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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
MONDAY, APRIL 28, 2008


In Today's Papers

Deniz Baykal Reelected Party Chairman at CHP Congress
All news outlets report on Deniz Baykal's reelection as party
chairman of the main opposition CHP at a party convention held in
Ankara over the weekend. Baykal, who ran as the sole candidate,
received 1021 votes of 1105 party delegates, and the remaining 84
votes were invalid. Baykal's challengers Haluk Koc, Umut Oran, and
Ayhan Yalcinkaya could not run for the party leadership because they
failed to collect the signatures of 20 percent of the total 1231
delegates. Reports say that Baykal reshuffled party council members
and board members, removing dissenting voices until at least the
local elections to be held in 2009.

In his three-hour long speech to the congress, Baykal emphasized
secularism. "Everyone will have the right to teach children
religion, but the state will remain secular as well as our legal and
education system. This golden synthesis of Islam and secularism
exists only in Turkey," Baykal said. He lashed out at the West for
not supporting Turkey when Turks were struggling for independence
for building a democracy after World War I. Baykal also recalled
the alleged involvement of the US in the 1980 military takeover in
Turkey, claiming the West had adopted a hypocritical attitude
concerning Turkey and democracy.

A Sunday column in mainstream Vatan writes that at the congress,
"Baykal did not propose a solution to the problems Turkey faces. He
recommended opponents leave the CHP and set up a new political
party. The CHP is small and will remain small. Anyone who asks
questions will be expelled, but the CHP will remain Deniz Baykal's.
No one should be hopeful about the next convention either, because
Baykal will be re-elected once again by rigging the delegate
structure as he wants. That would guarantee the success of the AKP
or the party that will replace it in the next general elections."


Erdogan Visits Damascus for Israel-Syria Peace
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others report on Saturday, Prime Minister Erdogan paid a one-day
visit to Damascus where he officially conveyed a messae from Israel
to Syrian President Bashar Asad that Israel is ready to withdraw
from the Golan Heights in return for a lasting peace with Syria.
Papers say
President Asad thanked Erdogan for Turkey's mediation and underlined
that direct talks between Syria and Israel could be possible with
the help of the new US administration following the presidential
elections in November. Asad stressed Syria was prepared to continue
cooperation with Turkey in order to achieve security and stability
in the region. On his return home Saturday, Erdogan told reporters
Turkey would do its best to see that the existing "adverse
situation" in the region goes away. He voiced hope that talks will
conclude positively. Responding to a question, Erdogan confirmed
that a Turkish envoy would be visiting Israel, but did not
elaborate.

Papers report Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levi said Israel
and Syria might first hold low-level talks in Turkey, to be followed
up next year by a leaders' summit after the presidential elections
in the US. Mainstream Sabah quotes former Israeli Foreign Ministry
Undersecretary Alon Liel as saying Erdogan receive the Nobel Peace
Prize for brokering a peace between Israel and Syria.

Editorial Opinion: Turkey's Effort for Mediating on the Syria-Israel
Dispute

"The US-Syrian Relation is Problematic"
Washington-based Omer Taspinar wrote in leftist Taraf (4/28): "Two
days before Turkish PM Erdogan's trip to Syria, the US Congress
started discussing a report on Syria's nuclear program, helped by
North Korea. This story, for some reason, did not make any big news

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in the Turkish media. Turkey, while remains enthusiastic to mediate
between Syria and Israel, it should also watch closely the
developments in Washington on this issue. On the Israel-Syria
negotiations, I don't see a single voice in Washington. There is a
serious difference of opinion between the US State Department and VP
Cheney's office. While Rice tries to be pragmatic and
result-oriented with Middle East problems, Dick Cheney acts like a
genuine hawk. The report about the North Korean-Syrian cooperation
on a nuclear program gives an enormous opportunity to the
administration's hawks because they can put more pressure on Syria,
North Korea and Iran. The details about the Syria-Israel talks that
Turkey seems enthusiastic to mediate are all unknown. Turkey seems
optimistic but there are serious question marks in Washington. It
remains to be seen whether White House hawks are really looking for
a solution. An American official was commenting in a sarcastic way
when he said 'one has to appreciate that Turkey is working very hard
for Middle East peace while it already has a lot of its own
problems.' There is a hidden message in this sarcasm."


Erdogan-Sarkisian Exchange Goodwill Messages
Papers report over the weekend and Monday the prime ministers of
Turkey and Armenia voiced a desire to normalize ties between the two
neighboring countries. Prime Minister Erdogan said in a
congratulatory message to his new Armenian counterpart Tigran
Sarkisian that in this new era, Turkey-Armenia ties can contribute
to peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Erdogan
underlined that the earlier Turkish proposals made to the Armenian
side were "still on the table." Sarkisian response said that direct
bilateral talks would help resolve problems and confirmed "the
readiness of the Armenian government for a constructive dialogue and
establishment of normal ties between the two countries, without
conditions." "Both of us bear a historic mission to created an
atmosphere of mutual trust, without which dialogue and a solution to
the existing problems will be impossible,"

Two Soldiers Killed in Clash with PKK
Sabah, Milliyet, Hurriyet,Cumhuriyet, Vatan and others: Two
soldiers were killed in a clash with PKK terrorists in Bingol
province. Meanwhile Sunday's Hurriyet reports that the Turkish
General Staff announced that two separate air strikes were launched
in Northern Iraq against PKK terrorists trying to infiltrate into
Turkey, and that the operation was backed by land forces.

US: "We Don't want to be a side in AKP Closure Case"
Mainstream Milliyet on Sunday reported that speaking at the US House
of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee's European Sub
Committee, US Under Secretary of State Dan Fried said on AKP closure
case and secularism discussions in Turkey that "the current
disagreement should be resolved within the framework of democracy
and the constitutional secular system. We do not want to be a side
in this issue." Today's Milliyet carries the reactions of the AKP
deputies to the remarks of Fried. While some AKP deputies saying
that political parties are assurances of secularism, some others
said that "what the US or EU says is not important."

Editorial Opinion: AKP Closure Case/US-Turkey

"US Fine Tuning on the Closure Case"
Semih Idiz wrote in mainstream Milliyet (4/28): "The European Union
initially evaluated the AKP closure case solely in a democracy
context, but soon after added an emphasis on secularism. It looks
like the US is following suit. A recent statement by Dan Fried on
the closure case is the latest example of this following Secretary
Rice's earlier speech at ATC expressing hope to see a decision
within secular and democratic values. Only a few days before Rice's
statement, Department Spokesman McCormack talked about the necessity
to interpret Turkey's laws and constitution free from political
influence, which was seen as support for the ruling AKP. Washington
has felt the need to fine tune its approach and clues of this can be

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found in statements of both Rice and Fried. Washington is following
the closure case very closely because the result will have an impact
on American regional policies. Prominent opinion makers in the US
have started to warn Washington about the seriousness threat of
religious fundamentalism here, and this has had an impact on
Washington's fine tuning its rhetoric. Washington realizes that if
it intrudes, it may negatively affect the debate in Turkey on the
issue. Therefore, the US will maintain a neutral approach. It will
not go beyond expressing hope for a solution under the framework of
democracy and constitutional secularism."

TV News:
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- The trial of suspects charged with killing Armenian Turkish
journalist Hrant Dink will continue in Istanbul on Monday.

- On Tuesday, the parliament is to discuss the amendments to the
controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.

- The second 'Azerbaijan-Turkey Media Conference' will take place in
Baku on Tuesday.

International News

- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Ali Hosseini said a US
attack on Iran is "unlikely" because the American military is bogged
down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

- Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal told al-Jazeera television
the Palestinian militant group would accept an Egyptian proposal for
a cease-fire with Israel.

- The United States Priority Watch List named China and Russia as
among the worst violators of intellectual property rights. Turkey
was removed the list.

WILSON

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