Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2008
In Today's Papers
White House Reacts to US Generals' Statements on Turkey and the PKK
All papers cover the White House's reaction to the statements of Lt.
General Ray Odierno and Centcom Commander William Fallon concerning
negotiations with the PKK. Mainstream Vatan writes that Fallon
promotes compromise between Turkey and the PKK, but that late
yesterday the White House announced that Turkey was not expected to
negotiate with terrorists. Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak writes
under the headline "The White House Silences the Commanders" that
Spokesperson Dana Perino said the US has not suggested Turkey should
negotiate with the PKK.
Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet says the US was willing to work out a
compromise between Turkey and the PKK in order to block the
increasing influence of Iran in the region. Admiral Fallon
reportedly said Turkey will have to seek "some kind of compromise"
with the PKK to work out a real solution to the problem.
Islamist-oriented Zaman's headline reads, "American Commanders
Insist that Turkey Negotiate with the PKK." Mainstream Hurriyet
quotes diplomatic sources as saying the American generals'
statements have no impact on US-Turkey ties.
Gates: Non-Violent PKK Elements Could be Moved to Political Arena
All papers report Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a press
conference at the Pentagon the real target in the solution to the
PKK problem is to "separate the ferocious terrorists from the
elements who can be comprised and brought back in the system."
Mainstream Hurriyet reports that during Gates' meetings in Ankara,
President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan unveiled steps to be taken
to ease the concerns of the Kurds and cut support for the PKK.
Talabani Due in Ankara Friday Evening
All papers report Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is to visit Ankara
on March 7 on a one-day working visit, one week after the Turkish
troops ended an eight-day ground offensive against the PKK in
northern Iraq. Talabani will meet President Abdullah Gul and Prime
Minister Erdogan to discuss PKK terror and Turkish cross-border
incursions as well as the status of Kirkuk. President Abdullah Gul
will host a dinner in honor of Talabani; Ambassadors of Arab
countries, businessmen, and politicians will attend. Mainstream
Milliyet reports that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) claims,
"Turkey should deal with the leader of the Kurdish Regional
Administration (KRA) Massoud Barzani, and should recognize the
Kurdish administration will tackle all problems, including the PKK,
with Barzani." The paper notes there is not a KDP representative in
the delegation accompanying Talabani to Ankara. Leftist-nationalist
Cumhuriyet writes Ankara expects "a powerful message" from Talabani
against the PKK, and notes that Talabani has referred to the PKK as
"a common plague." Cumhuriyet says Ankara would open a Turkish
consulate in Basra soon, but not in Erbil.
Editorial Commentary on Talabani's Turkey Visit
Dialogue with the Kurds
Ihsan Dagi commented in Islamist-oriented Zaman (3/7): "Iraqi
President Celal Talabani is coming to Ankara today. Even though
this is a belated meeting, it is very important. Establishing
dialogue with Iraqi Kurds, right after the land operation, could be
a sign of a new approach. It wasn't coherent policy for Turkey to
emphasize Iraq's territorial integrity while avoiding the president
of the country. Moreover, following the Talabani visit, certain
circles in Turkey should stop referring to Iraqi Kurds as a 'tribal
community.' Since the only administration that is able to prevent
the PKK from using northern Iraq as a base is the Regional Kurdish
Administration, it is inevitable that Turkey must establish a
dialogue with them. As a matter of fact, Iraqi Kurds desperately
need such cooperation. The stability and the prosperity of northern
Iraq depends on cooperation between Turkey and Iraq. Turkey should
not be an enemy for the Kurds. Instead, we should be partners.
Talabani's visit might be a turning point for the stability and
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cooperation in the region. Such a dialogue might open the way for
dialogue within Turkey. If Turkey normalizes relations with
northern Iraqi Kurds, it could ease Ankara's hand in economic and
political initiatives for Kurds within Turkey."
Is Talabani Going to Say "the PKK is a Common Enemy?"
Bilal Cetin wrote in mainstream Vatan (3/7): "There are two issues
which will be on the top of the agenda during Talabani's visit:
First is PKK terrorism and Turkey's recent cross border operations;
and second is the status of Kirkuk. These two issues are highly
critical and agreements reached on these two issues will determine
the future of the relations between Turkey and Iraq. Will Talabani
behave differently from Massoud Barzani? Will he be able to repeat
President Bush's remarks and say "Yes, the PKK is a terrorist
organization and our common enemy?" This is the most critical
issue. Turkish Diplomatic sources stress that during the Turkish
delegation's recent visit to Baghdad, Talabani told them that "the
PKK is the common enemy and we have to coordinate in the fight
against it." Well, these remarks are the key formula to improving
relations with the central government and with the regional Kurdish
Administration. Most likely, Talabani will say "I agree on
cooperation" behind closed doors, but, for the sake of his own
public opinion and for the Barzani factor he may use a different
style in front of the media."
Talabani's first stop in Ankara is Anitkabir
Murat Yetkin wrote in liberal Radikal (3/7): "After he is greeted
at the airport, Talabani will go to pay his respects at Anitkabir.
He made a special request to do this. Talabani comes to Ankara one
week after the land operations in northern Iraq ended. The MFA gave
a short and simple answer as to why the visit is not official:
bilateral relations are not at the level where an official visit is
appropriate. The bottom line is the PKK is still in Iraq. It is
hoped that Turkish investments in energy will take an important
place in 2008, the year of Turkey's energy investment in Iraq.
Talabani was not opposed to an official visit, but then the new
Iraqi flag would have to fly in Ankara for the first time. Ankara
has opposed this flag due to the incorporation of symbols for
Kurdistan. Also, an official visit would include the military. Some
in the military still see Talabani as a Peshmerge fighter with a
history of contacts with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. But with a
working visit, the military is under no obligation to attend the
events. Finally, Ankara is praying Talabani won't say anything at
the press conference to make the Turkish public feel uncomfortable.
Police Kills Kurdish Demonstrator, DTP MPs to be Tried
All papers report pro-Kurdish DTP protestors clashed with police in
Ercis town in the eastern province of Van during the funeral of
Mehmet Deniz, who died from injuries sustained during a protest
earlier this week. At least 14 were injured and 101 were detained
after clashes with police.
Meanwhile, liberal Radikal reports a prosecutor has launched an
investigation into the pro-Kurdish DTP lawmakers Fatma Kurtulan and
Sevahir Bayindir under article 302 of the Turkish penal code, which
covers crimes against the unity of the state. If convicted,
Kurtulan and Sevahir could be sentenced to life without parole. In
addition, the prosecutor is requesting sentences between five and
ten years in prison for DTP lawmakers Kurtulan, Osman Ozcelik, and
Aysel Tugluk for their role in bringing back the Turkish soldiers
abducted by the PKK in the Daglica attack.
State Body Criticizes High Court's Decision against Compulsory
Hurriyet, Sabah, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and others report the
head of religious affairs (Diyanet), Professor Ali Bardakoglu,
defended compulsory religious classes and said they must continue to
be taught on a mandatory basis in primary and high schools.
Bardakoglu denounced the decision of the Council of State
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(Danistay), which ruled the religious instruction was
unconstitutional. Education Minister Huseyin Celik said the
Danistay decision would be a violation of the constitution, which
stipulates the continuation of religious classes. The AKP deputy
chairman Dengir Mehmet Firat said Danistay went beyond its authority
in its decision. Turkey's Alevis object to compulsory religious
classes and criticize Diyanet for favoring Sunni Islam in school
curricula and textbooks. Alevis feel this violates their religious
- The Constitutional Court has accepted the application from the
opposition CHP and DSP to examine the recent constitutional
amendments regarding headscarf reforms.
- Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will attend a meeting
organized by the ruling AKP's women's branch to celebrate
International Women's Day on March 8.
- Investment bank ABN Amro expects macro-economic indicators in
Turkey to improve next year and the year-end inflation to stand at
- Armenian forces violate the ceasefire on the contact line between
Azerbaijan and Armenia.
- Secretary Rice said Palestinian and Israeli leaders will resume
the peace talks that were suspended after Israel launched a military
offensive in the Gaza Strip.
- On Thursday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos I met Pope
Benedict XVI at the Vatican.