Gul: "The Turkish people will have the final say on the constitutional reform package"
Speaking to reporters en route to Slovenia for an official visit yesterday, President Abdullah Gul commented on the ongoing debate over the government's constitutional reform package, set to face a referendum in September, saying that it would be better to draw up a completely new, impartial constitution. "In any case, Turkey was already in need of judicial reforms. There is a consensus on fundamental issues," Gul said, adding that the Turkish people will have the final say on the package. If it is approved by the public, the package, among the other things, will introduce comprehensive judicial changes, although the Constitutional Court struck down some parts of the package earlier this month. Asked about Turkey's stance on the Iranian nuclear issue, Gul said Ankara isn't acting on behalf of Iran but is instead only trying to solve the issue before it leads to war in the region. "If we (the region) face a bad scenario, Turkey will also pay a price. We're opposed to developments that will turn the region upside down," he said. "For this reason, Turkey is working for a peaceful solution to the issue." Dismissing claims of an "axis shift" in Turkish foreign policy, Gul said it is very natural for Turkey to improve its ties with regional countries. Asked about the decline in relations with Israel, Gul said Turkey and Israel had enjoyed good ties before Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May. "Turkey brought Israel together with other countries in the region," he said, apparently referring to Ankara brokering peace talks with Syria in 2008, before an Israel offensive into the Gaza Strip. "But how could anyone foresee that a state could do this (flotilla raid) in international waters? If it were a something like a criminal organization, you could understand it." Stressing that Turkey will not soon forget the incident, Gul said the ball is now in Israel's court. Later, in Ljubljana, Gul and his wife Hayrunnisa were welcomed by Slovenian President Danilo Turk and his wife Barbara Miklic with full military honors. In face-to-face talks, Gul and Turk discussed bilateral ties and Turkey's European Union accession talks, and the two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Praising Slovenia as a small but a very developed and influential country, Gul thanked it for supporting Turkey's EU bid. Some 72 percent of Slovenes support Turkey's EU aspirations, in a show of support among European countries second only to Sweden.