Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2008
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In Today's Papers
President Gul on Turkey-EU Relations
All papers report President Abdullah Gul told Turkish journalists
Wednesday that 2007 was a year of domestic debates in Turkey. Gul
said Turkey wasted precious time because of the presidential
elections, the general elections, and budget debates. Furthermore,
he emphasized there is no reason to delay EU reforms in 2008. "2008
must be the year of the European Union in Turkey. We have a
roadmap. The positions of those opposed to Turkey's accession will
be weakened," Gul said. In addition, Gul pointed out that the ninth
EU harmonization package would be passed by parliament soon.
Erdogan: Constitutional Change Is Not Necessary to Lift Headscarf
All papers report Prime Minister Erdogan said there is no need to
wait for constitutional reforms to resolve the headscarf debate.
Erdogan told the press on his return from Spain that the issue could
be resolved with the support of opposition party MHP. "We want to
settle the matter through solidarity, not by escalating tensions,"
Erdogan emphasized. On whether the headscarf was a political
symbol, Erdogan said, "It would be a political symbol if it was worn
only by AKP members. There are, however, women wearing the
headdress in other political parties in Turkey. We can work out a
solution with the MHP; they have announced they were ready to
contribute to a solution," said Erdogan.
Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal said the turban is a political
symbol. "Turban has nothing to do with the traditional headwear in
Anatolia. If it's put into the constitution, it means Turkey has
become a male-dominant society which pushes its women to cover their
heads," stressed Baykal.
Prior to his return home, Erdogan participated in a business forum
in Madrid. Responding to a question on whether Turkey's Kurds would
be given a 'special status' or would be subjected to 'minority'
regulations, Erdogan said Turkey's Kurds have no wish to be
classified as an ethnic minority, and asserted that they have the
same rights as other citizens of Turkey. When asked about EU-Turkey
relations, Erdogan said Turkey's membership to the EU will benefit
both Turkey and the EU. The PM also said the EU has responsibility
for Cyprus because it is a member of the EU, despite the fact that
Nicosia rejected the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan's Plan for
Editorial Commentary on Turban Ban in Turkey
Okay Gonensin commented in mainstream Vatan (1/17): "PM Erdogan
recently admitted that the turban can be a political symbol. This
argument is exactly the reason for not allowing the turban at
universities. It may seem innocent to argue that anyone should be
free to wear the turban, whether for religious or political reasons.
However, this argument entirely contradicts the fundamental basis
of secularism because this argument accepts that religion can be a
basis for politics. Banning turban in public places aims at
protecting those who do not want to wear the turban. Once it is set
free, the social pressure system will work perfectly and the issue
will eventually go from the turban-wearing debate to the good Muslim
and bad Muslim debate. The ruling AKP insists on the turban issue
and justifies it with freedoms. Yet it is a sheer contradiction
that the same government does nothing to change article 301 to pave
the way for full freedom of expression. There is an act of
insincerity here, and AKP's sole focus is bringing the turban back.
This will harm the process of the constitutional debate and the
possibility for social consensus on the most problematic issues."
New Bill to Return Assets of Non-Muslim Foundations
Sabah, Radikal, and Cumhuriyet report the Turkish Parliament's
justice commission approved a draft law to return assets seized by
the state which belonged to non-Muslim minority foundations. Nine
provisions of the bill were vetoed by former President Ahmet Necdet
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Sezer. In 1974, 28 immovable assets of minority foundations were
seized by the General Directorate for Foundations, and 114 others
were seized by the Treasury. The new bill envisages an 18-month
period for the return of the properties; if that is not possible,
minority foundations will be paid compensation.
Karamanlis to Visit Turkey in Late January
Mainstream Milliyet reports an unidentified high-ranking Greek
official told AFP news agency that Greek Prime Minister Costas
Karamanlis will visit Turkey this month. Karamanlis' uncle,
Constantin, was the last Greek PM to visit Turkey in an official
capacity in May 1959. Karamanlis is to meet Erdogan, his Turkish
counterpart, in Ankara on January 23. "The goal is to improve
Greek-Turkish relations. The climate has improved, especially on
economic issues, but progress is still needed on political matters,"
the Greek official said. In addition, the official said continental
shelf and airspace disputes in the Aegean Sea will also be discussed
during the visit.
Decision Day for New F-16s
Liberal Radikal reports that the General Staff, Air Forces Command
and Defense Industry Secretariat will decide whether to install
Turkish-made or foreign-made software in 30 new F-16s. Their
decision will be submitted to the Defense Industry executive board,
which is comprised of PM Erdogan, Chief of General Staff General
Buyukanit, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and Defense Undersecretary
US Market Fears Hits Turkish Stock Market
Sabah, Milliyet, Hurriyet, Radikal, Vatan, Yeni Safak and others:
Due to fears of recession in the US, Turkey's main shares index,
Istanbul Stock Exchange (IMKB) made a sharp decline in the opening
session on Wednesday. This was the second drastic fall in two days
in a row. Mainstream Sabah reports that the increase in inflation
in the US was at its highest for the last 17 years.
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak writes in "Fear of Collapse on Wall
Street" that "some countries are mobilizing forces within US finance
establishments in order to stop the blood loss," as fears of "a
second great depression grow." Mainstream Vatan, in "Turkey Will
Also Be Pulled Under the Global Wave," notes that "Turkish firms
lost twenty-five billion dollars in the past two weeks due to the
Dow Jones dropping."
Editorial Commentary on Sarkozy in the Middle East
Sami Kohen commented in mainstream Milliyet (1/17): "President
Bush's tour of the Middle East almost coincided with the French
President's visit to the region. It is clear that French leader
Sarkozy gained more diplomatic and economic ground from visiting the
region than President Bush. Because of Sarkozy's visit, France is
now able to establish a military base in Abu Dhabi. This means
France now has the capability to demonstrate its military and
diplomatic presence in the Gulf. Additionally, Sarkozy made some
very profitable deals with Arabs. President Bush's plans were more
ambitious than Sarkozy's but Bush's trip did not end on a high note.
President Bush appeared like a "demander" as he made a lot of
demands to the leaders he visited. Meanwhile, President Sarkozy
appeared the "provider" because leaders he saw requested nuclear
technology, weapons and profitable contracts from him. This proves
Arab leaders are more sympathetic toward the French president than
the US president."
- Turkish security forces have launched land and air operations
against the PKK in the Cudi Mountains.
- Constitutional Court President Hasim Kilic said it would better to
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reform some of the provisions of the constitution instead of
adopting a new constitution.
- Alparslan Arslan, the key suspect in prison for the murder of a
prominent judge in the Council of State attack, cannot meet with
visitors until June 18 because he violated discipline rules in the
- In February, the Defense Industry Undersecretariat will hold a
meeting with local defense companies to discuss production of
- The Greek Parliament has approved a bill authorizing Turkish
foundations in Western Thrace to elect their own administrators.
- The Atlantic Monthly has on its cover a map which shows Kurdistan
stretching from northern Iraq to Turkey's eastern Black Sea areas.
- President Bush wrapped up his Middle East tour with a visit to
Sharm al-Sheikh to meet with President Hosni Mubarak.
- Russia declares 2008 as 'Turkish Cultural Year.' Festivities will
be kicked off April 8 in Moscow and will be followed by other events
in St Petersburg, Kazan, and Sochi.