Saturday, 30 June 2012

Doubts Cast on Turkey's Story of Jet

U.S. Intelligence, Contradicting Ankara, Indicates Aircraft Was Shot Down by Syria in Its Own Airspace, Officials Say


U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria's account and at odds with Turkey.

A Turkish military truck transports a mobile missile launcher in Hatay province near the Turkish-Syrian border on June 28.

The Turkish government, which moved tanks to the Syrian border after the June 22 incident, says the debris fell in Syrian waters, but maintains its fighter was shot down without warning in international airspace. Ankara also has said the jet was hit too far from Syrian territory to have been engaged by an antiaircraft gun.

Damascus has said it shot down the plane with an antiaircraft battery with an effective range of about 1.5 miles.

"We see no indication that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile" as Turkey says, said a senior defense official. Officials declined to specify the sources of their information. The senior U.S. defense official cautioned that much remains unknown about the incident.

A Turkish official said he wasn't aware of the American doubts, and reiterated the government's position that a Syrian missile downed the plane in international airspace.

The Turkish government has scheduled a special meeting for Saturday morning on Syria. A spokesman for the prime minister said the U.S. intelligence on the incident would likely be discussed.

The downing of the jet spurred fears of a widening regional conflict and led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, following a presentation on Tuesday by Turkey, to condemn Syria's action.

The use of antiaircraft fire would suggest the Turkish plane was flying low to the ground, and slowly, U.S. officials said—though Syria said the jet was traveling at 480 miles an hour.

If hit by antiaircraft fire, the jet likely came closer to the Syrian shoreline than Turkey says, U.S. officials said.

The plane's pilots haven't been found, and the Turkish Navy has continued to search for them. U.S. officials say they believe the pilots perished.

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Some current and former American officials believe Ankara has been testing Syrian defenses. The version of the Turkish F-4 Phantom that was shot down typically carries surveillance equipment, according to U.S. defense officials.

A former senior U.S. official who worked closely with Turkey said he believed the flight's course was meant to test Syria's response. "You think that the airplane was there by mistake?" the former official said.

"These countries are all testing how fast they get picked up and how fast someone responds," said a senior U.S. official. "It's part of training."

The Turkish official said the plane wasn't on a surveillance mission. "All NATO members have condemned the Syrian hostile act and have supported Turkey," the official said.

The emerging discrepancies could prove embarrassing to Ankara and strain continuing discussions between the U.S. and Turkey, a NATO ally that shares a long border with Syria.

Turkey occupies a critical role in the U.S. and Western strategy for dealing with the Syrian crisis. American officials and defense analysts say the U.S. approach depends largely on Turkey's willingness to keep pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

NATO officials said Turkey's presentation on the incident on Tuesday was very detailed, but diplomats didn't closely question the Turks on their version of events. The U.S. backed Turkey and, American officials said, pushed NATO to issue a statement sharply condemning Syria.

The incident has put NATO in a tough spot. Alliance members are eager to back Ankara, but don't want to be dragged into a military conflict in Syria.

If the plane had been struck by a missile, a senior military official said, it would be an indication that Damascus had authorized the action. But the use of antiaircraft fire may mean a local commander decided on his own initiative to fire at the Turkish plane, according to officials and analysts.

U.S. defense officials said they weren't alarmed by Turkey's movement of forces to its border with Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Turkey's "very measured" approach. "I've asked them, and they are not seeking to be provocative," Gen. Dempsey said.

The U.S.-Turkish relationship is unlikely to be affected by the apparent discrepancies in accounts of the downing of the jet. Cooperation between Ankara and Washington has grown closer in recent months, after a period of significant strain in 2009 and 2010.

That marks a turnaround for Turkey, which 18 months ago moved to cultivate relations and trade with neighboring Muslim regimes, including Mr. Assad's, while downgrading ties with former ally Israel, raising concerns in Washington.

The revolutions of the Arab Spring, however, upended that policy. In a major change, Turkey agreed last fall to house a NATO missile-defense system, which was designed by the U.S. to contain Iran.

Turkish analysts said the debate in Turkey is now focused on the escalating tensions along the country's 565-mile border with Syria.

"What's important for most Turks is that the government has been seen to respond by boosting troop capacity on the border, which will further pressure Assad," said Atilla Yesilada, a partner at Istanbul-based political risk consultancy Istanbul Analytics.
Source: Wall Street Journal

Monday, 25 June 2012

Jihadists Entering Syria Via Turkey

El País had an article yesterday about "Spanish" Muslims who had been killed fighting against the Assad government in Syria. The Muslims were from Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in Africa, adjacent to Moroccan territory and inhabited by large numbers of ethnic Moroccan Muslims who are outbreeding the Europeans resident there. For more on Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish exclaves in Africa, see here.

The article recounts the story of some Muslims from Ceuta who travelled to Syria and got killed there. (Nice one, Assad!) It's full of the usual stuff from family and acquaintances about how he "seemed so normal, he wasn't a fanatic". They came from the neighbourhood of El Príncipe, next to the Moroccan border, and travelled in the company of known Moroccan jihadists, flying from Madrid to Turkey and hooking up with jihad groups there who helped them cross the border into Syria.

Ceuta, with around 80,000 inhabitants, has the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe at 60%. There are also record-breaking educational failure rates. 38.8% do not finish the period of compulsory schooling, but El Príncipe beats even these records.

..."We knew this was going to happen. No one is surprised by it. Young men have already travelled from Ceuta to Afghanistan and Iraq, so why wouldn't they go to Syria now? This problem is not just one of security. There is a very large element of social uprooting and marginality”, according to an official of the intelligence services.

...The mosque of Las Caracolas is controlled by the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España (UCIDE), which is represented in Ceuta by Laarbi Mateeis, director of the movement Jamaat Tablighl. ...Thirty of the 32 mosques in the city are controlled by this hardline group which preaches peace but which has occasionally produced terrorists like Mohamed Atta, who directed the suicide attackers of 9/11. All the mosques in Ceuta have Moroccan imams and the majority are paid by the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Source: El País

No doubt it won't be long before the Muslims in Ceuta don't need to travel to do their jihad. I expect a Kosovo-style insurgency to break out there within a few decades.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Turkey Attacked for 'Intransigence' Over Cyprus

A senior Cypriot diplomat has blamed Turkish "intransigence" for the blocked talks on reunifying the divided island.

Addressing a Brussels conference on Cyprus, Theophilos Theophilou also insisted the country was "well prepared" to assume the presidency of the EU on 1 July.

Theophilou, permanent representative of Cyprus to the EU from 2000-2004, said that as well as the ongoing economic malaise, the presidency priorities would include the long-term EU budget and a 'common asylum' policy.

He added, "A great emphasis will also be on achieving what could be called a 'better' Europe. By that I mean one which is closer to its citizens and responds more to their needs."

Theophilou, who helped steer the accession of Cyprus to the EU in 2004, said he believes presidencies run by smaller member states can be more effective.

"They have no vested interest or hidden agendas," he told this website. "Cyprus will be an honest broker."

Theophilou, who was born in what Greek Cypriots describe as the "occupied", Turk-controlled northern part of the island, said it was "in the interests" of both sides, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to resolve the current impasse.

He appealed to Ankara to "make concessions", including the withdrawal of up to 30,000 Turkish troops from northern Cyprus and the "removal" of "settlers" in the north.

"Turkey continues to be intractable and is responsible for the lack of progress on the peace talks. This is disappointing and I would hope it will be more forthcoming and show responsibility. Cyprus is too small to be divided. It is big enough for all Cypriots."

The Nicosia-based lawyer was a keynote speaker at a debate organised by the Brussels-based Centre for European Studies and the Hans Seidel Stiftung think tank.

His comments come after S&D leader Hannes Swoboda said Turkey must respect the fact that Cypriot president Demetris Christofias is not only representing Cyprus from 1 July but the whole of the EU.

Speaking after meeting with Christofias, the head of the second largest party in parliament said he was "disappointed" with the lack of respect shown by Turkey to Cyprus and its upcoming presidency.

"It is a European presidency. Turkey cannot expect from Europe compromises if it doesn't respect the decisions of the EU.

"President Christofias is not representing only Cyprus, he is representing the EU in these six months and this has to be respected by Turkey."

Swoboda called on Turkey to make moves to push forward its EU accession path, like proving more "helpful" towards the reunification of Cyprus.
Source: The Parliament

Monday, 18 June 2012

Turkey Trots Toward Islamism

The Turkish regime is gradually suppressing freedom as its society moves steadily toward a more hardline Islamic identity. Keep in mind that Turkey has been a very self-consciously modern and secular country. While there were always restrictions on freedom – especially regarding the expression of Kurdish nationalism – it was miles ahead of the usual Middle Eastern standards in that regard. And Istanbul was the ultimate expression of modern, secular Turkey.

Thus, a minor incident is of immense psychological importance. Here’s one of many. A woman wearing sweatpants sought to board a public bus and a dozen or more passengers blocked her way. One man said, “Look at her. Her head is not covered, shame!” Nobody on the bus came to her defense and the driver did nothing.

Why is this especially significant? Because the implication is that head covering for women should be mandatory in public and that those who advocate such measures will use intimidation to achieve this goal, unafraid of any possible consequences. On the contrary, it is those who would advocate freedom of choice who are intimidated.

Then there’s the new law requiring that every shopping mall, movie theater and indeed every public facility in the country have a Muslim prayer room. One newspaper columnist who ridiculed this idea wrote, “Have you ever heard any conservative or religious person in this country complaining: ‘I can’t live my religion if there are no [mosques] in opera or ballet houses?’”

In other words, such legislation is not happening because there is a burning need for such things but because the government is Islamizing the country. It should be pointed out that anyone who wants to pray could easily find an existing mosque not far away and, indeed, a dedicated room isn’t even a requirement for Muslim prayer.

OF COURSE, it should be understood that the government is offering a lot of incentives for becoming not just a practicing Muslim but an Islamist. Consider. You want a high-level career, especially in government. Do you go to an academic high school with a tough curriculum or to an Islamic school which focuses not only on religion but on an Islamist interpretation?

The number of students attending such religious (imam-hatip) schools has tripled in 10 years, rising to seven percent. The gap is narrowing, especially true for “regular” students since enrollment at open admissions schools fell from 50% to about 25 percent. The rest go to selective schools (21%) or vocational schools (50%).

The government has now decreed that Islamic schools be accorded equal status with academic schools for purposes of admission to university and also that Islamic junior high schools will be established. These decisions will accelerate the relative growth of education that indoctrinates students with the regime’s ideology.

THEN THERE’S Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s announcement that virtually all abortions will be banned, even if the woman was raped.

The court-authorized prosecution of a famous Turkish concert pianist, Fazil Say, for sending tweets critical of Islam is another sign of the times. So is the sentencing of a student to eight years’ imprisonment solely for the crime of holding up a sign demanding free education at an Erdogan rally. So is the sentencing of a former top general to one year in prison for telling a villager in a personal conversation that the regime had sold out the country.

Most recently, the government has decreed that it will choose two-thirds of the Turkish Academy of Sciences’ members. Until now, the existing members chose the new ones, and one-third of them resigned in protest.

Then there’s the foreign policy realm, where there are also dozens of examples of the regime’s Islamist orientation. The basic trend is anti-American, ferociously anti-Israel, and supporting Iran and radical Islamist movements. Despite differences with Tehran over Syria – the Turkish regime wants a Sunni Islamist government there; Iran wants to keep its allied incumbents in power – the two countries are constantly expanding their trade to hitherto unprecedented levels.

When a US airstrike against terrorists went astray and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, Erdogan quickly demanded a US apology and called the dead “our martyrs.” It symbolized his eagerness to take the side of any Islamic country or movement against the United States. The Turkish regime has ignored, with US permission, the sanctions on Iran and the media in both countries is full of reports about their ever-tightening relations. The large portion of the Turkish media controlled by the regime systematically spreads anti- Americanism and public opinion polls show ever-rising hostility to the United States.

Toward Israel, the regime is so unrelentingly hostile that the leader of the opposition asked whether Erdogan intended to go to war against that country. It has now decided to file criminal charges against Israeli officials involved in the attempt to stop the ship Mavi Marmara from running the blockade on the Gaza Strip, a situation in which Turkish jihadists were killed after assaulting Israeli soldiers. It should be noted that the Turkish government was directly involved in working with a terrorist group – defined as such by the United States and Germany – in mounting that deliberate provocation.

Since then, Erdogan has had three non-negotiable demands: that Israel apologize, admitting it committed a crime; that reparations be paid to the families of the dead extremists on the basis of Israeli guilt; and that Israel stop all sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. In response, Israel offered to express regrets and pay compensation on a humanitarian basis. Erdogan has refused all compromise – as indicated especially by his third demand – and has no desire to settle the issue.

Erdogan’s anti-Israel campaign has continued with such actions as insisting that NATO installations in Turkey not provide information to Israel, that Israel be excluded from joint maneuvers in which it formerly participated, and that Israel not be permitted to attend a NATO meeting and an international counter-terrorism conference. (The real problem with the counter-terrorism group is that the Obama administration made Turkey the co-director and didn’t even include Israel as a member when it launched the project last September 11.)

I have no problem if individual Turks want to be more pious in their religious observance. The problem is that this quickly slides over into intolerance, repression, extremism and a radical foreign policy. Moreover, in the long run the spending, restrictions and anti-intellectual policies might undermine Turkish democracy, stability and economic progress.

The writer is the director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. He also publishes the Rubin Report blog
Source: Jerusalem Post

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Time for Turkey to Leave Cyprus in Peace

Since its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Turkey has claimed that it was acting as a protector and guarantor of the island’s security. But a closer examination of its actions on Cyprus indicates motivations of a very different character. Turkey’s invasion resulted in hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriot refugees, who have been unable to return to their homes for almost 40 years. The international community has repeatedly condemned the illegal military occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops. The United Nations Security Council has passed 75 resolutions calling for Turkey to allow Greek Cypriots to return to their homes and to withdraw its troops from Cyprus. Yet Turkey continues its occupation.

More than 40,000 heavily armed Turkish soldiers are occupying the northern part of the country, with one Turkish soldier for every two Turkish-Cypriots. The presence of this overwhelming force cannot be justified by the claims that they are needed to prevent any renewal of violence. In fact, since the 2003 opening of the border between the two communities, more than 17 million intercommunal visits have occurred without conflict.

The result of this occupation by foreign troops is that many Cypriot neighborhoods in the occupied areas remain vacant or in a state of disrepair. One of the most tragic examples is the Varosha region of Famagusta. Once an important commercial and tourism center for the island, Varosha was fenced off following the invasion, and access has been prohibited for all except Turkish military forces. Over the years, this area has become a virtual ghost town.

The desolation of Cypriot properties and cultural sites is not restricted to Varosha but is a reality in all the areas under Turkish military occupation. In fact, an estimated 520 Greek Orthodox churches and chapels, and 17 monasteries in the occupied areas have been pillaged, vandalized or destroyed. Often these religious sites have been converted into stables, bars, nightclubs, casinos or hotels, leaving more than 15,000 religious artifacts unaccounted for. This widespread destruction of Cypriot historic, religious and cultural identity certainly does not seem like the behavior of a “protective guardian.”

Turkey also continues to interfere in the domestic affairs of Cyprus, especially the negotiations on reunification. The goal of these talks is a Cypriot-developed, mutually agreeable settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, including a single sovereignty, single citizenship and single international presence. But instead of allowing the representatives from the Turkish-Cypriot community to engage freely in the talks, the Turkish government has imposed its own criteria, which has made an agreement all but impossible.

Turkey also has tried to limit Cyprus‘ sovereign rights to develop its energy resources. Despite the island’s critical energy needs, Turkey declared last year that it had “nullified” the exploration agreement between Cyprus and Israel even though it has no right to do so. Turkey escalated the conflict by sending its own ships to the region and even threatened military action if Cyprus continued in its project with Israel. Although from the beginning, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias guaranteed that any energy resources discovered would be used for the benefit of all Cypriots, Turkish officials claimed their actions were to protect the rights of the Turkish-Cypriots.

Reports by the Turkish-Cypriot media indicate that the Turkish government continues to promote illegal immigration by Turks to the northern occupied areas of Cyprus with the goal of changing the demographic composition of the island. According to people administering the occupied area, there are an estimated 160,000 settlers from Turkey, many of whom occupy the homes of the evicted Greek-Cypriots. However, reports in the Turkish-Cypriot press from Turkish-Cypriots who live among the Turkish settlers put this number between 500,000 and 800,000. A recent “census” in the north indicated that the total population in the north had increased to nearly 300,000 people. Just 88,900 of them were native Turkish-Cypriots, who are outnumbered by illegal Turkish immigrants by a ratio of almost 2-1.

Ankara’s support for these illegal immigrants is not welcomed by the native Turkish-Cypriot community. In fact, Stella Altziman, who resides in that region of Cyprus, wrote in 2010: “Due to constant migration from Turkey, [the northern occupied area] is like a Turkish province” and the native Turkish-Cypriots have become a minority in their own land. Last year, many Turkish-Cypriots protested Turkey’s policies toward Cyprus, with some carrying banners that read, “Ankara, get your hands off our shores.” Yet Turkey continues to flood its areas of occupation with illegal Turkish immigrants. In his visit to Cyprus last year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan mocked the Turkish-Cypriots, stating, “If you don’t want us to send people, you need to have more babies.”

By its occupation, Turkey is “guaranteeing” nothing but a creeping annexation. It is time for Turkey to withdraw its military troops, end all support for illegal immigration to Cyprus and let the true inhabitants of the island determine their own future. Only then will the long-suffering Cypriot people finally enjoy the peace and security they have been trying so desperately to achieve for decades.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Source: Washington Times

Monday, 11 June 2012

Turkish Words, No Thanks

As I've reported a few times, part of the multicult indoctrination in Austria and Germany involves teaching the Austrian and German children Turkish "to help integration". One Austrian mother doesn't seem too thrilled with the practice. As you can see from the photograph, she send the Turkish vocabulary sheet back to the teacher with the words "SICHER NICHT" [DEFINITELY NOT] written on it.

Source: SOS Heimat

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Turkish ruling Islamists' zeal worries EU diplomats

European Union diplomats are expressing growing concern at what they see as the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey's ruling Islamists.

They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the government as a tool to jail and silence opponents and compromise the country's secular credentials by introducing Koran studies in public schools.

Other measures include lowering the age at which parents can send their children to Islamic religious schools, increasing pressure on those criticising Islam and restricting abortion.

Turkish authorities accuse the so-called Ergenekon network of being behind several plots to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Dozens of retired or serving senior military figures, intellectuals, lawyers and journalists been put behind bars.

On Thursday Stefan Fuele, European commissioner for enlargement, cited this and other obstacles in the way of Turkey's membership bid while in Istanbul for talks.

"I have used this meeting to convey our concerns about the increasing detention of lawmakers, academics and students and the freedom of press and journalists," he said.

Changes due to take effect when the new academic year starts this autumn also have also ruffled feathers. The Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is introducing Koran lessons.

And from the end of primary school, more parents will be able to opt out of the secular education system and send their children to Islamic religious schools. Previously these schools could not recruit children under the age of 15: now children as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.

There is concern too over plans by state broadcaster TRT to launch a religious channel and proposals for prayer rooms in newly built public buildings such as creches, theatres and even opera houses.

"A series of recent moves show that the conservative tendency has the upper hand and faces no opposition," said Marc Pierini, a former head of the EU diplomatic team in Turkey.

"Civil society exists, but it is hardly audible," said one Ankara-based diplomat.

"The media are for the most part directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP and the opposition is powerless," the diplomat added.

Plans to restrict the abortion laws and other moves that critics say will would make Islam a more visible part of daily life are added areas of concern.

Comments last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he compared abortion to a botched attack by the military that killed 34 civilians last December, brought a sharp response from a senior EU diplomat.

Erdogan had said of abortion: "You either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference."

And in a emotive reference to the attack in Uludere, in which Turkish warplanes killed civilians they had mistaken for Kurdish separatists, he said "every abortion is an Uludere."

"Some politicians made comparisons that are not appropriate," Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, told journalists.

Turkey is preparing a bill to slash the time limit for abortions from 10 weeks to between four and six weeks.

Thousands of women have demonstrated against the proposed changes, defending the existing abortion law, which dates back to 1965.

Turkey's acclaimed composer and pianist Fazil Say faces trial in October on charges of insulting religious values in a series of provocative tweets about Islam. If convicted, he could face up to 18 months in prison.

In April, Say told the Hurriyet daily that he felt completely ostracised by Turkish society since having declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance.

One European diplomat in Istanbul remarked: "It's not just the fact that he is being put on trial, but also what the pro-government newspaper Sabah says, which has made a hero out of the guy who denounced him."

The Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit has lavished praise on the person who alerted the authorities to Say's comments on Twitter, with one headline describing him as "The man who gives no respite to the enemies of Islam".

Erdogan has also just announced that a giant mosque is to be built on one of Istanbul's most hills, which will become one of the city's most visible landmarks.

This latest announcement on top of the other developments have been seized on by the critics of Erdogan and the AKP, who suspect the government has a covert agenda to promote Islam -- and undermine Turkey's secular traditions.

"He fuelled this debate himself recently with certains utterances, one example being that he and his party wanted to see 'the emergence of a religious generation'," noted Semih Idiz, a leader writer for Milliyet newspaper.
Source: AFP

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Turkey Probes Dead Bird It Suspects Is Israeli Spy

It's a bird! It's an Israeli spy! It's a — well, it's probably a bird.
Turkish authorities are investigating a dead bird they think could might be an Israeli spy, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

According to the report, a farmer found the dead European bee-eater and noticed that its leg was banded with a ring that said "Israel." (Bird-banding lets ornithologists track migration routes.)

He handed the bird's body over to the government, and security officials investigating it found what they reportedly considered cause for alarm: Its suspiciously sized nostrils.

The nostrils were large enough for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to have implanted a surveillance device inside, according to the report.

But a bird expert told Yedioth Ahronoth that the bee-eaters often pass through Israel and Turkey during their migration from Europe, and a conservation society confirmed that the bird under investigation was banded four years ago.

Birds banded in Israel have triggered suspicion in the region before. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, last year Saudi Arabia detained an Israel-banded vulture carrying a GPS transmitter with Tel Aviv University's name on it, suspecting it of an espionage plot.

Source: NBC

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cyprus Next Country to Seek Euro Bail-out, President Suggests

This is potentially ominous. If Cyprus does seek a bail-out, there is a good chance the Eurocrats will demand a quid pro quo in the form of Cyprus lifting the blocks it has imposed on Turkey's EU accession.
Cyprus could be the next eurozone country to seek an emergency bail-out, its president Dimitris Christofias has suggested.

The tiny country, with less than 1m population, joined the euro in 2008 and is heavily exposed to the Greek banks.

Mr Christofias said he wouldn't rule out the possibility that the government may tap the European Union's bail-out fund to recapitalise the island's second-largest lender, Cyprus Popular Bank, which is the most heavily exposed to Greece.

"Certainly, I don't take it as a given that we will negotiate our induction into the support mechanism. But I don't want to exclude it entirely," Christofias said.

Cyprus Popular, which sustained record losses after taking a 74pc write down on its Greek government bond holdings, is struggling to meet a June 30 deadline to replenish its capital reserves.

Cyprus, faced with soaring bond yields hovering around 14pc on the 10-year bond, and with its debt considered junk status by two of the world's leading ratings firms, has few places to turn to cover its financing needs. Late last year, the country negotiated a €2.5bn (£2.02bn) bilateral loan from Russia. Now, Cyprus is in talks with China for another bilateral loan, of an undisclosed amount.

Mr Christofias said the government is looking to clinch another loan, but wouldn't elaborate. The government will unveil another austerity package later this month to meet a promised deficit target this year of 2.5pc of GDP.

The European Commission urged Cyprus earlier this week to further rein in spending and meet its deficit target as the economy is projected contract this year by 0.8pc of GDP before rebounding to a meagre 0.3pc in 2013.

"Cyprus is starting to feel the effects of the Greek crisis and may have no other recourse but to ask for European aid," Alex Apostolides, an economics professor at Nicosia's European University, told the Wall Street Journal. "There has been a narrowing of all other options that were available, to the point where going to the EFSF [European Financial Stability Facility] looks increasingly likely, almost inevitable."

The woes of Cyprus have emerged after a tough week on the markets, following week jobs data in the US and data which showed the UK manufacturing sector was shrinking at its fastest pace in three years.

The only bright light to shine on the gloom of the eurozone was the Irish voting in favour of the fiscal treaty on Friday, which has been as key vote of confidence in the austerity package that the European politicians want to impose on the eurozone. José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, welcomed the vote: "This Treaty is a key component of the EU's response to the current economic crisis. Restoring sustainability to public finances remains an important objective."
Source: Telegraph

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Turkish Pianist Charged with Insulting Islam

A court here on Friday charged Fazil Say, a classical and jazz pianist with an international career, with insulting Islamic values in Twitter messages, the latest in a series of legal actions against Turkish artists, writers and intellectuals for statements they have made about religion and Turkish national identity.

Mr. Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation,” the semiofficial Anatolian news agency said. A trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18, with Mr. Say facing up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

It is unusual for Twitter posts to be the subject of an indictment in Turkey. Some of the messages were written by Mr. Say, but one, which poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife, was written by someone else and passed along by Mr. Say via his Twitter account. Likening heaven’s promise of rivers of wine to a tavern and of virgins to a brothel, it referred to a poem by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, Mr. Say said in a text message from Slovenia, where he had just arrived for a concert.

Another Twitter post, this one written by Mr. Say, joked about a muezzin’s rapid delivery of the call to prayer, asking if he wanted to get away quickly for a drink. The messages are no longer available online. The pianist, who has frequently criticized the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party government over its cultural and social policies, publicly defines himself as an atheist — a controversial admission in Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

In his text message from Slovenia, Mr. Say said he was only one of 165 people who shared the Twitter post on the vision of Islamic paradise.

“I just thought it was a funny allegory and retweeted the message,” he said. “It is unbelievable that it was made into a court case.”

He continued, “This case, which goes against universal human rights and laws, is saddening not only when judged on its own merit but also for Turkey’s image.”

Many intellectuals and writers have faced similar charges in recent years, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate, who last year was fined $3,700 for saying in a Swiss newspaper that Turks “have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians.”

The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, and other international organizations have criticized such actions as violations of free speech.

Mr. Say, who has served as a European Union culture ambassador, has a busy international career, with frequent engagements in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia and the United States. He has performed with major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Say is also known in music circles for his eccentricities during performances, like conducting phrases with a free hand, giving range to facial expressions and humming along.

His last recital in New York was in April, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in connection with the opening of the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.

Anthony Tommasini, in reviewing the concert for The New York Times, said Mr. Say drew a “large and enthusiastic audience.” Of his performance of Leos Janacek’s Sonata “1.X.1905,” Mr. Tommasini wrote, “Mr. Say brought improvisatory freedom and vivid colorings to this harmonically misty, elegiac and restless music.”
Source: New York Times

Why is this guy a European Union cultural ambassador, given that Turkey is not and hopefully never will be a member of the European Union?