Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2008
In Today's Papers
Rice Addresses ATC Meetings in Washington
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman, and
Yeni Safak report Secretary Rice addressed the American-Turkish
Council's (ATC) 27th annual conference in Washington on Tuesday.
Secretary Rice said Washington is closely following the AKP closure
case. Mainstream Hurriyet notes in, "A Secularist Blow from Rice,"
that, "Rice emphasized that Turkey must solve the AKP closure case
within a secularist context and secularist principles." Meanwhile,
Islamist-oriented Zaman writes, "We are watching the closure case
closely, but an ear must be given to the voices of the voters." NTV
notes Rice characterized the closure case as "an issue for the Turks
to solve." Conservative-nationalist Ortadogu notes Rice emphasized,
"The U.S. and Turkey share important democratic values," but that,
"The Turks must make the decision concerning the closure case."
Mainstream Milliyet calls Rice's emphasis on secularism, "striking,"
but points out, "the U.S. is determined to remain impartial and did
not extend its support to the AKP."
On Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, Rice said the U.S.
"encouraged" changes to the article, and congratulated Prime
Minister Erdogan for his efforts to change the law. Rice stressed
it was important that "Turkey transforms its democracy and joins the
EU." She also urged Turkey to improve non-Muslim minority rights
and grant freedoms to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Regarding the PKK, Rice said the aim was to eliminate the PKK in
northern Iraq and cut the organization's financial resources in
cooperation with European partners.
Bryza, Lagendijk at ATC Meetings
Hurriyet, Sabah, Vatan, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and others report
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian
affairs Matt Bryza told the American-Turkish Council (ATC) meetings
in Washington the continuation of Turkey's EU process falls within
the strategic interests of the U.S. "Some reform opportunities
might have been missed, but in the end, it is the Turkish people who
decide on the types of reforms to be realized," Bryza said.
Islamist-leaning English language Today's Zaman says, "Bryza
recommended that Turkey should take steps 'for strengthening
cultural rights' for Kurdish people after the finalization of
military steps against the PKK."
Mainstream Hurriyet quotes on page one Joost Lagendijk, co-chairman
of Turkey-EU joint parliamentary commission, as saying "The AKP must
show that it wants to carry Turkey to the EU, not to Iran."
Lagendijk stressed the EU was "disappointed" that EU adjustment
reforms slowed down in Turkey following the adoption of a number of
reforms in 2003-2004. "Turkey should carry out reforms to improve
the living standards of Turkish people, not merely to please the
EU," he emphasized. Lagendijk criticized the AKP for failing to
take forward steps concerning the Kurdish question. He also said,
"The AKP misjudged its timing and approach to the headscarf debate.
The AKP's headscarf reforms should have been passed as part of a
broader reform package." Nevertheless, Lagendijk also warned "the
closure of the AKP could lead to a suspension of Turkey's EU
AKP Alone in Changing Article 301
All papers continue coverage of the ruling AKP government's proposed
changes to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which outlaws
"insulting Turkishness." Speaking to reporters on his return from
Qatar, Prime Minister Erdogan said the parliamentary committee was
still working on the changes. Erdogan dismissed approaches such as
"the changes are imposed by the EU" and said the amendments were
brought onto agenda on a "serious demand from the country."
Opposition far right MHP chairman Devlet Bahceli told his party
group yesterday that by changing Article 301, PM Erdogan actually
intended to "fund his political future" by securing the support of
the EU. "Our party will not take part in such an assassination
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attempt against the Turkish nation," stressed Bahceli. Under the
headline, "The AKP is Left Alone in Changing 301," liberal Radikal
reports the pro-Kurdish DTP group Chief Ahmet Turk said his party
will not back the AKP proposal for amending the article. Turk said
"Article 301 killed Armenian journalist Hrant Dink," and called for
the "total abolishment" of the article.
Editorial Commentary on Amendment of Penal Code Article 301
"The Limit of the AKP's Love for Democracy"
Mehmet Y. Yilmaz wrote in mainstream Hurriyet (4/16): "In January
2008 newspaper archives, one can easily find statements from Prime
Minister Erdogan and Justice Minister Sahin which promised changes
to Article 301. That was in January, and now we are in April and
the debates concerning Article 301 continue. While the prime
minister insists on the presidency as the decision-making authority
in 301 cases, some in the AKP suggest one of three choices, i.e. the
justice minister, the president or an independent board. This rift
within the party is a demonstration of the AKP's effort to keep up
appearances. After three months, the ruling party is still
indecisive on how to change one law. The AKP does not care about
democracy or freedom of thought. The AKP follows its hidden agenda
and pretends to play a democracy game when it is necessary to
protect their power. EU officials are either pretending to take
this bait or else, they truly have taken the bait."
"The 301 War"
Mustafa Unal wrote in Islamist leaning Zaman (4/16): "The
controversial Article 301 is now in parliament and is expected to
come to the floor next week. The impact of foreign suggestions to
revise 301 is undeniable and inevitable. Turkey could have changed
the law itself before other countries had a chance to chime in with
their criticisms; but unfortunately that did not happen. 301 should
be changed because it keeps Turkey behind global standards regarding
democracy and freedom of thought. The wording of 301 should be
clear and precise. Currently the debate continues to determine who
has the authority to approve a court case based on 301. Some in the
AKP think that providing the president with that kind of authority
would be wrong. The opposition, on the other hand, seems like a
bloc completely united against 301. We have to keep in mind that
the state needs protection but individuals need protection as well.
Politics is obliged to respect state and individual law at the same
Barzani Wants Kurds to 'Stay Away from Violence'
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak writes Zagros TV reported the Kurdish
Regional Administration (KRA) leader Massoud Barzani met with a
delegation of the Sirnak Bar Association in Selahaddin in northern
Iraq. Barzani said, "Kurds must change the way they think; using
violence is a thing of the past." He added, "We need to make
fundamental changes. We have introduced democracy for Iraq and
federalism for Kurdistan; now we need to take our nationalism to a
different phase." Barzani went on saying, "Now is the time for
dialogue. Kurds should not get involved in violence either at home
or in neighboring countries."
DTP Mayors Fined for Supporting Roj TV
All papers report 53 pro-Kurdish DTP mayors were sentenced to 2 1/2
months in prison for supporting the pro-PKK Roj TV. The sentences
were commuted to fines of 1,875 YTL each. The mayors were convicted
of supporting crime and criminals because they asked Danish Prime
Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a letter not to take the
Copenhagen-based Roj TV off the air in Denmark.
- Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the recent
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student clashes at the Akdeniz (Mediterranean) University in
- Van police investigate two pro-Kurdish DTP MPs who joined the
Nevruz celebrations in the eastern city of Van. Following the
celebration, two people died during clashes between police and
demonstrators on March 22.
- Higher Education Board (YOK) President Professor Yusuf Ziya Ozcan
met with 32 university rectors to discuss the unrest at
- On April 22, officials from the countries who border Iraq will
discuss Iraq's security at a meeting in Kuwait.
- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has
adopted a resolution urging European governments to undertake steps
for distinguishing between Muslims and fundamentalist groups.
- Conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi has won a decisive victory
in Italy's parliamentary elections, and will soon undertake his
third stint as Premier.