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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

Published: Mon 2 Oct 2006 01:39 PM
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2006
In Today's Papers
Erdogan in the US to Meet President Bush
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Vatan, Cumhuriyet, Radikal, Zaman, Yeni
Safak and others report President Bush and Prime Minister Erdogan
will discuss the PKK, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, peace in the Middle East,
Cyprus and energy issues. Erdogan will ask President Bush to take
action against the PKK, and will offer to send 5,000 Turkish troops
to Baghdad if the US eliminates the PKK presence in northern Iraq,
Cumhuriyet claimed on Saturday. Erdogan will also tell Bush that if
the PKK threat is removed by the US, Turkey will side with
Washington and the international community against Iran. Papers
expect President Bush to call for Turkey to open its ports and
airports to Greek Cypriot vessels and airplanes, and reopen Halki
Seminary in Istanbul. If Bush raises the issue of Armenia, says
Vatan, Erdogan will say Turkey was ready to sit at the negotiating
table with Armenia if Yerevan accepts the establishment of a
commission of Turkish and Armenian historians to investigate
'genocide' claims. Today's meeting between Bush and Erdogan, the
fourth over the past four years, will be the shortest one, lasting
55 minutes, say papers. Zaman says that prior to the meeting on
Monday, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Newsweek that Turkey was
ready to move against the PKK on its own if "our friends don't help
us".
Yasemin Congar, writing from Washington for the mainstream daily
Milliyet, observes that the "fight against PKK terrorism will be the
major agenda item" during the Bush-Erdogan meeting and "this time
Washington is prepared" to discuss it: "There have been some
concrete developments following the appointment of General Ralston
as the US special envoy. The ceasefire declared by the PKK has
happened after Washington exerted influence over northern Iraq.
American officials here talk about new steps on this issue by
emphasizing that the appointment of Ralston demonstrates the
intention to get a tangible result on the fight against PKK and this
message has been received by the PKK as well. On the other hand,
Washington also believes that some sort of legal measures by the
Turkish government to ensure the return of PKK members to Turkey
will be the most effective way in the end to fully eliminate the PKK
presence in northern Iraq. American officials are aware of Turkey's
sensitivity on this matter and understand the need for taking
concrete steps to ease public expectations so that the AKP
government can consider such a step as the next measure."
Writing in the Islamist-oriented intellectual daily Zaman,
Washington-based Ali Aslan notes that American officials"feel
uncomfortable" that the "Turkish public's expectations are too
high" for the Turkish Premier's visit to the White House:
"Emphasizing the strategic vision document between the two
countries, [US officials] suggest that such high level visits should
be seen as routine exchanges. It is certainly important for Turkey
to convey its policies to the world's super power and listen to the
US positions. However we should not expect miraculous new
developments related to the agenda items, including the fight
against terror, energy, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Cyprus. Generally
speaking, PM Erdogan's visit to Washington is a routine event for
the White House but Ankara makes more of it in light of domestic
political concerns."
Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institute, writing on Turkish-US
relations in the liberal-intellectual Radikal, observes that the
events of 9/11 "shook up the international equilibrium" of the
post-cold war era but also "created an opportunity for Turkey to
underscore both its strategic importance and its status as a
democratic model for the Islamic world": "Under normal
circumstances, Turkish-American ties could even be much better than
they were during the cold war. However things did not continue on
this path for two reasons. First of all, the US considered the
events of 9/11 a strong excuse to initiate a military operation
against Iraq. This US approach caused clear opposition throughout
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the world, including in Turkey. Everybody stood against the idea of
connecting 9/11 with Iraq. The US did not change its position
despite the opposition and the US ended up alienating itself from
the international community, Turkey included. The growth in PKK
terrorism following Iraq's invasion by the US has become an
additional factor contributing to the increasing anti-Americanism in
Turkey. Today, PKK and Kurdish issues are the most prominently
important ones in the relationship between Turkey and the US."
Sezer Addresses Parliament Inauguration
All papers report the speech delivered yesterday by President Ahmet
Necdet Sezer at the inauguration of Turkish Parliament warned of a
continued Islamic fundamentalist threat in Turkey and said the
military, the guardians of the secular system, must be kept
powerful. Sezer spoke of increased attempts to "roll back" the
gains of the secular republic, including the appointment of Islamist
officials to key civil service positions and efforts to "make
religion part of society and politics." Sezer, whose term in office
is to end May 2007, said freedoms could be restricted to protect
secularism. Mainstream papers comment that the warnings of Sezer
came as a response to Prime Minister Erdogan who had recently stated
that there was no fundamentalist threat in Turkey.
On Iran, Sezer said Turkey respects Iran's right to pursue a nuclear
program for civilian and peaceful purposes, but that Iran had to
inspire trust in the international community. He reiterated the
Turkish policy of supporting Iraq's unity and territorial integrity.
With respect to ties with the US, Sezer said Turkey's cooperation
with the US against international terrorism and particularly in
northern Iraq was a "significant test" and would be followed
carefully by the Turkish nation.
Talabani Says the PKK is Finished
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Cumhuriyet, Radikal, Zaman and others
carry the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remarks made to the Greek
daily Elefterotipia in which he said the PKK was "finished," and
that it had no future. "I believe that we have entered into a
period of normalization of ties with Turkey. The PKK had been a
'thorn' blocking establishment of confidence in ties between Iraq
and Turkey, but now it is finished," said Talabani. The Iraqi
President also called on Turkey to declare amnesty for the PKK
members in Mount Kandil.
Over the weekend, the outlawed PKK called a new unilateral ceasefire
as of October 1, papers report on Sunday citing a pro-PKK website.
The PKK said its militants would not use arms "unless attacked by
the Turkish military." The announcement came after the statement of
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani earlier last week that he persuaded
the PKK to declare a ceasefire, and of the jailed leader of the
group, Abdullah Ocalan, who made a ceasefire call for the PKK on
Thursday.
Bahros Galali, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) representative
in Ankara, told the Turkish press that Talabani had made his
statement regarding the PKK ceasefire in line with the requests
coming from Turkish officials.
Gonul Tells Rumsfeld of 'Map Incident' in Rome
Radikal reports Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul asked Secretary
Rumsfeld at a NATO meeting in Slovenia on September 28-29 for an
explanation concerning the use of a map depicting Turkey
disintegrated by an American military officer at a NATO Defense
College lecture in Rome. Gonul said Rumsfeld, unaware of what
happened, said he was sorry and that he would order an investigation
into the incident. Gonul underlined that the incident on September
15 was leaked to the press just days before Erdogan's travel to the
US, speculating that someone wanted to disrupt the Turkish PM's
visit.
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TV News:
(NTV, 7.00 A.M.)
Domestic News
- Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said fundamentalism was no crime
according to existing laws, adding that fundamentalism was "a
political concept."
- On October 3, Turkey's influential businessmen's grouping TUSIAD
will hold ceremonies in Brussels, Paris and Berlin to mark the first
anniversary of the opening of EU entry talks with Turkey.
- Opposition CHP said compromise with the ruling AKP regarding
constitutional changes in election regulations was hardly possible.
CHP said it will support only regulations for pulling down the
election age to 25 years.
- One PKK terrorist was killed in fighting with the security forces
in the southeastern province of Mardin.
- An explosion at a pipeline between Iran and Turkey near the
Iranian town of Bazargan has disrupted gas shipments to Turkey.
International News
- International Herald Tribune claims the main purpose of Pope
Benedict's visit to Turkey in November is to see the most senior
cleric of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek Patriarch of
Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
- Over the weekend, President Bush signed legislation that would
impose mandatory sanctions on entities that provide goods or
services for Iran's weapons programs.
- Two have been killed and 75 others wounded in clashes between
al-Fatah militants and security forces linked with the ruling Hamas.
- Britain's Independent warns Iraq may witness a new war between
Arabs and Kurds in the northern provinces.
- A reformist party pulled out of Serbia's coalition government on
Sunday because of its failure to capture war crimes suspect General
Ratko Mladic.
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/
MCELDOWNEY
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