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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
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2008

In Today's Papers

Turkish Military: 237 PKK Terrorists, 24 Soldiers Killed in Iraq
Operations
All papers report Turkish ground operations in northern Iraq
continue despite the heavy snowfall in the region. Turkish troops
took control of strategic areas near the PKK camp in Zap and along
the roads leading to the PKK command center in Zap. The Turkish
General Staff (TGS) said in a statement yesterday seven terrorists
were killed in clashes on Wednesday night, which brings the
terrorist casualties since the beginning of the incursion to 237,
and the Turkish losses to 24.

Iraq: All Turkish Troops Are Pulling Out of Iraq
Turkish televisions report Friday morning that international wire
agencies report an unidentified senior Turkish military source said
some Turkish troops have returned to home after completing their
mission in northern Iraq, but no full withdrawal has begun.
A spokesman for the Kurdish Peshmerge forces quoted Iraqi border
guards as saying there had been no attacks by Turkish forces
overnight, and that troops were withdrawing.
NTV reports the Iraqi FM Hoshyar Zebari said all Turkish troops have
withdrawn from northern Iraq. The Turkish General Staff (TGS) has
not denied reports of withdrawal, says NTV.

Gates Meets Turkish Leaders in Ankara
All papers report Defense Secretary Robert Gates met on Thursday
with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Erdogan, the Chief of
the General Staff (TGS) Yasar Buyukanit, and Defense Minister Vecdi
Gonul during his one-day visit to Ankara. Gates reportedly urged
Turkey to keep its cross-border operations short and focus on
precise targets. Turkish leaders gave Gates a 'unified message'
that the operations would continue until the targets are achieved,
say papers.

Commenting on Gates' earlier remarks at a joint press event
yesterday TGS Chief General Buyukanit said, "Turkey has been
combating terror for the last 24 years. I've reminded Gates that
the US has been fighting against terror in Afghanistan for long
years; Gates understands Turkey." Islamist-oriented Zaman claims
that in his meeting with Gates, Buyukanit turned down the US demand
for Turkish combat troops for Afghanistan.

In a press conference after the meeting with Gonul, Gates reiterated
US warnings that Turkey should seek a balance between its right to
self-defense and the territorial integrity of Iraq, the ongoing
Turkish offensive in northern Iraq should be short and precisely
targeted, and military approaches should be supported by economic
programs and political outreach. That is the only way to isolate
terrorists from the population and provide a long-term solution to
the problem, Gates said. He also voiced content over the Turkish
government working closely with the Iraqi leaders including
President Talabani, Prime Minister al-Maliki, and the regional
Kurdish administration leader Masssoud Barzani. Gates rejected
allegations that the US would rescind its intelligence and
surveillance assistance for the Turkish operations. "The US and
Turkey have shared interests, and those interests are probably not
advanced by making threats or threatening to cut off intelligence,"
he emphasized.

President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan also stressed after meeting
Gates that the goal of the Turkish operation was to ensure border
security. He said Turkish troops would return when their mission is
accomplished.

Mainstream Milliyet says Gates listed demands from the Turkish
government at the press conference, but behind closed doors he
agreed that Turkey was right in its fight against terror. Okay
Gonensin writes in mainstream Vatan that as seen in Cyprus, efforts
to seek military solutions to social and political problems are

ANKARA 00000405 002 OF 003


doomed to fail. Gonensin says the military approach was the least
important aspect of the PKK question, stressing that the solution
was in Turkey, and not in northern Iraq or Washington.


Editorial Commentary on Secretary Gates' Turkey Visit

"Two Messages to Gates"
Fikret Bila is a senior media figure in Ankara and an author of
books on the Iraq war and Turkish-American relations.
He wrote in mainstream Milliyet (2/29):
"There are two primary question marks regarding Secretary Gates'
visit to Ankara. First of all, did he really urge Turkey to
withdraw from northern Iraq within a week or two? And did he ask
for Turkish combat troops for Afghanistan in exchange for US support
for the cross border operation? The answer to the first question is
this: Secretary Gates actually softened his 'one week or two'
rhetoric in Ankara. Instead of using strong language about timing,
he expressed a moderate tone when he said, 'we hope that such kind
of operations are short.' In return, the Turkish Defense Minister
clearly stated, 'the fight against terrorism is a duty which cannot
be left unfinished, and this mission will continue until terrorist
camps and their infrastructure have been completely eliminated.' We
should also add that Secretary Gates did not add any new comments
and he expressed understanding for Turkey's difficult struggle
against terror. Minister Gonul, in fact, answered Secretary Gates'
February 6th letter requesting Turkish troops in Afghanistan. Gonul
stated clearly Turkey will not be able to send more troops. When
this issue came up during their meeting, Gonul told Gates, "Turkey
would have been more helpful in Afghanistan had Turkey not been
focused on the Southeast issue." In sum, Turkey did not pledge more
troops for Afghanistan in exchange for US support for land
operations in northern Iraq."

"The Withdrawal Calendar"
Erdal Safak is an expert on international relations and a senior
columnist for mainstream Sabah.
He wrote in mainstream Sabah (2/29):
"Secretary Gates warned Turkey to keep its cross border operation
short in an effort to eliminate anxiety in international public
opinion. In reality, both President Bush and Secretary Gates are
well aware of the fact that they should not pressure Turkey too much
on this matter. First of all, the useless trilateral coordination
mechanism, which was an American initiative, caused Turkey to waste
18 months in its fight against terrorism. During this failed
initiative, the PKK replenished its supply of weapons and recruited
additional militants. In addition, Turkey's recent diplomatic
efforts successfully convinced the US and the EU that a land
operation was necessary in order to eliminate the PKK's terrorist
threat. Turkey's goal is very clear. The land operations seek to
eliminate the PKK's ability to use northern Iraq as a base from
which terrorist attacks are launched against Turkey. Given the
target, neither the Turkish General Staff nor the government can
responsibly argue for a withdrawal before the job is completed.
Moreover, the US has set a precedent by refusing to withdraw from
Iraq. The US will not withdraw from Iraq before security is
established. Turkey is trying to do the same thing in northern Iraq
that the US is doing in Afghanistan."

The Turban Issue Has Turned in to Chaos
All papers: The Inter-University Board convened yesterday to
discuss the turban issue. The Board urged YOK President Prof. Yusuf
Ziya Ozcan to resign from his position due to his stance concerning
the headscarf. The board points to Ozcan's written memo ordering
university rectors to allow students wearing the turban to enter
universities. Mainstream Milliyet reports that the Board also asked
President Gul to remove Ozcan from his office if he does not resign.
Papers report that the Ankara Chief Prosecutor has initiated an
investigation into Prof. Ozcan to determine if he overstepped his
duties when he ordered rectors to allow students with turban in

ANKARA 00000405 003 OF 003


universities. Meanwhile, AKP vice-chairman Dengir Mir Firat said
that the rectors are committing a crime by not allowing students
with turban into universities. He urged the prosecutors to take
action against them. Liberal Radikal's front-page headline reads,
"University and AKP Reach Compromise on Headscarf: Prosecutors
Should Take Action." Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court process
to annul the amendments to articles 10 and 42 started. Supreme
Court President Hasim Kilic's sent the application to the court
reporter. The non-binding report will be distributed among Supreme
Court members and they will convene to announce their decision, adds
Radikal.

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- Parliament's commission for interior affairs has approved a bill
for the establishment of 43 new municipalities.

- Professor Ali Bardakoglu, the head of religious affairs 'Diyanet'
has rejected British press reports that there were preparations in
Turkey to reform Islam. He added Diyanet was only working towards a
better understanding of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings.

- Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD) and
the Turkish Central Bank have unveiled the first part of a report on
integration with the global economy.

International News

- On Thursday, newly-elected Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias
named Markos Kyprianou, the EU Health Commissioner, as his foreign
minister.

- Nine million pilgrims have gathered in the Iraqi city of Karbala
to mark Arbaeen, one of the holiest religious ceremonies for Shiite
Muslims.

- Austria's President Heinz Fischer has approved the Austrian
government's decision to recognize Kosovo.

WILSON

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