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Turkey amends the Constitution

Turkey gets a new constitution; Mass allowed at Armenian Church; Turkey found guilty of failing to protect slain journalist; Iraqi oil flows again through Turkish pipes; The I.M.F. plays friendly; And Iran asks Turkey to shoot for the skies.

Top News: Earlier this month 58 percent of Turks voted to approve a package of constitutional amendments in a referendum that was as much about changing the constitution as it was a vote of confidence for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a man as controversial and he is charismatic. Most of the 26 amendments were easy enough for both sides of this increasingly polarized populace to agree on: greater rights for woman and the disabled, and enhanced measures to ensure privacy rights. But the changes have also weakened the supremacy of the military and given the Islamic-leaning ruling party more power in appointing judges, setting Turkey's secularist establishment firmly against the move.

The impact of the referendum is just beginning to be understood. For many, this is a great advance for Turkey’s notoriously weak democracy. For others, it has alleviated the threat of a military coup, long a concern for a state that has suffered three coups in its short history. For the secularists, however, this is the end of the military and judiciary as crucial checks on executive power.

In what many hoped would be a move towards normalizing ties between Turkey and Armenia, Ankara allowed worship at an iconic 10th-century Armenian Orthodox cathedral in eastern Turkey last Sunday for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The state's failure to restore a cross atop the building, however, has soured the occasion for many Armenians. While the mass was attended by several thousand people, many are questioning whether this is a true breakthrough in terms of Turkey’s willingness to confront their past or whether it was little more than a glorified public relations event.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey is guilty of failing "to protect the life and freedom of expression" of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, and of then failing to satisfactorily investigate his murder. Dink, editor of the Armenian-language daily Agos, was killed as he returned to the newspaper's offices in January 2007 by a teenager who declared his ultranationalist loyalties in court. While the court has ordered Turkey to pay Dink's family $128,480 in compensation, some argue that money is not enough and that steps need to be taken to address the failures of the Turkish judicial system that allowed his case to be so poorly handled in the first place.

President Abdullah Gul, who is in New York for U.N. General Assembly sessions, has made two things clear from the get-go, neither of which are likely to endear him to folks on the Hill: Turkey’s ties with Israel are as cool as ever, and he remains firmly against sanctions on Iran.

Gul’s calendar, it seems, is quite full on this trip. While he managed to fit in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he’s not leaving any room for Shimon Peres in his schedule – at least not until the Israeli president apologizes for the deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship to Gaza this past May.

Money: Turkey has signed a much-anticipated deal with its southern neighbor to extend the use of the main pipeline linking Iraq’s northern oilfields around Kirkuk to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan for the next 15 years. Turkey sits at the world’s energy crossroads — especially if the planned Nabucco pipeline comes through to supply Asian and Middle Eastern natural gas to European customers, reducing their dependence on Russian sources — and experts believe that this deal brings Turkey one step closer to the privilege of acting as the main hub for Iraq’s energy prospects.

Bloomberg reported that, as part of the I.M.F.’s plan to bring emerging economies more firmly into the institution, Turkey may win a seat on the group’s board of directors. But if the 24-member board opens itself up to growing economic powers like Turkey, China and South Korea, there may not be room for some of the slower growing, Western economies at the table.

Underscoring a growing friendship between the two countries, Iran recently asked Turkey to take part in its space program, which aims to have a man in space by 2017. Turkey hasn’t responded to the proposal yet, but Western countries are growing increasingly concerned over the similarities between the long-range ballistic technology used to launch satellites and atomic warheads.

Elsewhere: While the Florida pastor infamous for his plans to burn a pile of Qurans to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks this year did eventually cancel the spectacle, it seems that Turkey has not yet received word. Some 30,000 people gathered in southeastern Diyarbakir Sept. 20 to protest the pastor’s plan, burning U.S. and Israeli flags.

While the protests are a mere glimpse into the magnitude of hate and intolerance the pastor’s actions could have inspired across the Muslim world, there seems to be a more profound lesson to be learned here. Terrorism itself may not pose a mortal national danger; terrorists don't threaten a society through the injury they impose directly. But an unthinking response to terrorism could be fateful.

http://www.globalpost.com/passport/turkey/100921/turkey-amends-the-constitution