Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2008
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In Today's Papers
Erdogan Attends the 'Alliance of Civilizations' Talks in Madrid
All papers report Prime Minister Erdogan is in Madrid to attend the
Alliance of Civilizations Summit. On Monday, he met with his
Spanish counterpart, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
During a breakfast meeting with 'Europa Press,' Erdogan said he
cannot predict when Turkey's cross border offensive against the PKK
in northern Iraq will end, "the authorization for operations expires
after one year. If our fight against terrorism doesn't end after
one year, we will ask the parliament for a new authorization to
continue." He said Turkey's only objective is to eliminate
terrorists, adding Turkey has the technology and the intelligence to
do so "without hurting civilians." Erdogan emphasized that Turkey
values Iraq's territorial integrity. Erdogan thanked the Bush
Administration for the postponement of the Armenian genocide
resolution submitted to the US Congress. "The Turkish government
opened flights to Yerevan and restored an Armenian Orthodox church
in Akhtamar Island in Van. There are 40,000 Armenians living in
Turkey and Armenian citizens living in Turkey do not have problems,"
Erdogan said. He claimed the Armenian Diaspora is seeking financial
compensation from Turkey. Erdogan said that within a month his
government would propose changes to article 301 of the Turkish penal
code which makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness."
He vowed a new constitution will solve the ban on wearing
Muslim-style headscarves in public offices and universities in a way
which would not cause tensions. "Even if the headscarf is a
political symbol, you cannot ban political symbols or say that
wearing a symbol is a crime," Erdogan remarked. "Girls in the US
and Europe can wear headscarves in universities, but they cannot in
Turkey where 99 percent of the population is Muslim. I believe we
will resolve this problem," he said.
Asked why Turkey has drawn closer to Iran for energy cooperation
even though Tehran has problems with the US and Israel, Erdogan said
"Iran has gas; Israel and the US are unable to meet Turkey's energy
demand." He added, "The US is a friend and an ally of Turkey; they
have to understand that we must import gas from Iran," Erdogan said.
Turkey to Become 'Uranium Enrichment Center'
Mainstream Hurriyet columnist Erdal Saglam writes on page one that
on Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials will
attend an international energy meeting in Istanbul and will discuss
whether to set up a uranium enrichment center in Turkey. Top IAEA
officials and representatives from the US, Russia, France, and
Britain are to participate in the Istanbul talks. "The US, in the
face of rising costs of natural gas and oil, wants the IAEA to
establish a single authority on uranium enrichment. Turkey has been
discussing the matter with the US, and would like to be considered
as a candidate for uranium enrichment," says Saglam. According to
Saglam, Turkey claims that Iran has said that it will accept uranium
enrichment activities in third countries only if it is done in
Turkey. The US blocked candidate requests from Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Saglam suggests that Turkey's
designation as a uranium enrichment center could end the argument
between the US and Iran.
Debates about Moving The Central Bank to Istanbul Grow
Milliyet, Radikal, Sabah, Bugun, Zaman and others: Liberal Radikal
opines "If the Government is right, then Ankara should be emptied
out. If it is necessary to move financial organizations to Istanbul
then why are the Coastal Security Command and the Naval Forces
headquartered in Ankara when there is no sea in Ankara; why are the
headquarters of the Southeast Anatolia Project in Ankara; why
doesn't RTUK go to Istanbul because TV Channels are headquartered
there?" Radikal and Milliyet report that former Central Bank
presidents were joined by the opposition party CHP in their
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objections to the decision. Former President Sureyya Serdengecti
said that "moving the Central Bank to Istanbul is wrong for more
than one reason, but the basic priority are the values of the
Republic. Ataturk established the Republic, Ziraat Bank, Is Bank
and the Central bank are in Ankara. Now, what is the meaning of
moving all these to Istanbul?" Mainstream Milliyet quotes the
Chairman of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Sinan Aygun, who said
"financial migration will not benefit Istanbul's position as the
finance headquarters, but will cause a major damage to Ankara".
President Gul Interview by Al-Hayat
Milliyet quotes President Gul during an interview with Arabic News
Outlet Al-Hayat that Turkey did not promise anything to the US in
return for its support of cross-border-operations, "Since Iraq is
under the US control, the fight against terrorism is the US'
responsibility and the US is fulfilling its responsibility."
President Gul added that the fight will continue until the terrorist
organization is eradicated.
Sudan's President to Come to Turkey
Milliyet reports that Sudanese president Omer-Al-Bashir will come to
Turkey next week as the official guest of President Gul. President
Bashir is accused of genocide in the killings of 200,000 and the
displacement of up to 2,000,000 in Darfur. Reportedly, Bashir will
come to Ankara on January 21 and will be received with a full
military ceremony at the Presidential Palace. When Gul was foreign
minister, he took into account the sensitivity of the international
community and declined to pay a visit to Sudan. There are
allegations that Sudan pressured Turkey to arrange the visit and PM
Erdogan played a role in the arrangements.
"What's the Need for Moving the Central Bank?"
Murat Yetkin wrote in intellectual-liberal Radikal: "It is obvious
that the AKP government did not even ask for the Central Bank's
opinion on the moving plan. Thus, Central Bank authorities in
Ankara, including its President, are not doing anything for this
plan. Former Central Bank Presidents are not talking positively
about the move either. Sureyya Serdengecti, a former president,
notes the close link between the Treasury and the Central Bank and
says 'It does not make any sense to move the Central Bank from
Ankara to Istanbul while the Central Bank continues to be heavily
connected with public funds (Treasury).' Experts indicate that the
Central Bank is a public institution and central banks are located
in their respective capitals around the world with only a few
exceptions. There is also a growing speculation about PM Erdogan's
and the ruling AKP's political motives behind this decision.
Circles opposed to the ruling AKP, including the main opposition
party CHP, claim that PM Erdogan is acting deliberately to dilute
the political influence of Ankara in decision-making mechanisms. PM
Erdogan understands this sentiment because even diplomatic circles
in Ankara have started wondering whether the AKP is acting with a
hidden agenda. The decision to move the Central Bank to Istanbul
does not have any significance nor does it makes sense. PM Erdogan
should be able to show virtue and admit his wrong decision."
"Headscarf Ban is to be Lifted"
Yalcin Dogan wrote in mainstream Hurriyet: "Talking with Professor
Ergun Ozbudun, the head of the committee charged with drafting the
new constitution, indicates that the committee members have taken
the European Court of Human Rights and its verdicts as basis for
their work. Based on Ozbudun's explanation about the draft, which
is to be made public soon, the following items are some highlights.
However, the draft will be vetted by the the AKP, therefore,
Professor Ozbudun cannot guarantee that all of these listed will
remain in the final draft:
-- The individual will be stronger against the state;
-- The President will no longer make Higher Education Council (YOK)
and judicial appointments;
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-- Supreme Military Council decisions will be open to judicial
-- The Supreme Military Administrative Court will be abolished;
-- There will no longer be two military judges on the Constitutional
-- The universities will be autonomous and the YOK will be
responsible for planning and coordination;
-- Compulsory religion courses will become optional;
-- The turban ban at universities will be lifted."
- Fifteen suspects have been arrested in Sirnak for aiding the PKK.
Five suspects have been arrested in Elazig for recruiting fighters
for the PKK.
- A police officer, accused of killing a young driver who refused to
pull over, has been released by the court.
- Turkey's Dogus Otomotiv said the Turkish automotive sector will
grow 5 percent this year, shrugging off the impact of an economic
slowdown in the US.
- Iraq's Parliament has voted to allow members of Saddam Hussein's
Baath Party to return to government jobs.
- President Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia for talks at the end of
his eight-day Middle East trip.
- British Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said all visitors to
Britain requiring visas will have to be fingerprinted starting