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Cablegate: Sca's Feigenbaum and Deutsch in Istanbul:

VZCZCXRO6284
PP RUEHAST RUEHDBU
DE RUEHIT #0209/01 0741251
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151251Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6738
INFO RUEHAST/USO ALMATY PRIORITY 0082
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 6259
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT PRIORITY 0116
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU PRIORITY 0014
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0058
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK PRIORITY 0034
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0259
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0351
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT PRIORITY 0146
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0137
RUEHYE/AMEMBASSY YEREVAN PRIORITY 0084
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0059

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ISTANBUL 000209

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA FEIGENBAUM
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TX
SUBJECT: SCA'S FEIGENBAUM AND DEUTSCH IN ISTANBUL:
BUSINESS AND GULENIST SCHOOLS IN CENTRAL ASIA

REF: A. ANKARA 488
B. ANKARA 489
C. ISTANBUL 106

1. (SBU) Summary. SCA DAS Evan Feigenbaum and Senior
Advisor Robert Deutsch held meetings in Istanbul February 27
with business and NGO interlocutors regarding Central Asia
(reftels), with a heavy focus on Turkmenistan. Businessman
Ahmet Calik counseled a step-by-step approach to working with
the new Turkmen president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov,
predicting it could yield positive results, not least for
U.S. and Turkish business interests. At a meeting with the
Gulenist Journalists and Writers Foundation, foundation
officials described the group's schools in Central Asia,
noting that they had enhanced Turkish influence in the region
through education. Feigenbaum and Deutsch also met with Dr.
Oktay Varlier of Alarko Contracting (also Chairman of the of
the Turkey-Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce) and Professor
Demir of Galatasaray University. End summary.

POLITICS AND BUSINESS IN TURKMENISTAN
-------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Businessman Ahmet Calik, who previously met with
Feigenbaum in Ashgabat three weeks after the Turkmenbashi's
death, described the business climate and political change in
Turkmenistan following installation of Berdimuhammedov.
Calik -- whose business Calik Holding is perhaps the most
experienced western partner in Turkmenistan, with extensive
business activities in textiles, gas, oil and construction --
said the new president wanted to accomplish positive things
for the country. He had placed new and good people in key
oil and gas-related positions. That said, foreign investment
opportunities would come gradually, in a step-by-step
fashion; first, laws on investment and the government's
overall outlook needed to change. Calik noted that, working
from the base of Turkmenistan, his firm was interested in
energy and construction opportunities elsewhere in Central
Asia. He noted, for instance, that he was exploring the
opportunity presented by Afghanistan's Sherbergan gas field.
Deutsch outlined our regional initiatives, particularly with
respect to transmission of electricity from Central Asia to
South Asia and the investment opportunities both in
transmission and in development of additional generation
(including the potential for coal based thermal power in
Tajikistan.) Calik indicated an interest in pursuing these
opportunities. (Note: Following the meeting, we provided
Calik and another business contact made during the visit,
Alarko's Dr. Varlier, with further information and contact
information for Tajikistan's projects.)

3. (SBU) New partnerships in oil, gas, power plant
construction, and textiles were possible in Turkmenistan; the
government would, most likely, follow a measured approach to
attracting new foreign investment. Berdimuhammedov would
certainly fulfill existing contracts, i.e., with Gazprom, but
would open new contracts to greater international
competition. It was too soon to expect big changes in
Turkmenistan, Calik said, but U.S. advice on how to assure a
smooth transition to a more open economy would be very
helpful to Berdimuhhamedov's government. U.S. and western
businesses should approach opportunities "diplomatically,"
employing a focused effort to build relationships and
networks, Calik suggested. Turkey, he added, could have a
positive influence in encouraging improved
Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan relations. Despite past tensions,
the time had come for talking, relationship building, and
cooperative business projects. This could even include
Georgia as a possible transit point for cross-Caspian Turkmen
gas.

4. (SBU) The dawn of a new period in Turkmenistan under a
new president would be important. Calik approved of the U.S.

ISTANBUL 00000209 002 OF 003


strategy to engage frequently and often through focused
visits to Ashgabat in the weeks since Turkmenbashi's death.
The future of U.S.-Turkmen, or for that matter
Turkish-Turkmen relations, he predicted, would be shaped by
the way they begin during this critical transition period.
"Democracy" might come to Turkmenistan, he added, but through
a step-by-step process that would foster an environment more
conducive to it. Rather than holding back or stepping away
from a still-authoritarian but changing Turkmenistan, the
U.S., he said, should remain engaged. "What happens now is
important," said Calik. "People are anxious for democracy,
but they need a positive experience of it." Calik counseled
against isolating Turkmenistan, arguing that political change
was more likely if the United States, Turkey, and others were
heavily engaged there. Believing strongly in the importance
of personal contact, Calik said he travels to Ashgabat two to
three times a month.

5. (SBU) Calik concluded that the new president had
displayed positive self-confidence since moving out from the
shadow of the former president. Berdimuhammedov had managed
his role over the last 10 years well, avoiding open clashes
with Niyazov. But his first year in office would be
important and there was no guarantee of success. Now his own
man, he could be expected to honor the Niyazov-era deals and
projects, but then move on and forward in his own way.

JOURNALISTS AND WRITERS FOUNDATION -- FETHULLAH GULEN SCHOOLS
--------------------------------------------- ----------------

6. (SBU) At a meeting with the Journalists and Writers
Foundation to explore educational development in Central Asia
(ref A), President Harun Tokak and colleagues from the
foundation openly credited Fethullah Gulen with the vision to
open schools in Central Asian countries just after the fall
of the USSR. The reason was straightforward: beat the
Iranians to Central Asia with the "smiling face of Islam"
Turkish style, rather than the more severe version propounded
by Iran. After the fall of communism, Gulen had predicted,
Central Asians would turn anew to religion. He envisioned
two ways to spread Turkey's brand of Islam: through business
dealings and education. Gulen put his focus on education via
"Gulenist" schools, active since 1985. According to Tokak,
Gulen believes Turkey should be a global actor and therefore
needs to be active "everywhere." A principle of the Gulenist
outlook is that, despite wars, the earth is big enough for
all major religions: Jews, Christians, even atheists.
Therefore, a "clash of civilizations" is not a given.

7. (SBU) With 500 schools in 80 countries, including four
Central Asian countries (note: except Usbekistan, which has
especially tense relations with Turkey, end note) the Gulen
schools are meant to be "temporarily" under the control of,
and supported by, business backers of Fethullah Gulen,
according to Tokak. For instance, of the 14 Gulenist high
schools founded in Azerbaijan in 1992, all began with a core
faculty comprised of teachers from Turkey; 80 percent of the
core teachers in those schools are now Azeri. (Note: An
American Fulbright scholar told CG Istanbul that Gulenist
schools are meant to be financially self-sustaining through
tuition within a few years of opening. End note.) Tokak
said a core curriculum is taught in all countries with
English the language of instruction. Subjects including math
and the sciences are conducted in English and comprise part
of this core curriculum. Turkish language is an elective in
all Gulenist schools. Classes in region-specific civics and
survey courses on religion are taught by teachers from the
local community and in the local language. When Gulen
schools opened in Turkey in 1985, teachers were recruited
from among graduates of the best English-language
universities in Turkey including Bogazici and Bilkent
Universities. Within a few years, the emphasis on excellence
made the schools a success with students routinely winning

ISTANBUL 00000209 003 OF 003


awards, particularly in open math and science competitions.
That kind of record began to draw students from the top
echelon families in given countries, including the political
elite. The schools still recruit from top English-speaking
Turkish universities for faculty in new schools.

8. (SBU) But Tokak pointed out Gulen schools' teachers are
not only disciplined but above all, are "moral" role models.
They spend time with students outside the classroom and
regularly visit with parents in their homes. No sectarian
religion classes are part of the curriculum, but the staff
teaches (or influences) in Gulenist Islam by such example.
Gulenists promote their ideas through good examples and
lifestyle, not through formal "preaching," Tokak explained.
The schools incorporate whatever curriculum is required in
the local community but publish their own math and science
textbooks, often locally to take advantage of lower printing
costs. History texts, according to Tokak, eliminate
sentences that would "promote hatred." There is an emphasis
on basic, humanitarian values, he noted.

9. (SBU) Comment. Istanbul interlocutors suggested that
Turkey's 1990s-era euphoria over renewed ties with Central
Asian countries came down to earth with the realization that,
in most of these new countries, people could not actually
communicate directly with Turkish speakers. The realization
that Soviet-controlled societies would take time to adjust to
the world beyond their borders also made trade and exchanges
more difficult than initially anticipated. Gulenist
education is also considered successful in Turkey, although
it is precisely the teachers' influence outside the classroom
that makes it controversial here. The Gulen schools, whether
with original faculties composed of Turks, or in continuing
iterations employing locally-hired faculty drawn from their
own graduates, provide a potent and continuing influence in
most of Central Asia.
JONES

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