Cablegate: Scenesetter for the Visit of Codel Nelson/Lott to Turkey

DE RUEHAK #1242/01 1421319
O 221319Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for the Visit of CODEL Nelson/Lott to Turkey

(U) Sensitive but unclassified - please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Your visit comes at a time of domestic political
tumult and continued Turkish anxiety over Iraq and the PKK. Turkey
stands at a crucial political crossroads as early parliamentary
elections near. Officials here will be eager for an update on the
ongoing congressional debate over funding for the war in Iraq and
will press for U.S. action against PKK terrorist havens in northern
Iraq. End Summary

Political Scene

2. (SBU) Your visit comes during a time of political uncertainty in
Turkey and in the midst of campaigning for parliamentary elections
to be held July 22. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has
ruled as a one-party government for four-and-one-half years,
enacting numerous economic and pro-democracy reforms. On April 24,
AKP announced Deputy Prime Minister and FM Abdullah Gul as the
party's candidate for President, a largely ceremonial office but one
with significant veto and appointment powers currently held by the
staunchly secular Ahmet Necdet Sezer. In Turkey, the president is
elected by parliament. The first round of parliamentary voting on
April 27 was marred by a procedural dispute and opposition parties
petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule that the AKP did not
have the necessary quorum to validate the results. Late on April
27, the TGS published a harshly-worded statement declaring its
determination to defend the secular state against fundamentalism;
this was perceived by many as a warning against a Gul presidency.
The Constitutional Court annulled the first round of the
presidential vote and interpreted quorum rules that effectively
compelled early parliamentary elections.

3. (SBU) Both the AKP and opposition parties believe early elections
are in their favor and offer the only way out of the constitutional
deadlock. Meanwhile, Turks continue to debate the effect of the
TGS' April 27 midnight statement and the degree to which it
represents an undemocratic intervention into the political process.
The European Union strongly condemned the military intervention as
contrary to democratic development in Turkey. AKP and many liberal
commentators claimed that TGS' move undermined reforms to strengthen
democracy in Turkey. Many have also complained, however, that the
AKP needlessly provoked the military by nominating Gul, whose wife
wears the turban head covering common among Islamists here.
Successive marches in various cities in recent weeks have drawn
millions in a show of pro-secular solidarity. A widely carried
slogan at these rallies have read, "neither sharia nor a military
coup" - reflecting many Turks' opposition to over-reach by both the
military and AKP.

4. (SBU) Our consistent message throughout this period of domestic
political upheaval has emphasized strong support for Turkey's
democratic institutions and constitutional mechanisms. We have made
clear that there should be no extra-constitutional intervention in
the democratic process. In your remarks here, it would be helpful
to echo these sentiments and reiterate U.S. confidence in Turkey and
in its democratic institutions.

Incirlik Authorization Up for Renewal

5. (SBU) The Turkish parliament's March 1, 2003 decision not to
allow U.S. forces access to Iraq to open a northern front against
Saddam from Turkish territory has given way to four years of crucial
Turkish logistics support for Iraq operations from Turkey through
the Incirlik Air Hub and by use of the land crossing at Habur Gate.
U.S. authorization for the operations at Incirlik will expire June
22 and we have requested a one-year extension. It would be useful
for you to express continued U.S. appreciation for Turkish support
of this important logistics bridge.

Iraq and Kirkuk

6. (SBU) Iraq remains a major concern for Turkey and an ongoing
source of friction in our bilateral relationship. Turkey is worried
about increasing instability in Iraq, increasing Iranian influence
in the region, and the potential for Iraq to splinter along
sectarian and/or ethnic lines. They also worry about Iraqi Kurdish
ambitions to expand their territory to include oil-rich Kirkuk. The
prospect of a referendum later this year on the future status of
Kirkuk exacerbates Turkish fears that a Kurdish annexation of the
province will lead to massive inter-communal violence and,
ultimately, the dissolution of the country. Transfer of control of
Kirkuk to the Kurdish Regional Government also sparks fears of the
creation of an independent Kurdish state. Because of the
concentration of Turkey's minority Kurdish population in the
country's southeastern quadrant, an independent Kurdistan in
northern Iraq is perceived as an existential threat to Turkey.

PKK - TGS Prepared to Take Action

ANKARA 00001242 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) The Kurdish terrorist organization PKK's safe-haven in
northern Iraq is a continual irritant in U.S. -Turkey relations.
Turkey has insisted since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced in 2003
that the Iraqi government and/or the U.S. take steps to address this
terrorist organization's freedom of movement in Iraq. PKK terrorist
attacks against Turkey from strongholds in northern Iraq killed over
600 Turkish civilians and military in 2006 alone. A surge in PKK
attacks last summer prompted the Turkish government to threaten a
cross-border operation (CBO) into Iraq. To forestall this and to
seek concrete actions to reduce PKK violence, the U.S. appointed
Gen.(r) Joseph Ralston as Special Envoy for Countering PKK Terrorism
in August 2006. The Turkish and Iraqi governments in turn named
counterparts for Ralston: State Minister al-Waili for the GOI, and
Gen. (r) Edip Baser for the GOT. Ralston has conducted numerous
meetings with Iraqi and Turkish officials.

8. (SBU) However, Turkey's leaders remain frustrated by the
perceived lack of concrete results. With continued clashes between
the Turkish military and the PKK throughout the winter and spring,
the government and military find themselves under increasing
pressure to take unilateral action against PKK strongholds in
northern Iraq. On April 12, Chief of Defense General Buyukanit
publicly declared that the TGS considers a CBO necessary and useful,
but deferred to a parliamentary vote to green-light such an
operation and said TGS had not yet requested such approval.

Armenian Genocide Resolution

9. (SBU) Turks from across the political spectrum warn that the
passage of an Armenian Genocide Resolution (AGR) will provoke a
harshly negative reaction from the public - and become a major
factor in the domestic political debate. They also argue that it
would set back efforts to establish dialogue with Armenia, both on
the historical issue and on the broader relationship.


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