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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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
TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2008

In Today's Papers

President Gul in the US
All papers report President Abdullah Gul spoke to Turkish
journalists during his flight to the United States. He stated that
troubles between the US and Turkey are a thing of the past. "We
have restored the atmosphere of trust. The progress concerning the
Armenian issue, the new phase in the fight against the PKK, and the
developments in Iraq show our troubles are over; a new period has
commenced," said Gul. "The US is no ordinary country -- it is
Turkey's most important ally. The two countries share the same
determination in the fight against terrorism and pursue the same
goals regarding Iraq," Gul noted.

Gul continued, "Despite our differences over Iraq policies, the US
has accepted the importance of Iraq's political unity and
territorial integrity. Turkey is the most experienced country in
the region; now things have started to develop in the way Turkey
wants," emphasized Gul. Gul added that "if the PKK terrorists were
taken out of northern Iraq, Turkey's contribution to Iraq would have
been '10 times greater.'" Gul recalled that Turkey was the only
country that did not shut down its embassy in Iraq during the war.
Gul also said Turkey played a major role in the Middle East peace
process and Lebanon's democratization. Gul noted that his program
in the US was very important, underlining the fact that it would be
the first official visit of a Turkish president to the US in twelve
years. "Secretary Rice is an old friend of mine, and I've accepted
her invitation for breakfast. Vice-President Cheney is very
influential, especially regarding energy issues, and I've accepted
his request for a meeting. Turkey and the US deal with a number of
common issues, including the fight against terror, therefore I will
meet with the US Secretary of Defense as well," said Gul. Papers
say Gul is expected to discuss Pakistan during his meeting with
Secretary Rice today.

SIPDIS

President Gul will return to Turkey on January 11 after wrapping up
his talks in New York.

Editorial Commentary on Gul Visit to the US
Hasan Cemal wrote in mainstream Milliyet (1/8): "A lot of things
can be said about Turkish-American relations, yet both countries
believe in the need to maintain good bilateral relations. Despite
some ups and downs over recent years, both the US and Turkey have a
better appreciation of each other. American policy interests cover
vast territory -from the Balkans to the Caucasus to the Middle East.
Turkey has an undeniable influence in the region; Washington is now
taking Turkey's regional influence seriously. Developments
concerning Iran, Iraq, Kirkuk, Syria and Palestine proved that
Ankara was right in its assessments. Now Washington is paying more
attention to what Turkey thinks. Of course, Turkey and the US do
not have identical views on every issue, but their differences of
opinions are softening. More importantly, they are learning to
live together despite their differences. PM Erdogan's visit aimed
at a single goal: a tangible result in the fight against PKK.
President Gul's visit to Washington will contribute even more to the
momentum established by Erdogan's earlier visit. Both Turkey and
the US will revive their spirit of strategic partnership."

Rusen Cakir wrote in mainstream Vatan (1/8): "President Gul's visit
carries symbolic importance. By welcoming President Gul in
Washington, the US administration is acknowledging its mistaken
assessment concerning recent Turkish politics. Officials from the
very same administration tried to finish off Gul's career because he
was held responsible for the parliamentary motion in 2003 that
declined permission to American forces to pass through Turkey on the
way to Iraq. This anti-Gul campaign was initiated and pursued by
Vice President Dick Cheney; we simply do not know whether President
Bush was informed about Cheney's endeavors to discredit Gul. In
fact, it no longer matters. What matters now is the fact that
President Bush is welcoming Gul to his office. Thus Gul's visit to

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the US carries a very symbolic importance."


Changes to Article 301
All papers report Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said the ruling
AKP government will send a draft of article 301 reforms to
parliament this week. Article 301 of the penal code restricts free
speech, which the European Union wants changed. The draft suggests
replacing the word "republic" with "Republic of Turkey," deleting
the provision concerning penalties for violations of article 301
committed abroad, and reducing the maximum penalty under article 301
from three to two years in prison, which can be converted into a
fine. The draft also suggests changing "Turkishness" in the first
paragraph to "Turkish nation;" meanwhile, "insults on the Turkish
nation" will be punished only if malice is demonstrated. Finally,
any lawsuit opened on article 301 will be subject to the permission
of the Justice Minister, which means prosecutors cannot open cases
on their own.

The opposition party CHP deputy chairman Suha Okay said that article
301 cannot be lifted, stressing there were similar arrangements in
EU countries. MHP Deputy Group Chairman Oktay Vural said parliament
should not pass such an amendment. The pro-Kurdish DTP said they
support the draft, provided it was in line with international legal
norms.

Liberal Radikal says most of the proposed changes to article 301 are
cosmetic and the article should be abolished altogether. A lawyer
told Radikal that provisions designed to protect the state from free
speech cannot be described as "reform."

Parliament Speaker Toptan on Constitutional Amendments
Mainstream Hurriyet reports Parliamentary speaker Koksal Toptan said
on CNN Turk that he is feeling uneasy that constitutional amendment
talks were reduced to discussions about the turban. He noted that
the turban problem cannot be resolved by a new constitution as "no
constitution could include a provision saying 'wearing a headscarf
is allowed in universities;' such a thing would be against the
technique of constitution writing." Responding to a question about
whether a new constitution could include a provision on education in
Kurdish language, Toptan said "Putting such provisions in the
constitution is dangerous and wrong; it could cause divisions and
separations."

Iran Cuts Natural Gas Supply to Turkey
Sabah, Hurriyet, Cumhuriyet, Vatan and others: Leftist-nationalist
Cumhuriyet reports that Tehran cut off the natural gas supply to
Turkey and blamed harsh winter conditions in Iran as an excuse.
Russia also reduced the amount of the gas it gives to Turkey.
According to papers, Turkey is planning to request liquefied natural
gas from Algeria and Nigeria. Mainstream Vatan reports that Turkey
has faced this problem with Iran for three years in a row and there
is only a nine-day supply of natural gas left in stock. Energy
Minister Hilmi Guler requested PM Erdogan to intervene in the
issue.

Children's Chorus Interrogated for Singing Kurdish March
Sabah, Milliyet, Vatan and others: Mainstream Sabah reports that
twelve children from Diyarbakir Yenisehir Municipality Chorus were
interrogated yesterday by the prosecutor for singing a Kurdish song
at the International Culture and Art music festival in the US on
October 3, 2007. Vatan says the chorus performed songs in eight
different languages at the festival. One of the songs was the
anthem of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.

Youth Detained for Threatening to Assassinate Priest
All papers report S. S., a 17-year old boy who threatened to
assassinate Agepe Church priest Orhan Picaklar in the Black Sea port
city of Samsun, has been captured. Police detained the youth after
he called the priest and threatened to kill him. S. S. was released

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after saying he phoned the priest only to scare him and that he was
not linked to any organization.

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- The pro-Kurdish DTP has applied to the Constitutional Court for
additional time to prepare its defense in the lawsuit for the
closure of the party.

- Police detained 19 suspected members of the PKK in Ankara on
Monday. The suspects, most of them university students, were
allegedly preparing to stage terror attacks against the underground
transport system, shopping malls and state buildings in the capital.


- Abdulkadir Dilsiz, a high-level PKK official and a founder of
Roj-TV, has been captured in the Mediterranean province of Antalya.
Dilsiz allegedly traveled very often to Iraq.

- Deputy PM and government spokesman Cemil Cicek said Monday Turkish
people living in foreign countries will be able to cast votes in
general elections, referendums and presidential elections.

International News

- Barack Obama is the front-runner in the New Hampshire Democratic
primary.

- Tensions between the US and Iran increased over the weekend. Five
assault motorboats belonging to the Iranian 'Guardians of the
Revolution' approached and threatened to attack three US warships in
the Hormuz strait.

- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will brief President Bush on
Israel's interpretation of intelligence information on Tehran's
nuclear program.

- Nechirvan Barzani will be in office for another two years as the
leader of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.

MCELDOWNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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