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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 25, 2008


In Today's Papers

Bush, Menendez, Pelosi on Anniversary of 'Events of 1915'
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Yeni Safak
and others report Robert Menendez, the US Democratic Senator who two
years ago vetoed the nomination of Richard Hoagland as ambassador to
Armenia, has said he will do the same if President Bush's new
ambassadorial nominee Masha Yanukovitch also fails to characterize
the mass killing of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkish forces
in 1915-16 as "genocide." Menendez said if Yanukovitch does not
respond to the questions during Senate confirmation hearing in a
satisfactory way, he would "not hesitate to place a hold" on her
nomination.

Papers report during a commemoration meeting in Congress, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told several pro-Armenian lawmakers that both
the US Administration and Congress were late in designating the
Armenian killings as "genocide." She called on the Congress to pass
genocide resolutions. Pelosi told mainstream Milliyet that the
'events of 1915' had nothing to do with the existing Turkish state,
and "it happened during the Ottoman Empire." Papers also report
President Bush avoided the word "genocide" in a message released
April 24 to commemorate the killings.

Sarkisian: Yerevan to Step up Efforts for Armenian Genocide
Recognition
Hurriyet, Sabah, Vatan, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and others report
Armenia's new president Serzh Sarkisian vowed Thursday that his
administration would step up efforts for international recognition
of the 'genocide' of Armenians during World War I. The remarks came
only days after Ankara said it was seeking dialogue with the new
Armenian administration, says mainstream Hurriyet. Papers report
the Turkish flag was trampled on during official ceremonies held
yesterday in Yerevan to mark the anniversary of the killings. Under
the headline "Hateful Commemoration in Yerevan," mainstream Vatan
says thousands of people trampled the Turkish flag. The
demonstrators burned a Turkish flag in an earlier rally in Yerevan.


'What Happened in 1915?' Conference in Istanbul
Mainstream Milliyet reports the Human Rights Association (IHD) held
Thursday an Armenian conference, "What Happened on April 24, 1915,"
at Istanbul's Bilgi University. Ara Sarafian, the head of the
Gomidas Institute in London, said there were around two million
Armenians living in Anatolia during the Ottoman Empire before 1915.
"Today it is not possible to find any historical or social mark
memorializing them," said Sarafian. "The Armenian question would be
resolved here, not anywhere else. It could be resolved through
jointly working with independent Turkish academics," said Sarafian,
stressing he wouldn't work with "official historians" who were in
fact "public servants."

Asad Confirms Turkey Intermediates for Syria-Israel Peace
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others report Syrian President Bashar Assad confirmed yesterday to
Qatari daily al-Watan that Prime Minister Erdogan called him Tuesday
to convey a message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was
ready to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with
Syria. Assad noted Turkey has been intermediating between Israel
and Syria since April 2007. He said direct talks with Israel might
be kicked off after the presidential elections in the US.
Mainstream Milliyet reports Prime Minister Erdogan is to travel to
Syria on April 26-27 to participate in the first meeting of the
Turkey-Syria economic forum. Erdogan will meet Assad and Prime
Minister Mohammed Naji Otri.

Editorial Commentary on Israel-Syria/Turkey

"The Ankara Dove"
Erdal Safak wrote in mainstream Sabah (4/25): "The ongoing

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speculation about Turkey's mediation between Syria and Israel was
confirmed by Syrian leader Beshar Assad. 'The Prime Minister of
Turkey has informed me about Israel's readiness to withdraw from the
Golan Heights in exchange for a lasting peace' Assad said. This is
a result of Turkey's mediation efforts since April of last year, but
the history of this goes back to 2004 when Assad visited Turkey, the
first Syrian presidential visit to Ankara in 57 years. He told
Turkish officials about Syrian intentions to make peace with Israel
and implied Damascus' readiness to see Turkey as a mediator. Now,
Prime Minister Erdogan will soon leave for Damascus with the intent
to accomplish the mission. However, it is not realistic to expect
both sides to sit down immediately and begin direct negotiations.
Syria wants direct negotiations with Israel under US sponsorship.
This is not possible with the current US administration with Syria
in the axis of evil category. The process will have to wait for a
new US administration. Washington can make it happen or can cut off
the process."

"Turkey, the Official Mediator"
Sami Kohen wrote in mainstream Milliyet (4/25): "Following Assad's
statement, the ongoing efforts by Turkey to mediate a peace between
Israel and Syria is no longer a secret. As Assad revealed, this
secret diplomacy centers on peace in exchange for a return of the

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Golan Heights to Syria. His statement is a bit premature, but it
presents hope for the Middle East and it's important to keep the
momentum going. Turkey's key role in this process comes as no
surprise. By having good relations with both Syria and Israel and
being a reliable country, Turkey is one of the very few countries
that can accomplish such a mission. But, we are just beginning a
tough and long process. If Israel is ready to return the Golan
Heights in exchange for peace, other details, including security
issues, Israeli settlements and water resources, will be the thorny
part. According to former President Carter, who recently visited
the region and met with Assad, there is agreement on the issues of
borders, water resources and international inspection. If that is
true, then we should be optimistic for the future of this process."

MGK Meeting Calls for 'Consultations with All Iraqi Groups'
All papers report a declaration issued at the end of yesterday's
Turkey's National Security Council (MGK) meeting said the MGK
"agreed that it would be in Turkey's interests to continue
consultations with all Iraqi groups and movements." Papers
interpret this as "positive signals" from Ankara for a possible
dialogue process with Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish regional
administration head in northern Iraq. Mainstream Sabah says Barzani
has recently indicated he wants to improve ties with Turkey, and
that he was ready for talks. The MGK meeting signaled a new period
in ties with Iraq, according to Sabah.
The declaration also stressed the Armenian diaspora's efforts to
garner support for its "ungrounded accusations" would produce no
results. The MGK also discussed the PKK, Cyprus, and Armenia.

Leading AKP Figure Criticizes Party Policies
Hurriyet, Vatan, Radikal and Cumhuriyet report AKP lawmaker, Vahit
Erdem, critiqued his party policies in a local newspaper in his
election district of Kirikkale. Erdem said the AKP's constitutional
amendments concerning headscarf freedom were "wrong." "The
headscarf is neither a religious nor a political priority, it has to
be resolved through compromise," Erdem said. He emphasized the AKP
hasn't managed to become a "center-right party." Erdem also
theorized the AKP's election vote total would have been below 40
percent if last April's controversial presidential election process
had not happened.

Baykal Expected to Keep Chairmanship at CHP Congress
All papers report the main opposition Republican People's Party
(CHP) general congress will kick off over the weekend in Ankara.
During the two-day gathering, CHP leader Deniz Baykal could face as
many as four challengers -- namely Haluk Koc, Umut Oran, Tolga
Yarman, and Ayhan Yalcinkaya -- for the party helm. Businessman

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Umut Oran, the youngest challenger, said he would beat Baykal at the
congress if he was backed by 253 delegates for nomination. Oran
said he aims for not only the party leadership, but also the prime
ministry. Baykal's supporters, however, are confident he can win
another term. Papers voice doubt that Baykal's rivals could even
find the necessary support of 253 votes from the party delegates in
order to run for the top post in the party.

TV Highlights
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- The Turkish General Staff (TGS) has confirmed press reports that
Turkish warplanes attacked the PKK targets in northern Iraq on April
23.

- Constitutional Court vice-president Osman Paksut said EU
statements concerning the lawsuit for banning the AKP would have no
impact on judges.

- Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir has been acquitted in a lawsuit
for inciting hatred with his remarks that "Diyarbakir is the Kurds'
stronghold."

International News

- Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said Turkey might cooperate with Royal
Dutch Shell in oil exploration in Iraq.

- Armenians in Iran have not been allowed to rally to commemorate
the events of 1915.

- Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday parties that walked
out of Iraq's government last year have agreed to rejoin the
cabinet.

WILSON

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