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Cablegate: Istanbul Deputy Governor - Eur Das Bryza

VZCZCXRO6649
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHIT #0212/01 0741620
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151620Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6743
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000212

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2017
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV AM GR TU
SUBJECT: ISTANBUL DEPUTY GOVERNOR - EUR DAS BRYZA
DISCUSSIONS: HALKI SEMINARY, ARMENIAN GENOCIDE RESOLUTIONS

REF: A. ISTANBUL 0136
B. 05 ISTANBUL 1766
C. 03-09-2007 BRYZA-FRIEFELD EMAIL

Classified By: Consul General Deborah K. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

1. (C) Summary: Istanbul Deputy Governor for minority
affairs Fikret Kasapoglu told EUR DAS Bryza during a March 9
meeting that the Minister of Education had expressed to him
six months ago a favorable opinion of a proposal to re-open
Halki Seminary as a two-year high school. Kasapoglu believed
the Halki Seminary dispute would eventually be resolved but
stated it is almost impossible for the government to take
action during an election year. The Deputy Governor agreed
that arguing against congressional Armenian "genocide"
resolutions by focusing on a potential increase in
ultra-nationalism and risks to the Turkish-Armenian
community's security is not constructive. Rather, Kasapoglu
suggested focusing on Turkey's tradition of tolerance for
religious minorities and the fact that Armenians still choose
to immigrate illegally by the thousands to Turkey. End
summary.

2. (C) EUR Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryza met with the
Istanbul Deputy Governor responsible for minority affairs
Fikret Kasapoglu on March 9 to discuss Congressional Armenian
"genocide" resolutions (AGRs) and a proposal to re-open Halki
Seminary. Bryza had requested the meeting as a follow-up to
recent discussions with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and
PM Advisor Ahmet Davutoglu concerning a proposal to
re-classify Halki Seminary as a vocational school under the
auspices of a 1951 regulation, rather than as a private,
post-secondary school subject to a 1971 Constitutional Court
decision which ordered all such schools to fall under the
administration of the State (ref A). Kasapoglu cautiously
noted he would be happy to discuss these issues but that as
an appointed official, he was limited in what he could commit
to do.

-------------------------------
ARMENIAN "GENOCIDE" RESOLUTIONS
-------------------------------

3. (C) Bryza stressed that the Administration is working
hard to convince Congress not to pass AGRs currently being
contemplated in both the U.S. House of Representatives and
Senate. The Administration's position remains that a candid
discussion about Turkish-Armenian history should take place
within civil society, he said. Kasapoglu believes the case
against AGRs should stress four points:

-- Istanbul's tradition of tolerance for different cultures
dating back to the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.

-- Despite historical and present political tensions between
Turkey and Armenia, more than 40,000 economic migrants from
Armenia still choose to live in Turkey illegally (we
regularly hear the number 70,000 from GOT officials)

-- The positive, spontaneous, mass public condemnation of
Hrant Dink's assassination was a sign of the respect people
have for each other and for different cultures.

-- Turkey's mostly young population find it hard to
comprehend" what happened during World War I and politicizing
"genocide" allegations will only inspire hatred.

4. (C) Kasapoglu further proffered that views in Turkey were
changing. Turkish-Armenians were increasingly seen as part
of society but that certain events (e.g., AGRs) "just make
things worse." He stressed Turkey was proceeding with
reforms on human rights and democratization. Citing an offer
he made on behalf of the government shortly after Hrant
Dink's assassination to provide Mesrob with an armored
vehicle, Kasapoglu stated both he and the Patriarch agreed
the need for such security measures would be temporary. He
believed the same would hold true in the event an AGR passes.

----------------------------------
PROPOSAL TO RE-OPEN HALKI SEMINARY
----------------------------------

5. (C) Regarding the proposal for re-opening Halki Seminary
as a vocational school, Kasapoglu stated Education Minister
Celik told him six months ago that the seminary could be
opened as a high school and that the Education Ministry
Director General responsible for private schools recently
told him the same. He noted the Foreign Ministry and the
Board of Higher Education (YOK) were the key institutions

ISTANBUL 00000212 002 OF 002


opposed to re-opening the seminary due to constitutional
challenges associated with the secular nature of the State.
Kasapoglu stressed the government's adherence to the
principal of reciprocity and suggested that if Greece had
taken steps in favor of the Turkish minority in Western
Thrace -- granting permission to elect muftis, for instance
-- when it (Greece) first became an EU candidate, "things
would be better" for the Greek community in Turkey. Bryza
noted he was going to Thessaloniki that evening and later to
Athens, to discuss these issues.

6. (C) Despite these challenges, Kasapoglu exclaimed he
personally did not see any reason why Halki Seminary
shouldn't be open. Though he is not part of the
decision-making process, his views are important because of
where the seminary is located, he said. The Deputy Governor
noted however, that it would be almost impossible for the
government to take such an action during an election year
because it would be politically polarizing, domestically.

7. (C) Comment: That Education Minister Celik is inclined
to re-open Halki Seminary is nothing new. He told Turkish
daily Milliyet as recently as 2005 (ref B) that if it were up
to him he would "open the seminary overnight." What is
significant about Kasapoglu's revelation is that it
demonstrates the GOT continues to discuss the issue
internally. It also suggests the Istanbul Governor's office
was brought into the conversation shortly after DAS Bryza
first discussed the vocational school proposal with Davutoglu
in July 2006. The fact that Minister Celik specifically
talked about re-opening Halki as a high school further
suggests the GOT is taking seriously the proposal to
re-classify Halki Seminary so that it would no longer be
subject to the 1971 court ruling that led to its closing.

8. (C) Comment (continued): Whether the Ecumenical
Patriarchate would agree to re-open Halki Seminary as a high
school likely depends on the details associated with the
agreement and the level of autonomy that would be granted the
Patriarchate in determining the school's enrollment and
curriculum. It is also not clear whether such an arrangement
would be sufficient to graduate clergy under existing
Patriarchate regulations. The Ecumenical Patriarchate
continued to operate a high school on the Heybeli Ada
compound even after the seminary closed its doors in 1971 but
was eventually forced to close the school in 1984 due to
insufficient enrollment. End comment.

9. (U) DAS Bryza has cleared this message in substance (ref
C).
JONES

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