Erdogan To Visit France Amid Tensions With EU

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that he will travel to France to discuss bilateral relations with counterpart Emmanuel Macron, after a year of particularly strained ties between the European Union and Turkey.

Erdogan’s visit comes as Turkey has seen its decade-long negotiations to join the EU almost grind to a halt and widespread criticism over a far-reaching crackdown against the president’s opponents since last year’s failed coup.

“Friday, I will go to France. We will discuss bilateral relations between France and Turkey,” Erdogan said in a televised speech to members of his ruling AKP party.

The announcement follows Erdogan expressing hope for a better relationship with the EU, telling Turkish journalists on Thursday: “I always say this. We must reduce the number of enemies and increase the number of friends.”

Erdogan launched a huge purge of state institutions after the attempted coup in July 2016; more than 55,000 people have been arrested since then, including journalists, lawyers, opposition politicians and academics.

A French journalist, Loup Bureau, who was detained in a Turkish prison for more than seven weeks on “terror” charges, returned to France in September after Macron appealed to Erdogan for his release.

In September, Macron said that “Turkey has objectively moved away from the European Union in recent months, with disturbing drifts that can not remain without consequence,” in an interview with Greek daily Kathimerini.

AFP

Israel’s PM Accuses Erdogan Of Helping ‘Terrorists’

(L-R) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prident Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Turkish Prident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday after he labelled Israel a “state that kills children,” calling him a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers and supports terrorists.

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” Netanyahu said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“That is not the man who is going to lecture us.”

READ ALSO: Erdogan Calls Israel ‘Terrorist State’ And ‘Killer Of Children’ 

AFP

Merkel Meets Erdogan On Eve Of G20 Summit In Hamburg

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday arrived at Hamburg’s Atlantic Hotel where he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Erdogan arrived in Hamburg a day after saying he didn’t regret accusing Germany of “Nazi-like” behaviour during an interview with France 24.

Erdogan has accused Germany of “fascist actions” reminiscent of Nazi times in a row over the cancellation of political rallies aimed at drumming up support for him among 1.5 million Turkish citizens in Germany during a referendum campaign in March.

Ties between Berlin and Ankara have soured over the past year due to disagreements on a range of political and security issues, including Turkey’s jailing of a German-Turkish journalist and its refusal to let German lawmakers visit German troops at a Turkish air base.

The European Parliament called on Thursday for Turkey’s European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara fully implements plans to expand Erdogan’s powers, in a vote which Turkey dismissed as flawed and wrong.

President Erdogan Wins Turkish Referendum

Turkey failed Coup, Erdogan, Turkey
Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, has won in the Sunday referendum in Turkey.

At least 99 per cent of the ballots have been counted, with 51.36 per cent voting a “yes”, and 48.64 per cent voting a “no”.

Addressing jubilant supporters in Istanbul, the President said Turkey has taken a historic decision, and that the country could hold a referendum on bringing back the death penalty.

Following the referendum, the President would be given vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.

Lavrov, Steinmeier To Meet On Ukraine, Syria Crisis

Sergei-Lavrov-Frank-Walter-Steinmeier-Germany-RussiaThe foreign ministers of Russia and Germany, Sergei Lavrov and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are set to meet on Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the duo would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria in the course of their meeting expected to take place in Yekaterinburg.

President Vladimir Putin had accused Ukraine of sabotage plans in Crimea, the peninsula Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014.

Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, had also discussed the Syrian conflict with Mr Putin during his visit to Russia earlier this week.

Impeachment Threat Is A Hoax – Garba Shehu

garba Shehu, Impeachment ThreatThe Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, has dismissed the impeachment threat by some members of the National Assembly as a hoax which exists in the imagination of mischief makers.

Mr Shehu made this remark exclusively to Channels Television in Abuja, while commenting on the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey.

Regarding the purported impeachment ‎threat on the President by the National Assembly, he emphasized the need for Nigeria to uphold its democracy.

Mr Garba Shehu commended the people of Turkey for rising up in defence of democracy.

He condemned those who attempted to take over government through violent means.

President Buhari had also earlier condemned the failed Turkey coup, “The removal of a democratic government by force is no longer acceptable. Violence can never solve any problem but only complicates them and sets back the progress of democratic societies,” he said.

He also offered Nigeria’s support to the government and people of Turkey in their hour of trial.

Buhari Condemns Failed Turkey Coup, Congratulates Erdogan

Muhammadu Buhari, NigeriansPresident Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday condemned the abortive coup attempt in Turkey by a group of rebel army officers and men, which resulted in the reported death of more than 100 people.

Reacting to the tragic events in Ankara, Istanbul and other centres, President Buhari said he is “deeply saddened by reports of a violent attempt to dismantle constitutional authority and disrupt the democratically elected government of Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.

“The removal of a democratic government by force is no longer acceptable. Violence can never solve any problem but only complicates them and sets back the progress of democratic societies.”

The President also noted that President Erdogan is one of Nigeria’s close international partners and sincere supporter in its current war against terrorism, adding that all should resist the “destabilization of democratic countries through coups d’état in the 21st century.”

According to the President, “democracy provides peaceful options of changing governments through the ballot box. The ballot box doesn’t require violence to remove any government perceived to have lost its popularity and public support. Despite its limitations, democracy is still better and more durable than a violent change of government.”

The President praises the courage and immediate response of ordinary citizens, who in face of guns and tanks defied the rebel soldiers and forced them to abandon their “mad quest for power”.

President Buhari called on the President of Turkey to pursue reconciliation and offered Nigeria’s support to the government and people of Turkey in their hour of trial.

Mass Funerals, Mounting Anger As Turkey Mourns Mine Workers

Women mourn during the funeral of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine, at a cemetary in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of ManisaLoudspeakers broadcast the names of the dead as rows of graves were filled in this close-knit Turkish mining town on Thursday, while thousands protested in major cities as grief turned to anger following the country’s deadliest industrial disaster. 

Rescuers were still trying to reach parts of the coal mine in Soma, 480 km (300 miles) southwest of Istanbul, more than 48 hours after fire knocked out power and shut down the ventilation shafts and elevators, trapping hundreds underground.

At least 283 people have been confirmed dead, mostly from carbon monoxide poisoning, and hopes are fading of pulling out any more alive of the 100 or so still thought to be inside.

Anger has swept a country that experienced a decade of rapid economic growth under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government but still suffers from one of the world’s worst records of workplace safety.

Furious residents heckled Erdogan on Wednesday as he toured the town, angry at what they see as the government’s coziness with mining tycoons, its failure to ensure safety and a lack of information on the rescue effort.

Access to the mine entrance was blocked by paramilitary police roadblocks several kilometers away for a visit by President Abdullah Gul on Thursday. Officers searched cars.

“We came here to share the grief and wait for our friends to come out but we were not allowed. Is the president’s pain greater than ours?” asked Emre, an 18-year-old trying to get to the mine who said friends from his village were still trapped.

Erdogan, who announced three days of national mourning from Tuesday, expressed regret for the disaster but said such accidents were not uncommon, and turned defensive when asked if sufficient precautions had been in place.

Newspaper Radikal published an amateur video clip on its website appearing to show Erdogan saying “Come here and jeer at me!” as he walked through a hostile crowd in the town.

A picture doing the rounds on social media of one of his deputy personal assistants, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a protester as he was wrestled to the ground by armed special forces officers did little to help the prime minister’s image.

Colleagues in Erdogan’s office defended Yerkel, saying the protester had travelled to Soma deliberately to cause trouble. London’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where Yerkel once studied, issued a statement saying it had no association with him after being besieged with enquiries.

“I am sad I was not able to maintain my composure despite all the provocations, the insults and attacks to which I was exposed on that day,” Yerkel later said in a statement.

Turkey Blocks Twitter Days Before Election, As PM Fights Corruption Scandal

Turkish prime MinisterTurkey’s courts blocked access to Twitter late on Thursday (March 20), just days before elections as Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, battles a corruption scandal that has seen social media platforms awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing.

The ban came hours after a defiant Erdogan, on the campaign trail ahead of key March 30 local elections, vowed to “wipe out” Twitter and said he did not care what the international community had to say about it.

Erdogan’s ruling AK Party has already tightened Internet controls, handed government more influence over the courts, and reassigned thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and judges as it fights a corruption scandal he has cast as a plot by political enemies to oust him.

Telecoms watchdog BTK said that the social media platform had been blocked by the courts after complaints were made by citizens that it was breaching privacy.

It said Twitter had ignored previous requests to remove content.

“Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimization of citizens,” it said.

San Francisco-based Twitter said it was looking into the matter but had not issued a formal statement.

The company did publish a tweet addressed to Turkish users instructing them on how to continue tweeting via SMS text message.

“Twitter, mwitter!,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters at a rally late on Thursday, in a phrase translating roughly as “Twitter, schmitter!”.

“We will wipe out all of these,” said Erdogan, who has cast the corruption scandal as part of a smear campaign by his political enemies.

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” he said in a characteristically unyielding tone.

Twitter users in Turkey began reporting widespread outages overnight.

Some users trying to open the Twitter.com website were taken to a statement apparently from another regulator (TIB) citing four court orders as the basis for the ban.

“We are resembling the Arab countries. Turkey’s future is not bright. We cannot even talk to people on the street about this issue. This is not good for the country”, said Istanbul resident Doga Satir.

Another resident of Istanbul, Fahir Karabel, said that the public would always find a way to voice their opinions.

“Congratulations to him. What else can I say? He cannot prevent this by blocking a website. No matter how hard he tries, people will always find their ways, they will always find an open door”, he said.

Aylin Vural, a resident of Istanbul, said despite the ban, nothing would change,

“I am a twitter user for a very long time. It is now blocked because people were sharing their opinions there. He thinks we cannot criticize him if he shuts down twitter but our struggle will continue. Nothing will change despite the ban”, she said.

The corruption investigation became public on Dec. 17 when police detained the sons of three cabinet ministers and businessmen close to Erdogan.

The three ministers resigned a week later, while others were removed in a cabinet reshuffle.

At an extraordinary session on Wednesday (March 19), the Parliament Speaker blocked opposition pleas to have a prosecutor’s report with allegations against the former ministers read out.

A document purporting to be that report appeared on Twitter last week.

It included alleged transcripts of wiretapped phone conversations, pictures from physical surveillance and pictures of official documents accusing the former ministers and two of their sons of involvement with an Iranian businessman in a bribery and smuggling racket.

Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the document.

Turkish Internet users were quick to come up with ways to circumvent the block. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly moved among the top trending globally.

The disruption sparked a virtual uproar, with many comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled.

Erdogan said two weeks ago that Turkey could also ban Facebook and YouTube, which he says have been abused by his enemies after a stream of audio recordings purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle emerged online.

But a senior official said on Friday (March 21) there were no immediate plans to do so.

Boko Haram: Turkish Airlines Denies Carrying Weapons To Nigeria

Boko Terror Turkish AirlinesTurkish Airlines have denied carrying weapons and military equipment to Nigeria after a Twitter account behind a string of leaks in a Turkish corruption scandal released a voice recording suggesting it had done so.

The recording, whose authenticity has not been verified, is purportedly of a conversation between a senior Turkish Airlines employee and one of the advisers of Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan.

Part of the voice recording of an alleged Turkish Airlines official, goes, “Lots of material is on its way to Nigeria right now. Is it going to kill Muslims or Christians? I am sinning right now, you should know.”

The airline said in an e-mailed statement that it only carried weapons and military equipment in line with international law and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations and that no weapons were carried to Nigeria.

Turkish Students Protest Against New Highway Opening

A protest against a controversial highway opening in Turkey breaks out in clashes.

Student protesters and riot police exchanged blows of fireworks and tear gas at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

The unrest has been ongoing for months as students protested against plans that involved building a road across the campus.

The plans allegedly involved uprooting a number of trees in the area.

At the highway’s opening ceremony, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denied uprooting trees.

“Supposedly, we are cutting off the trees. We told them it wasn’t the case. On the contrary, we would plant even more trees as part of this project. But despite that, they didn’t change their attitude,” he said.

Turkish PM On Campaign Trail, Asserts Authority After Protests

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan kicks off a weekend of rallies in his conservative strongholds on Friday, displaying his grassroots support after weeks of often violent anti-government protests.

Tens of thousands are expected to gather in a square in Kayseri, an industrial city in Turkey’s pious Anatolian heartland, to hear the blunt-talking 59-year-old urge voters to back his ruling AK Party before municipal polls next March.

Similar rallies are planned for the weekend in the eastern city of Erzurum and Samsun on the Black Sea coast.

The meetings follow three weeks of protests against Erdogan’s perceived authoritarianism, unrest which dented Turkey’s image for stability and riled a leader who sees himself as a champion of democratic reform.

He has dismissed the protesters as “riff-raff” manipulated by “terrorists” and has accused foreign forces, international media and market speculators of seeking to stoke the unrest in what he has termed a “game being played with Turkey”.

“Let’s spoil the big game, let’s write history” read a slogan on banners around the Kayseri square, while portraits of Erdogan hung on surrounding buildings.

“My master, it’s been 10 years since you arrived. You have transformed Turkey,” read another, playing on Erdogan’s own description of his third term as that of a “master”, borrowing from the celebrated Ottoman architect Sinan and the last stage of his career after apprenticeship and graduation.

Cities like Kayseri, one of the “Anatolian Tigers” whose small industries have flourished under a decade of AK Party rule, have been spared the sort of clashes concentrated in Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the nearby city of Eskisehir.

Here, Erdogan has widespread support.

“We have voted for him for the past three elections and I can’t think of anyone else to vote for at the next one as well,” said Tuba Ikiz, a 27-year-old shopkeeper wearing a headscarf.

Erdogan, who won his third consecutive election in 2011 with 50 percent support, has enacted democratic reforms, including curbing powers of an army that toppled four governments in four decades and pursuing an end to 30 years of Kurdish rebellion.

But he brooks little dissent. Hundreds of military officers have been jailed on charges of plotting a coup against Erdogan; others, including academics, journalists and politicians, face trial on similar accusations.

Among the large section of Turkey’s 76 million people who do not back him, Erdogan is viewed as increasingly authoritarian and too quick to meddle in their private lives. Recent restrictions on the sale of alcohol have fuelled their suspicions that he has a creeping Islamist agenda.

RESENTMENT TURNS TO VIOLENCE

That resentment spilled into open protest when police cracked down on a group of environmentalists opposed to his plans to develop a central Istanbul square in late May, spreading to other cities and turning violent night after night.

The streets of Turkey’s largest city have been calmer in recent days, with hundreds of silent, standing protesters in Taksim Square taking the place of clashes between police firing tear gas and water cannon at stone-throwing demonstrators.

Sporadic violence has continued, including in Ankara where around 1,000 people took to the streets overnight, and in Mersin, on Turkey’s southern coast, where riot police also used water cannon and teargas to break up demonstrations as Erdogan attended the opening ceremony of the Mediterranean Games.

Four protesters and two police officers were wounded, according to Dogan news agency.

The unrest has underlined divisions in Turkish society between religious conservatives who form the bedrock of Erdogan’s support, and more liberal Turks who have swelled the numbers of peaceful demonstrators.

The severity of the police crackdown, particularly in the initial days, has drawn international condemnation, especially from key trade partner Germany, casting a shadow over Turkey’s long-stalled talks on joining the European Union.

But some government ministers have struck a more conciliatory tone this week as the protests have generally become less tense, with Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc saying the silent protests “should be encouraged”.