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Cablegate: Northwest Turkey's Tekirdag in Campaign Mood

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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0631/01 1971355
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161355Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7285
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000631

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: NORTHWEST TURKEY'S TEKIRDAG IN CAMPAIGN MOOD


1. (SBU) Summary. We visited Tekirdag located just up the
Marmara seacoast northwest of Istanbul a few days after the
press splashed claims of U.S. support to the PKK by three
masked persons said to be PKK defectors across newspapers and
television sets. The pleasant town, known for excellent
kofte and raki, sported all the competing party banners -
sometimes artfully draped from buildings, across roads and
down flag poles. The youthful Justice and Development Party
(AKP) mayor related his accomplishments and other parties
gave us their election sales pitches - and asked about U.S.
foreign policy - all except for the Republican Peoples Party
representative who cancelled his meeting with us, perhaps in
reaction to the news reports. End summary.

2. (SBU) Tekirdag is pleasant seacoast town on the way to
somewhere else. The area of some 650,000 inhabitants
continues to welcome a burgeoning number of Anatolian
transplants drawn by its growing industrial base, thriving
agriculture and seaside location. The town famous for
Turkey,s national drink, raki, and really delicious kofte
(mildly seasoned hamburger grilled on a stick) boasts nearby
energy depots and some 1200 factories most associated with
the textile industry. Despite the industrial base, acting
governor Erdogan Ozdemir boasts that "blue flags" signifying
environmentally safe beaches have flown for the last two
years. Sunflower oil is the premier agricultural product,
followed by wheat, olives and grapes.

3. (SBU) The Justice and Development Party (AKP) Mayor,
Ahmet Aygun, pointed to a chart high above his desk listing
his 30 or so campaign promises. All but five were checked
complete. The town swimming pool, a highway by-pass around
the town and a railroad spur to the main north-south line
connecting to the Istanbul airport and a new port facility
projected to be the 5th largest in Europe were underway, but
not complete - demonstrating once again, he claimed, that AKP
means to deliver on its promises. Asked the motivation for
his hard work, Aygun paused and said it was because of
religion - he wanted to have a positive ledger with the
Almighty at the end of his life. He said his wife and
daughter wish he would quit politics.

4. (SBU) Visits to party chairmen were memorable for one or
another reason. At Genc (GP) - "Youth Party" - headquarters
for example, we were welcomed by five aging men - all but one
of whom had passed from the salt and pepper stage to the salt
stage of hair color. Their presentation consisted of a
dispirited rendering of GP campaign promises.

5. (SBU) At Democrat Party (DP) headquarters, 25 or so local
board members listened as chairman Mehmet Ali Vidinel
rehearsed DP's heritage from the 1950s through the 1980s and
up to the moment. He said True Path Party (DYP) would have
had a parliamentarian from Tekirdag in parliament after 2002
had DYP passed the 10% barrage nationwide. We took the
opportunity to respond to questions of the assembled.
Questions quickly fastened on the big U.S.-related story of
the week, "confessions" of three PKK defectors claiming
eyewitness stories of U.S. personnel delivering heavy weapons
to PKK militants on Kandil mountain in northern Iraq.

6. (SBU) National Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Yunus Meral
directed a barrage of complaints and charges about USG
interference in Turkey's affairs or accusations that the U.S.
was doing too little to promote Turkey's interests in Europe
and especially with respect to the PKK. We listened and 7
times in the course of the meeting, asked if the chairman had
any questions he would like to ask. Finally, one of his
colleagues spoke up and asked about the U.S. position on the
importance of NATO as a continuing alliance and particularly,
Turkey's role in it. We acknowledged that some, in the wake
of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, considered NATO's
usefulness to be a thing of the past. The U.S. approach is
different, actively identifying new and vital leadership
roles for the alliance. Turkey's place has always been
critical in NATO and is today as it has played a leading role
in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

7. (SBU) Comment. We were disappointed when the chairman of
the Republican People's Party (CHP) canceled our appointment
the day after the PKK defector story broke. The issue -
whether or not voiced - apparently topped almost everyone's
mind the day of our visit. A traditional, warm Turkish
parting at both DP and MHP made evident that sincere,
respectful and direct public diplomacy still wins hearts and
minds - or simply - counts in the heartland. End comment.

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