INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Turkish President Sezer's Trip to Syria

Published: Fri 15 Apr 2005 03:15 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 002162
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/15/2015
TAGS: PREL SY LE TU PTER SYRIA
SUBJECT: TURKISH PRESIDENT SEZER'S TRIP TO SYRIA
REF: A. DAMASCUS 1833
B. DAMASCUS 1688
(U) Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch, E.O. 12958, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary: President Sezer's April 13-14 visit appears
indeed to have been symbolic (ref A), aside from his short
one-on-one meeting with Asad. Turkish MFA officials are
claiming that Sezer urged Asad to finish Syrian withdrawal
from Lebanon by the end of the month and received Asad's
pledge to do so. The Turks portray the visit as providing
more impetus for what they assert is Asad's push for reforms.
End Summary.
Lebanon
-------
2. (C) MFA Middle East DG Celikkol asserted to DCM that in
their one-on-one meeting, Sezer told Asad Syria should
completely withdraw military and intelligence units from
Lebanon before Lebanese elections. Asad reportedly replied
they would be out well before April 30 and that he will call
Sezer when the pullout is finished. Asad told Sezer that
when the pullout is complete, Syria will seek a UNSCR saying
it has fulfilled UNSCR 1559; failing a UNSCR, the Syrians
will seek a UNSC Presidential statement.
3. (C) Asad omitted the mention of the Lebanon discussion
from his press statement after the Sezer meeting; Celikkol
was quick to point out that Sezer mentioned Lebanon in his
statement.
4. (C) There was no discussion of internal Lebanese politics;
neither side raised Hizbullah nor upcoming elections.
Syria's Internal Reforms
------------------------
5. (C) Sezer reportedly encouraged Asad to "continue" with
internal reforms. Celikkol said Asad told Sezer he would
undertake more reforms starting with the Ba'ath Party
Congress (ref B). With great satisfaction, Celikkol claimed
that Sezer's visit had strengthened the hand of Asad and
other reformers against hardliners who want to maintain the
status quo. Celikkol recalled that during his 2004 visit to
Turkey, Asad told him at the airport that he had seen a
modern and advanced Turkey, different from what some advisors
had told him. This, Celikkol concluded, demonstrates the
importance of the Turkish/Syrian contact for reformists.
Terrorism
--------
6. (C) Asad raised the possibility of bilateral cooperation
against what he termed "fundamentalist terrorism." According
to Celikkol, Asad told Sezer that "not every Ba'athist is a
Saddamist" and the two countries should work together to
encourage secularists. Sezer reportedly replied that Turkey
is pleased with SARG cooperation against the PKK but that
Syria needs to cooperate against terrorism with "other
countries."
7. (C) Comment: Turkish MFA is promoting the Sezer visit as a
net positive for -- as the MFA asserts -- strengthening Asad.
FM Gul has asserted publicly, as the MFA declared to us
again after this visit, that Asad should be supported as a
reformer What the visit achieved in material terms for
Turkey is an open question, but several leading Turkish
columnists, including commentators often critical of the
U.S., have sharply criticized Sezer for going and questioned
why Turkey should put itself in the position of helping Asad
break his isolation. At the same time, given a renewed left-
and right-nationalist surge in Turkey, many in the Turkish
state and public see another positive to the visit:
assertion of Turkish independence of action. End Summary.
EDELMAN
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