Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2008
In Today's Papers
Babacan: Land Operations against the PKK Are 'On the Table'
All papers report Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters while
en route to Moscow Tuesday that the option of a ground operation
against the PKK in northern Iraq was "on the table." He noted that
the timing of an operation would depend on weather conditions.
Papers interpret the FM's remarks as indication of a possible
Turkish land operation into northern Iraq in the spring. Babacan
also said Turkey has called on Kurdish regional administration
leader Massoud Barzani to declare the PKK a terrorist group.
"Barzani must take concrete forward steps which inspire trust,"
Babacan said. When asked about the increasing number of official
visits between Turkey and the US, Babacan said, "We are working in
cooperation with the US. What is happening today is normal; you
should actually question the times in the past." Islamist-oriented
Zaman reports Babacan also said no timetable was set for a possible
visit by Iraqi President Talabani to Turkey. "A clear date will be
set which will fit the calendars of President Gul and Prime Minister
Barzani on Turkish Air Raids, the PKK
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Yeni Safak and others report
the northern Iraqi Kurdish regional administration leader Massoud
Barzani gave an exclusive interview to al-Arabiya TV to emphasize
that there was a limit to the Kurds' patience for Turkish
cross-border raids. "These raids effect the lives of our citizens;
if they continue, we will not be able to remain silent," said
Barzani. He noted the Turkish military has been fighting against
the PKK for the past 24 years. "Turkey has not been able to wipe
them out. Because, the PKK is actually a pretext -- I suspect
Turkey has ulterior motives concerning the Kurdistan region.
Turkey's main concern is not the PKK." Barzani also noted the PKK
was "Turkey's problem, not the Iraqi Kurds' problem," and urged for
a "peaceful political solution" rather than a military one.
The First Armenian Language Course in Turkey
Mainstream Hurriyet reports that the Bogazici University Senate
decided to include Armenian language as an elective course in the
curriculum. This course, which will commence in the second half of
2007-2008 education year, aims at examining the texts written in
Turkish using Armenian letters.
'PKK Mouthpiece' Roj TV in Panic after Heavy Tax Fine from Belgium
Vatan, Turkiye, Radikal, Bugun, Today's Zaman, and Cumhuriyet: The
Belgian Finance Ministry charged Roj TV with a four million Euro tax
fine. During a press conference in Brussels yesterday, Roj TV
officials Metin Yuce, Ahmet Dicle and Manouchar Zonoozi announced
that the Belgian Finance Ministry recently imposed a tax fine worth
around 4 million Euros and confiscated all the funds of the station.
They claimed that Turkey's pressure to close Roj TV led to the
fine. Mainstream Vatan and liberal Radikal report that in 1996,
Turkey's demands prompted Belgium to begin an investigation against
the television station, which was known at that time as Med-TV.
Turkey submitted evidence to Belgium indicating the PKK was
financially supporting the station with money earned through drug
and arms trafficking. The investigation led to the four million
Euro tax fine. Vatan highlights US Counter-terrorism official Frank
Urbancic's remarks that "we are changing our stance in fighting
against the PKK. We managed to jail Mafia leader Al Capone on a tax
fine. We are going to use same method against the PKK." Vatan
claims that Roj TV could be shut down, not because of ties to
terrorism, but for tax violations.
Meanwhile, mainstream Hurriyet reports that in March, Turkey will
host a summit meeting of EU prosecutors. The summit will be
organized by the Turkish Justice Ministry and the US Embassy in
Ankara. Talks at the summit will address legal and procedural
problems regarding PKK extraditions from Europe. Hurriyet claims
this is the new formula introduced by the US for PKK extraditions
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MEDIA REACTION: VP Cheney; Fidel Castro
"Why Is Cheney Coming to Turkey?"
Nagehan Alci wrote in mainstream Aksam (2/20): "Even though we do
not have official confirmation yet, the ongoing rumors in Washington
speculate US Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Turkey in March.
Actually, Cheney travels abroad rarely; when he does travel, his
goals are always target-oriented. This upcoming visit to Turkey is
scary enough given the fact he is the architect of the Iraq war. We
all know how Iraq has turned out. There are several possible reasons
for this visit, six years after his first visit to Turkey. After
Cheney's 2002 visit to Turkey, the US invaded Iraq. Now, it is
possible he has come to discuss Iran. He will certainly talk about
the Middle East and Afghanistan as well as the current situation in
Iraq. However Iran will likely be the chief priority and he may
even signal towards possible military action against Iran. Cheney
represents the war-mongering wing of the Bush administration. Iran
is next on their list. It will be interesting to watch Ankara's
response to this approach."
"Castro Is Gone but Castro-ism Continues"
Sami Kohen wrote in mainstream Milliyet (2/20): "The longest
serving communist leader in the world has resigned from his
presidential duty. However, he appears determined to maintain his
political legacy. In his resignation statement, he clearly
indicated that 'he will continue as a warrior of thought.' Fidel
Castro, a devout follower of Marx and Lenin, fundamentally changed
Cuba's political, social and economic structure. This created
serious problems for Cuba's relations with outside world. During
the Cold War, the US opposed Castro from the moment his popularity
began to rise. This prompted Castro to embrace the Soviet Union.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has tried to survive US
sanctions; but Cuban citizens were the ones who paid the price for
this tiff. Following Castro's departure, Cuba finds itself at a
turning point. Now there is more potential for bringing Cuba into
the greater global environment. Realistically speaking, the
possibility of rapid and fundamental changes during the post-Fidel
period is very weak. There may be certain economic measures they
can take, but ultimately the socialist regime will remain the same.
This is particularly true because Castro's brother Raul is the one
who is taking over."
- Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal said President Abdullah Gul's
eight-day delay shows he has doubts about approving the
constitutional headscarf reforms.
- Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip will visit
Turkey in May.
- The TMSF state banking fund is expected to fix a date for handing
over Sabah daily and ATV television to their new owner, Calik Group.
- Visiting French foreign trade minister Herve Novelli said after
meeting Tuesday with Energy Minister Hilmi Guler that France wants a
share in Turkey's nuclear projects.
- Serbia has submitted a diplomatic note to Turkey to protest
Ankara's recognition of Kosovo's independence. The Serbian
Ambassador to Turkey will depart for Belgrade today.
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- Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan has been elected president of
Armenia, winning 57.1 percent of the votes.
- Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian says "the recognition of
Armenian genocide is not a precondition for the normalization of
ties with Turkey."
- Franco Frattini, vice-president of the European commission, said
Turkey was "very far" from the EU and cannot be accepted into the
union before it "matures and grows up."