Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Murtha's Visit to Turkey

Published: Tue 12 Aug 2003 12:05 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Your CODEL arrives in Ankara at a time when Turkey
is considering increasing its cooperation in reconstruction
and stabilization efforts in Iraq. The GOT is shifting its
Iraq policy away from one centered on northern-Iraq and
ethnic (Kurd or Turkmen) issues towards a more central
Baghdad-oriented policy based primarily on stability through
trade, humanitarian assistance and commercial opportunities
for Turkish businesses. The new focus will help re-establish
the confident cooperation that characterized U.S.-Turkish
relations until earlier this year. Turkey has become an
important source of and conduit for UN and U.S.-supplied aid
to Iraq, and the GOT is considering contributing to the
military stabilization force in Iraq. High-ranking Turkish
officials met August 5 and decided to flesh out the possible
risks and scope of a Turkish contribution to the Iraq
Stabilization Force. The governing Justice and Development
(Turkish acronym: AK) Party, which came to power with an
overwhelming Parliamentary majority, is in the midst of a
successful stretch. It has pursued reforms geared at gaining
EU accession. In continuing dialogue with the U.S., the GOT
tells us it is committed to finding a solution on Cyprus and
is open to improving relations with Armenia. However, the GOT
continues to emphasize flaws in the Annan plan and does not
have an alternative route to a comprehensive settlement plan.
On Armenia, each side wants the other to move first and
Nagorno-Karabakh is a continuing issue. Turkey has issued
positive statements in support of the Middle East Roadmap and
a number of high-level Israeli officials have visited Ankara
recently, but the Turkish populace generally sympathizes with
the Palestinians. Despite its policy of good neighborliness,
Turkey has supported USG policy objectives in Syria and Iran.
Two years of sound fiscal/monetary policy and structural
reforms, the rapid and successful conclusion of the Iraq war,
expected U.S. financial assistance, and unprecedented IMF
support have combined to bring down inflation and interest
rates, restore modest growth, and create some hope that
Turkey can work its way out from under a high public debt
burden. The government has an opportunity in the coming
months to win the economy some much-needed breathing room,
but this will require committed implementation of
IMF-supported reforms as well as wise conduct of foreign
policy. End summary.
2. (SBU) There has been a concerted effort on the part of the
GOT to shift its Iraq policy away from one centered on
ethnicity (Turkmen and Kurd) and northern-Iraq towards a more
central Baghdad-oriented policy based primarily on
contributing to stability through trade, humanitarian
assistance and commercial opportunities for Turkish
businesses. The Turks have taken a number of concrete steps
in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction since Secretary
Powell,s April visit to Turkey. The World Food Program
continues to ship considerable quantities of food through
Turkey, and Turkey is also the world's biggest supplier (in
value terms) to WFP. The GOT also has supported the US
military's efforts to establish a ground line of
communications here to re-supply US forces in Iraq. Turkey
recently allowed an energy barter arrangement with Iraq to go
forward that will help coalition authorities to supply
essential energy supplies to the Iraqi people, and has
offered several commercial/aid deals that Washington has
3. (SBU) The GOT is also considering making a significant
contribution to the stabilization force in Iraq. There are
indications that the GOT is working to convince the Turkish
populace and Parliament (a majority of which are opposed to
the idea) to support a Turkish role. Some Turks -- including
President Sezer -- argue that further UN action (i.e. another
mandate) is required. Others (including FM Gul) believe more
UN, NATO, or Iraqi involvement in requesting Turkish support
would convince Turkish public opinion that their support
would be welcome. The Turks also remain concerned about the
presence of PKK/Kadek terrorists in northern Iraq.
Parliament recently passed a "re-integration" law allowing
non-leadership members of the PKK/Kadek to return voluntarily
to Turkey, and the Turks are looking to the USG to implement
our commitment to neutralize the PKK/Kadek threat from Iraq.
The Turks also remain disturbed by what they consider to be
Kurdish (vice US or Iraqi central authority) control of the
Iraqi side of the Turkish-Iraq border. While the two
governments attempt to move past the July 4 incident, where
the U.S. arrested Turkish troops believed to be working
contrary to efforts to create stability, the event and the
Turks' perception of our mishandling of it are likely to
linger in the Turks' perceptions of their relationship with
the U.S.
4. (SBU) The governing AK Party, which came to power with an
overwhelming Parliamentary majority, is in the midst of a
successful stretch. AK has pursued democratic and political
reform (para 6). Meanwhile, AK's principle challengers -- the
opposition CHP and the xenophobic Genc Party of Motorola
deadbeat Cem Uzan -- are floundering. Questions about AK
usually focus on its ultimate social, political, and economic
intentions domestically or direction internationally
(although they profess a commitment to relations with the
U.S. and EU). Turkey's generals are keen to protect their
status as Guardians of the (Kemalist) Republic, and thus the
version of "secularism" they espouse. They, and much of the
established State, see AK as a challenge to the founding
ideology of Ataturk's Turkey. There are also questions about
AK's ability to field an experienced and consistently
competent administrative cadre. Formed in 2001, the party is
still experiencing growing pains; the AK Government went
through a rough patch during the run-up to the Iraq war but
seems to have found its footing since Erdogan was established
as Prime Minister in March. The party's convention this fall
will provide further indications as to Prime Minister and AK
Chairman Erdogan's ability to develop further the party's
cohesion and vision.
5. (SBU) Two years of sound fiscal/monetary policy and
structural reforms, the rapid and successful conclusion of
the Iraq war, expected U.S. financial assistance, and
unprecedented IMF support have combined to bring down
inflation and interest rates, restore modest growth, and
create some hope that Turkey can work its way out from under
a high public debt burden. The Turkish Government has an
opportunity, between now and the end of the year, to build on
this momentum and thus push the economy away from the
financial precipice on which it has been perched for the past
three years. This will require the government, which so far
has implemented the IMF recovery program with muted
enthusiasm, to complete the next IMF review rapidly, proceed
with scheduled privatizations, win a positive EU report in
October, and avoid walking into a crisis with the Iraqi
stabilization force issue. Failure to take advantage of this
opportunity will not necessarily mean another crisis, but
will leave the economy extremely vulnerable to external or
internal shocks and undermine the potential for prosperity.
6. (SBU) In the first nine months in power, the AK Government
has passed a series of democratization and political reforms
in the context of EU harmonization. In doing so, Turkey is
garnering praise from the EU, which should decide by Dec.
2004 whether to begin formal accession talks with Turkey.
The reform packages expand freedom of expression including
mother tongue (i.e. Kurdish language) rights, increase
penalties for perpetrators of torture, and raise the relative
authority of elected civilians vis-a-vis the military. The AK
Government has also launched an anti-corruption drive that
appears far more comprehensive than any conducted by previous
governments. Nevertheless, there are a number of circles
within Turkey who question AK's commitment to comprehensive
reform, particularly regarding corruption allegations against
the party itself.
7. (SBU) The AK Government states that it remains committed
to finding a solution on Cyprus, both for domestic political
reasons and its interest in promoting Turkey's EU candidacy.
Turkey's long support for Denktash, his rejection of the
Annan plan and supporters in Ankara retard progress towards a
comprehensive solution. Much will depend on the government's
willingness to take on this issue between now and spring
2004, when Cyprus' EU membership becomes effective. AK owes
nothing politically to "TRNC" leader Denktash and is thus
interested in promoting transparent and fair elections in the
North this coming December.
8. (SBU) The AK government is much less wedded to Aliyev and
tying improvement of relations with Armenia to settlement of
Nagorno-Karabakh, but remains under sniper fire from
entrenched anti-Armenian interests. AK officials tell us
they recognize the trade and development benefits to Turkey
from opening the border. However, AK officials have made it
clear, as have the MFA and other Turkish officials, that
passage of any Armenian genocide language, even by only one
chamber of Congress, will set progress back significantly.
9. (SBU) Turkey prides itself on its good relations with both
Israelis and Palestinians. While it supports the
U.S.-sponsored Road Map, Turkey is leery of getting too far
ahead of a Turkish populace that generally sympathizes with
the Palestinian side. On Syria and Iran, Turkey argues that
Turkey: 1) lives in a rough neighborhood and has an interest
in minimizing friction with its neighbors; and 2) shares the
same values and goals in the Middle East as the U.S.
(stability, democracy and prosperity). In this regard,
Foreign Minister Gul delivered a call for democracy and
reform in the Islamic world at the June OIC Summit in Tehran.
10. (SBU) Turkey has been a signatory to the Hague Convention
since August 2000. Since that time, we are unaware of any
children being returned to any country without the agreement
of the abducting parent. There are systemic problems: 1)
Courts meet for 10 minutes monthly on an individual case and
do not focus on Hague issues; 2) judges do not understand the
Hague Convention requirement and rule on custody rather than
Hague issues, thereby requiring a lengthy appeal process; 3)
the legal process lasts between 2-3 years total; and 4) the
Ministry of Interior does not focus resources on finding the
abducted child and the parent. The US currently has four
applications pending, each for return of one child to the US.
In one case the child has now been in Turkey over a year due
to the slow court process and the judge used that delay to
rule the child should stay in Turkey. In another case, the
Government of Turkey has been unable to locate a child
abducted to Turkey in October 2002. Due to physical abuse by
the abducting father, the Turkish court ordered the child
returned to the mother immediately. The Interior Ministry
places a low priority on these types of cases and has been
unable to locate the child.
11. (SBU) Following the early August meeting of the Supreme
Military Council, TGS CHOD Gen Ozkok now has clearer
authority over the military than he had one year ago when he
took over TGS. He has surrounded himself with like-minded
senior officers of his own - vice his predecessor's -
choosing and appears committed to supporting the reforms
(both within Turkey and the military) needed to move toward
the EU while trying to protect the military as defender of
the secularist Turkish state. The Turkish military has taken
some concrete steps after the failed March 1 parliamentary
vote to mend fences with the US, including supporting the
establishment of the GLOC and approval of a request to
station aircraft at Incirlik Air Base in support of Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, the TGS has initiated
preliminary planning to determine scope, risks, and
requirements for a potential role in the Iraq Stabilization
Force, and appears to have taken the important steps of
helping to shape this positively in the public eye with a
view to gaining the domestic support crucial to passage,
noting this is in Turkey's interest to participate. The
military publicly states that it supports Turkey's EU
candidacy, but some senior officials continue to criticize
efforts to pass the necessary reforms to achieve this goal.
12. (U) Turkey has a lively and colorful media scene.
Reporting often includes absolute fantasy passed as fact.
Despite the large number of newspapers, however, readership
is not as broad and deep as might be expected. Newspapers are
influential in major cities but not far beyond. Most Turks
get their news from television. Except for government-owned
TRT television, all television stations in Turkey, like the
print media, are owned by either individual businessmen or
conglomerates. The press will be interested in your visit and
seek comments at a number of venues.
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