Friday, January 17, 2014

Turkish news of note - January 17 , 2014 ..... Iraq will take legal and other measures to punish Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as foreign companies, for any involvement in Kurdish exports of “smuggled” oil without Baghdad’s consent, the oil minister said on Jan. 17. ......... Corruption scandals updates

Oil Politics.....

Turkey has extended a purge of official bodies to the banking and telecoms regulators and state TV, firing dozens of executives in moves that appear to broaden Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s backlash against a corruption investigation.

The authorities have already sacked thousands of police officers, dozens of prosecutors and some state television officials in response to the corruption investigation, which has become the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s 11-year rule.

Investigators are believed to have been looking into allegations of corruption at a state-run bank and bribery involving big real estate projects, although details of their charges have not been made public.

The combative prime minister says the investigations, which began a month ago with arrests of high profile figures including the sons of three of his cabinet ministers, are part of an attempted “judicial coup”.

His opponents say they fear a purge of official bodies will destroy the independence of the judiciary, police and media.

Among dozens of officials dismissed in the latest sackings, Turkish media reported on Saturday that the deputy head of the banking watchdog BDDK and two department heads had been removed.

Five department chiefs were fired at the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), a body that carries out electronic surveillance as well as serving as telecoms regulator, and a dozen people were fired at Turkey’s state channel TRT, including department heads and senior news editors.

Erdogan has suggested the graft inquiry, which has led to the resignation of three cabinet ministers and detention of businessmen close to the government, is an attempt by Fethullan Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric with influence among the police and judiciary, to undermine his rule.

Many of the people who have been fired are believed to be associated with the cleric’s Hizmet movement, which claims more than a million followers and runs schools and charities throughout Turkey.

Earlier in the week the government reassigned twenty high-profile prosecutors, stepping up the purge of the judiciary.

The government has also prepared a draft bill to tighten its grip on High Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a panel that controls the appointment of all judges and prosecutors.

There were heated discussions and even fights among members of parliament during talks over the draft bill last week.

Erdogan, who has presided over an extended economic boom that has transformed Turkey and lifted millions of people from poverty, remains the country’s most popular politician.

He and his moderate Islamist AK Party have long battled for influence against the secularist military establishment that dominated Turkey for a century. His conflict with the judiciary, police and Gulen followers add to his list of enemies.

It is still not clear what effect the crisis might have a local elections approaching in March. Last year saw mass street demonstrations among Turks who accuse the prime minister of authoritarianism, but those protests did little to undermine Erdogan’s support among his conservative base of followers.

Iraq to punish Turkey, Kurds over 'smuggled' oil exports: Minister

BAGHDAD - Reuters

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Iraq will take legal and other measures to punish Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as foreign companies, for any involvement in Kurdish exports of “smuggled” oil without Baghdad’s consent, the oil minister said on Jan. 17.

Abdul Kareem Luaibi told reporters the government was preparing legal action against Ankara and would blacklist any companies dealing with oil piped to Turkey from Iraq’s autonomous northern region without permission from Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government said last week that crude had begun to flow through the pipeline, and exports were on track to start at the end of January, inviting bidders to register with the Kurdistan Oil Marketing Organisation.

Luaibi said it was not in Turkey’s interest to jeopardise bilateral trade worth $12 billion a year, saying Baghdad would consider boycotting all Turkish companies and cancelling contracts with Turkish firms if the oil exports went ahead.

Turkey has been saying it sides with a peaceful soluiton to be reached by Baghdad and Arbil, asserting it has no interest in interfering Iraqi governments’ business.

“We will not be engaged in a business violating the [Iraqi] Constitution. We would not [act in violation] of Iraq’s integrity and sovereignty,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Jan. 14, a few days after Baghdad’s vocal warning to Ankara and Arbil .

“The Iraqi government holds Turkey legally responsible on this subject and reserves the right to demand resultant losses,” Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani said.

In an interview with Reuters on Jan. 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to cut the Kurdish region’s 17 percent share of the federal budget if exports via the pipeline went ahead without central government consent.

A draft budget drafted by Baghdad requires the Kurds to export 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), well above the region’s current export capacity, and says Baghdad will deduct any shortfall from the 17 percent share of state revenues to which they are entitled.

Luaibi also said Jan. 17 the Finance Ministry had been told to calculate how much should be deducted from Iraqi Kurdistan’s 17 percent share of the federal budget if the region failed to meet a government-set export target.

Preparations were under way, Luaibi said, “to raise a lawsuit against the Turkish government for allowing Kurdistan to pump oil through the export pipeline without the approval of the Iraqi central government, which represents ... a clear violation of the agreement signed between the two countries ... governing the export of Iraqi oil through Turkey.”

Corruption scandal items....

Gül signals veto if controversial HSYK bill ends up on his desk

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Turkish President Abdullah Gül (Photo: Today's Zaman)
President Abdullah Gül signaled on Friday that he may veto a controversial bill that subordinates Turkey's key judicial council to the government, saying once again that he prefers a compromise solution in the form of a constitutional amendment.
“I believe both the governing and the opposition parties, as legitimate partners of democracy, can come together and resolve this issue in a more solid way through a constitutional amendment,” he said, adding, “I still hold on to this view.”
Gül's repeated emphasis on a constitutional change to solve the debate on a bill to restructure the operations of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) was interpreted as a warning shot across the government's bow not to send the bill in its current form to his desk for approval.
The bill cleared the Justice Commission on Thursday night and is expected to hit the floor early next week for a debate and likely approval.
“If there is goodwill, they will find a way,” he said, referring to political party leaders. Gül added that the government may take a sharp position by not sending the bill to the floor. “If they meet and cannot agree, everyone goes their separate way,” Gül underlined.
“My only intention is for Turkey to come out of this business stronger,” he said.
Gül noted that if the bill clears Parliament, there are mechanisms to check the bill, including whether or not the bill complies with the Constitution. He said he had a more positive outlook after meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.
The controversial bill has been harshly criticized by jurists and opposition parties as well as by the EU and the Council of Europe for dealing a huge blow to the independence of the judiciary in Turkey. It empowers the justice minister in the HSYK in a number of ways, including holding the power to determine the council agenda and the fate of investigations of judges and prosecutors, shape the composition of chambers as well as to appoint judge inspectors to the board.
If it gets enacted, the bill also allows the justice minister to initiate disciplinary procedures for HSYK members and envisages the firing of all administrative staff, including the secretary-general and his deputies.
The change represents a major regress from a government-backed constitutional referendum in 2010 which brought a more democratic and pluralistic structure to the HSYK, where most members are elected by their own community of some 12,000 judges and prosecutors.
Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faik Öztrak said the political authority is about to seize the judiciary. He claimed that the government has lost all legitimacy.
Gül had earlier invited Prime Minister and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Erdoğan, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and pro-Kurdish Peace Democracy Party (BDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş to the Çankaya presidential palace for separate meetings to discuss the proposal on a constitutional amendment.
On Tuesday, Erdoğan said his ruling party will freeze the controversial bill provided that the opposition parties agree to pass a constitutional amendment to restructure the board. He said the parties in Parliament -- according to the number of seats they hold -- will have the opportunity to have their candidates elected to the HSYK as in the case of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).
The opposition rejected the proposal, saying the board will be controlled by the ruling party with such a change. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu said the members of the judiciary should be free of a political identity.
“A jurist cannot carry the badge of a political party. This is not correct,” he told reporters. He also reiterated his party's preconditions to support the AK Party's plans for a constitutional amendment. “First, we want the bill to be withdrawn by the ruling party. But the party is unwilling to do so. Second, we want the corruption investigations to carry on without an intervention by the ruling party,” he stated.
The planned changes to the HSYK come amid a heated debate over the future of a corruption and bribery investigation, which has also involved several members of the AK Party government. The sons of two former ministers are among 24 high-profile names, including a number of bureaucrats and businesspeople, who were arrested in mid-December on corruption and bribery charges as part of the investigation.
Gül said in February 2013 that no changes to the top judicial body were necessary because Turkey had brought its legal system in line with EU institutions with a 2010 constitutional referendum. “I am convinced that there is no need for a change in the HSYK or the Constitutional Court,” the president had said on the CNN Türk program Eğrisi Doğrusu, hosted by pundit Taha Akyol.