Japanese government presses Algeria for answers on victims

Updated 24 January 2013
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Japanese government presses Algeria for answers on victims

ALGIERS: A senior Japanese government figure was in Algeria yesterday to meet the prime minister as Tokyo sought to learn why at least seven of its citizens died when militants overran a desert gas plant.
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shunichi Suzuki arrived in Algiers aboard a government jet that is set to repatriate the bodies of those known to have been killed in the hostage crisis, as well as seven Japanese who survived.
The fate of three others who were at the remote plant in the Sahara remains unknown, but Japan is bracing for news of their deaths, several days after Algerian special forces ended the siege.
Suzuki is carrying a letter to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
“The government will use whatever means possible to confirm what has happened to the three people who are still unaccounted for,” he said.
Aside from Algerian news agency APS, the media had no access to the Japanese official.
Japan has asked Algeria to fully investigate events at the gas plant and exactly how individuals died, he said.
“Algeria has promised to cooperate as much as possible,” Suga said.
Five foreigners are still missing and the bodies of seven other people are so badly charred that they have not yet been identified.
Suga’s comments came as it emerged that Japan, Britain the US and other countries whose nationals were caught up in the events at the In Amenas plant issued a joint demarche to Algeria on Friday.
A demarche is a formal diplomatic move in which a country’s stance is conveyed in person — rather than by note — to another government.
In a conference telephone call, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi told Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci that Tokyo wanted the utmost priority placed on actions that would keep captives alive.
“Japan is strongly concerned about acts that put the lives of the hostages at risk, and it is regrettable that the Algerian Government pressed military rescue operations,” he said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
Japan was among the more forthright of nations as the hostage crisis unfolded, summoning Algiers’ ambassador to demand answers and to press for military restraint.
World capitals have since rowed back from comments that may have been seen as overly critical in Algiers, and have repeatedly stressed that the hostage takers bear full responsibility for the desert outrage.
Algeria’s government said 37 foreigners of eight different nationalities and an Algerian were killed in the four-day siege, which ended on Saturday.
The Japanese death toll has shaken the country not accustomed to its citizens being made targets abroad.
The kidnappers claimed they launched their attack in protest at Algeria’s complicity in a French military campaign against militants in Mali.


Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul, left, is seen with Saadet Party leader Temel Karamollaoglu during a ceremony in Istanbul on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

  • Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology
  • A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law

 ANKARA: Rumors are rife in Turkey that former President Abdullah Gul could emerge as a possible contender against his once close political ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the June elections.

Gul, who along with Erdogan was among the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, has met with opposition leaders amid speculation he could run as a presidential candidate for the main opposition alliance.

Erdogan called the snap election, which will select the president and Parliament members, last week, catching opposition parties off guard. 

Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology.

However, Gul, who served as Turkey’s president from 2007 to 2014, has increasingly criticized Erdogan’s handling of the aftermath of an attempted coup in 2016. 

A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law that exempted civilians who fought against the coup attempt in 2016 from criminal liability. 

Slams Erdogan

He also openly slammed the repeated extension of the state of emergency in Turkey, which has been in place since the coup, and called for normalization in the country.

With his conciliatory approach to politics and leadership in the rapprochement process with Armenia and the Kurds in Turkey, Gul was widely respected by the international community as president.

Asked about speculation on Gul’s candidacy, Erdogan said on Tuesday: “I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Alliances with the sole motivation of hostility toward Erdogan are being formed,” he added. 

If nominated by the opposition camp, Gul is expected to announce a manifesto that promises a return to the parliamentary system by abolishing the executive presidential changes to the constitution approved by a controversial referendum last year. 

He is also said to be announcing a new constitutional draft and suggesting an alternative council of ministers focused on improving the Turkish economy.

The deadline to submit applications for the presidential candidacy is May 4.

Gul held talks with the leader of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), Temel Karamollaoglu, on Wednesday and met former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara a day earlier, according to Turkey’s pro-government daily Haber Turk.

Other opposition figures are also meeting to discuss alliances for the election on June 24. Karamollaoglu met Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Meral Aksener, who heads the right-wing nationalist Good Party (Iyi Parti).

Electoral opportunity

Kilicdaroglu has described the upcoming elections as an opportunity to salvage the country from what the opposition claims is Erdogan’s increasingly draconian rule. 

“Abdullah Gul’s name is not on the CHP agenda,” said Ozgur Ozel, parliamentary group leader of CHP. But the SP still insists on his candidacy. 

According to experts, for the other candidates to surpass Erdogan they will need the votes of all the other opposition parties and some of the AKP constituencies.

Polls show that Erdogan, who has dominated the top rungs of power in the country for more than 15 years, enjoys about 50 percent of voter support. 

“This means that a candidate would need to appeal to Turkish nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Islamists and secularists in order to get more votes than Erdogan who has a much more solid base,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News. 

Gul appears to be the best alternative in this regard, experts said.

However, the decision by the newly founded Iyi Party on whether they would join other opposition parties to nominate Gul as the opposition block candidate would be critical. 

If Erdogan does not win the presidency in the first round of voting — by securing at least 50 percent plus one vote — then a second round will be held within two weeks. 

If the race is between more than two candidates, Erdogan would win the presidency again, said Dr. Emre Erdogan, co-founder of an Istanbul-based research company, Infakto Research Workshop.

“Hence, the calculus of Gul’s move is simple: Exchanging mid-to-long-term uncertain gains, with certain short-term victories, namely being the next president of Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Nominating conservative Gul will cost the CHP some ultra-secular votes, but considering the discipline of its voters, the price will be minuscule and easily compensated by Kurdish voters who favor Gul, Dr. Emre Erdogan said.

“Among all alternative scenarios, only the nomination of Gul seems to be the one with the highest potential to influence the outcome,” he said.