June 28th Press Review


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend had talks with US President Barack Obama amid a downturn in Turkish-US relations following Ankara's vote against UN sanctions on Iran and the crisis over an Israeli raid last month on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Both Turkish and US officials described the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Toronto, Canada, as a clear and open conversation of two allies. "President Obama met in advance of the G-20 dinner with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey on Saturday evening," said a White House statement. "The two leaders had a wide-ranging and candid discussion between allies that addressed Iran's nuclear program, Middle East peace, the flotilla incident, Afghanistan, the PKK and terrorism." When the Turkish side brought up the recent rise in attacks by the terrorist PKK, the US side pledged that its support for Turkey's fight against terrorism, as well as the two-year-old trilateral mechanism between Iraq, Turkey and the US in order to combat the PKK, would continue. Underlining the importance it places on bilateral ties between Israel and Turkey, the US side expressed uneasiness over the recent course of affairs in these relations and said Washington would continue to support resolution of the problems between the two. Thanking Obama for US help securing the release of flotilla activists detained following the raid by Israeli forces, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, Erdogan also reiterated Turkey's demand that Israel issue an official apology and offer restitution for the attack, and urged the complete lifting of Israel's Gaza blockade. /Today's Zaman, Turkiye/


Turkey has not given up its dream of joining the European Union, and it has not become "anti-West," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an interview with Canada's Toronto Star daily over the weekend on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Toronto. Dismissing claims of an axis shift in Turkish foreign policy, Erdogan criticized claims that Turkey had turned its back on the West. "That would be a very wrong conclusion. Turkey is developing contacts all over the world. But Turkey has not cut off relations with anyone," he said, referring to claims that Turkey will sever its ties with Israel due to its attack last month on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which left nine Turkish peace activists dead. However, Erdogan stressed that relations with Israel would remain strained until Israel fulfills four conditions: an official apology for the attack, paying compensation to the families of the nine activists, agreeing to an international probe into the incident, and lifting its embargo on the Gaza Strip. Asked about Israeli statements that it was easing its blockade of Gaza, Erdogan called for concrete steps rather than mere words. Stating that Turkey is planning to sue Israel on behalf of the victims of the flotilla raid, Erdogan said the flotilla was organized by non-governmental organizations, was carrying volunteers from 33 nations, along with humanitarian aid for Gaza - food, medicine, toys, construction material, etc. It was attacked "in international waters, 72 miles out of the territorial waters of Israel. Unfortunately, guns and rifles and plastic bullets were used. I interpret this as state terror," Erdogan said. Rejecting claims that Turkey has adopted an anti-Israel stance in the Middle East, Erdogan said, "I want to be very clear. In the Middle East, Turkey is the only friendly country to Israel, so much so that during the Ehud Olmert government, Turkey helped Israel hold indirect talks with Syria." On Turkey's EU aspirations amid US and EU officials' mutual accusations that they are pushing Turkey towards the East and away from the West, Erdogan said Turkey still very much wants to join the EU. "We continue with determination to walk on the European path, despite EU efforts to prevent the opening of some of the chapters that are part of the negotiations process," he said. /Aksam/


In Toronto, Canada over the weekend, the leading eight industrial democracies praised Brazil and Turkey's diplomatic overtures to Iran, even if they have been rejected by other members of the international community. Brazil and Turkey were the only two members of the UN Security Council to vote against the most recent set of sanctions on Iran. "Our goal is to persuade Iran's leaders to engage in a transparent dialogue about its nuclear activities and to meet Iran's international obligations," the final communiqué by the G-8 - the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia - said. "We strongly support the ongoing efforts in this regard by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative, and we welcome their commitment to the resolution of all outstanding issues through negotiation. We also welcome and commend all diplomatic efforts in this regard, including those made recently by Brazil and Turkey on the specific issue of the Tehran Research Reactor." Expressing regret over the deaths of nine Turkish peace activists in last month's Israeli raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the statement also called for Israel to lift its siege of Gaza, and to restart peace talks with the Palestinian National Authority. In related news, an Israeli paper reported that when US President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early next month, he is expected to press the Israeli government to completely lift its blockade of Gaza, which he sees as "unacceptable collective punishment." /Today's Zaman, Aksam, Turkiye/


Seeking to update the government's terminology for the 21st century, Turkey's Chief Negotiator for European Union talks Egemen Bagis yesterday announced a decision to use the term "different belief groups" instead of "gayrimuslim" (non-Muslim) in official EU correspondence. Bagis said the decision was taken after he received a letter from the vice patriarch of the Ancient Syriac Orthodox Church, Yusuf Cetin. According to Cetin, "Muslim" means "believer" in Aramaic, a northwest Semitic language used in ancient times in Syria and other places. As such, the term "gayrimuslim," which has been the preferred term for non-Muslims in Turkey, implied "nonbelievers" or "infidels." "We were directed by the patriarch to make the change," said Bagis, calling the old usage an unintentional mistake. The government has already begun implementing the decision to use the term "different belief groups" instead of "non-Muslim," Bagis said, adding that he shared the vice patriarch's remarks with other officials and they responded positively. "We have discontinued using the term 'gayrimuslim' in correspondence with the EU General Secretariat," he said. The weekly Salom also reported that Bagis recently met with representatives of Izmir's Jewish community. According to the paper, Bagis told them that he doesn't care for either the term "minority" or "gayrimuslim." /Hurriyet Daily News/


This year's 649th Kyrkpynar oil wrestling tournament in Edirne was marked by the unprecedented participation of five sumo wrestlers from Japan as part of "Year of Japan" observances in Turkey. Legendary oil wrestler and two-time champion Ahmet Tasci faced Japanese champion sumo wrestler Akino Mine. The match between the 1.75-meter Tasci, weighing 110 kilograms, and the 1.90-meter Mine, weighing 150 kilograms, was closely watched by spectators. The two wrestlers congratulated each other following the match, and Mine basked in the attention from the audience. The match also attracted international interest, with some 400 reporters from Germany, the US, France, Bulgaria, Greece, Norway, Japan and Turkey covering the competition. A total of 52 wrestlers took part in the tournament. In the third round, held on Saturday and considered an early indicator of the final standings, last year's title holder, Mehmet Yesil, qualified for the fourth round by again this year defeating Recep Kara, who has won the title several times before. Kara's fans rushed onto the field after the match to protest the referee's calls. In another exciting match on Saturday, Tasci and Ali Gungor Ekin struggled to advance to the second round. Tasci was beaten by his former student, Ekin. /Today's Zaman/

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