Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told the European Union that his country will not change its anti-terror laws in return for visa-free travel.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We’ll go our way, you go yours.”
In response, the EU says Turkey needs to narrow its definition of terrorism to qualify for visa-free travel – which is part of a larger deal between the sides aimed at easing Europe’s migration crisis.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was speaking a day after Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who largely negotiated the EU deal, said he was stepping down.
Ahmet Davutoglu had also reportedly opposed Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to give more power to the presidency. The president said the proposed constitutional changes were a national need, not a personal requirement.
The wide-ranging EU-Turkey deal involves the return of refugees, mainly Syrians, from Greece to Turkey, along with increased aid and other measures.
One of these is to allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel for short stays in the EU’s Schengen area which comprises 22 EU and four non-EU members.
However, the EU wants Turkey to narrow its broad definition of terrorism to match tighter EU standards. It is one of five EU criteria Turkey still has to agree to in order to meet the visa-free requirements.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected this, saying in a TV speech on May 6: “Turkey, when it’s under attack from terrorist organizations from all sides, the European Union is telling us to change the anti-terror law in exchange for the visa deal.”
Referring to tents erected by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, near the EU parliament in Brussels, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “You [the EU] will let terrorists build tents and provide them with opportunities in the name of democracy.
“And then [you] will tell us ‘if you change this [anti-terrorism legislation], I will lift the visas’. Sorry, we’ll go our way, you go yours.”
In recent months, the Turkish government has used the terms “terrorist” or “terrorist supporter” to prosecute critics including journalists, suggesting they are supporting Kurdish militants or other armed organizations.
If Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not meet the EU requirements, the European Parliament and EU leaders will not vote on the visa waiver at the end of June.
Another part of the EU-Turkey deal had been to hold new talks on Turkish accession to the EU.
However, analysts say Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been less convinced of EU alignment than Ahmet Davutoglu, and he will certainly be a tougher negotiator.
Turkey’s new constitution will feature the principle of secularism, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced.
Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey’s secular and democratic character was “not up for debate”.
The prime minister’s comments came a day after parliamentary speaker Ismail Kahraman – a key member of the ruling AK party (AKP) – called for secularism to be taken out of the constitution.
Ismail Kahraman, who is overseeing the draft charter, said Turkey was a Muslim country and should have a religious constitution.
Turkey is a NATO member and aspires to join the European Union, which has traditionally regarded the country as a model of secular democracy in the Islamic world.
However, critics of the government fear the modern state’s secular foundations are being eroded.
Opposition parties also fear the new constitution could concentrate too much power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wants an executive presidency to replace the current parliamentary system.
In a speech on April 27, Ahmet Davutoglu said: “Secularism will feature in the new constitution we draft as a principle that guarantees citizens’ freedom of religion and faith and that ensures the state is an equal distance from all faith group.”
Ismail Kahraman said on April 25: “We are a Muslim country… Secularism cannot feature in the new constitution.”
He later said his comments were “personal views”.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of Turkey’s main CHP opposition party, condemned Ismail Kahraman’s comments, tweeting: “The chaos that reigns in the Middle East is the product of ways of thinking that, like you, make religion an instrument of politics.”
The AKP, which has Islamist roots, has been pushing to replace the existing constitution, which dates back to a 1980 military coup and does not promote any religion.
Over the past two years, the Turkish government has lifted bans on women and girls wearing headscarves in schools and civil service. It also limited alcohol sales and made efforts to ban mixed dorms at state universities.
The government has pledged that European standards on human rights will form the basis of the new text.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP holds 317 of the 550 seats in parliament. To submit its draft constitution to a referendum, it would need 330 votes , so it will need to win over lawmakers from other parties.
ISIS militant group is the prime suspect in the Ankara bombings that killed at least 97 people on October 10, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said.
No group has said it carried out the attack, but the Turkish government believes that two male suicide bombers caused the explosions.
Ankara explosions official death toll is 97, but one of the main groups at the march put the number of dead at 128.
The funerals of more of the victims are taking place on October 12.
The twin explosions ripped through a crowd of activists gathering outside Ankara’s main railway station.
They were due to take part in a rally calling for an end to the violence between Turkish government forces and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Speaking on Turkish television, Ahmet Davutoglu said the bombings were an attempt to influence the forthcoming elections, due to take place on November 1 after a vote in June left no party able to form a government.
Many of the victims were activists of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which says it is now considering cancelling all election rallies.
The HDP believes its delegation at the march was specifically targeted.
The party gained parliamentary seats for the first time in June’s vote, depriving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AK Party of its majority.
On the day of the attack, the PKK unilaterally declared a ceasefire. However, this was rejected by the Turkish government, which carried out cross-border air strikes on PKK positions in southern Turkey and Iraq on the following day.
PM Ahmet Davutoglu said authorities were close to identifying one of the suicide bombers.
Some local media have implicated the brother of a man who carried out an ISIS bombing in the southern border town of Suruc in July, which killed more than 30 people.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said the state had attacked the people – and that the people of Turkey should be the recipients of international condolences, not President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has declared three days of national mourning after two explosions at a peace rally in Ankara killed at least 95 people on October 10, the deadliest ever such attack in the country.
Ankara attack left 245 people injured, with 48 of them in a serious condition.
The government called the two explosions a “terrorist act” and angrily rejected allegations that it was to blame.
PM Ahmet Davutoglu said there was evidence that two suicide bombers had carried out the attack, which comes three weeks before a re-run of June’s inconclusive parliamentary elections.
Photo Getty Iamges
The two explosions took place near Ankara’s central train station as people gathered for a march organized by leftist groups demanding an end to the violence between the Kurdish separatist PKK militants and the Turkish government.
The blasts happened shortly after 10:00 local time as crowds gathered ahead of the rally. Amateur video footage showed a group of young people holding hands and singing, as the first blast hits.
No group has said it carried out the attack, but PM Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that Kurdish rebels or the Islamic State (ISIS) group were to blame.
According to terrorism experts, the attack is similar to one that was carried out in Suruc in southern Turkey by ISIS in July in which 30 people died.
However, the leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, whose members was among those attending the rally, has blamed the state and cancelled all election rallies.
The HDP has previously blamed the government for colluding in attacks on Kurdish activists, which the government denies.
According toTurkey’s PM Ahmet Davutoglu, a suspect has been identified in the suicide bomb attack that killed 32 young activists in Suruc.
PM Ahmet Davutoglu, who is due to visit the scene of the blast in Suruc near the Syrian border, said the suspect’s international and domestic links were being investigated.
There was a “high probability” that ISIS was to blame, he added.
The Turkish government has now vowed to increase security at the Syrian border.
“What’s necessary will be done against whomever responsible for [the attack],” said Ahmet Davutoglu.
“This is an attack that targeted Turkey,” he added.
Ahmet Davutoglu rejected claims that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had not done enough to combat ISIS militants, saying the government had “never tolerated any terrorist group”.
A cabinet meeting on July 22 will examine additional security measures along the border with Syria.
Officials initially suggested the bomber may have been female, but local media outlets have named a man in connection with the attack.
All rallies and marches in the city of Sanliurfa, where Suruc is located, have now been banned.
The governor of the city said the measure was aimed at preventing “undesirable occurrences”.
The funerals of some of the victims have already taken place, but many relatives are still awaiting news of their loved ones.
The youth activists, who were mainly university students, were holding a news conference when the bomb ripped through the cultural centre. They had been planning to travel to Syria to help rebuild the town of Kobane.
Social media images showed the group, who were members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, relaxing over breakfast a few hours before the noon blast.
Ahmet Davutoglu is expected to visit the scene of the massacre later on Tuesday.
Suruc is home to many refugees who have fled fierce fighting between ISIS and Kurdish fighters in nearby Kobane.
German proposal to postpone further EU membership talks with Turkey for about four months has been backed by EU foreign ministers.
The EU-Turkey talks had been scheduled to resume this Wednesday.
But Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have criticized Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests.
Turkish police arrested at least 20 people in the capital Ankara on Tuesday, suspected of attacking police during the recent unrest in Istanbul.
Turkish media say the suspects are also accused of belonging to a “terror organization”.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle played down tensions with Turkey on Tuesday, saying he had had a “really good, constructive” discussion with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday evening.
Ahmet Davutoglu was upbeat, saying he saw “no obstacle” to reopening Turkey’s talks with the EU eventually.
Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, at the same time as Croatia, which will join the 27-nation bloc next week.
Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have criticized Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests
But Turkey’s talks have been stalled for three years, and an EU Commission reporton Ankara’s progress last October highlighted numerous concerns about democracy and human rights.
Like all would-be member states, Turkey has to satisfy a detailed set of EU requirements, called the acquis. Last year Turkey received 856 million euros ($1.1 billion) in EU aid to help it make the necessary institutional reforms.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wants Turkey to have a privileged partnership with the EU, rather than full EU membership. She hopes to win re-election in September – before the talks with Turkey resume.
Last week Germany summoned the Turkish ambassador in a row over Turkey’s membership bid.
The two countries had earlier exchanged angry words in connection with the Turkish police action against demonstrators. Turkish police have used water cannon and tear gas against protesters – a crackdown widely seen to have fuelled anger against PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Initially peaceful protesters had staged a sit-in aimed at stopping a development project in Gezi Park, in the heart of Istanbul.
EU foreign ministers have now agreed to resume accession negotiations with Turkey, but only after a progress report on its EU bid is presented in October, diplomats say.
The next policy area to be negotiated is Chapter 22, dealing with regional policy.
Out of 35 chapters in total only 13 have been openedsince Turkey’s negotiations began, and eight have been frozen because of Turkey’s dispute with Cyprus. So far, only one chapter – on science and research – has been closed.
The Republic of Ireland chaired the foreign ministers’ talks in Luxembourg on Tuesday. Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said “we agreed to open a new chapter in accession negotiations with Turkey” and “the Inter Governmental Conference with Turkey will take place later this year”. The conference is the forum for Turkey’s membership bid.
“While we have been disturbed by the reaction to the recent peaceful protests in Turkey, I believe that the EU accession process is the most effective tool we have in influencing the reform agenda in Turkey. EU-inspired reforms have facilitated the increasing space for peaceful protest and dissenting voices,” Eamon Gilmore said.
“The protests have also shown that Turkey needs further reform. Moving ahead with the EU accession process by opening Chapter 22 will, I believe, allow the EU to continue contributing to shaping the direction of future reform in Turkey.”
Foreign ministers from the Arab League are due to meet in the Saudi city of Jeddah for talks over Syrian crisis.
The ministers are expected to discuss a new envoy to Syria to replace Kofi Annan, who resigned earlier this month.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the US and Turkey are working together on detailed plans to support the Syrian opposition.
Fighting has continued in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the second city of Aleppo.
Speaking on a visit to Istanbul, Hillary Clinton said both the US and Turkey were making preparations to respond to the possible collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the use of chemical weapons and increases in the number of cross-border refugees.
Kofi Annan resigned from his position as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria earlier this month, after his proposed six-point peace plan failed to come into effect and violence escalated.
Foreign ministers from the Arab League are due to meet in the Saudi city of Jeddah for talks over Syrian crisis
On the agenda for foreign ministers attending Sunday’s emergency meeting in Jeddah will be Kofi Annan’s replacement – tipped by diplomats to be the veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.
At the table will be envoys from Saudi Arabia and Qatar – leading backers of the rebels in Syria.
The mandate of the United Nations observer mission in Syria – which now comprises some 150 observers – is due to run out in a week’s time.
But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says there still need to be people on the ground to make impartial assessments of the military situation.
The Security Council will discuss the issue on Thursday, but there is little consensus on the council, with Syrian ally Russia calling for an extension and the US skeptical about prolonging the mission.
Instead, the US is taking steps outside the structures of the UN to support Syrian opposition groups, such as the setting up of the working group with Turkey announced by Hillary Clinton in her meeting with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday.
“Our number-one goal is to hasten the end of the bloodshed and the Assad regime,” she said.
“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that.”
A “range of contingencies” was discussed, including the possible use of chemical weapons by the Assad government, Hillary Clinton added.
Meanwhile, inside Syria fighting is continuing.
Syrian state TV said authorities were hunting “terrorists” who had set off a bomb in Marjeh, an exclusive district of Damascus near the central bank, and who were “shooting at random to spark panic among citizens”.
At about the same time, another blast went off near Tishrin Stadium close by, reported state news agency Sana.
Hours later, Sana reported that a bus had been attacked in a Damascus suburb, said AP news agency, with six passengers from the central province of Hama killed. It blamed the attack on the “terrorists”.
Violence erupted again between the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and government forces in the country’s largest city, Aleppo.
Activists said the army pounded areas south-west of Salah al-Din, from which the rebels retreated on Thursday.
Reports from Syria are difficult to confirm because of restrictions on reporters working there.
Turkey has called a NATO meeting to discuss its response to the shooting down of one of its warplanes by Syrian forces on Friday.
Ankara has invoked Article 4 of NATO’s charter, under which consultations can be requested when an ally feels their security is threatened, officials say.
Earlier, Turkey’s foreign minister said the F-4 Phantom was in international airspace when it was shot down.
Syria has insisted the jet was engaged while it was inside its airspace.
It has also said no act of hostility was intended, noting that as soon as the military discovered the “unidentified” aircraft was Turkish its navy joined efforts to rescue the two crew members.
The Turkish foreign ministry said it knew the coordinates of the jet, which was in Syrian territorial waters at a depth of 1,300 m (4,265 ft), but has not yet found it.
The coast guard is still searching for the crew in the Mediterranean Sea, though hopes are fading of them being found alive.
The government has also issued a diplomatic protest note to Syria.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the North Atlantic Council, the principal political decision-making body within the military alliance, would meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the incident.
“Turkey has requested consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty,” she told Reuters.
“Under article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.”
Turkey wants to be sure of the strongest backing once it decides its official response.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu became the first senior Turkish official to challenge Syria's account of the downing of the jet
The government has promised that it will be strong, decisive and legitimate, and that it will share all the information it has with the public.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu became the first senior Turkish official to challenge Syria’s account of the downing of the jet.
After lengthy meetings with military chiefs, he told TRT state television that the unarmed jet had “momentarily” entered Syrian airspace by mistake on Friday but had left when it was shot down 15 minutes later.
“According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles (24 km) from Syria,” he said.
According to international law, a country’s airspace extends 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from its coastline, corresponding with its territorial waters.
Ahmet Davutoglu also insisted that the jet had not been on a “covert mission related to Syria” but had instead been carrying out a training flight to test Turkey’s radar capabilities.
He said the plane had not “shown any hostility”, been clearly marked as Turkish, and that he did not agree with the Syrian military’s statement that it had not known to whom it belonged.
The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 Phantom at 11:58 (08:58 GMT) on Friday while it was flying over Hatay province, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.
Later, the Syrian military said an “unidentified air target” had penetrated Syrian airspace from the west at 11:40 local time (08:40 GMT), travelling at very low altitude and at high speed.
It said that in line with the laws prevailing in such cases, Syrian air defences engaged the craft, and scored a direct hit about 1 km (0.5 nautical miles) from its coastline.
It burst into flames, and crashed into the sea at a point 10 km (5 nautical miles) from the village of Om al-Tuyour, off the coast of Latakia province, well within Syrian territorial waters, the statement added.
Relations between NATO-member Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have fled the violence across the border into Turkey.
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