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Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday urged dozens of Muslim leaders gathered for a summit in Istanbul to end sectarian divisions in the Islamic world and join forces to fight terror.

Turkey is seeking to showcase its influence among the world’s estimated 1.7 billion Muslims, particularly in lands once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, at the two-day summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which it will chair for the next two years.

But the meeting bringing together over 30 heads of state and government has been shadowed by sectarian-tinged conflicts in Syria and Yemen that have pitted Shia Muslims — led by regional power Iran — against Sunni Muslim powers like Saudi Arabia.

Key guests at the summit included Saudi King Salman and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a rare public encounter although there were reports the two men had exchanged words.

“I believe the greatest challenge we need to surmount is sectarianism. My religion is not that of Sunnis, of Shiites. My religion is Islam,” Erdogan said in his opening speech.

“We should be uniting. Out of the conflicts, the tyranny, only the Muslims suffer,” he said, adding the summit meeting could be a “turning point” for the whole Islamic world.

Erdogan lashed out at Islamic State (IS) jihadists who seized swathes of Syria and Boko Haram Islamist extremists in Nigeria as two “terrorist organisations that are serving the same evil purpose.”

He said that the OIC had accepted a Turkish proposal to set up a multinational police coordination centre for Islamic states to fight militants, to be based in Istanbul.

“We need to establish an organisation to further strengthen cooperation in the fight against terror,” he said.

A security lockdown has been thrown around the summit venue in Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire from where the Sultans for centuries ruled Muslims from the Balkans to Arabia.

Some 5,000 extra police have been deployed in Istanbul to ensure the event passes smoothly after two deadly suicide attacks blamed on jihadists in Istanbul this year alone.

But Turkey’s own policies in the Middle East have been controversial, with several Muslim states objecting to the Islamic-rooted government’s backing of rebels in Syria.

While the summit marks one of the most significant gatherings of heads of state for years in Istanbul, some high profile leaders like Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are notable by their absence.

Turkey’s relations with Cairo have still not recovered from the 2013 ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a close ally of Ankara, while ties with Amman are being tested by differences over Syria.

Turkey took over the chairmanship of the OIC from Egypt, whose Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry read a brief message from Sisi emphasising Cairo’s commitment to the group.

Shoukry conspicuously made no reference to the Turkish president in his speech but Erdogan also pointedly thanked Cairo for its efforts.

The run-up to the summit saw a landmark visit by King Salman to the Turkish capital Ankara which highlighted the dramatic improvement in ties between Turkey and Saudi since he came to the throne in 2015.

Overseen by Erdogan and Salman, the two countries’ foreign ministers on Thursday signed a memorandum on creating a Saudi-Turkish Coordination Council to further deepen bilateral relations.

Addressing the summit, Salman said “we are obliged today, more than ever, to fight terrorism” and appeared to lash out at Tehran, without naming the Islamic Republic.

He denounced “flagrant interference in the affairs of several Islamic countries… instigating sedition and divisions, inciting sectarianism and using armed militia to undermine our security,” according to the official SPA agency.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey both believe the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad is the key to solving the Syrian conflict and back rebel groups fighting his regime.

Analysts have warned however that Turkey needs to tread carefully in its alliance with Saudi Arabia, which is also overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, so it is not seen as a sectarian union aimed at Shiite Iran.

In a sign of Ankara’s desire to maintain a delicate balance, Rouhani is due to begin a bilateral visit to Turkey after the summit.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said a planned park to be built in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul should be a “city park,” in response to earlier remarks about the plan referring to the park as the city’s “Central Park.”

“Why Central Park? Central Park does not suit Istanbul. A city park suits Istanbul. You don’t have to imitate someone. Let them imitate us,” said Erdoğan during a fast breaking dinner organized by the Istanbul Greater Municipality in the Haliç Congress Center in Istanbul on July 29.

Well-known singers and television figures, including Orhan Gencebay, Bülent Ersoy, Acun Ilıcalı, Doğuş, Murat Göğebakan, Demet Akalın and Şafak Sezer, were also present at the fast-breaking dinner.

Erdoğan’s remarks came two days after Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş said they would build a huge park in Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul similar to Central Park in New York, speaking after a fast-breaking dinner in Sultanahmet Square.

“When the Veliefendi Hippodrome is officially registered as closed to construction, following the 500,000-square-meter Çırpıcı Meadow, this area will total 1 million square meters. This is the biggest open area in Istanbul city center. We will build a park similar to Central Park and significant parks in Europe. This is just the beginning, and our work will continue,” Topbaş told reporters after the fast-breaking dinner in Sultanahmet Square late July 27.

At the beginning of his speech, Erdoğan offered his condolences to the family and relatives of Sinan Yılmaz, the police officer who was killed at a terrorist attack in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

Erdoğan also spoke about his meeting with the families of the 34 people killed in an airstrike on Dec. 28, 2011, in the Uludere district of southeastern province of Şırnak.

“Lives are lost there [in Uludere]… They are parts of our hearts. But we should not forget the soldiers killed in attack on a military mission in Hantepe,” Erdoğan said of his meeting with the Uludere victims’ families.

“We are sorry for them [Uludere victims] at least as much as their families, we shed tears. We do not do politics over the funerals. All deaths will be investigated in detail. Independent jurisdiction will bring those responsible to account,” he added.

stanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu appeared on television, declaring that police operations would continue day and night until the square, focus of demonstrations against Erdogan, was cleared.

Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into a crowd of thousands – people in office clothes as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day – scattering them into side streets and nearby hotels. Water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwers in masks.

The protesters, who accuse Erdogan of overreaching his authority after 10 years in power and three election victories, thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosphorus waterway. Many drifted gradually back into the square and lit bonfires, only to be scattered by more tear gas.

Governor Mutlu said 30 people had been wounded on Tuesday.

Erdogan had earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, where a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of the small Gezi Park abutting the square triggered an unprecedented wave of protest.

Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of overbearing government.

The protests, during which demonstrators used fireworks and petrol bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Erdogan’s authority and divided the country. In an indication of the impact of the protests on investor confidence, the central bank said it would intervene if needed to support the Turkish lira.

Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behavior, declared he would not yield.

“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.

“If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change,” he told a meeting of his AK party’s parliamentary group.

Western allies have expressed concern about the troubles in an important NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Washington has in the past held up Erdogan’s Turkey as an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.

Victor in three consecutive elections, Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in the AK party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.

“A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out,” Erdogan said. “The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors – the efforts to distort Turkey’s image have been put in place as a systematic project.”

Riot police also clashed with protesters in Kizilay, the government quarter of the capital, Ankara, firing tear gas

Despite the protests against Erdogan, he remains unrivalled as a leader in his AK party, in parliament and on the streets.

Mutlu appealed to people to stay away from the square for their own safety. “We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” he said in the brief television announcement.

“From today, from this hour, the measures we are going to take in Taksim Square will be conducted with care, in front of our people’s eyes, in front of televisions and under the eyes of social media with caution and in accordance with the law.”

The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.

The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in 10 months, although it remained far from crisis levels.

The police moved back into Taksim a day after Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders involved in the initial demonstrations over development of the square.

“I invite all demonstrators, all protesters, to see the big picture and the game that is being played,” Erdogan said. “The ones who are sincere should withdraw … and I expect this from them as their prime minister.”

Protesters accuse Erdogan of authoritarian rule and some suspect him of ambitions to replace the secular republic with an Islamic order, something he denies.

“This movement won’t end here … After this, I don’t think people will go back to being afraid of this government or any government,” said student Seyyit Cikmen, 19, as the crowd chanted “Every place is Taksim, every place resistance”.

Turkey’s Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4,947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than 10 days ago. Three people have died.

Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the protesters as “riff-raff” but is expected to meet leaders of the Gezi Park Platform group on Wednesday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “We wanted to see the latest developments in informatics sector by visiting the Silicon Valley before we hold a bid for FATIH project because we plan to realize a similar project in Istanbul.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Silicon Valley in San Francisco on Saturday.

His initial stop was Microsoft, where he was welcomed by the CEO Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer, who is in charge of Turkish National Education Ministry’s FATIH project; aiming to equalize opportunities in education and improving technology in schools, briefed Erdogan about the project.

Later on, Erdogan moved to Apple and Google, where he had a test drive by the self-driving car.

Erdogan said that a bid related to FATIH project would be held next week, and added, “We wanted to see the latest developments in informatics sector before we launched the FATIH bid by visiting the Silicon Valley because we plan to realize a similar project in Istanbul. Our first aim is to produce 10,600,000 tablets within FATIH project, which will be followed by 2-2.5 million tablet production.”

Erdogan also mentioned that they planned to cover all the classes with smart boards, and said, “We want to grow our young minds, engineers for research and development, for all these production.”

Google’s business development Director Seval Oz, the sister of well known Turkish doctor in the US Mehmet Oz, briefed Erdogan on the self-driving cars and smart eyeglasses.

OZ said that around 100 Turks were working at Google, adding that this was an inadequate number.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a step toward making Turkey’s financial capital a regional hub, relegating the Istanbul Stock Exchange to history as he rang the opening bell at the new Borsa Istanbul.

The ceremony marked the first trading day at the bourse, which incorporates the 28-year-old Istanbul Stock Exchange with the Istanbul Gold Exchange and the Izmir-based derivatives exchange.

“In the U.S., the political center is Washington, D.C., while New York is the center of finance,” Erdogan said after ringing the bell with officials including Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Borsa Istanbul Chairman Ibrahim Turhan. “In Turkey, Ankara is the political center and Istanbul deserves to be the financial center.”

The exchange plans to encompass commodities and electricity trading in the near future, as a part of Erdogan’s plan to make Istanbul a regional financial center and Turkey’s economy one of the world’s 10 biggest by 2023.

“This will become an exchange in which capital market products of Turkey and the region will be traded,” Huseyin Erkan, chief executive of the World Federation of Exchanges and a former head of the Istanbul exchange, said in an interview at the ceremony. “Foreign funds that pass through Turkey through this bourse will leave a beneficial residue behind.”
Borsa IPO

Turkish equities were the second best performers worldwide last year, with the benchmark ISE National 100 Index (XU100) surging more than 60 percent in dollar terms. It has added almost 5 percent this year.

Still, the value of listed companies is lower than some competitors, with many Turkish companies preferring to stay private. The Istanbul Stock Exchange’s market capitalization was $270 billion as of January, according to the Paris-based World Federation of Exchanges. In South Africa, an economy about half the size of Turkey’s, the equivalent figure was $895.5 billion.

Ten companies started trading in Istanbul last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The biggest IPO was technology retailer Teknosa Ic & Dis Ticaret AS (TKNSA), at 98 million liras ($54 million).

It may take a few more years for Borsa Istanbul to hold its own initial public offering, and it may eventually consider merging with other exchanges, Erkan said. Turkey’s new capital markets law, which came into effect on Dec. 30, has turned the bourse into a joint stock company with capital of 423.2 million liras ($235 million).
‘Daily Game’

At the ceremony, Turkish officials pledged to encourage more firms to go public.

“Our companies still do business through loans as they carry more debt to their balance sheets,” deputy premier Babacan said. “We have to spread the culture of partnership and develop capital markets in the sake of healthy balance sheets.”

The full integration of the Turkish Derivatives Exchange into Borsa Istanbul will be completed within a month, Babacan said.

Mehmet Buyukeksi, chairman of the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly, said not all Turkish businesses have understood the function and potential of the bourse.

“It has been perceived as something similar to a daily game,” he said in an interview. “This will hopefully change.”

Buyukeksi said his association is planning joint training sessions with Borsa Istanbul for Turkey’s top 1,000 exporters, encouraging them to hold public offerings.

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