"Erdogan leaning towards holding Turkish elections in June - sources"by Orhan Coskun, Reuters
President Erdogan's government is inclined to hold Turkey'selections as scheduled in June, having cooled on the idea of postponing due tothis month's devastating earthquake, three officials told anonymously.
"It is very likely that an agreement will be reached onholding the election on June 18," a government official said, adding thatErdogan and his nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli would meet to reach a finaldecision.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said a shadowwas cast over the idea of a postponement by the perception that the governmentwas avoiding elections, by the opposition's negative response to the proposal,and by legal issues relating to the constitution.
Main opposition leader sends condolence letter to SyrianPresident
On February 23, Turkey's Republican People's Party (CHP) leaderKemal Kilicdaroglu sent acondolence letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, expressing his sorrowfor the loss of Syrian lives in the earthquake on February 6.
"As this calamity and the pain we have suffered show onceagain, we are partners and neighbors in our grief, and we share the common painof our peoples," Kilicdaroglu said in the letter.
Journalist Murat Yetkin reports thatalthough Kilicdaroglu's condolences came exactly 17 days later, it was aremarkable diplomatic move.
"Kilicdaroglu seems to be putting extra energy on the faultlines in domestic politics. He tells the voters, "If Erdogan leaves, wewill find a peaceful way to send Syrian refugees." Yet, predicting whetherthis move will yield political results is difficult. However, Kilicdaroglu hasmade a breakthrough with a humanitarian dimension, where domestic and foreignpolitics intersect." Yetkin said.
Mastermind of deadly Istanbul bombing killed in a Turkishintelligence operation in Syria
Halil Menci, one of the alleged masterminds behind the deadlybombing attack in Istanbul on November 13, was killed in Syria on February22 as part of an operation by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization(MIT), the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on February24.
An MIT special operations unit was following Menci before he waskilled in the operation in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria on theSyria-Turkey border, on February 22, the news agency stated.
Temporary wage support and layoff ban in force inearthquake-stricken provinces
Turkey announced a temporary salary support system and outlawedlayoffs in ten cities to protect workers and businesses from the financialimpact of the massive earthquake in the country.
According to the presidential decree, published in Official Gazette on February22, employers whose workplaces were "heavily or substantiallydamaged" would receive wage support for workers whoseworking hours were reduced.
Turkish Central Bank cuts benchmark interest rate by 50points
On February 23, Turkey's Central Bank cut its policy interest rateby 50 basis points to 8.5%. The earthquakes, according to the bank, would not permanentlyimpact the Turkish economy's performance in the medium term.
Reconstruction works to begin soon for earthquake victims
Following severe earthquakes on February 6, Turkey has startedwork on home reconstruction; a government official told Reuters on February24 on the condition of anonymity. "Contracts and tenders have beencompleted for several projects. The procedure is progressing very fast,"added the official.
The Turkish government's initial plan includes constructing 70,000village homes and 200,000 flats at the cost of at least 15 billion dollars.
According to a presidential decree published inthe official Gazette on February 24, the Turkish government has putin force rules for earthquake reconstruction works in the region affectedby February 6's earthquakes.
The decree allows individuals, institutions, and organizations toconstruct houses and workplaces that will be donated to the ministry ofurbanization and later allocated to earthquake victims.
According to the regulation, the urbanization ministry willdetermine temporary or permanent resettlement areas based on the area'scloseness to the settlement centre, distance from the earthquake fault line,and suitability of the ground.
The Turkish Housing Development Authority, TOKI, has held eighttenders in the last three days to construct 3,770 residential buildings inearthquake-affected districts. The construction of these buildings is expectedto cost the government six billion liras.
Tenders were conducted quickly using the sealed bid method,and such a tendering process causes issues with the inspection mechanism,according to journalist Cigdem Toker from the onlinenews outlet T24. She also signalled that the number of actual tenderscould be higher as these are the ones she could have uncovered.
Additional budget needed as inflation would be higher thanexpected
According to four economists and a government official who spoke to Reuters on conditionof anonymity, earthquakes will cause inflation to remain above 40% in themonths leading up to the elections scheduled for June and require an additionalbudget.
Four economists forecast 42-46% inflation by the time of theelection, which was previously predicted to decline to roughly 35-40%."Inflation may now reach somewhere in the range of 40-50% as a result ofthe earthquake," the government official said. "Completing theyear on the current budget does not seem easy. A separate budget will be required,"the official added.
"Turkish youth dies in police custody as impunity soars inwake of Turkey's killer quakes" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor
Unverified videos showing people in uniform attacking civilianssaid to be in the earthquake zone are making the rounds on social media. Someof the claims have proven to be fake. Others not.
Sabri Guresci was sitting inside a tent on the grounds of hisfamily cottage in Hatay's Altinozu district on the morning of Feb. 11 when gendarmerieofficials showed up firing warning shots in the air. "They asked for Sabrithen shoved him into their vehicle without explanation," his father,Ibrahim, recalled. "Why are you taking my brother?" Sabri's youngerbrother Ahmet asked, only to be hauled off to the local police station as well.Around six hours later, Ahmet's lifeless body was spirited out of the station.
The pair were detained on suspicion of looting, rape andvandalism, crimes father Ibrahim insists his sons did not commit. The Gurescifamily has formally pressed charges. One of the gendarme officers implicated inAhmet's death has been taken off duty.
"They beat us all the way to the police station. Once wearrived, around ten men, set up on us with batons, plastic hoses and their bareheads. For more than an hour they didn't even say what we were being accusedof. They then stripped us naked and poured water on us. They kept landing blowson our heads, our stomachs, our legs demanding we confess. They were bent onkilling us, beating us to death," Sabri recalled.
Security forces arrest 27 people over social media posts aboutearthquakes
The General Directorate of Security announced on February25 that 140 persons were detained due to "provocative"social media posts concerning the severe earthquakes on February 6.
The Directorate said 27 of the suspects had beenarrested. According to the statement on its Twitter account, the policehad identified 985 social media users and had taken legal action against570 of them.
U.S. State Secretary meets with his counterpart with hot topics onthe agenda
"The United States and Turkey may not always agree on everyissue, but it is a cooperation that has resisted challenges," U.S.Secretary of State Antony Blinken told on February20 in Ankara in a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign MinisterMevlut Cavusoglu. "The United States will support Turkey for as long as ittakes following the tragic earthquakes," Blinked said. Concerning Swedenand Finland's NATO accession, Blinken expressed that Washington stronglysupports both countries' quick accession, given the steps they have alreadytaken.
On his part, Cavusoglu told reporters that he and Blinkendiscussed a possible $20 billion contract for US F-16 jets and that Turkeywould like the U.S. administration to deliver the formal notification toCongress without preconditions.
Cavusoglu emphasized the need for Sweden to take moreaction to address Ankara's concerns. Cavusoglu also stated that talks onSweden and Finland's NATO membership bid, which had been halted, would resume"soon" in Brussels.
Additionally, Cavusoglu said that Turkeydoes not export anything that could be used in Russia's military operations,and it will not allow U.S. and European sanctions to be violated in or throughTurkey.
Blinken met with Erdogan for an hour in Ankara following hisdiscussions with Cavusoglu.
Two senior German ministers visit earthquake-hit province inTurkey
On February 21, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock andInterior Minister Nancy Faeser visitedearthquake-affected areas in Kahramanmaras province to demonstrate Berlin'ssupport for the victims and rehabilitation efforts.
The ministers declared that the government would provide Turkeyand Syria another 50 million euros in aid, raising Germany's total donationsince the earthquake to 108 million euros.
For victims who wish to visit family members in Germany, Berlinalso granted temporary 90-day visas to the European Union's Schengen area.
Egyptian foreign minister visits Turkey after 10 years break
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will pay a visit to Turkeyon February 27 to show Egypt'ssolidarity with Turkey. It will be the first visit by an Egyptian foreignminister to the country since the relations between the countries derailed in2013.
"What Awaits Turkey's Political Landscape in the Aftermath ofEarthquakes?" by Hasim Tekines, Orion Policy Institute
The earthquakes became a regime test that revealed the scale ofmisgovernment and the consequences of crony capitalism in Turkey – elicitingreactions from victims and citizens alike. In order to woo angry voters, theTurkish opposition must convince them that it has the stomach to confrontErdogan.
Unusually, the twin earthquakes have not caused arally-around-the-flag effect in Turkish politics. Instead of a discourse ofsolidarity, an outburst of anger against the AKP and more directly Erdogan hasbeen the overwhelming emotion in the social media postings from theearthquake-hit regions.
More importantly, the Turkish opposition has crossed the bordersthat Erdogan has drawn for a legitimate and domesticated opposition. The leaderof the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, did not respond tothe government's call for unity and recognized the issue as a politicalproblem. Kilicdaroglu directly blamed Erdogan for the scale of the disaster.
If the opposition wants to convince the voters that it can protectthe ballots and make Erdogan accept electoral defeat, it must be moreconfrontational especially when Erdogan is at his weakest. Despite its risks inthe undemocratic environment of Turkey, such a confrontational approach can makethe voters believe that Erdogan has a real alternative.
"Hasty rebuild could leave Turkey at risk of another quakedisaster" by Ceyda Caglayan and Can Sezer, Reuters
Turkish President Erdogan's plan to rebuild quickly afterdevastating earthquakes rocked the country risks courting another disasterunless urban planning and building safety are carefully re-considered,architects and engineers say.
Experts believe he needs to carefully enforce seismic-safetystandards and build safer structures in the area, which straddles one of threefaultlines crisscrossing Turkey.
"It is not only necessary to replace the demolishedbuildings, but also to re-plan the cities based on scientific data such as notto build on faultlines and to learn lessons from past mistakes," said EsinKoymen, former head of Istanbul Chamber of Architects. "The first priorityis new planning, not new building."
"When they say 'we start the construction in a month, wefinish it in a year', without the city planning work, frankly, this means thatthe disaster we are experiencing has not been noticed," said Nusret Suna,deputy head of the Chamber of Civil Engineers. "It takes months to makecity plans ... it is very wrong to ignore those plans."