TERM ROW DISMAYS PRESIDENT GUL, TOO

Hurriyet Daily News
Dec 29 2011
Turkey

President Abdullah Gul has expressed frustration at the continued
debate over the length of his term in office, urging politicians to
make a swift decision on the matter.

"I won't say anything about the length of my mandate. I hope very
much that a decision on this is made in the shortest possible time
because the situation is becoming awkward," Gul said told the private
Kanal 24 channel late Dec. 27.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said Gul's mandate
should be seven years - meaning that it would be exempted from
constitutional amendments passed in 2007 reducing presidential terms
to five years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen as the
strongest contender to succeed Gul as head of state, and political
pundits have suggested that Gul may return to the AKP helm and
eventually become prime minister.

"I don't have any political ambitions or expectations. There is nothing
like that on my mind," Gul said, but added that he did not believe in
"retirement in life."

He said he had served at every level in politics before the
presidency. "It is obvious what I can do afterwards. I [participated
in] politics and came here."

Gul also denied that he aspired to become the United Nations'
secretary-general.

Warning on rights breaches

The president also voiced discomfort over lengthy pre-trial detentions
and said Turkey's international prestige could suffer over restrictions
on free speech and media.

"As far as I can see, the detention periods have begun to hurt public
sensitivities. A way must be definitely found to shorten them," he
said. "Those who have done wrong should be held accountable. But we
cannot be at ease if anyone spends even half an hour in jail unjustly."

Gul said democracy, human rights and free speech were at the core of
Turkey's "soft power" and progress made in recent years should not
be overshadowed.

"I see that complaints are on the rise. I see some developments
at the United Nations concerning human rights issues [in Turkey]
that are not good. We have to prevent Turkey from falling among the
countries with whom it should not be seen together," he said.

PKK is being shown its place

Touching on the Kurdish issue, Gul said using "police-state methods" to
combat the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its supporters
would be "unthinkable," but added that "authority in some provinces
has been taken over by others."

The PKK, he said, had the misconception that reforms expanding Kurdish
freedoms came as a result of its violent campaign against the state.

"If the terror organization believes it is stronger and has the upper
hand, it has to be shown that this is not the case. And this is what is
happening at present," he said, praising better coordination between
the security forces against the PKK.

Gul said Turkey's reform process had put civilian-military relations
"on a democratic track" and that the military had now "pulled back
to its area of responsibility."

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of
the international community.

Sarkozy will be ignored

Commenting on tensions with France over a bill outlawing the denial
of the 1915 events as genocide, Gul said he would ignore his French
counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, the next time the two encounter each
other in response to the latter's refusal to speak about the issue
by phone.

"He ignored me, so I will [ignore him]," he said.

France, the cradle of civil rights, has put itself in an awkward
position "by punishing thoughts that contradict the official line of
the sate," Gul said. "It is incredible that they do this on account
of petty political calculations."

He said he hoped the bill, which was approved in the French
Parliament's lower house last week, would be stopped before reaching
the Senate, and added that Turkish researchers should produce
"credible" studies to counter Armenian allegations.

Turkey is not competing with France over regional influence, he
also said. "Everybody must be happy if we use our regional power
constructively."