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TURKISH CYPRIOT AND TURKISH MEDIA REVIEW No. 37/2018

Contents

1. Akinci: The Turkish side acts within the framework of international law

2. Ozersay has reportedly met with ENI officials

3. Özersay: “Our policy is focused on defending our rights and interests at different international platforms”

4. Turkish Cypriot columnist on Ozersay’s alleged contacts with ENI

5. Albayrak: “We do not give permission for unilaterally drilling”

6. Turkey is taking steps to prevent the Republic of Cyprus’ hydrocarbons activities

7. “Minister of labour” met with the OIC Secretary General and other officials in Jeddah

8. The six defendants for the attacks against Afrika newspaper were sentenced

9. Zaroglu complained to Turkey about the “TRNC jurisdiction”

10. FYROM started a signature collection campaign for the recognition of the breakaway regime

11. Erdogan: “Turkey aims to produce unmanned tanks”

12. Turkish Presidency: Turkish, Syrian intelligence in direct contact when necessary

13. Turkey and Jordan ink military cooperation deal

14. Legislation on election alliance submitted to Parliament

 

 

1. Akinci: The Turkish side acts within the framework of international law 

Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (22.02.18) reports that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has argued that the natural gas around Cyprus includes potential wealth for the two Cypriot communities and the countries of the area in case they cooperate, but at the same time it may cause crises. In statements yesterday after meeting the leaders of the political parties represented in the “assembly”, Akinci alleged: “We need to take lessons from the existing crises and built the future correctly. Let this be my call. This state does not belong to the Greek Cypriots alone, this international recognition, ownership of the state is not their right in the sense of the international law. This is an evil purpose. What they are trying to do now in the seas is similar to this. They need to exhibit understandings which put forward partnership, common interest and cooperation”.

Akinci claimed also that the Greek Cypriots think that Cyprus’ natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean belong only to them and take unilateral steps in this direction. He alleged that the Turkish Cypriot side has many times called for cooperation on the natural gas issue but received no positive answer.

Akinci said that there is no issue for him meeting with President Anastasiades at the moment, but he does not totally exclude such a possibility. “When the place and time comes, we will need to meet from the point of view for investigation of intentions, not as a part of a normal negotiating process”, he argued adding that next week he will meet with Elisabeth Spehar, UNSG’s Special Representative in Cyprus. He noted that soon the UN will hold contacts with the sides in Cyprus in order to listen to their views regarding the island’s future. Akinci alleged that the Turkish Cypriot side wants to approach constructively to the UNSG’s view that the sides should decide together what they want and say it to the UN in order for the international organization to assist them. However, there are things which should be done and seen first, he claimed and alleged this is the issue of whether the Greek Cypriot side is really ready to share power, authority and the island’s wealth with the Turkish Cypriot side. He claimed that there were “many clues” in the recent past showing that the Greek Cypriots were not ready for this.

Replying to a question, Akinci further alleged that the Turkish Cypriot side takes absolutely no step outside the international law and that everything is done within the framework of the international law. Arguing that the Turkish Cypriots have the same rights on the natural gas as the Greek Cypriots, Akinci alleged that Turkey has also its own views, stance and demands and that these have absolutely no dimension which is contrary to the international law. “What is contrary to the international law is the stance of the Greek Cypriot leadership until today”, he claimed alleging that the Greek Cypriots are trying to deceive the Turkish Cypriots by saying that this wealth [the hydrocarbon resources] belong to the state and when time comes the state will distribute it to its citizens and therefore the Turkish Cypriots will take their rights just like the Maronites, the Armenians and the Latins.  Akinci alleged that the state which the Greek Cypriots refer to is the one in which the Turkish Cypriots had been partners until 1963 and that now the Greek Cypriots are trying to make them forget that they are the only owners of this state. “If this state had remained really a common state, the Turkish Cypriots would also have had a say and all these would not have been experienced”, he claimed.

Alleging that the existing state belongs only to the Greek Cypriots, Akinci called on the Greek Cypriots to stop insisting that they will not negotiate the issue with the Turkish Cypriots and establish a joint committee for the discussion of these things [Cyprus’ hydrocarbon reserves].

Referring to the foreign companies which invested in the area, Akinci alleged that the fact that [ENI’s] platform [which would carry out the drilling in parcel 3] was unraveled showed that attempting to do this job was wrong in a problematic area, in an environment without a solution and in a situation where there is no joint commission on the issue. He also alleged: “I hope that in any case this will constitute a precedent for future developments. I want to hope that both the foreign companies and the Greek Cypriot side will meet with us in the path of logic”.

(I/Ts.) 

 

2. Ozersay has reportedly met with ENI officials 

Turkish Cypriot illegal Bayrak (21.02.18,http://www.brtk.net/italyada-tarihi-girisim/) broadcast that Kudret Ozersay, self-styled foreign affairs minister of the breakaway regime in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus, has very secretly visited Italy and met withENI’s CEO, Claudio Descalzi. According to the report, after the tension which started when Turkish warships prevented ENI’s drilling platform from reaching parcel 3 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), ENI asked for a meeting with Ankara, which told the Italian company that its interlocutor in Cyprus is the Turkish Cypriot side. After this, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has allegedly contacted the self-styled foreign ministry and invited Ozersay to Italy.

It is alleged that during Ozersay’s meeting with ENI’s CEO, assurance was given that “no step will be taken before a diplomatic solution in Cyprus is found”. ENI’s officials do not want to participate in a crisis on the island, argues Bayrak’s report, adding that they told Ozersay that they want to choose the “path of consensus”.

Moreover, Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci was briefed in detail for the meeting with ENI and told the political party leaders yesterday that “Turkey’s determined stance on the natural gas issue is a political gain”.

Turkish Dogan News Agency (DHA) cites a “high ranking official” who argued that the meeting with ENI should not be assessed only as a meeting with one company. “From now on, the other companies, the international players will be obliged to take the TRNC’s and the Turkish Cypriot side’s consent”, the sources alleged and claimed: “The stance of Turkey here, opened the way for this process. If the Greek Cypriots choose the path of consensus, the military maneuver announced by Turkey in the Mediterranean will end. ENI or the other companies know now the following: The natural gas is a common wealth of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. Without the Turkish Cypriots’ consent they cannot carry out drillings and in the future they will be forced to pay serious compensations”.

Meanwhile, illegal Bayrak (21.02.18, http://www.brtk.net/ozersay-dogal-kaynaklar-konusunda-kimse-tek-basina-hareket-edemez/) also broadcast that Ozersay evaluated his contacts in Italy in statements to Bayrak’s television. He claimed that no one will be able to deceive the Turkish Cypriot “people” and Turkey anymore on the issue of the island’s natural resources and no one will be able to do anything without Turkey’s permission.

Ozersay said that except for his contacts in Italy he held other meetings abroad, but added that he cannot give any details. He also argued that from now on the Turkish Cypriot side will be an actor in the international policy. He alleged that from now on the Greek Cypriot side will not be able to act alone on the natural resources issue, but if it wants cooperation “the conditions are known”. Arguing that the most ideal solution to this would be found after an agreement on the Cyprus problem, Ozersay alleged that if sincerity exists, the natural resources can be jointly exploited before the agreement. 

Referring to the Cyprus talks, he also alleged that in order for their recommencement to be possible, the Greek Cypriot side should show that it is ready to share the administration, the power and the natural wealth of the island. “We can discuss whether negotiations could begin, only after we see that we have a common goal”, he claimed.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (22.02.18) reports that after Ozersay’s meetings in Italy the crisis in Eastern Mediterranean “gained a new dimension”. According to the paper, Ozersay met in Italy with ENI’s vice President Lapo Pistelli, who had been Deputy Foreign Minister of his country. The paper notes that it has confirmed this information and recalls that earlier, Turkish DHA news agency reported that Ozersay had met with ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi. Ozersay visited Italy on Monday and during his one-day visit, he “put on the table the Turkish Cypriot side’s proposals regarding the crisis in the Mediterranean”.

It is reported that Ozersay’s meeting with the officials of the Italian company lasted four hours, but his contacts in Italy were not limited only with ENI. According to the paper, during Ozersay’s meeting no effort was exerted for upgrading the breakaway regime’s status, but he exerted efforts in the direction of the Turkish Cypriots being accepted as a “part” of the agreement. The contacts regarding the drilling activities and the crisis in the Mediterranean will continue, notes the report which claims that during the meetings it was alleged that the Turkish Cypriot side seeks for a “logical agreement”. If such an agreement is reached, the NAVTEX issued by Turkey will be reexamined, notes the paper reminding the Turkish view that the natural gas is a common wealth of the two communities of Cyprus.

(I/Ts.)

 

3. Özersay: “Our policy is focused on defending our rights and interests at different international platforms”

Illegal Bayrak television (22.02.18 http://www.brtk.net/albayrak-tek-tarafli-sondaja-izin-vermeyiz/ ) broadcast that the self-styled deputy prime minister and foreign minister Kudret Özersay said that the  foreign policy of the breakaway regime “was focused on defending and promoting the Turkish Cypriot peoples’ rights and interests at different international platforms”.

He said that these efforts included “being in contact with new international actors”.

Speaking on BRT today, Ozersay evaluated the latest developments regarding natural gas exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the Turkish Cypriots initiatives.

Stating that multinational corporations or big firms were also international actors in today’s world, Özersay said that developments in which oil and gas companies were part of were being experienced.

Özersay added that diplomacy of deterrence was being pursued regarding the hydrocarbons crisis.

“The term heating up of the waters is frequently used. Everyone should know and understand that the government will resort to positive diplomacy as much as it can. We launched a diplomatic initiative so as to cool the waters, not to heat them up. There is nothing to gain here from raising tensions” he said.

Claiming that the Turkish side has taken a determined stance in light of the latest developments so as to deter any further escalation in tensions, Ozersay alleged that “things could be different if the Greek Cypriots had tried to reach an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot side”.

“Had they recognized the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots, which they are not, had they reached and signed an agreement with us, then perhaps the activities would have continued” he claimed.

Also touching upon the Cyprus problem, Özersay said that the government had no position regarding the restart of the negotiations.

“To continue the process the same way will only push us into the same vicious circle which means the Greek Cypriots continue to enjoy recognition as the sole owners of the island and the current status quo is further strengthened” he alleged and added that  there was no meaning of restarting talks if a result is not to be achieved. “The UN has its own duties it must fulfil” he claimed.

Ozersay also alleged that the Turkish Cypriot side wanted to see if the Greek Cypriot side was willing to share power and the island’s natural wealth before negotiations could restart.

He added that Akinci’s decision not to appoint a new negotiator was a clear message in that direction.

 

4. Turkish Cypriot columnist on Ozersay’s alleged contacts with ENI

Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (22.02.18) in a commentary under the title: “The government will not wait for the Cyprus problem having its hands tied”, refers to so-called foreign minister Kudret Ozersay’s visit to Italy and his alleged contacts with ENI officials and writes that this step taken by the “coalition government”, even though it has received criticism over the fact that it did not included the Cyprus problem in its “program”, proves to everyone that “the government will not wait for the Cyprus problem having its hands tied”.

The paper goes on and writes: “With this stance, the TRNC government has shown that it will not expect everything from Turkey and that with such direct contacts abroad it will contribute to Turkey’s efforts. Previously, all the TRNC governments in general were expecting from Turkey and the TRNC president to undertake attempts on the Cyprus problem. It was made perceptible from the beginning that the TRNC government and the foreign ministry as well will contribute to the Cyprus problem and will exert efforts to disburden the president. That means that the TRNC government will not expect for the Cyprus problem with its hands tied.

[…]In the same way that foreign minister Kudret Ozersay went to ENI, which at the focus of the natural gas research activities in order to have contacts and explain from the horse’s mouth the realities and sensitivities on the natural gas issue in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the same way the government will explain to other important competent authorities, companies and organizations which are actively enrolled on the Cyprus problem about the Turkish Cypriot side positions while at the same time it will exert pressure for new preconditions”.

On the same issue, columnist Cuneyt Oruc, in a commentary in Turkish daily Star Kibris newspaper (22.02.18) under the title: “Afrin’s rearguard effects” supports, inter alia, that Turkey’s Afrin operation has effected the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean since with Afrin operation, Turkey has shown its decisive stance and its power not only in the Middle East but in the Mediterranean as well.

Also, referring to so-called foreign minister Ozersay visit to Italy and his alleged contacts with ENI officials, the columnist supports that this meeting has displayed the reality to the international community that without Turkey’s and the Turkish Cypriot side’s permission, no steps and activities can be taken around the island on the natural gas issue.  “In short, Turkey’s operation in Afrin has affected not only the Middle East but also the Eastern Mediterranean. And this because, those who saw Turkey’s power and decisiveness avoided to be engaged in an adventure in the Eastern Mediterranean. […]. The Turkish Cypriots have rights on the natural wealth of Cyprus. And even if more natural resources are founded in the island, they cannot be marketed in the world without the approval of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. […]. This has been understood by ENI and will become understandable by other international giant companies. I hope that the Greek Cypriots will also understand this and will not escalate the tension further”, the columnist concludes.

Moreover, in another commentary in Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris Postasi newspaper (22.02.18) entitled: “Ankara paves the way for Ozersay”, columnist Gokhan Altiner describes as very important and serious the secret talks held by Ozersay in Italy with ENI’s CEO official. The columnist supports that these secret talks were realized as a result of the joint actions taken by Ozersay and the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara.

Evaluating the current events, the columnist supports that Ozersay has close ties and lots of friends inside the AKP circles in Turkey and this is a factor that will enable him to hold numerous contacts and talks abroad in the near future. This might be the reason, supports the columnist that may extend the distance existing between Ozersay and the Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci. “Conclusively, it seems that there will be mobility in the foreign policy this year. Turkey will pave the way for Ozersay to undertake serious initiatives. If Ozersay utilizes appropriately this situation and achieves to draw a good images about himself, it would be possible to appear in front of as in the next two years as a candidate for the presidency”.

(AK)

 

5. Albayrak: “We do not give permission for unilaterally drilling”

Illegal Bayrak television (22.02.18 http://www.brtk.net/albayrak-tek-tarafli-sondaja-izin-vermeyiz/ ) broadcast that the Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak speaking at the 1st Turkey’s Energy and Mineral Forum that is taking place in Turkey said the following about the drillings in Cyprus.

Albayrak stated that the Eastern Mediterranean is very important and claimed that with the procedure of becoming member of the EU and continuing with politics that are based on “fait acompli” the Greek Cypriot administration, as he called the Republic of Cyprus, “is trying to continue its road alone not only at the island but also regarding the island’s territorial waters”.

Claiming that the breakaway regime is a “country” which makes a particular constructive policy with the influence of Turkey, Albayrak said that Turkey put its stance on the table:

“As long as a clever solution is not produced, we have to be effective. If the drilling is done unilaterally, as Turkey we will do not allow it”, he said

(CS)

 

6. Turkey is taking steps to prevent the Republic of Cyprus’ hydrocarbons activities

Turkish daily Hurriyet newspaper (21.02.18) reported that steps are taken towards the actions of the Republic of Cyprus to continue its hydrocarbons activities “despite the objections of Turkey and the TRNC”.

According to the paper, the first step is the Deep Sea Metro 2 drilling platform that the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) bought, which is expected to arrive in Turkey on December 31. The French Total and the Italian EMI firms are starting drilling activities for the Greek Cypriots in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming weeks,  writes the paper, adding that according to the Greek Cypriots, Turkey is also starting drillings in the area  in order to intimidate (the Republic of Cyprus).

The paper also refers to statements made previously by the Turkish Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak who stated that “nobody should consider Eastern Mediterranean to be its property”.

(CS)

 

7. “Minister of labour” met with the OIC Secretary General and other officials in Jeddah

Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (22.02.18) reports that self-styled minister of labour and social security Zeki Celer, who is participating at  the Conference of Labour Ministers of the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC) as an observer member, has carried out a  number of contacts in Jeddah, Saudi  Arabia.

According to a press release by the “labour ministry”, Celer met with the General Secretary of the OIC Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen. Celer also met with Ibrahim Al-Khuzaim, Executive Director of the Islamic Solidarity Fund, Sayed Aqa, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank, and Dr Abdul-Hakim Elwaer, Director of Cooperation and Resource Mobilization Department.

Celer, during the meeting with the General Secretary Dr Al-Othaimeen, who was former Labour Minister of e Saudi Arabia, they exchanged views both on the development of relations with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and its member states with the “TRNC”, as well as on resolving the troubles of the workers from member states to work in the “TRNC”.

Al-Othaimeen stressed that they are always next to the Turkish Cypriots and added that many OIC‘s decisions support the Turkish Cypriots.

Celer thanked Al-Othaimeen for his support and added that the member countries should be encouraged in order the decisions, which were taken in the past, to be implemented. Especially, he stressed that the visits of delegations of the relevant Ministries from the country members to the “TRNC” will bring a better dimension in their relations.

During the meeting with the Al-Khuzaim, Director of the Islamic Solidarity Fund, they exchanged views on how the “TRNC” can benefit from the grant schemes. Al-Khuzaim said that the grant programme is open to the Turkish Cypriots for many years now and with the development of their relations, more projects could be supported and larger amounts of grants could be given. Celer expressed his satisfaction with the contributions of the Islamic Solidarity Fund, adding that some projects will be completed in the coming period as “ministerial”.

During the meeting with Aqa and Elwaer, opportunities for cooperation with the different units within the Islamic Development Bank were evaluated. Particularly, they exchanged views regarding the projects that could be realized by viewing the need of the institutions within the “TRNC ministry of labour and social security”.

Celer also attended a dinner last night with all the Ministers who participated at the Conference.

(DPs)

 

8. The six defendants for the attacks against Afrika newspaper were sentenced

According to illegal Bayrak television (22.02.18, http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=six-sentenced-for-attack-on-afrika), “the six men charged for the attacks last month against Afrika newspaper and the TRNC legislative assembly have been sentenced to between two and six months in prison.

 Judge Tacan Reynar who was presiding over the case found all of the 6 accused guilty of the charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, causing damage to property and inflicting intentional harm. The accused Mehmet Ipek and Ahmet Turkmen were sentenced to 6 months in prison. The third accused Abdulhadi Dogan was sentenced to 4 months in prison while Bayram Ak and Umit Tas received 3 months and Oktay Guney 2 months.

The 6 men were part of a group of angry demonstrators who attacked the Afrika newspaper’s headquarters on January 22 after the daily likened Turkey’s Afrin operation in northern Syria to Ankara’s presence in the TRNC.

 Protesters threw rocks and eggs at the building smashing windows and brought the newspaper’s sign down causing significant damage. Later some of the demonstrators climbed onto the roof of the TRNC parliament waving flags before being brought down by police.”

 Moreover, under the title “The lightest punishment for attempted murder”, Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (22.02.18) on its front page, accuses the “police” and the “prosecution” of protecting the defendants, because the “police” did not even take the necessary measures in the possibility of the attack against Afrika newspaper on the 22nd of January. It also reported that the “police” neither arrested all the attackers, who were more than six, nor it pressed charges against them. It did not even press charges against the persons who climbed onto the roof of the “parliament”. Moreover, the “prosecution” did not send the case at the “criminal court”, and as a result the “court” could not charge them with heavier penalties.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (22.02.18) reports that the Revival Party (YDP) described the sentence given to the six defendants regarding the attacks against Afrika newspaper on January 22 as “double standards in the jurisdiction”.

In a written statement, YDP accused the “justice” in the occupied area of Cyprus of implementing “double standards” and that their trust to the “justice system” is betrayed. The YDP added that the “court’s decision” sent a message both to Turkey and to the “citizens with double citizenship” in the occupied area of Cyprus. The YDP also wondered why their complaint against Afrika has not yielded any results yet, adding that their party members will convene to discuss their actions and protests on this issue.

(DPs) 

 

9. Zaroglu complained to Turkey about the “TRNC jurisdiction”

Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (22.02.18) reports that the  chairman of the Turkish settlers' Revival Party (YDP), Bertan Zaroglu, "deputy" with the same party in the occupied part of Lefkosia, went to Turkey aiming to complain about the “TRNC jurisdiction”.

According to the paper, he visited the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Turkey Ismail Cirit and told him about the impediment he finds in the “TRNC jurisdiction” and also referred to the reforms that YDP included on this issue in its election program.

Cirit told Zaroglu that the Supreme Court of Turkey is ready to offer any assistance needed on the issue. 

Zaroglu continues his contacts in Ankara.

(CS)

 

10. FYROM started a signature collection campaign for the recognition of the breakaway regime

Turkish Cypriot daily Vatan newspaper (22.02.18) reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of FYROM (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) started a signature collection campaign for the recognition of the breakaway regime at the United Nations  at the Change.Org website.

The paper publishes the link of the website.

(CS)

 

11. Erdogan: “Turkey aims to produce unmanned tanks”

According to Ankara Anatolia news agency (21.02.18), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that his country is aiming to produce unmanned tanks.

 

Speaking at the 11th Development Plan Publicity Meeting in Ankara, Erdogan gratitude to manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles used in Turkey's counter-terror operation in Afrin and said: "Almost all armoured personnel carriers in Afrin are domestically made”.

 

Speaking about Turkey's unmanned aerial vehicles, Erdogan said that Turkey produces its own. "We will take a step further. Now we have to produce unmanned tanks and we will do it". He said both public and private sectors in Turkey are cooperating in the field of defence.

 

Erdogan added Turkey’s budget for defence projects was $5.5 billion in 2002 and it has exceeded $41 billion in 2017. He also said that the country’s exports, which were $36 billion in 2002, have crossed $157 billion in 2017.

 

"We developed our 2023 vision to make Turkey one of the biggest 10 economies in the world on the 100th anniversary of foundation of the Turkish Republic,” he said, and added: "I believe that nations, who are unable to plan their own future, are obliged to be a part of others' plans."

 

Erdogan said the country has been investing in both physical infrastructure and human resource since 2002, when the Justice and Development (AK) Party came to power, adding that they enabled Turkey leap forward in all fields with investments towards infrastructures of transportation, energy and agriculture as well as for education and health.

 

"As it is known, Turkey isn't rich in terms of natural resources compared to many countries in our region… However, we are very good at industrialization based on information and technology,” he added.

 

Erdogan said that they have increased Turkey's per capita income to the level of $11,000 from $3,500 and "it's a historic achievement”. He added that they have increased Turkey's national income to $863 billion in 2016, which was $236 billion in 2002 and with this growth performance they created 8.3 million jobs within the last 10 years.

 

12. Turkish Presidency: Turkish, Syrian intelligence in direct contact when necessary

According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (21.02.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-syrian-intelligence-in-direct-contact-when-necessary-turkish-presidency-127675), the intelligence agencies of Turkey and Syria are in contact whenever situations in Syria necessitate it, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın has said, while rejecting the establishment of any “political dialogue” between Ankara and Damascus.

 

“When extraordinary conditions necessitate it, our intelligence agency can get in direct or indirect contact [with Syrian intelligence] to solve certain problems in the field. This is part of the mission given to our intelligence organization,” Kalın told reporters at a press conference on Feb. 21.

 

He was responding to a question about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent suggestion that Ankara and Damascus could engage in direct talks to resolve issues in Afrin. “High-level political dialogue between Ankara and Damascus as suggested [by Lavrov) is out of the question,” Kalın said, recalling that Turkey’s indirect messages have long been conveyed to Syria by Russia and Iran within the scope of the Astana meetings.

 

Lavrov’s statement came amid unconfirmed reports that the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) agreed that the latter would leave Afrin city center to the control of the Syrian army.

 

Kalın repeated that Ankara has “no information to confirm such an agreement” and regards such news as “pure propaganda.” He also said that late on Feb. 20 a convoy of around 50 vehicles made of pro-regime militias tried to enter the Afrin district in a bid to enter the city center but were forced back by Turkish army shelling.

 

13. Turkey and Jordan ink military cooperation deal

According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (21.02.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-jordan-ink-military-cooperation-deal-127692), Turkey and Jordan have inked a military cooperation agreement, the Jordanian army said in a statement on Feb. 20. The deal came the same day, after Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his Jordanian counterpart Mahmoud Freihat.

 

The two army chiefs discussed international and regional developments, as well as cooperation and coordination between the two countries’ militaries, the statement added.

 

Akar arrived in Amman earlier that day for talks with Jordanian officials. The King’s meeting with Akar took up aspects of military cooperation between Jordan and Turkey and efforts aimed at fighting terrorism, the Jordanian Royal Court said in a statement.

 

14. Legislation on election alliance submitted to Parliament

According to Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (21.02.18, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/legislation-on-election-alliance-submitted-to-parliament-127708), the legislative proposal, which paves the way for a pre-election alliance, has been submitted to the Parliament by joint commission members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

 

“The 26-article proposal makes amendments in different laws on electorates, local elections and political parties. Not all of the articles are about election alliances. There are changes about local elections. Some changes are about previous experiences and election security,” said Parliamentary Constitutional Commission head and AKP lawmaker Mustafa Şentop at a press conference on Feb. 21, which was held after the legal package was submitted.

 

A joint commission of AKP and MHP members had finalized work on the legal package, which took its final shape after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and MHP leader Devlet Bahceli’s meeting on Feb. 18.

 

The package includes provisions that will allow political parties to enter into elections as an alliance while keeping their political party emblem in the ballot box papers. This is not possible under the current laws, according to which if parties want to form a coalition, it would only be possible if one party enters an election under another party’s political roof.

 

With the new regulation, the political emblems of all the political parties in an alliance will be located in the ballot papers next to each other, while the name of the alliance will be written above their logos.

 

The regulation keeps the 10% electoral threshold but it will apply to the sum of the votes of the alliance, not in particular for the parties within the alliance. The number of the lawmakers will also be determined according to the sum of the votes of the alliance.

 

The MHP has been demanding to keep its political identity in the elections, especially in parliamentary elections, as it wants to keep a record of the votes it has received and continue to enjoy Treasury grants accordingly. It had been concerned that its votes would fall below the 10%.

 

The AKP, on the other hand, necessitates 50% of the votes in presidential elections to make Erdoğan’s future presidency possible, and its electoral percentage is estimated to be around 40 to 45%.

 

With the regulation, parties in an alliance can prepare both a joint list of lawmakers or introduce separate lists. Individuals and party leaders can also enter into an alliance personally without resigning from their parties.

 

The package also includes provisions concerning “election safety”, according to which the ballot boxes could be relocated over security reasons and constituencies can also be unified or mixed. The move has been proposed by the AKP in previous elections, especially for eastern and southeastern provinces, but it has not been accepted by Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK).

 

The regulation also changes the definition of “the area of a ballot box”, which paves a way for private security officers, armed personnel and municipal officers to enter ballot box rooms. It also allows citizens to file a complaint about ballot box officers or voting procedures, which also allows police forces to be present in the ballot rooms.

 

With the regulation, the unsealed ballot papers will also be regarded valid. The YSK’s decision to regard the unsealed papers valid has been harshly criticized by the opposition for causing voting irregularities in the previous election.

 

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokesperson Bülent Tezcan criticized the AKP-MHP coalition, arguing that it aims to “form a one-man regime”. “There is a one-man coalition and this coalition has only one aim, which is to implement a one-man regime”, Tezcan said following the CHP’s Central Executive Board meeting on Feb. 21. He also said that the regulations concerning the alliance aim to make Erdogan win in the following presidential elections.

 

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TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION

 (DPs / AM)