Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2007
In Today's Papers
Gul Addresses PACE on EU Membership, New Constitution, Kurds
All papers report that addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on Wednesday, President
Abdullah Gul said Turkey "is really changing, with myself and my
party leading the way" while describing Turkey's aspiration to join
the European Union. Gul insisted that real progress has been made
in human rights. "All forms of discrimination have been banned,"
Gul told PACE, insisting that there is now the right of free
association in Turkey. He noted no one was in prison in Turkey
today for expressing their ideas. Gul later told reporters he
wanted to see article 301 changed, stressing that it was damaging to
Turkey's image as it negotiates for EU membership.
Questioned by European parliamentarians, Gul said Turkey's Kurds had
achieved more freedoms in the past few years. "We see cultural
differences as an asset, but they cannot justify separation," he
said. Gul noted a new constitution prepared by the government would
further bolster individual rights and freedoms in Turkey. "Religion
will continue to be kept out of state affairs. Nobody should worry
about Turkey's direction," said Gul. The President also said that
partition of Iraq would be "the worst scenario for the people of
Iraq and the whole region."
Debates, Ambiguity Ahead of October 21 Referendum
All papers report that if the October 21 referendum on
constitutional reforms is approved by the voters, the presidency of
Abdullah Gul could be in question. There is speculation that since
the reforms to be submitted to referendum pertain to the election of
Turkey's 11th president, a position held by Gul, he might have to
step down. Last week, the President's spokesperson has said that if
deemed necessary, Gul was willing to resign and run again for the
post. Some argue that it won't be possible because according to the
current constitution, a president cannot run for office for a second
time. Prime Minister Erdogan said yesterday the reforms, if
approved, would apply to the election of Turkey's 12th president,
and urged the nation to vote for the reforms. CHP leader Deniz
Baykal, however, said the reforms aimed to elect Turkey's 11th
president by a popular vote, and that the presidential elections
could be annulled if the changes are approved by the referendum.
Baykal said to avoid a new crisis, the clause on the "election of
the 11th president" should be changed before the referendum.
Turkey's High Election Council (YSK) has not clarified its position
on these articles.
Babacan on Middle East Tour, May Visit Baghdad
Islamist-oriented Zaman reports that over the weekend, Foreign
Minister Ali Babacan is to kick off a Middle East tour of Syria,
Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. The tour is seen as a preparation
for the expanded meeting of Iraq's neighbors to take place in
Istanbul next month. In Damascus on Saturday, Babacan is expected
to meet his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem and President Bashar
Assad. On Sunday Babacan will go to Israel to discuss bilateral
ties and the situation in Palestine, and move on to Palestine on
Monday to meet President Mahmoud Abbas. Babacan will visit Amman on
Tuesday on the last leg of his tour, reports Zaman.
Meanwhile, all-news channel NTV reports "high-level diplomatic
sources" said Babacan could pay a "surprise" visit to Iraq on his
tour of the Middle East. The FM could meet his Iraqi counterpart
Hoshyar Zebari and President Talabani in Baghdad, but will not visit
northern Iraq, sources told NTV.
Turkey May Face Iraqi Refugee Crisis
Mainstream Hurriyet warns that Turkey could face a serious refugee
crisis after Ramadan when Syria closes doors to incoming Iraqi
refugees. Iraqi refugees have started to leave Syria following a
government announcement that visas would be required for Iraqi
nationals. Official data says Turkey currently hosts 4,355 Iraqi
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Iraqi Kurds: If there is no Kirkuk Referendum, Kurds will Secede
Liberal Radikal reports that the commission working on the Kirkuk
referendum decided that, as the first step in referendum process,
the census should take place in November 15. Meanwhile, Regional
Kurdish Administration leader Mesud Barzani's spokesman Kadir Aziz
said that Kurds will secede from Iraq if the referendum doesn't take
place. Aziz also stressed that the Shiite-majority Iraqi government
signed a security agreement with Turkey to get Ankara's support
because Ankara always supports the Sunnis. "Turkey's aim is to
legalize a possible cross-border operation into Northern Iraq. The
Iraqi government is unable to control even Baghdad, so how would
could they pursue the PKK in the Kandil Mountains?" spokesman Aziz
added. Meanwhile, the commission decided to return the properties
given to Arab population during the Baath regime to the Turkmen
Editorial Commentary: Armenian Genocide Resolution, US-Turkey
Yilmaz Oztuna observes in the conservative daily Turkiye: "Eight
former Secretaries of State recently sent a joint letter to the
Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi
has obviously committed herself to being sympathetic to Armenians
and to defending their lies. Her first step after becoming the
Speaker of the House was an effort to pass a resolution to recognize
the 1915 events as Turkish genocide against Armenians. She
received, in return, warnings as high as from President Bush as well
as others but she seemed not to care. Given the situation, I am not
very sure if the joint letter by US Secretaries will do any good.
In normal conditions, such a letter should be strong enough to give
politicians a wake up call, but it seems 'being wrong' is not a
phrase in a politician's vocabulary. However it is very important
that Secretaries with different views and from different parties
have stood together to warn of the negative consequences of a
resolution on the future of Turkish-American relations. It was
Armenians who started mass murders in 1915 against the Turkish
population and later Turks had to respond. Why is it so difficult
to find out this fact?"
Dogan Heper writes in the mainstream daily Milliyet: "It seems to me
that there are three reasons for anti-Americanism in Turkey: the
Armenian Genocide Resolution in the Congress; the situation in Iraq
in its current and future form; and the US's treatment of the PKK.
There is no way to see sympathy for Americans among the Turkish
people as long as these three issues remain on the agenda.
Particularly the PKK issue is something for which Turks will never
forgive Washington. The level of anti-Americanism can only decrease
when and if the US engages in a serious struggle against the PKK, a
group the US, too, has declared a terrorist organization.
Washington lost Turkey due to its wrong policies and it will not be
easy to gain back hearts and minds."
- French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will pay an official
visit to Ankara on Thursday to meet FM Babacan, Prime Minister
Erdogan and President Gul to discuss EU-Turkey and the PKK leaders
in France before leaving Turkey on Friday evening.
- Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will travel to northern Cyprus on
Thursday for meetings including one with "President" Mehmet Ali
- An unidentified gunman shot at the Kurdish party DTP HQ in Ankara
and escaped in a car, shouting "Traitors." DTP said the attack had
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commonalities with the killing of 12 civilians in Sirnak and
Tuesday's bomb blasts in Izmir.
- Interior Minister Besir Atalay said in response to a motion by
Kurdish DTP MP Hasip Kaplan that in east and southeast Turkey,
151,000 displaced people have returned to their homes and received
aid totaling 57 million Turkish Lira.
- Poland's ambassador to Iraq was wounded as explosions targeted his
diplomatic convoy in Baghdad Wednesday.
- Myanmar's junta has released 80 monks who were rounded up last
week in a crackdown on the biggest anti-government protests in
nearly 20 years.
- North Korea has agreed to declare all its nuclear programs and
disable its main atomic reactor under US supervision by the end of
- The Dutch government plans to spend 2.3 million Euro to fight
"honor killings" in the country.