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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, APRIL 18, 2008


In Today's Papers

Controversy Continues over AKP Asking PACE to Condemn Closure Case
All papers report opposition parties continue to criticize the AKP
for asking the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE) to release a declaration condemning the closure case launched
against the ruling party in Turkey. Luis Maria de Puig, the new
president of PACE, created uproar in Turkey when he said on Tuesday
the Turkish delegation "demanded PACE release a declaration
condemning the ban of political parties," and that Parliament
Speaker Koksal Toptan invited him to Turkey. AKP MP Mevlut
Cavusoglu said the Turkish delegation did not ask PACE to release
such a declaration. Opposition far right MHP lawmaker Tugrul
Turkes, a member of the Turkish delegation to PACE, told a press
conference in Strasbourg, "any declaration released by PACE
concerning the closure case could be perceived as an intervention in
the functioning of independent jurisdiction in Turkey." Opposition
DSP chairman Zeki Sezer told a news conference in Ankara that this
issue "deeply hurt the Turkish nation."

Mainstream Milliyet reports in, "Who Is Lying about the Controversy
Surrounding the Declaration?" that "the AKP is under fire" in claims
that they demanded PACE to release the declaration.
Islamist-oriented Zaman notes, "The AKP Deputies Were in Turkey When
PACE Decided to Condemn the AKP Closure Case." Mainstream Hurriyet
headlines with, "CHP Leaders Blame the AKP for Filing a Suit against
Turkey at PACE." Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet carries the
headline, "The AKP Faces the Consequences for Asking the
Parliamentary Assembly to Condemn the Closure Suit." Cuneyt
Arcayurek of Cumhuriyet calls the situation "a scandal," and accuses
the AKP of seeking "pity" from foreigners. Islamist-oriented Yeni
Safak notes the head of the Turkish delegation to PACE, AKP Deputy
Mevlut Cavusoglu, insists, "I would never file a complaint against
Turkey!"

Columnist Murat Belge of liberal Radikal noted, "Some argue if the
AKP requested such a declaration it would embarrass Turkey. But did
these same people ask if the chief prosecutor embarrassed Turkey
when he opened the closure case against the ruling party?"
Columnist Mustafa Karaalioglu of mainstream Star criticized warnings
to PACE not to comment on the AKP closure case. Karaalioglu
argued, "Such a position is no different than the activities of the
Ergenekon gang." Columnist Ozdemir Ince of mainstream Hurriyet
wrote, "Turkey should make it easier, not harder, to shut down
political parties." Columnist Mehmet Ali Birand of top-selling
mainstream Posta noted, "When the AKP pushed the headscarf reforms,
the leftist-nationalists directed all their 'nuclear weapons' on the
AKP. Unless the AKP makes a goodwill gesture concerning the
headscarf to eliminate the concerns in the public opinion, the
leftist-nationalists will continue to fire their 'nuclear
missiles.'" Nevertheless, columnist Murat Yetkin of Radikal points
out, "Prime Minister Erdogan knows EU entry talks and EU relations
will not be enough to stop the ban of his party."

Parliament to Discuss Article 301 Today
Cumhuriyet and Radikal report the Turkish Parliament's Justice
Committee will discuss the AKP-proposed changes to Article 301 of
the Turkish Penal Code on Friday. The proposal authorizes the
president to permit the launch of investigations based on Article
301. Liberal Radikal reports the parliamentary Human Rights
Committee Chairman Professor Zafer Uskul said his personal
preference was for "the total abolishment of Article 301."
Otherwise, Uskul said, "The authority to launch investigations
should be given to the parliament's Human Rights Committee."

Editorial Commentary on Revision of Penal Code Article 301

"Defending 301 is Incompatible with Democracy and Freedom"
Hasan Cemal wrote in mainstream Milliyet (4/18): "Article 301 is a
never ending story. The debate over 301 leads one to say 'enough is

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enough!' It is hard to believe but there are some in this country
who still defend the necessity of 301 even though the law vitally
damages freedom of expression. Nationalist circles defend 301;
opposition parties CHP and MHP also defend it. Moreover, there is a
pro-301 constituency in the ruling AKP. This constituency does not
want to touch Article 301 because they use it in their political
rhetoric when they say things like, 'how can we allow people to
insult Turkishness?' Article 301's story is doomed to be a black
page in Turkey's democratic history. Article 301 should be
completely abolished."

"Last Act on Article 301"
Ali Bayramoglu wrote in Islamist leaning Yeni Safak (4/18): "Article
301 has a bad record and represents an authoritarian approach.
However, we can ignore the MHP campaign which claims, 'insulting
Turkishness is now free.' We can also ignore opposition CHP leaders
who try to be a part of this rhetoric. Those who defend this
article are the same ones who legitimized coup attempts. To make a
long story short: Article 301 should be abolished immediately. The
abolishment of this article will pave the way for freedoms and will
symbolize the end of a non-democratic, dark period. Unfortunately,
the AKP proposal is only about changing the article instead of
abolishing it completely. A change in the article will not help
anything; the non-democratic spirit of the article remains. In
addition, trivial changes to the article appear to be an attempt to
placate criticisms before the upcoming elections. Instead, the AKP
could show some political courage and pursue the values of freedom.
Principles are more important than pleasing the populace. Let's
hope to see a symbolic gesture from some AKP members who have the
courage to sign and present to the parliament a proposal to
completely abolish 301."

Turkish Military Launches Sweeping PKK Operations in Southeast
Turkey
All papers report the Turkish General Staff (TGS) announced on its
website one Turkish soldier was killed and seven others were wounded
in operations against the PKK in the southeastern province of Sirnak
on Wednesday. Islamist-oriented Zaman reports the operations are
entitled, "Operation Sword," and are focused in the rural areas of
Hakkari, Sirnak, Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Bingol, and Siirt. Tens of
thousands of troops are participating in the operations; ground
troops are reinforced with F-16 warplanes and helicopters, says
Zaman. Mainstream Sabah reports F-16 and F-4 fighter jets conducted
flights along the border with Iraq. The deployment of armored
vehicles and ammunitions to the border area continues.

No Turkish Companies Listed on Iraq's First Round of Bids for Oil
Exploration
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and others
report the Iraqi central government did not put Turkish Petroleum
Corporation (TPAO) on the list of foreign companies that will
explore new oil reserves in Iraq. Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told
the press Thursday, "The Turkish government has begun talks with
Baghdad in order to negotiate the inclusion of TPAO on the list.
The list is not definite yet; there is no need for early comments.
We will get on this list."

Under the headline, "Iraq Double-Crosses Turkey,"
leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet quotes the director of a former
state-owned oil transportation company, BOTAS, as saying the Turkish
energy minister went to the U.S. together with President Gul to
discuss energy investments in the region. "The U.S. should press
the Iraqi government to cooperate with Turkey," stressed the former
director.

Turkish Parliament Passes Controversial Social Security Law
All papers report the Turkish parliament adopted a bill to change
Social Security and Health Insurance Laws. The newly adopted law
raises the retirement age to 65 for both women and men by 2048. The
retirement age was previously 58 for women and 60 for men. The law

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raises the number of days required to work before retirement from
7,000 to 7,200.

TV Highlights
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- On Thursday, a state ceremony honored the fifteenth anniversary of
the death of Turkey's former prime minister and the 8th President
Turgut Ozal. The ceremony took place at his tomb in Istanbul.

- Opposition MHP filed a censure motion against Farming Minister
Mehdi Eker for his failure to take measures against the increase in
rice and grain prices.

- Main opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal is not expected to join
the luncheon to be hosted by President Abdullah Gul for party
leaders on April 23.

International News

- Greek Cypriot officials cancelled meetings with German
parliamentarian Gerd Andres, who entered Cyprus through the Ercan
Airport in the north of the divided island.

- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said a Middle East peace
conference will be held in Moscow in June.

- Russian President Putin announced the scrapping of billions of
dollars in Libyan Soviet-era debt in exchange for business contracts
during a visit to Tripoli on Thursday.

DEBLAUW

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