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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000242

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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
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2008


In Today's Papers

EU Joins Headscarf Debates in Turkey
All papers report that yesterday, Prime Minister Erdogan denounced
criticisms from the Inter-University Council of university rectors
and the Turkish Union of Bar Associations against AKP-MHP's
proposals for turban reforms. Erdogan said the two institutions did
not represent all academics and lawyers in Turkey. "The parliament
is the only authority that can speak on behalf of the Turkish
people," Erdogan emphasized.

On Thursday, 10,000 people rallied in the Aegean port city of Izmir
to protest against headscarf reforms. Representatives of 76 NGOs
will stage an "Independence and Secularism" rally on Saturday in
Ankara when parliament holds the second round of voting on
constitutional changes to headscarf laws.

The Turkish Union of Chambers (TOBB) president Rifat Hisarciklioglu
joined the turban debates by criticizing efforts to discuss clothing
in the constitution. "The constitution is not a fashion magazine.
Politicians should work toward social compromise on the matter,"
Hisarciklioglu said.

Papers report European Union Expansion Commissioner Olli Rehn's
office said the EU has "never asked Turkey to make any headscarf
reforms." Mainstream Milliyet says this statement came in response
to Foreign Minister Babacan's attempts to link the headscarf debate
to the EU entry bid. Marc Pierini, the Head of the Delegation of
the European Commission to Turkey, urged the Turkish government to
also consider the rights of those who do not wear the headscarf.
Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports the European Parliament
official reporting on Turkey's accession, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, has
expressed concern that women in Turkey would be put under religious
pressure to wear the headscarf if the ban is removed. Liberal
Radikal says on its front page the Constitutional Court decision on
the headscarf reforms will be a difficult challenge because it will
change the direction of Turkey's future.

Editorial Commentary on Turban Debates
Mehmet Tezkan wrote in mainstream Vatan (2/8): "This week's debates
are enough to prove the turban is a political symbol. If this was
not true, the debates would not have conjured up controversies
surrounding secularism and democracy. The turban was a symbol in
the past as well. But the reason for today's political polarization
in Turkey is that the turban has become the flag of a political
party. People re-opened old wounds and turban debates intensified.
What caused all this? The AKP was not successful in being
persuasive and establishing trust among people. People believe the
AKP is gradually returning to its previous Islamist policies. This
belief makes people turn to the streets and attracts harsh criticism
from the judiciary. In other words, the high judiciary is adding to
the fears Turkey will become like Iran. Despite all the guarantees
given by PM Erdogan regarding the protection of secularism, people
are increasingly skeptical about AKP policies. Thus, AKP members'
past policies are causing deep secularism debates."

Yilmaz Oztuna commented in conservative-nationalist Turkiye (2/8):
"For years, I argued in my columns that Turkey's most important
national issue is its accession to the European Union. Recently, it
has become difficult to understand our position regarding EU
reforms. It is obvious that only the 'turban issue' is on Turkey's
agenda at the moment. Unfortunately, the EU and the struggle
against terrorism no longer have a place on the agenda. Turkey's
turban polarization has become more defined and the debates are
harsher than ever. I am concerned that this polarization will turn
into a permanent national characteristic. The solution lies with
implementing turban freedom in the universities with calmness. We
should end this debate now. Otherwise, Turkey, under these
conditions, will fail to reach the level of other contemporary
civilizations."

ANKARA 00000242 002 OF 003

New High Court Chief Criticizes Turban Reforms
All papers report the new Court of Appeals Chairman Hasan Gerceker
told a gathering of judiciary members in a ceremony before he
assumed office Thursday that the question of freeing the turban in
universities was "not simply a turban issue." "It's not possible
for the country to go back to a system filled with superstitions,"
Gerceker said, stressing that judges had "the authority and
responsibility to point out wrongdoings." He noted the parliament
had the power to carry out constitutional and legal reforms, but
stressed that this authority cannot be used to "weaken secularism."
Gerceker also said the court would make a statement about the turban
initiatives soon.

Erdogan Visits the Site of the Ludwigshafen Fire
All papers report Prime Minister Erdogan called for calm on Thursday
when he visited the site of a fire in Ludwigshafen in western
Germany, which killed nine Turks and heightened community tensions.
Erdogan was greeted by Turks who carried signs that read "Yesterday
it was Jews, now it is Turks." "The pain of Ludwigshafen should
pave the way for peace," Erdogan said in front of the burnt-out
building, "Let us all help to strengthen the friendship between
Germany and Turkey." He urged the Turkish press to stop fuelling
tensions. Meanwhile, the German Ambassador to Turkey Eckhard Cuntz
asked the Turkish press not to exploit the racial issue. "The
investigation in Ludwigshafen continues; no conclusions have been
made that racists started the fire," Cuntz told the
Islamist-oriented Zaman.

The cause of the February 3 blaze in an apartment block in
Ludwigshafen remains unclear but speculation in the local Turkish
community and in Turkish media claim it was a racially motivated
arson attack. A Turkish team has traveled to Germany to assist in
the investigation.

Taraf: Turkey Holds 'Secret' Talks with PKK
Leftist Taraf says on page one that Ankara has established contact
with the PKK indirectly while carrying out diplomacy with northern
Iraqi Kurdish leaders. According to leftist Taraf, "In 2008, the
Turkish government plans an 'official opening' to northern Iraq with
a three-stage plan in which the Iraqi President Talabani will be
invited to Turkey, a Turkish consulate will be opened in Erbil, and
the federal Kurdish administration in northern Iraq will be
recognized. In talks with Kurdish leaders, Turkey discussed amnesty
for PKK members who have not joined armed action, and sending the
organization's leaders to third countries. The Turkish military is
not opposed to a 'political solution' by the AKP government and the
Turkish intelligence service MIT. The Turkish military operations
into northern Iraq, however, suspended the talks and delayed
attempts to reach a solution."

Belgium Frees Dev-Sol Leaders
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others report a Belgian court acquitted the leaders of the far left
DHKP-C (Dev-Sol) Thursday. The court did not take into account
attacks outside Belgium and rejected calls to describe the group as
a terrorist organization. The court in Anvers acquitted the
organization's leader Dursun Karatas, as well as other top members
Zerrin Sari, Sukriye Akar and Bahar Kimyongur. Fehriye Erdal, Musa
Asoglu and Kaya Saz were sentenced to suspended prison terms from 21
months to 6 years. One of the acquitted suspects was Fehriye Erdal,
who is wanted by Turkish law enforcement for the assassination of
Ozdemir Sabanci, a renowned Turkish businessman.

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- The trial of the murderers of Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant

ANKARA 00000242 003 OF 003


Dink will resume February 11.

- US Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson said Thursday in Hatay that
"the US would never provide arms for the PKK or other terror
organizations." Wilson also said the US is not taking sides in the
ongoing headscarf debate in Turkey.

- Two cars in Istanbul have been set on fire by unknown attackers.


International News

- Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff,
said Wednesday Turkey and US cooperation against the PKK in recent
months was "remarkable."

- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is to pay an official visit to
Turkey on February 12-13 to meet with President Abdullah Gul, Prime
Minister Erdogan, the Defense Minister, and the military Chief of
Staff.

- Secretary Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband paid a
surprise visit to Kabul where they called on NATO allies to provide
more troops to Afghanistan.

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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