The Turkish president and the European Commission head on Saturday held a videoconference call to discuss Turkey-EU relations, Turkish authorities said. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ursula von der Leyen discussed the ways to develop relations between Turkey and the EU and addressed regional developments, Turkey’s Communications Directorate said in a statement. Erdogan told von der Leyen that the EU has priority in Turkey’s agenda. He reiterated that Turkey sees its future in Europe. He also pointed out the importance of resuming regular Turkey-EU summits and high-level dialogue meetings. Turkey wants to open a new page in relations with the EU in the new year, Erdogan said, adding that 2020 could not have been made use of enough due to the whims and artificial problems that some EU members produced, according to the statement. He added that this situation was not sustainable not only in terms of the future of relations but also in terms of the broad common geography. The Turkish president also said that updating the 2016 refugee deal would be the first step for a positive agenda on Turkey-EU relations. Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in 2016, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly four million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Erdogan pointed out that the year 2021 offers a productive environment for new cooperation to be initiated in the field of migration. The Turkish president also said that the Customs Union agreement between Turkey and EU should be updated, Turkish nationals should be allowed visa-free travel within the Schengen area and steps should be taken in talks on Turkey’s EU accession. He also mentioned re-establishing mutual trust and rerunning the consultation mechanism. Erdogan underlined the need for an end to “exclusionary and discriminatory rhetoric” against Turkey. Von der Leyen, for her part, said on Twitter: “Good exchange with Turkish President @RTErdogan. We exchanged on the #COVID19 situation, the economic recovery and the implementation of tasking of the European Council of December 2020.” On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey is working to turn new chapters in its relations with the EU. The top Turkish diplomat is expected to visit Brussels to hold talks with the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Jan. 21.
Turkey is ready to help deescalate the recent conflict between India and Pakistan. But this is not the first time Turkey is willing to play such a mediating role between countries who are at loggerheads with one another. Here is a quick list: 1)Turkey cooperated with Iraq, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan to help them put an end to their internal conflicts. 2)In an effort to establish permanent peace and stability in the Balkans, Turkey organized summits with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. 3)Turkey formed a tripartite cooperation mechanism along with Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure the safety and security of Afghanistan as well as establish peace in the country. 4)Turkey played a facilitative role in the indirect dialogue between Israel and Syria. 5)Turkey made conciliatory efforts to find a peaceful solution to the problem concerning Iran's nuclear program. 6)Turkey played a role in establishing a dialogue between Somali and Somaliland as well as gave support to the South Philippines peace process.
Turkish authorities announced that they will restore a historic Russian church in the Oltu district of eastern Erzurum province. The church will be transformed into a library since currently there are no Christians dwelling in the vicinity. But it is only one among a long list of restored non-Muslim places of worship. Since the 2000s, Turkey has spent great effort to improve rights and freedoms of Turkish non-Muslims. Many non-Muslim properties confiscated in the past were also returned to their rightful owners. Here are some examples of restoring long neglected non-Muslim places of worship, returning the confiscated non-Muslim properties and other democratic achievements concerning Turkish non-Muslims: 1) The Akdamar Church Renovation of the historic Akdamar Church was completed in 2007 after decades of neglect, costing $4 million. The church was constructed in the 10th century and is symbolically important for Turkish Armenians. 2) The Diyarbakir St. Giragos Armenian Church The largest church in the Middle East, the Diyarbakir St. Giragos Armenian Church, is reopened for prayer in 2012 after 32 years, following a restoration process that lasted for two-and-a-half years. 3) The 1st Church to Be Built in Modern Turkey The 1st church to be built in modern Turkish state, which will be a Syriac church, was given a construction permit in 2012. The church will be built in the Yesilkoy neighborhood of Istanbul province. 4)The Mor Gabriel Monastery The land deeds of the Mor Gabriel Monastery, a sacred site for Syrian Christians located in southeastern Mardin province, are handed over to the Mor Gabriel Foundation in 2014. 5) The Mor Efrem Assyrian Kindergarten In 2014, Turkish Assyrian citizens are allowed to open their first school, the private Mor Efrem Assyrian Kindergarten, after 86 years after winning a case in court over the closing of their school in 1928. 6) The Grand Edirne Synagogue The Grand Edirne Synagogue, Europe’s largest and the world’s third largest synagogue, was restored in 2015, costing $2.2 million. The synagogue was ordered constructed in 1906 by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. 7) The Gokceada Greek School The Gokceada Greek Elementary and High School began to enroll students in 2015 for the first time in the last 40 years. 8) Non-Muslim Deputies in the Parliament For the 1st time in the last 54 years, the number of non-Muslim deputies gaining seats in Turkish parliament in the general elections held in 2015 rose to three. 9) Camp Armen Camp Armen, a symbolically important Turkish-Armenian orphanage, was returned to the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation in 2015 after amendments were made in the Foundation Law. 10) The Mardin Protestant Church After 60 years of abandonment, the Mardin Protestant Church is reopened in 2015 with Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac prayers and hymns. 11) Hanukkah In 2015, Turkish-Jews celebrated Hanukkah publicly for the first time in Turkey. Lit-candles were put on a stage set in Ortakoy Square in Istanbul province. 12) The Theophany The Theophany, last celebrated in 1922 a year before the foundation of modern Turkey, was held in 2016 for the first time in 94 years in western Izmir province. 13) The Istipol Synagogue The Istipol Synagogue, a unique wooden synagogue located in Istanbul province, is opened to worship in 2016 for the first time in 65 years. 14) The Hagia Haralambos Church For the first time in 100 years, a service takes place in the Hagia Haralambos Church in 2016 which was transformed into a cultural center following its restoration in 2012. 15) Sveti Stefan (The Iron Church) Sveti Stefan, or the Iron Church, was reopened following a seven-year restoration co-funded by Turkey and Bulgaria. It is the only church in the world that is completely made of cast iron. 16) Statement of Condolence on the 1915 Events In 2014, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the first official statement of condolence in the history of modern Turkey on the 1915 events in which Ottoman Armenians were killed during a forced migration movement.
The only railway project in the world THAT STITCHES CONTINENTS: Marmaray 60 meters below sea level, Marmaray is the deepest immersed structure in the world. It stretches along 1.4 kilometers below the sea. It took 9 years to construct, with a cost of $1.45 billion. The only two-level undersea road tunnel in the world: The Eurasia Tunnel Two two-lane roads for motor vehicles, one above the other. 10 prestigious international awards. Finished in 4 years, cost $1.2 billion. Some solutions were firsts in the realm of tunnel construction. The biggest tunnel of the world: The Great Istanbul Tunnel Three-level undersea tunnel project in the Bosphorus. The upper two levels will have highways; the bottom level a railway. 6.5 km long, 18.8 m wide. Likely finished in 2020 with an estimated cost of $3.5bn. The bridge of firsts: Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge The 1st bridge in the world to have an eight-lane motorway and a two-lane railway on the same level. The tallest suspension bridge (322 m) and the second-tallest bridge of any type. Estimated investment is $3 billion. The fourth-longest suspension bridge in the world: The Osmangazi Bridge Equipped with 390 seismic sensors in an earthquake-prone area. Reduced travel time around the Gulf of Izmit from 75 to 6 mins. Constructed in three years with a cost of $1.2 billion. The airport destined to be the largest in the world: The Istanbul Airport 200 million passengers per year. 3,500 flights per day to 350 different destinations around the world. 500-plane parking capacity. An estimated investment of $12 billion. One of the most important projects in the history of Turkey: Mount Bolu Tunnel Part of the Trans-European Motorway project. Composed of two 3 km long bores with three lanes of traffic in each direction. Shortens the distance between Istanbul and capital Ankara. Cost $300 million. The sixth-longest highway tunnel in the world: Mount Ovit Tunnel 14 km long. Construction of the tunnel took 6 years. The design of the project dates back to 1880 during the Ottoman Empire rule. The tunnel project cost $160 million. The first high-speed railway in Turkey: The Ankara-Istanbul high-speed railway 250 km/h top speed. 533 km long. Reduces the travel time between the capital Ankara and Istanbul from around 8 to 3.5 hours by train. An estimated investment of $2.1 billion. The second high-speed railway of Turkey: The Polatli-Konya high-speed railway 211 km long. It stretches from the Polatli district of the capital Ankara down to the central Anatolian city of Konya. Construction of the railway took 5 years and cost $330 million. Urban Renewal Project In 2013, the Turkish government started a nationwide urban renewal project at an estimated cost of $200 billion. It is expected that 3.5 million units across the country will be rebuilt until 2023. Integrated Healthcare Campuses (IHC) 34 IHCs will be finished by 2023. Each campus will include hospitals, hotels and shopping centers. The campus in the capital Ankara will be the largest of its kind in the world. The estimated cost of the project is $20 billion. The largest-size and longest-term loan deal Turkey has ever stricken: Star Oil Refinery Expected to reduce Turkey’s dependence on oil exports by $2.5 billion. Able to produce more than 25% of the processed oil products Turkey needs. The estimated cost is $6 billion. The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) TANAP is 1,850 km long. Departs from Azerbaijan and goes through Turkey to Europe. Constructed in three years. The total cost of the project is $8.6 billion.
Modern Turkey, founded in 1923, sits on an incredibly fertile ground for civilization – at the very point where Europe and Asia overlaps. This point is called Anatolia, or Asia Minor. It became a home for empires from Hittite to Macedon, Achaemenid to Seljuk, Roman to Ottoman, and so on. Alexander the Great and Suleiman the Magnificent walked on the same soil. The first written agreement on the world, the Kadesh Agreement, was signed on this land. The first coins were used here. History was first written in Anatolia. Thales, Homer, Herodotus, Diogenes and Paul the Apostle were all born in Anatolia. Rumi came to central Anatolia and died there. After the advent of the Republic of Turkey, the same land has generated scientists like mathematical genius Cahit Arf and Nobel laureate in chemistry Aziz Sancar. The list of prominent Anatolian people who made vital contributions to world civilization and history is endless and continues to grow. Turkey sees all of them as elements of its cultural and intellectual heritage.
Meet the discovery that redefines the course of history: Gobeklitepe. Gobeklitepe (Turkish for “potbelly hill”) is an archeological site that is located in southeastern Turkey. It is home to the oldest temple in the world, which scientists estimate to be 12,000 years old! Excavation efforts at Gobeklitepe date back to 1963 but the real worth of the site wasn’t understood until the ‘90s. In 1995, a team led by German archeologist Klaus Schmidt was formed thanks to a Turkish-German collaboration and started digging the site again. What was unearthed was a complex of full-fledged temple that required advanced architecture techniques to build. How could our far, far away ancestors carry stones weighing 10 to 50 tons? Gobeklitepe consists of 20 buildings -- each having two T-shaped stone pillars at the center circled by 12 stone pillars -- and around 200 stone pillars. It is 7,000 years older than Stonehenge and 7,500 years older than the Egyptian pyramids. Gobeklitepe upends the traditional view that hunter-gatherers settled for farming and shelter. No. The discovery shows instead that hunter-gatherers settled primarily because of the need to worship thousands of years before farming or domestication existed. According to Klaus Schmidt, the people constructing Gobeklitepe temples were concerned with not only biological survival but also quite mythical issues. For instance, the number of pillars (12) circling the T-shaped pillars might have an astronomical reference. One mystery surrounding Gobeklitepe is that the temples were buried around a thousand years after their construction. The exact reason for backfilling is unknown.
Turkey is on the road to becoming a global energy trading hub! Although the country doesn't have enough oil and natural gas resources, it makes use of its geopolitical location to become a bridge between Europe and natural gas-rich countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. To that end, several pipeline projects have been constructed in recent years. 1) The South Caucasus Pipeline (the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Pipeline) Constructed in 2006 and runs alongside the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline. Carries natural gas and is extended to TANAP. 2) The Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) The Turkey-Greece part was completed in 2007. The ITGI carries is part of the Southern Gas Corridor (a natural gas transportation project from Central Asia and the Middle East to Europe). 3) The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) TANAP is the central part of the Southern Gas Corridor. Its construction was finished in 2018. 4) TurkStream (Turkish Stream) TurkStream is another natural gas transportation project that goes through Turkey and Greece to Europe. Completed in 2018. It replaces the canceled South Stream pipeline running from Russia through the Black Sea and Bulgaria to Austria. Such pipeline projects are clear indications of the fact that Turkey plays a vital role in the global energy distribution sector. And the future will show how this geopolitical importance of the country will develop.
“Erdogan blames him for the attempted coup, but Gulen has repeatedly and emphatically denied involvement.” This trite phrase is from a recent article published in the Washington Post under the name Enes Kanter -- who's in theory an NBA player but in practice lives as a die-hard Fetullah Gulen loyalist. So "Gulen denied involvement" means he wasn't involved in the coup? Let's see. First of all, there were so many Gulenists involved in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt it's impossible to consider them one by one in a single thread. Though it was obviously an organized Gulenist plot, two Gulenists were still key to understanding Gulen's involvement clearly. These two top Gulenists -- named Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz respectively -- were (meant to be) civilians under normal circumstances. Öksüz was (disguised as) a theology professor and Batmaz looked like a random employee (working in a Gulenist company, of course). But guess what? Both were rushing around in a military jet base in Ankara on the coup night, from which the coup plot was being directed. (Wow!) Batmaz was even saluted by the base commander. (Wow!) There is even a footage in which he's seen in the jet base. Both were arrested in the base in the early morning of July 16, 2016. Adil Öksüz was later released by another Gulenist judge but Batmaz is still in prison, busy denying the evidence. (He even claimed he wasn't in the jet base.) So what makes this couple special? Precisely their unusually close ties to Fetullah Gulen, the ringleader of Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO). Unsurprisingly, they went to the US together -- where Gulen lives -- on July 11, 2016 and returned to Turkey on July 13, 2016. In another footage, Adil Öksüz is seen as kneeling before FETO ringleader Fetullah Gulen in his Pennsylvania mansion. According to an indictment, Öksüz and Batmaz went to the US four days before the coup attempt (only for a two-day long stay on a 15-hour plane trip) to get the coup plan approved by their ringleader Gulen. Indeed, it seems they had their approval. So do you still think it is OK to say "Gulen denied involvement" and just move on?
Meet Barış Manço – or you probably already have because he was a world-famous personality. Barış Manço is a legendary Turkish singer, songwriter and TV presenter. Turkish people love and respect him hugely. But the Turks are not the only fans of Manço, especially given that 20,000 Japanese people sang along with him at a concert in Japan, waving the Turkish flag. His songs have been translated into Greek, Bulgarian, Arabic, Persian, Japanese, Hebrew, English and Dutch. In a concert in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 13,000 Congolese people sang along to the song “Domates Biber Patlıcan” (Tomato Pepper Eggplant). Barış Manço once sang the song “Dağlar Dağlar” (Mountains, O Mountains) on Egypt’s state-run TV channel and people went crazy to know who the singer was, taking to the streets. Barış Manço was a man of multiculturalism. He embraced all people from different cultures, religions, ethnicities and races. His universal approach knew no boundaries. In one of his hits, he asked: “Where are you from, my friend?” And he answered: “The whole world is where I am from.” Born in 1943, Barış Manço was officially the first child in Turkey to be given the name “Barış” which translates as “peace”. His parents’ choice reflected their yearning for peace during WW2. Barış Manço worked hard to carry out a synthesis of the east and the west. He even named his children Doğukan and Batıkan, literally meaning “Easterner” and “Westerner”. Children were his biggest fans! His TV show “7’den 77’ye” (From 7 to 77) featured a part where he invited kids to sing songs and chatted to them. But as the show name suggests, seriously everyone from 7 to 77 loved late Barış Manço.
In 2010, an ice rink was set up in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey. It was free to ice-skate for those who brought along their recyclables for recycling. But there was an unexpected problem. There were drug-addicted young men roaming around the vicinity. They were doing damage to the ice rink and causing a disturbance. Some preventative measures were taken but all of them misfired ultimately. So Murat Aydın, the Mayor of Zeytinburnu since 1999, made a decision. He met with the young men and said: "From now on you are the ones who are in charge of ensuring the safety of this place. Don't disturb anyone. And the rink is all yours after everyone's gone." They said OK and the problem was solved. One day the mayor saw something interesting. One of the guys was holding his arm while ice-skating. "What's wrong?" Mr. Aydın asked. "I broke my arm, sir" said the boy. Ice-skating with a broken arm... What a determination! That was the moment when Mr. Aydın decided to say to his team: "Get ready. We'll build an ice hockey team!" Official procedures were followed swiftly. The young men had their licenses and took the field for their first game. But the problem was -- none of them knew ice hockey! Our team was losing the game by a score of 30-0! Before the final period, Mr. Aydin went to the locker room. Everybody was looking so down in the mouth. They were probably thinking, "How on earth did we get caught up in this mess?" Having seen the mood, Mr. Aydin said: "Boys, stop feeling blue! Now go and just score one goal. You've already won the game in my heart." And those guys, who have never played ice hockey before, ran out onto the field and scored that one goal. The game ended 37-1. But that single goal was a goal scored against brutal life conditions, against aimless hearts and minds. That single goal meant a purpose to cling to for the rest of their lives for the young men. Since then, that team won Turkey championships and even a European championship!