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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
MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2008


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In Today's Papers

'Ergenekon' Gang Investigation Continues
All papers report over the weekend and today that a court charged
five ultra-nationalists for plotting a series of bomb attacks and
assassinations across Turkey. Papers report their aim was to topple
the ruling AKP government in a military coup in 2009. The court
decision follows the detentions of dozens of people last week after
a police investigation into a far-right group known as 'Ergenekon.'
Retired general Veli Kucuk, the accused ringleader of the gang, is
accused of ordering the murders of Turkish Armenian editor Hrant
Dink in Istanbul, three Christian Bible publishers in Malatya, and a
Council of State (Danistay) high justice in Ankara. The
organization is accused of bomb attacks against Cumhuriyet newspaper
offices and the Association of Martyrs' Families Chapter in
Diyabakir. Reports indicate, the group was also making preparations
to assassinate Prime Minister Erdogan, Islamist leader Fethullah
Gulen, and Turkey's Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Orhan Pamuk.
Mainstream Sabah claims the gang has raised funds through drug
trafficking and the help of the German intelligence service, BND.

Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak writes on Sunday that the Turkish
Orthodox Patriarchate spokesperson, Sevgi Erenerol, who is in
custody for alleged ties to Ergenekon, used the Patriarchate as a
meeting center for Ergenekon leaders Veli Kucuk, Zekeriya Ozturk,
Fikri Karadag, and Kemal Kerincsiz. Police found evidence linking
the gang with the CIA, MOSSAD, and the German intelligence service
BND, claims Yeni Safak. Leftist Taraf says the Turkish Orthodox
Patriarchate "was established in 1922 to reduce the influence of the
Istanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate" and the Patriarchate
"has served as an instrument of Ergenekon."

AKP-MHP to Meet Monday on Headscarf Reforms
All papers report the ruling AKP and opposition MHP officials will
meet Monday to discuss a plan to allow women to wear headscarves in
universities. AKP lawmaker Husnu Tuna, parliament's constitutional
commission member, said over the weekend that after headscarf
regulations were eased in universities, the ruling AKP would work to
remove the headscarf bans for civil servants as well. Mainstream
Hurriyet's Sunday edition reports that Prime Minister Erdogan asked
his staff to make clear that the headscarf reforms would be applied
only in universities, and that the reforms would not disrupt public
order and morals. Sunday papers also report many high school
students wore headscarves during exams in Ankara, Erzurum and
Denizli last week. Mainstream papers comment the students were
encouraged by the attitudes of the AKP government.

CHP leader Deniz Baykal warned Sunday that the reforms planned by
the AKP might transform the headscarf into a uniform for state
officials. Former Chief Prosecutor Sabih Kanadoglu said Turkey's
top problem was not the headscarf, but the exploitation of religion
for political purposes. "This process is moving toward a religious
dictatorship regime," said Kanadoglu.

Monday papers report President Abdullah Gul, during a visit to
Kayseri over the weekend, signaled he would favor a public
referendum on the turban. Gul's remarks drew strong reactions, with
CHP MP Mustafa Ozyurek saying "a referendum over the fundamentals of
the republic would divide people." Former Chief Prosecutor
Kanadoglu followed suit, saying "a referendum cannot be held on
whether to bring a Sharia regime to Turkey."

Mainstream Hurriyet expects a package of constitutional reforms to
be submitted to the parliament this week if the AKP and MHP reach a
compromise on the headscarf question.

Passenger Train Derails, Nine Killed
All papers report nine people were killed and at least 30 injured
when a train jumped the tracks on Sunday in Denizli province in
western Turkey. Passengers were stuck under the wreckage for as

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many as 12 hours. Initial investigations say the wreck could have
been caused by a broken train track. The train was traveling from
Istanbul to Denizli with more than 400 people on board. Thirty-nine
people were killed in 2004 when a high-speed train between Ankara
and Istanbul derailed.

Editorial Commentary: Turkey on or off Western Track; PM Erdogan on
the West

Ali Aslan commented in Islamist-oriented Zaman (1/28): "PM Erdogan
reacted harshly to the Democratic candidate Barack Obama's remarks
on the Armenian issue last week. In a very active election
atmosphere, all the candidates desperately need the support of all
kinds of groups. Candidates' stances, usually, change once they
enter the White House. During his election campaign, President Bush
also promised support for the Armenian resolution, but his stance
changed once he was elected. There was no need, at this point, for
PM Erdogan to exaggerate this issue and react so harshly.
Currently, the Armenian issue is shelved in the US Congress. It's
very possible that the genocide draft will not pass the Congress.
However, while the Armenian lobbies continuously pressure Congress,
it should be Ankara's priority to intensively lobby on the Congress.
Instead, unfortunately, the anti-Turkey gangs in Congress benefited
from two of Ankara's recent mistakes. One of them was inviting
Sudanese President Al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide in Darfur,
to Turkey. The other mistake was PM Erdogan's remarks that no
Israeli died in Israel from the rockets fired from Gaza. Luckily,
The US media is heavily involved in the election campaign and the
economic crisis, so they did not notice these two mistakes.
Otherwise, Turkey's image in the US would be damaged heavily. Even
though such acts seem to open doors for Turkey, they also damage
Turkey's image in the West. Moreover, such acts allow the US and
the EU to be skeptical about Turkey. Turkey should avoid these acts
because they give the impression that Turkey has derailed from the
Western route."

Semih Idiz wrote in mainstream Milliyet (1/28): "Since he was mayor
of Istanbul, PM Erdogan has consistently shocked us all with his
remarks. His latest remarks are some of the worst. At the
Education Ministry last week, Erdogan said to students preparing to
travel to Europe, "we have adopted only the immoral acts of the
West." As a matter of fact, there are two values we have adopted
from the West which we cannot ignore.
The first value is secularism, which is the basis of the republic.
The second value is popular democracy, which we have to develop and
advance continuously. It is natural for PM Erdogan to have problems
with the principle of secularism; secularism stands against the
values his party wants to force on the public. Nevertheless, he has
to be grateful for the democratic system instead of the Sharia
system, since the democratic system brought his party to power. PM
Erdogan should clearly explain what he meant by his remarks
regarding the western world's immoral acts and values. Otherwise,
these words will increase suspicions about his political aims, both
in Turkey and abroad."

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- On Sunday, Iran resumed gas exports to Turkey.

- The pro-Kurdish DTP deputy chairperson Emine Ayna said PKK leader
Abdullah Ocalan's proposal of a 'democratic confederation' in the
region should be discussed as an alternative to the US Broader
Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA).

- 200 dead birds have been found in the southeastern province of
Batman. The area has been quarantined in case the birds test
positive for the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

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International News

- Javad Vaeedi, Deputy Head of Iran's Supreme National Security
Council, said his country has produced 300 tons of uranium
hexafluoride (UF6) gas used for uranium enrichment in the Isfahan
nuclear facility.

- Prime Minister Olmert said Israel will resume the flow of
humanitarian aid and fuel supplies to Gaza.

- Russia's Election Commission has barred former Prime Minister and
Kremlin critic Mikhail Kasyanov from the upcoming March presidential
election.
MCELDOWNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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