agency (18.04.18 reports that Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized a European Commission report on Ankara’s bid to join the European Union, saying certain general allegations, accusations and comments targeting the country are “unacceptable”.

“Unfortunately, the European Commission showed that it was once again unwilling to understand the difficulties of the period we are going through,” the ministry said in a statement on the 2018 Turkey Country Report and Enlargement Strategy Paper.

It added that the commission was unable to be objective and balanced even though “we have explained these issues repeatedly, supported by documentation”.

In the report, the European Commission praised Turkey’s migration policy, economic growth and strengthening of regional cooperation,  but also claimed there was a "serious backsliding on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression".

The ministry countered the claims, saying "Turkey is fighting simultaneously against several terrorist organizations, particularly the PKK, Daesh and FETO. In this respect, we think that not mentioning in the report the threat from FETO, which cowardly attacked our State, our Parliament and our people, is a critical omission ".

"In the report, although Turkey’s legitimate right to take immediate and proportional measures, particularly following the July 15 terrorist coup attempt is reiterated, we observe that baseless allegations and accusations made by  obvious circles have also been included," it said.

"Turkey continues its transparent cooperation with all related international partners including the European Union with regards to the measures taken in the context of the State of Emergency, firstly for the purpose of protecting its citizens’ democratic rights and freedoms, and conveys clearly the nature, the relevant security threats and legal frameworks of these measures to its addressees. This being the case, certain general allegations, accusations and comments targeting Turkey in the report are unacceptable."

The ministry also hailed the ongoing Operation Olive Branch as a "counter-terrorism operation aimed at eliminating the terror threat against Turkey and on the basis of the right to self-defense".

The report on Turkey, formerly called the Progress Report, again includes the PKK on the EU list of terrorist groups, while the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) -- the group behind the July 2016 defeated coup attempt in Turkey which left 250 people martyred and some 2,200 injured -- is not described as a terrorist group.

The report called the defeated coup "a traumatic period in Turkey".

Statements with regards to the Cyprus issue included in  the report are  nothing beyond a reiteration of the EU’s already known views  that are based on the wrong premises regarding  the Cyprus issue. These expressions reflect the attitude of the Greek Cypriots which is the basic reason for the failure of the negotiation process and it sets yet another example of the exploitation by the Greek Cypriots of EU membership in their  efforts for a deadlock. The fact that the EU insists on this unilateral and distorted understanding reveals that it not only lacks strategical evaluation on  the Eastern Mediterranean but also that it does not have the capacity to develop a long-term vision for the region”, the statements said.


8. Turkey to extend state of emergency for 3 more months

Ankara Anatolia news agency (18.04.18 reports that Turkey’s Cabinet on Tuesday,  sent to the parliament a motion to extend the country's state of emergency for three more months, said Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag.

Speaking at news conference after the Cabinet meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bozdag said the state of emergency is targeted at terrorists and terror groups, not peaceful citizens in Turkey.

The Cabinet passed the motion as recommended by Turkey’s National Security Council, said Bozdag, adding that after approval from the parliament, the seventh extension of the state of emergency will come into effect on April 19.

Turkey declared a state of emergency for the first time on July 20, 2016, following a defeated coup carried out by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

Bozdag also called on Greek authorities “to give up provocative and aggressive acts to avoid undesired incidents around the Aegean islands.”

He underlined that Turkey’s stance on disputed islands in the Aegean is clear, and added: “No one should expect Turkey to allow faits accompli in the Aegean.”

His statement followed reports that Greek youths late on Sunday tried to plant a flag on an islet near Didim, southwestern Turkey, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

On the EU’s report on membership candidate Turkey released on Tuesday, Bozdag acknowledged that the report has some positive statements, but added: “They cannot make up for the injustices towards Turkey.”

In its 2018 report on Turkey, the European Commission praised Turkey’s migration policy, economic growth, and strengthening of regional cooperation, but also claimed a "serious backsliding on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression."

Bozdag stressed that the EU has many full member states which fall short of meeting the EU criteria, yet EU officials refrain from taking positive steps towards Turkey despite its good economic, judicial, and political conditions.

“Full membership in the EU is an unchanged goal for Turkey,” he added.

Separately, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik postponed a scheduled press briefing on the EU Commission report on Wednesday, according to ministry sources.


9. MHP calls for snap election in Turkey, Erdoğan and Bahçeli to meet

Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports  that Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for next year’s general and presidential elections, has issued a surprise call for snap elections to take place on Aug. 26.

Responding to Bahçeli’s comments shortly after the MHP’s weekly parliamentary meeting, Erdoğan said the two party leaders would meet to discuss the issue on April 18.

“In our meeting we will evaluate his remarks. Right now, I have nothing to say,” he told reporters following an address to his AKP lawmakers.

“It is not possible [for Turkey] to wait with patience until Nov. 3, 2019,” Bahçeli had told MHP deputies, referring to the time when elections are scheduled to take place.

“It should be known that the MHP wants early elections after the adjustment laws are fully passed,” he added, referring to laws formally shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system.

“Electing the president on Aug. 26 ... is the most rational and reasonable way forward,” Bahçeli said, adding that if elections are held in November 2019 - after local elections scheduled for March 2019 - then the country could be subjected to “negative consequences.”

The MHP leader said it would be difficult for the country to “endure current circumstances” until then, pointing to the  risks from rising economic concerns and possible increases in the flow of migration into the country.

However, in his later speech to AKP lawmakers Erdoğan made three explicit references to 2019, saying expected changes to Turkey’s constitution will be fully implemented “with the presidential elections scheduled for November 2019.”

Following Bahçeli’s remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the offer needs to first be discussed in the AKP’s decision-making bodies.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül held a meeting with Bahçeli on April 17 while Erdoğan was addressing his AKP deputies.

The Turkish media cited a draft by the Justice Ministry on April 16 concerning the new state model under the presidential system, which will be implemented following the presidential election.

The AKP and the MHP have formed what they call the “People’s Alliance” for the upcoming presidential and general elections, which will follow the approval of a law on election alliances.

The government has up to now repeatedly dismissed the prospect of an early election. Erdoğan last year narrowly won a referendum to change the constitution and create an executive presidency. However, those extended powers are not due to take effect until after presidential polls, officially slated for November 2019.


10. Opposition parties on MHP leader’s move for snap elections

Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) “is ready for elections to be held at any time," said CHP spokesperson Bülent Tezcan on April 17 in response to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader’s call for snap elections.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu regarded the move as “a confession” that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) “could not rule the state.”

“They [AKP] cannot rule the state anymore. Their spokesperson has called for [early] elections. They are saying ‘we cannot rule anymore, we will leave,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said, addressing his party in the Turkish Parliament.

“[They say] the citizens should dismiss us, we need rulers that will rule this country properly, who are frank and honorable. They admit they cannot rule anymore,” he said.

His comments came after MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli stirred a debate on snap elections when he called for parliamentary and presidential elections  to take place on Aug. 26, 2018, a year and a half earlier than the scheduled date.

As the government is preparing to extend the state of emergency rule for the seventh time in April, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the ruling AKP of “seeking a way to go into elections through oppression.”

“No matter what you do, this nation will not buckle under you,” said the CHP leader.

“Bring it on! As CHP, we are always ready for elections. We had already said we were,” said Tezcan, answering questions from reporters in the southern province of Hatay.

“While discussions on elections have been ongoing and comments have been made backstage, we have always claimed to become the ruling party. To become a ruling party we need  elections and polls, so bring it on!” he said.

In addition, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports that İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener has said there is nothing to be alarmed about after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli called for early elections on Aug. 26 this year.

“We have all heard about Mr. Bahçeli’s call to have elections on Aug. 26. There is nothing to be alarmed about from our point of view. We have come to this stage after overcoming difficulties in the face of all the heavy smearing launched against us,” Akşener said on April 17 at her party’s Istanbul provincial branch.

“Early election or an election on time; this or that; there is nothing to be worried about or to have problems over in our opinion,” she added.

Meanwhile, İYİ Party deputy chair Ümit Özdağ said snap elections would be “good” for Turkey.

Finally, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports that the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for an emergency provincial leaders’ meeting in Ankara on April 18 in the wake of calls for an early election.

The party “accepts the challenge” of the snap elections, HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan said on April 17, while stressing that holding an election under the state of emergency rule will be problematic.

“We, as the HDP, accept the challenge. Count us in for the elections. I am calling on all our provincial heads to be prepared for early elections,” Buldan told her party group.

“I am calling on all democratic fronts, women and leftist and socialist segments: The time to defeat the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP has arrived. The opportunity is the early elections,” she said.

Her comments came after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli called for early parliamentary and presidential elections in August this year.

Stating that the AKP and the MHP’s alliance for the upcoming elections, normally scheduled to be held in 2019, felt the urge to call snap elections, Buldan accused Bahçeli of being a mouthpiece for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Bahçeli did not suggest that independently. Devlet Bahçeli cannot announce such a decision without President Erdoğan’s knowledge,” Buldan said.

She stressed that elections held under the state of emergency rule will not be democratic.

“How will this country hold elections democratically with anti-democratic laws and the current election laws,” she said.

She assured the HDP was ready for the elections.


11. “Why has Turkey started debating an early election process?”

Under the above title, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 publishes the following article by Murat Yetkin:

“Despite President Tayyip Erdoğan’s persistent rhetoric about elections being held “on time,” meaning November 2019, his main political ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on April 17 suggested holding early elections.

Speaking at his weekly parliamentary group meeting, Bahçeli said “the nation cannot wait” until Nov. 3, 2019 for the polls and the best time would be Aug. 26 this year. His reasoning was so that they could shift as soon as possible to the executive presidential system, which was narrowly approved through a referendum last year. This suggests that Bahçeli wants a new parliament as soon as possible, formed through an election alliance with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), amid opinion polls showing the alliance barely reaching 50 percent.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) instantly welcomed the challenge in a “let’s see if you can” kind of way. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently launched a campaign against the state of emergency that the government declared shortly after the July 2016 military coup attempt. As a part of that campaign CHP members have started a sit-in campaign in city centers across Turkey. Saying the next election will pose a choice between pluralist democracy and Erdoğan’s one-man-rule, Kılıçdaroğlu also stresses that elections should not be held under emergency law.

Bahçeli’s unexpected call for an early election, on the other hand, came two days before the parliament’s vote for an extension of the state of emergency on April 19. Bahçeli has said he sees the extension of emergency rule, in which the government can bypass the parliament on matters related to security, as a “national necessity.”

Judging from Erdoğan’s first reaction, Bahçeli’s call might have come as a surprise for Erdoğan. He said he did “not want to comment” on Bahçeli’s comments before the bilateral meeting they are due to have on April 18. The fact that Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül visited Bahçeli in his office at the  parliament while Erdoğan was addressing AK Parti deputies at the  parliament shows that Erdoğan likely wanted to understand what is going on. Gül has been one of the architects of the AK Parti-MHP alliance. He also recently submitted a report to Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım about a possible restructuring of Turkey’s state apparatus, suggesting a decentralization in local security affairs (giving boosted authority to provincial governors) but linking governors directly to the president, thus leaving no say to the cabinet on the appointment of top bureaucrats.

Bahçeli did not give any other reason for his call for an early election, but the possible factors pushing him to make such a call to Erdoğan could be summarized as follows:

• ECONOMY: Turkey is growing fast, with recent figures for 2017 showing 7.4 percent growth. But the current account deficit, inflation, and private sector debts are all growing and depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. dollar and euro seems impossible to stop. Recent debt restructuring requests from two big business groups (Ülker and Doğuş) to Turkish banks - perhaps setting an example for others - could further increase risks in the currency and debt outlook. As economic uncertainties linger, political risks could grow too. After all, it was a major economic crisis in 2001 that caused the coalition that the MHP was part of to collapse, carrying the AK Parti to power in 2002.

• AFRIN OPERATION: The Turkish military operation in the Afrin region of Syria, aiming to clear the border area of threats posed by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has caused a rise in nationalist and populist feelings in Turkey, leading to a rise in the potential of both the AK Parti and the MHP. But the operation has now ended and the future targets that Erdoğan has indicated are likely to be tried through diplomacy with Russia and the U.S. Any fading of the “Afrin effect” could cause a drop in the combined potential of the allied parties.

• ALLIANCE RISKS: One of the expected side effects of the AK Parti-MHP alliance by its masterminds was a convergence - or even an alliance - between the CHP and the Kurdish problem-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP). That could in turn help them campaign based on the “national forces vs. subversives” dichotomy. However, the CHP has not taken that path. On the contrary, it has started to flirt with right-leaning parties like the İYİ (Good) Party, as the main rival of the MHP, and the Saadet Party, where the AK Parti’s origins lay.

• KURDISH FACTOR: Amid the ongoing state of emergency, a number of HDP deputies in parliament (including former co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş) have been jailed on charges of helping or being a member of a terrorist organization, the PKK. That was mainly due to the HDP’s unfortunate apparent support for the PKK’s barricades-and-ditches urban uprising attempt in 2015-16 after an earlier peace process broke down. Demirtaş admitted in his defense testimony in court last week that this was a mistake. And that mistake caused the HDP to lose many urban, liberal-left Turkish votes. However, the AK Parti’s alliance with the MHP may have boosted the HDP’s potential again, with opinion polls still showing it around the 10 percent national threshold.

Amid all this, there are also reports about MHP assessments regarding a possible second move by the supporters of the now-illegal network of U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen after the July 2016 military coup attempt. Such a move is believed to be possible through stay-behind members still present in the state system and politics.

Up to today, whenever Bahçeli has made a call for an early election there has indeed been an early election in Turkey. There is only one exception: When Erdoğan agreed to legalize election alliances through parliament in order to secure the partnership with Bahçeli.

So far the most pressing factor for Bahçeli’s move seems to be the economic one, but the others should certainly also be taken into account.”


12. Stoltenberg:Turkey set to join NATO task force

Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports that Turkey will be responsible for NATO’s rapid response unit in a couple years, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“I welcome the fact that for instance, Turkey in a couple years will be responsible for VJTF, the so-called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO created the VJTF during the 2014 Wales Summit in the United Kingdom as a “spearhead force” within the NATO Response Forces against risks and threats that might arise in Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“NATO is ready to deploy on short notice and that is part of our adaptation to a more uncertain and unpredictable security environment,” he said regarding the task force.

According to NATO’s website, the VJTF comprises a multinational 5,000-troop brigade with up to five battalions, supported by air, maritime, and special forces.

“Only fully operational, the VJTP will be supplemented by two additional brigades as a rapid-reinforcement capability in case of a major crisis,” according to NATO.

“If activated, the force will be available to move immediately, following the first warnings and indicators of potential threats before a crisis begins to act as a potential deterrent to further escalation,” it added.

Stoltenberg was in the capital Ankara for official talks in the wake of United States-led airstrikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

On April 16, Stoltenberg met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex where both sides discussed regional issues, including the fight against terrorism, peace in Syria, and the airstrikes in Syria on April 14.

Stoltenberg also met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli separately.


13. UK envoy: Erdogan ‘right to address use of conventional weapons’ in Syria

Turkish Hurriyet Daily News (18.04.18 reports that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is “absolutely right that the use of conventional weapons is no less important than the use of chemical weapons,” the British ambassador to Ankara has said, urging the international community to be more active in finding a lasting, peaceful solution to the Syrian civil war.

“I have seen the president’s remarks and naturally, I think, from a humanitarian point of view, he is absolutely right. Of course, there is no difference if you have been killed with a conventional weapon or a chemical weapon. And as a human reaction to the horror of Syria, we must all feel the same that it is an appalling humanitarian tragedy,” the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Ankara Dominick Chilcott told a group of Ankara bureau chiefs on April 17.

“Of course, many of us are very active to try and find a lasting, peaceful solution to the civil war in Syria under the auspices of the U.N.-led [United Nations] Geneva process,” he said.

His remarks were regarding a question on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent warning that the international community had only been focusing on chemical attacks in Syria while turning a blind eye to the attacks carried out with conventional weapons.

However, Chilcott, whose government joined France and the United States in a strike against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon facilities, underlined a major difference between the two types of weapons.

“As a matter of international law, chemical weapons are in a different category because they are actually illegal weapons and the international rules that outlaw chemical weapons have been one of the great achievements of international cooperation in the 20th century. We feel an obligation, along with many other members of the international community that we should uphold this achievement,” he said.

“But, we will of course continue to do everything we can both to support the political process that we hope will lead to a lasting solution and bring about the end of conflict and continue to provide humanitarian aid to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people as far as possible,” said the envoy.

Chilcott has drawn attention to the link between the incidences of the use of chemical weapons in the Douma province of Syria and in Salisbury near London against a former double agent, known as the Skripal case.

“They both involved, to a very different scale, the use of weapons that are illegal under international law. And the other connection they have is Russia,” he said.

The Turkish reaction toward these two issues had not been along the same lines and the Turkish government did not follow other Western countries in expelling Russian diplomats while endorsing the military strike against Damascus.

“You are quite right. The statements made about the military intervention in Syria have been very positive from the Turkish government and very much welcomed by us and I am sure by France and the United States as well. And we are very pleased to have this support from an important ally like Turkey and such a big regional player in this part of the world,” the ambassador said.






(CS/ AM)