Cablegate: Secretary Mineta's May 23 to 25 Visit To

Published: Mon 17 May 2004 10:23 AM
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
SUBJECT: Secretary Mineta's May 23 to 25 Visit to
Sensitive But Unclassified. Please Handle Accordingly.
1. (SBU) Your visit to Turkey comes several weeks before
the President's June visit to Ankara and Istanbul for
bilateral meetings and the NATO Summit, at a time of
improving political relations and close cooperation on
our key international priorities. Your meetings with
Transport Minister Yildirim provide an excellent
opportunity to enhance bilateral economic cooperation,
as well as to raise the profile of our maritime and
aviation safety and security concerns in the run-up to
the June NATO Summit in Istanbul. It also provides us
with the chance to promote U.S. exports, notably
Boeing's bid to sell aircraft to state-owned Turkish
Airlines. The Embassy and Consulate are also working
with Turkish authorities to arrange a tour of the
Bosphorus to acquaint you with transport, environment,
energy and political issues surrounding use of that
congested waterway.
Notional Program
2. (SBU) We are working with the GOT to arrange a
program for May 24. This will include an Ambassadorial
briefing at the U.S. Consulate, followed by a bilateral
meeting with Transport and Communications Minister
Binali Yildirim. The Minister will host a lunch and
arrange a tour of the Bosphorus, including a briefing on
straits issues. We are also considering an event which
would introduce you to representatives of the U.S.
business community in Turkey. The Ambassador and Consul
General plan to participate in your program. Our
control officer will be in contact with your staff as we
firm up these arrangements.
Overview of Bilateral Relations
3. (SBU) The June NATO Summit will highlight Turkey's
role in the alliance, in European institutions and in
our Greater Middle East initiative. Bilateral political
relations have improved in the year since the Turkish
Parliament's March 1 vote on Iraq, with good cooperation
on a host of issues. On Iraq reconstruction, Turkey has
become a major supplier of the Coalition Provisional
Authority, bilateral trade is booming, and the Turkish
contractors are poised to win a considerable share of
reconstruction contracts. Turkey shares our goal of
democratization, market-based reform and integration
with the world economy for the Middle East. The GOT
worked hard to reach a resolution to the Cyprus issue,
and it has continued on the path of political reforms in
the hope of gaining a date for the start of EU Accession
negotiations this December.
4. (U) The Turkish economy has recovered from the
financial and economic crisis of 2000-2001. However,
Turkey's huge debt and structural weaknesses leave it
vulnerable to external shocks and necessitate continued
implementation of the IMF program and its accompanying
fiscal restraint and structural reform.
The Turkish Straits
5. (SBU) Turkey is concerned that rising maritime
traffic, especially of large oil tankers, presents a
safety and environmental risk to this unique waterway,
which bisects Istanbul and its population of 12 million.
Oil transport has increased dramatically in recent
years: from 60 million tons in 1997 to 134 million tons
in 2003, and companies are using larger tankers. Turkish
officials emphasize that traffic in the Straits is safe
and they continue to work on safety improvements
consistent with Turkey's obligations under the Montreux
Convention. However, they warn that they are nearing the
maximum safe capacity. For example, tankers over 200
meters face special difficulty managing the sharp curves
and currents in the narrowest sections of the Straits,
forcing them to routinely deviate outside the normal
shipping channel. Turkey restricts these tankers to
daytime transit and only in one direction at a time. In
2003, Turkey took delivery of the Vehicle Traffic System
(VTS), constructed by Lockheed Martin, which allows
Turkish authorities to better monitor traffic and
respond more quickly to accidents in the Straits.
However, the VTS will not necessarily mean an increase
in traffic, and may actually reduce traffic, because the
authorities will be better able to enforce vehicle
spacing and other safety regulations.
6. (SBU) The congestion, when coupled with bad weather,
has resulted in expensive delays for oil companies and
supply shortages for consuming country refineries. At
one point in early 2004, 42 ships were waiting to enter
the straits, with an average delay of 20 days, costing
ship operators hundreds of thousands of dollars. These
delays have led to a renewed interest in pipeline
projects to bypass the Straits, which Turkey supports.
The U.S. and Turkey have worked closely together to
promote the development and construction of the Baku-
Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (to be completed at the end of
this year), which will bring oil from the Caspian to the
Mediterranean, bypassing the straits.
7. (SBU) Turkish authorities are working toward ship and
port compliance with the International Maritime
Organization's (IMO) International Ship and Port
Facility Security Code (ISPS) by July 1, but Maritime
Undersecretariat officials advised us in April that some
ports may not meet the deadline. Vessels are being
evaluated by 10 designated "recognized security
organizations" (RSOs). About 200 of 670 Turkish ships
had by April completed a security plan and the remainder
should comply by July 1. However, the process for
Turkish ports is moving more slowly. In part, this is
due to the fact that only five RSOs had been designated,
although we were told that further RSOs would be
selected. Officials stated that a number of Turkey's
privately-run port facilities were apparently resisting
this security requirement, primarily due to the cost of
completing an assessment. They estimated that about 60
percent of Turkey's 124 ports should be in compliance
with ISPS by July 1, including the main ports servicing
trade with the United States (Izmir, Istanbul, Mersin).
However, the others are likely to miss the deadline.
8. (SBU) The Minister may ask whether there is any
possibility of extending the deadline. You may want to
reinforce the importance of timely compliance, and note
that ships which have visited non-compliant ports may be
turned away from U.S. ports.
9. (SBU) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials
have in the past identified the port of Izmir as a
potential partner in the Container Security Initiative
(CSI), though this has not been implemented and the
timetable is uncertain. DHS has worked with at least
one company on supply chain security under the Customs
Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).
Aviation Security
10. (SBU) The FAA and the Embassy have been working with
the GOT to improve the Directorate General for Civil
Aviation's (DGCA) air safety oversight capacity, but
thus far, DGCA continues to have difficulty in retaining
experienced staff, and for that reason has requested
postponements in FAA training, most recently, to
December 2004 or January 2005. Legislation on this
issue has been sent back to DGCA for redrafting, though
DGCA Director General Topa Toker told us May 13 that the
Minister is following this closely and would like to
submit it to Parliament by June.
11. (SBU) On aviation security, the most important
problem appears to be a gap in controls over
international passengers transiting from the first port
of entry in Turkey (usually Istanbul) to a domestic
flight. Such passengers are not required to clear
border and customs control at the first port of entry,
creating the possibility that these controls could be
evaded by terrorist or criminal elements. In part due
to Embassy lobbying on this issue and the approach of
the NATO Summit, the GOT decided to implement controls
at the first port of entry, but thus far, the change has
not been carried out. You may want to urge the Minister
to close this security loophole as quickly as possible
to enhance security overall and for the President's June
visit in particular.
12. (SBU) In response to the Transportation Security
Administration's Emergency Amendments, Turkish
authorities are considering deployment of armed air
marshals on commercial flights. A GOT delegation
recently discussed this issue with the Federal Air
Marshal Service, but, to date, there has not been a
decision to proceed with this program.
13. (SBU) Turkish Airlines has invited Boeing and Airbus
to present proposals for the procurement of nearly USD 3
billion worth of aircraft, and called on both airlines
to deliver "best and final" offers in April. The
procurement will be decided at the highest political
levels of the GOT, and both we and the Europeans have
advocated on behalf of our companies at senior levels.
European leaders such as Chirac and Schroeder have been
especially active, and we have heard the French are
intimating that the Turkish decision will affect the
EU's decision in December on whether to grant Turkey an
EU accession negotiation start date. You may want to
stress our view that the sale should be made on
commercial and technical, rather than political,
grounds. You may also want to stress to the Minister
that Turkish ratification of the Capetown Convention
will reduce the cost of U.S. Eximbank financing.
Road Safety
14. (SBU) Turkish authorities have recently begun to
recognize the need to address very high fatality and
injury rates on the country's roads, with the Prime
Minister's 2003 Domestic Security Strategy explicitly
identifying this issue. The GOT has declared 2004 to be
"Traffic Year." Penalties for traffic violations were
recently increased. The Embassy has engaged over
several years in a program in cooperation with the
Rotary and U.S. NGOs to promote road safety. In April,
the Ambassador hosted a reception on traffic safety
which included NGOs and GOT officials. While the
Transport Ministry has a limited role in this area,
Ministry sources advised that they may include
representatives of other agencies with more direct
responsibilities in this area.
Northern Cyprus
15. (SBU) In a meeting with Econoff on May 14, Deputy
Transport Undersecretary Turker speculated that the
Minister might ask whether the USG will change its
policies on transport links with northern Cyprus or
whether we would permit a U.S. aircraft to land in the
new Ercan airport. If raised, you may want to note that
we are coordinating with our European partners with a
view toward easing isolation of Turkish Cypriots. We
are conducting an interagency review of our policies in
this area, but have not taken any final decisions at
this time.
Minister Yildirim
16. (SBU) Binali Yildirim is reputed to enjoy good
relations and access to Prime Minister Erdogan. Yildirim
has considerable background in maritime issues,
including a doctorate from the Faculty of Naval
Architecture and Ocean Engineering at Istanbul Technical
University. Prior to becoming Minister, he ran the
Istanbul Sea Buses Corporation and held managerial
positions in the shipbuilding industry.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media