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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
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2008


In Today's Papers

Turban Debate Intensifies with Party Leaders' Criticisms
All papers carry Prime Minister Erdogan's harsh criticisms against
the media and Deniz Baykal, leader of Turkey's main political
opposition party. In response, Baykal called the ruling AKP's
efforts to change the constitution an "assault on the republic."
Erdogan lashed out at the media for "exaggerating the confusion"
over turban reforms, which were passed by the ruling AKP and the
right-wing nationalist MHP. Erdogan said "some media groups" were
trying to portray Turkey as a country divided into two hostile
groups. He particularly targeted the Dogan Media Group saying that
the tense headlines in the group's papers were actually efforts to
manipulate the issue. "Their concern is not democracy, but fears
that their interests could be harmed," Erdogan said. The PM also
responded to CHP leader Deniz Baykal for saying the AKP leaders
should be ready to "face the gallows" over their efforts to reform
the constitution. "What kind of democrat are you, suggesting we are
headed to the gallows? We have been wearing white robes and are
ready to pay the price for our actions," stressed an angry Erdogan.
Papers infer Erdogan is referring to the traditional white shrouds
used in Muslim burials.

Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal told his party group meeting
yesterday, "You can put a headscarf on a person but you cannot put
it on the state," adding it was not proper to place "an Islamic
tradition" in the Turkish Constitution. Baykal also responded to
Erdogan's harsh remarks, "Don't wear the white robe -- we don't want
to see you in robes or chadors, but as a respected, law abiding
prime minister who suits modern Turkey." Baykal noted his party's
efforts were aimed at the elimination of the AKP at the ballot box.


Opposition MHP leader Devlet Bahceli told his deputies that MHP was
seeking "moral satisfaction" and not political gains on the
headscarf issue. "The use of headscarf as an ideological symbol
against the regime in Turkey cannot be tolerated," Bahceli
emphasized. Bahceli added "if we are going to prevent veils or
burqas in universities, it is mandatory to make adjustments to
article 17 of higher education law."

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish DTP lawmaker Ahmet Turk urged the
government to seek consensus for the democratization of the
constitution. He expressed disappointment that the government made
no effort regarding "the rights of the Kurds and minorities" in
Turkey while working to amend the constitution.

On Tuesday, groups of students gathered in university campuses in
Izmir, Kocaeli, Adana, and Mersin to protest against the AKP-MHP
turban proposal, shouting slogans "Turkey is secular and will remain
secular." The students issued a statement criticizing "certain
circles" for trying to polarize the country.

Editorial Commentary on Turban Debates
Left-leaning Taraf's chief editor Ahmet Altan writes (2/13):
"Additional provocation during the current headscarf controversy is
dangerous. The ruling AKP must take the lead to end the hostility.
The only thing the AKP can do now is to take determined steps
forward regarding Turkey's EU-related reforms. Such efforts would
relieve doubts among the AKP's adversaries. This is the only way to
alleviate the possibility that Turkey could turn into a hell-like
inferno because of provocative attacks. Some still want to incite
clashes in universities, launch bomb attacks, and plot political
assassinations. For the liberation of us all, the AKP has to become
the party of "liberation." The fact that our lives depend on such a
condition is also distressing."

Abdulhamit Bilici observes in the Islamist-oriented Zaman (2/13):
"It's not fair to claim that Prime Minister Erdogan's priority is to
"Islamicize" Turkey by removing the ban on turban in a country where

ANKARA 00000273 002 OF 003


almost 80 percent of its people support headscarf freedom.
International human rights organizations such as Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch deem the turban ban in Turkish
universities a violation of human rights; these organizations
support its removal. Newsweek, also, sees the AKP's turban
initiative as a move toward liberation, underlining that it stands
closer to the freedom of religion in the western sense that what AKP
adversaries want. However, this is a test for Erdogan. Will he
pass more EU reforms or will he merely comply with the demands of
the AKP's grassroots' support?"

Barak in Turkey to Sell Israeli Missile, Satellite Systems
All papers report visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met
yesterday with Prime Minister Erdogan and Defense Minister Vecdi
Gonul. Papers highlight that Barak wanted to sell Turkey missile
defense and satellite systems after the high-level Israeli
delegation came to lobby for the sale of Allow missile systems and
Ofek spy satellites. Mainstream tabloid Aksam says Turkey will buy
ten Heron unmanned spy aircraft from Israel. Barak and his Turkish
counterpart Gonul signed a 15-part military agreement, but details
of the agreement were not released. Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
and Zaman as well mainstream papers report Erdogan asked Barak to
stop Israeli attacks against Gaza and end the blockade on the
region. "We are exerting great efforts for Israel and Palestine to
live in peace side by side. We thank Israel for its support to
Turkey's defense industry, and also thank Mr. Barak for sending
equipment that Turkey can use in the southeast and in cross border
operations," Gonul stressed. Barak also met with Foreign Minister
Ali Babacan later in the day in a meeting closed to the press.

Urbancic on the PKK
Hurriyet, Cumhuriyet and Zaman report Deputy Coordinator for Counter
Terrorism, Frank Urbancic, told journalists at a roundtable Tuesday
the US would apply the "Al Capone model" in fighting against the PKK
presence in European countries. Urbancic said, despite all of Al
Capone's known criminal activities, authorities in the US could only
arrest him over a tax offense. Urbancic said the US would use the
same method against the PKK. "The PKK works like the Mafia in
Europe -- they fundraise in Belgium, operate television broadcasts
in Denmark, where free speech is deemed essential, and they're
involved in money laundering and drug trafficking across Europe.
Urbancic emphasized, "The PKK terrorist organization in Europe is
like an octopus."

TV Highlights
NTV

Domestic News

- Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said a regulation on building nuclear
plants in Turkey has been submitted to the Council of Ministers for
approval.

- The pro-Kurdish DTP branch head in Batman, Ozcan Erdem, and two
other local party officials have been arrested for possessing
outlawed documents.

- Police have arrested on Tuesday four suspects in Istanbul for
burning cars.

International News

- Erwin Huber, the head of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social
Union, accused PM Erdogan of "preaching Turkish nationalism on
German soil," stressing "That is anti-European and confirms our
misgivings regarding Turkish EU membership."

- Ahead of the declaration of Kosovo independence on February 17,
the EU is expected to authorize a "security and justice" force for
Kosovo this week.

ANKARA 00000273 003 OF 003

- Israel announced plans Tuesday to build more than 1000 homes in
disputed east Jerusalem, in a new move which may harm efforts toward
peace.

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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