Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codels Frist, Lugar, and Bereuter

Published: Mon 21 Jun 2004 11:05 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
1. (SBU) Summary: PM Erdogan's ruling AK Party (AKP) appears
unassailable, with a two-thirds majority in Parliament and no
viable opposition party. GOT legal reforms have improved the
chances for an accession negotiation start date from the EU
in December. Yet AKP struggles with corruption, ad hoc
responses to key issues, lame implementation of reforms, and
the entrenched opposition of an Establishment that views
Islam-oriented AKP as a threat to core Kemalist principles of
Turkey's "secular" republic.
2. (U) Turkish anti-terrorism cooperation remains solid; the
GOT has permitted transit of supplies to our troops, and
other forms of support for our efforts, in Iraq; and Turkey
contributes troops to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo
3. (SBU) Ankara views restoration of Turkish-Armenian
relations as linked to Armenian withdrawal from occupied
territories in Azerbaijan and recognition of the
Turco-Armenian border. Turkey's Georgia policy is uneven,
although Turkey provides humanitarian aid and, in cooperation
with the U.S., assists the Georgian military. The GOT has
pushed to improve relations with Arab states and Iran, but
the Turks overlook their negative image in the Arab world.
Turkish-Israeli relations have hit a low point following PM
Erdogan's harsh criticism of recent Israeli actions in Gaza,
though military and intelligence ties remain strong. Strong
improvement of relations with "Eurasia" (i.e., Russia)
remains an interest of a heterodox range of officials,
businessmen, and academics.
4. (U) The Turkish economy has made an impressive recovery
from the financial crisis of 2001 and near-crisis of 2003,
but a high public debt and serious structural problems ensure
continued vulnerability. End Summary.
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Ruling Party In Control, But Facing Challenges
--------------------------------------------- -
5. (U) With a two-thirds majority in parliament, control of a
majority of municipalities, and no viable political
opposition, PM Erdogan and his AKP government appear firmly
in control. AKP's passage of major legal reform packages and
constitutional amendments appears to have put Turkey more
firmly on track to get a negotiation start date from the EU
in December. In his meetings with foreign leaders, Erdogan
projects confidence, power, and a pragmatism that seems to
belie his Islamist firebrand past.
6. (SBU) Yet, while seemingly at the peak of their power,
Erdogan, his party, and his government face fundamental
political challenges. AKP has not yet consolidated itself as
a party and its leadership and the Cabinet increasingly
struggle to impose direction on the parliamentary group.
Erdogan's frequent travel interferes with his control of
party policy-making and the Cabinet, and he stretches himself
thin trying also to oversee Istanbul (he retains an intense
interest in the management of the city he dominated as mayor
from 1994-98 until forced out by the State).
7. (SBU) AKP's policy intentions remain hard to read and many
of its legislative initiatives, while reasonable in
principle, have foundered on bad drafting and fierce
opposition from the establishment, an opposition which is
able to prevail partly owing to AKP's unwillingness to take
the lead in the public debate, especially on TV. AKP's
anti-corruption promises, a major factor in its general
election victory, have faded as corruption has infected the
party and Cabinet. AKP has not yet come to grips with the
deeply entrenched State bureaucracy or established a solid
modus vivendi with the judiciary, armed forces, and
8. (SBU) AKP also faces unremitting resistance and pressure
from an establishment which sees Erdogan and AK Party as
direct threats to their definition of Turkey's "secular
republic". The judiciary continually overturns government
initiatives and President Sezer continues to reject many AKP
nominees for posts in the bureaucracy. The establishment
press and academic world cling to ill- or undefined concepts
of "secularism" and "fundamentalism" as they charge AKP with
a Sharia agenda. The Turkish military and other elements of
the "secular" establishment continue to assert that AKP
intends to undermine Turkey,s "secular" structure. The
recent controversy over a government proposal to reform
higher education and give graduates of vocational high
schools (including religious high schools) greater access to
university education intensified establishment suspicion;
core elements of the establishment appear committed to using
indirect methods to keep Erdogan and his party and government
so off balance that he loses credibility and power and AKP
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EU-Related Reforms Adopted, Implementation Lags
--------------------------------------------- --
9. (U) The AKP government has passed three packages of
wide-ranging political and constitutional reforms aimed at
bringing Turkey into compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria
for EU membership. The reforms apply to areas such as
torture, free expression, religious freedom, the role of the
military in government, and freedom of association.
10. (U) While praising the reform effort, EU officials have
repeatedly noted that implementation to date has been slow
and uneven. There has been an apparent reduction in the
number of people prosecuted for controversial speech, though
such cases continue. The controversial State Security Courts
have been officially abolished but their replacement by new
heavy penal courts has not yet been completed. There has
also been anecdotal evidence that local authorities have
become more flexible in allowing the use of the Kurdish
language in public announcements and written statements. The
State-owned broadcasting company on June 7 began broadcasting
in Kurdish and other previously restricted minority
languages, albeit under tight time limitations. The
Government has also loosened restrictions on the freedoms of
association and assembly, though Turkey still falls short of
EU norms. However, there has been little progress on
religious freedom, particularly for those other than Muslims.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate,s Halki Seminary remains
closed. Parliament in 2002 adopted legislation allowing, in
principle, certain non-Muslim foundations to acquire property
for the first time since 1936, and to reclaim property
expropriated by the State since that date. However, the
State has continued a burdensome and capricious set of
procedures and approved few applications. Non-Muslim groups,
especially Protestants, continue to face difficulties in
building churches and worshipping.
Global War on Terrorism and Iraq
11. (U) Turkey has been a solid ally in the global war on
terrorism. Since the Iraq war, Ankara has permitted the
transit of supplies for our forces and humanitarian goods,
offering to send troops to Iraq, approving the operation of
tanker aircraft from Incirlik Air Base to support missions
to/from both Iraq and Afghanistan, authorizing the transit of
US troops from Iraq, and training Iraqi diplomats. This
despite our actions in Iraq being highly unpopular among the
Turkish public and our lack of military action against the
PKK/Kongra Gel terrorist group,s camps in northern Iraq. In
Afghanistan, Turkey is contributing troops and helicopters,
has offered to sponsor a Provincial Reconstruction Team in
the north, and is prepared to send 1500 additional troops if
NATO designates the Istanbul-based NATO High Readiness Force
as the next commanding organization of ISAF. Turkey also
contributes troops to operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and is
supportive of a number of nonproliferation activities, such
as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
12. (SBU) Traditionally favoring US military hardware, the
GOT last month canceled three major tenders (for attack
helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and main battle
tanks), all of which had attracted bids from American firms.
Frustration over technology transfer restrictions and
IMF-mandated fiscal restraint were generally seen as
prompting the move, although there is some speculation that
the GOT's plans to restructure these programs could also be
an effort to improve European companies, prospects prior to
an EU decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey.
Foreign Policy
13. (U) In Ankara's view restoration of Turco-Armenian
diplomatic relations depends on Armenian withdrawal from
occupied territories in Azerbaijan (a Turkish ally) and
Armenian recognition of the Turco-Armenian border, moves that
appear unlikely in the short and medium term.
Turkish-Armenian diplomatic contacts continue, but without
significant progress on substance.
14. (U) Initially favoring Ajara and looking backward to
Turkish-Russian agreements on the region, the Turks
subsequently leaned more toward President Saakashvili and
urged a peaceful resolution of the Ajara crisis. The Turks
provide humanitarian aid to Georgia and, in cooperation with
the U.S., assist the Georgian military with equipment and
training. Georgia would like to increase bilateral economic
activity, but aside from truck traffic and the
Baku-Ceyhan-Tbilisi oil pipeline route, there are few
prospects on the horizon.
15. (U) The GOT has pushed to improve relations with Arab
neighbors and Iran. Turks believe their Ottoman past gives
them insight and influence in the region, but underestimate
their negative historical baggage. Turkey,s strongly
"secular" state structure also limits its influence with Arab
or other more Islamic-oriented neighbors. "Secular" Turks
look askance at close ties with Islamic states.
16. (U) Turkish/Israeli political and public relations have
hit a low point in the wake of Israeli targeted killings,
Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians in Rafah, and PM
Erdogan's public condemnation, in which he said Israeli
actions could be viewed as "state terror." Turkey's
Ambassador in Tel Aviv traveled to Ankara in early June for
"routine consultations" but returned after a week. Turkey
views itself as a potential mediator between Israel and the
Palestinians. Turco-Israeli military and intelligence ties
remain strong in some areas and the Turkish MFA is trying to
maintain an even keel in relations. Defense industry
cooperation may be increasing, as the Turkish procurement
bureaucracy looks to less-restrictive Israelis for technology
transfer, especially upgrades to U.S.-origin equipment.
17. (U) Some circles in the military, academe, the
bureaucracy, the press and business world advocate
development of strong relations with "Eurasia" (read Russia)
as an alternative to the U.S. or EU.
Economy Improving, Still Vulnerable
18. (U) Helped by a massive IMF program, the Turkish economy
has made an impressive recovery from the financial crisis of
2001 and the near-crisis of early 2003, with inflation
dropping to single digits, interest rates falling sharply,
and growth in the 5 percent range in both 2003 and 2004.
Still, the economy is not out of the woods, with a high
public debt and serious structural problems ensuring
continued vulnerability. The government has implemented
sound fiscal policy, but has moved slowly to implement
structural reforms, such as privatizations and strengthening
of independent regulatory agencies, needed to ensure
sustained growth. Turkey has not yet ratified the bilateral
financial agreement governing the $8.5 billion U.S. loan, nor
has it moved to resolve the numerous investment disputes and
problems that are deterring additional U.S. investment. The
U.S. and Turkey continue to cooperate well in the development
of the East-West energy corridor, designed to bring Caspian
oil and gas to Western markets.
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