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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/SE, EUR/PD, NEA/PD, DRL
JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2008

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In Today's Papers

Greece's Karamanlis Pays Historic Visit to Turkey
All papers report Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited
Ankara for the first official visit to Turkey by a Greek leader in
49 years. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Erdogan and Prime Minister
Karamanlis held a joint press conference after their meeting. In
response to a question concerning the Aegean continental shelf,
Karamanlis said Greece has declared its readiness to go to the
International Court at The Hague, and that a solution would help
improve the ties between Turkey and Greece. When asked about
Cyprus, Karamanlis said reunification was essential, "We are ready
to provide all help in the efforts to find a solution." Erdogan
said talks for reunification should begin after the general
elections in south Cyprus, stressing he expected Karamanlis to
support the negotiations. When asked about the Greek Orthodox
Patriarchate in Istanbul, Karamanlis said if the Ecumenical
Patriarchate was seated in Turkey, it would be a "European passport"
for Turkey. He also asked for the reopening of Halki Seminary in
Istanbul. Erdogan said the characterization 'Ecumenical' was of
internal interest to the Christian Orthodox world, adding Ankara was
evaluating the issue of the Seminary and would make a decision.
Karamanlis was hopeful it would not take another 49 years for future
official Greek visits to Turkey.

Papers say consensus was reached between Karamanlis and Erdogan
regarding non-Muslim minority problems and the cooperation against
terror. "Old demands are still on the table," says Milliyet,
underlining that Karamanlis did not concede on Greek policies
concerning the rights of Greek Orthodox minorities in Turkey and the
territorial disputes in the Aegean. Several papers say Turkey and
Greece turned a new page in relations, and that there was a "climate
of friendship" at the "historic" meeting between the two prime
ministers.

On Thursday, Karamanlis is to meet with the main opposition CHP
leader Deniz Baykal. Afterwards, the Greek PM will be received by
President Abdullah Gul and will address a conference at Bilkent
University before he moves on to Istanbul later in the day.

'Ergenekon' Operation against Deep-State Affiliated Gang Continues
All papers report on Thursday, two more suspects were detained in
the southeastern city of Diyarbakir for being members of an illegal
underground nationalist gang known as "Ergenekon." The group was
plotting to assassinate Kurdish politicians as well as Turkey's
Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. Papers say the
"Ergenekon" network was behind the 2007 killing of Turkish-Armenian
journalist Hrant Dink, the murder of an Italian Catholic priest in
2006, the killing of a high justice in an attack on Turkey's top
administrative court Danistay in 2006, and the bomb attacks on the
nationalist-left-leaning Cumhuriyet daily. Among the detainees is
lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, who filed court cases against Hrant Dink and
Orhan Pamuk under article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes
it a crime to insult "Turkishness." Fuat Turgut, the lawyer
representing Dink murder suspect Yasin Hayal, was also detained.
Earlier this week, police arrested 33 people, including retired
military officers, lawyers and journalists in an operation against
the group. The group has been linked to the shadowy 'deep state,'
code for nationalists in the police, gendarme, and state
bureaucracy. Eight months ago, police seized 27 grenades and TNT
blocks during an operation in Umraniye, a shanty town in Istanbul.
Papers speculate retired general Veli Kucuk is a key leader in the
organization. The suspects are expected to be brought to court
today or tomorrow, according to papers.

Papers opine the suspects tried to create a "climate for a coup" in
2008 by carrying out assassinations. The group also wanted to prove
they had powerful backers in the military and bureaucracy that
deeply distrust the ruling AKP government. Several columnists in
today's papers warn that it is now up to the judiciary to penalize

ANKARA 00000146 002.2 OF 003


the gang members and put an end to the group.

AKP Proposes a Constitutional Amendment to MHP
Sabah, Milliyet, Vatan, Cumhuriyet, Radikal, Zaman and others:
Papers report that the negotiations between the AKP and MHP
regarding the turban issue began yesterday. The ruling AKP proposed
amendments to constitutional articles 10, 13 and 42 in order to find
a solution to the turban issue. Article 10 is about equality before
law; Article 13 is about basic rights and freedoms and Article 42 is
about the right to education. Liberal Radikal reports that PM
Erdogan is impatient regarding the headscarf issue and does not want
to wait for a new constitution. Mainstream Sabah reports that MHP
approaches the proposal cautiously.

Meanwhile, responding questions of CNN Turk, the main opposition
party CHP leader Deniz Baykal said "beneath the turban debates,
there is a search for a new regime. It seems that the ruling party
is bored with secularism. I feel the creation of a 'religious
state' is approaching."

Cartoon Crisis
Sabah, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, Vatan and others report that Sisli
Chief Public Prosecutor in Istanbul opened an investigation against
Cumhuriyet cartoonists Musa Kart and Zafer Temocin on charges of
insulting President Gul with their cartoons. If a court case is
allowed to proceed, both cartoonists will be tried and could face up
to four years in prison.

Editorial Commentary on Sudan's al-Bashir Visit to Turkey
Soli Ozel commented in mainstream Sabah (1/24): "Foreign policy is
a serious thing and cannot be run by fantasies. Once fantasy
prevails over reality, there is a heavy price to pay. The visit of
Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to Turkey is a shameful scandal.
Whoever is responsible for this policy decision has harmed Turkey's
foreign policy and its image abroad. This cannot be justified as
creating business opportunities with Sudan. A bloody dictator was
welcomed to Turkey's Presidency. President Gul, for the sake of
Sudan, preferred to take a mild tone in describing the Darfur
massacre as a 'human drama.' There is an argument that Turkey must
talk with everybody and make useful suggestions. But Turkey has not
been able to change anybody's attitude so far. The leader of Hamas
was welcomed in Turkey, but Hamas did not change any of its hard
lined policies after the visit. Hamas did not release Israeli
soldiers just because Turkey can talk to both Hamas and Syria. The
benchmark for success in foreign policy is measured through national
interests and not through fantasies."

Semih Idiz commented in mainstream Milliyet (1/24): "The president
of Sudan came to Turkey as an official guest of the Turkish
President. Normally, Omer al-Bashir should be welcomed with
protests. Instead, he received a warm welcome, which helped his
notorious regime gain morale. As a result of this warm welcome,
Turkey will suffer from a loss of credibility. If this was a
necessary visit, we should have seen a stronger message from
president Gul concerning Darfur. He could have suggested that,
unless Islamic nations address the Darfur crisis, the Western world
will intervene. In other words, al-Bashir should have left Turkey
with a frown instead of a smile. On the contrary, he was provided
with the best possible treatment and was sent back with a smile on
his face. There must be something else behind the reason for this
visit: perhaps it was due to Islamic or Sunni solidarity."

TV Highlights
NTV

Domestic News

- One police officer and two militants were killed in fighting
during security operations on suspected al-Qaeda houses in the
southeastern city of Gaziantep.

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- Turkish markets tumble again -- both the USD and Euro gained
against the Turkish Lira in Wednesday's trading in Istanbul stock
exchange.

- Turkish authorities are trying to contain an outbreak of avian
influenza reported in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak earlier
this week. It has yet to be determined if the bird flu is the
deadly H5N1 strain of the virus or a less dangerous strain.


International News

- Abdullah Demirtas, the Kurdish Mayor of Sur Municipality in
Diyarbakir who was removed from office last year by the top
administrative court Danistay, has applied to the European Court of
Human Rights (ECHR) to reverse the Danistay decision.

- Turkish General Staff (TGS) chief General Yasar Buyukanit met with
the British Defense Secretary Des Browne.

- The Albanian Head of State, Bamir Topi, told the Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) that he wants an independent and
democratic Kosovo integrated into Europe.

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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