Turkey detains 8 freed soldiers – sources

Turkey’s military has detained and brought charges against the eight Turkish soldiers recently released by Kurdish separatists for disobeying orders that have facilitated “catastrophe”, military sources said on Sunday.The eight soldiers were seized by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last month, but released last week. The capture of the soldiers in October intensified the standoff between the Turkish military and the PKK and nearly led to a Turkish cross-border operation into northern Iraq, which some 3,000 of the Kurdish rebels use as a base.

It was not immediately clear what the charges referred to.

They follow a continuing investigation into the three parliamentarians of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party who travelled to northern Iraq to participate in a ceremony with representatives of the northern Iraqi government to free the soldiers.

The soldiers have faced criticism at home since their return and have been accused by some of helping foster PKK propaganda.

The release of the soldiers last week, before Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s meeting with US President George W. Bush, was seen internationally as a move to reduce tensions between the rebels and the Turkish military.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 since the guerrilla group took up arms in 1984 to carve out an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. The Turkish military still has approximately 100,000 troops stationed on its border with Iraq.

Israeli president arrives in Turkey for landmark visit

Israel’s President Shimon Peres arrived in Ankara on Sunday, where he will become the first Israeli head of state to address a majority-Muslim country’s parliament, a report said.

Invited by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Peres was also to speak at Bilkent University in the Turkish capital Sunday afternoon as part of his visit. Anatolia news agency reported Peres’ arrival.

On Monday, he holds talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. A highlight of the trip is to occur when Peres addresses Turkish lawmakers in Hebrew on Monday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also expected in Ankara Monday, where he will similarly address the Turkish parliament and meet Peres and Gul on the sidelines of an economic forum gathering Turkish, Israeli and Palestinian business people.

The three sides are expected to conclude a deal to establish a joint industrial zone in the West Bank, according to Turkey’s Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, the forum’s founder.

In an interview published Sunday by Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, Peres described his visit as “historic” and said Ankara had a key role to play in establishing peace in the Middle East.

“Never before has a country invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to address its parliament,” he said. Turkey is perhaps Israel’s most important strategic ally after the United States, and economic cooperation between the two took off after the signing of a key military cooperation accord in 1996.

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