Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
MONDAY, MAY 12, 2008
In Today's Papers
Turkish Warplanes Strike PKK Positions in Iraq
All papers report the Turkish General Staff's (TGS) announcement on
May 10, which reports Turkish warplanes bombed PKK camps in the
Avasin-Basyan region of northern Iraq. Under the headline
"Broadcasts From Kandil Are Cut," Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
claims Roj TV, known to be the mouthpiece of the PKK, was "silenced"
when it was bombed and destroyed by Turkish forces. The TGS
statement said, "Following the operation, the majority of the 200
terrorists who were on Mount Kandil have fled. This development
shows the organization was in a state of panic and its members'
morale was very low." The statement noted the PKK's armed wing
commander Fahman Huseyin, known as "Bahoz Erdal," abandoned the Zap
area and fled to the Sinaht-Haftanin area. In addition, the
statement said Murat Karayilan, had fled to the Mount Gara region.
Meanwhile, papers report on their front pages six soldiers were
killed on Friday night when the PKK attacked the Aktutun outpost,
which is in Hakkari province on the border with Iraq. The soldiers
were laid to rest in their hometowns on Sunday. Liberal Radikal
writes, "On Mother's Day, mothers bury six sons killed in clashes
with the PKK," as "tens of thousands joined the funerals." Papers
also report Prime Minister Erdogan said Turkey would not concede in
its fight against terror. The PM called on the terrorists to
"disarm, return home, and benefit from the repentance law."
In a related story, mainstream Hurriyet reported on Saturday that
TGS shared intelligence with Iran regarding the whereabouts of the
PKK's second in command Cemil Bayik. According to this
intelligence, Bayik fled to Iran with 200 of his men. The Iranian
authorities said military operations had been launched against Bayik
and his team.
Amb. Wilson: "The U.S. Supports Turkey's Democratic Values,
U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson spoke to mainstream Milliyet and
leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet columnists over the weekend. Under
the front-page headline, "I Am Not Using the Term 'Moderate Islam,'"
Milliyet quotes Ambassador Wilson as saying the U.S. supports
"Turkey's democratic values and its secularist roots." Wilson said
the U.S. was happy to see contacts improving between Turkey and
northern Iraq. He stressed the U.S. "does not support or reject
Fetullah Gulen's movement or his believers." He added, "Gulen has
acquired a U.S. visa; the U.S. does not apply ideological or
religious tests for visa applicants." Wilson also said Turkey and
Armenia should face their past, but at the same time they should
look toward the future.
Cumhuriyet reports in "Moderate Messages from the U.S.," that Wilson
said, "The U.S. is watching the closure case against the AKP
carefully." Wilson emphasized, "During the Cold War, Eastern Europe
was the center of expected tensions, today these tensions are around
Turkey." Wilson noted the U.S. was in "harmonious cooperation" with
the Turkish military, and that dialogue has helped solve the
problems in the fight against terror. On Iraq, Wilson said "A new
president may change U.S. policy in Iraq, in order to be successful;
we believe it will be necessary to work with Turkey."
Editorial Commentary on Ambassador Wilson Interviews
"The U.S. Position"
Fikret Bila wrote in mainstream Milliyet (5/11): "Ambassador Ross
Wilson, in a well-crafted manner, told Milliyet about Washington's
positions on matters that are very important to Turkey. Wilson
detailed Washington's position regarding democracy, secularism,
moderate Islam and PKK, which soothed worries in Turkish public
opinion regarding those matters. Ambassador Wilson clearly stated
that Washington has no 'moderate Islam project' for Turkey. He even
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explained that Americans use the term 'moderate Islam' as an
abbreviation. He enhanced his message on this issue by emphasizing
U.S. support for a democratic and secular Turkey. The PKK issue
undoubtedly is the most significant reason for the Turkish public
opinion's skepticism about U.S. support for Turkey's fight against
the PKK. There was a strong perception the U.S. used to help the
PKK and did not do enough to support Turkey's fight against the PKK.
Ambassador Ross Wilson clearly wanted to change this perception.
He talked about the armed struggle against terrorism and steps
toward eliminating the PKK terrorist organization's recruiting
conditions. According to Wilson, economic development will run the
PKK out of business. However, in the mean time, the U.S. will
continue to keep Iraqi airspace available for Turkish air
operations. At the same time, KRG President Massoud Barzani made
some encouraging statements regarding rapprochement with Turkey.
All of these developments are justifications for Ambassador Wilson's
depiction of U.S. efforts to support Turkey in the fight against the
Tamer Korkmaz wrote in Islamist Yeni Safak (5/12): "Milliyet and
Cumhuriyet carried interviews with the U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson.
Known to be a pragmatic person, Ambassador Wilson was careful to
give well-measured messages. In his Milliyet interview, Wilson
categorically denied speculations about U.S. support for PJAK. He
said, 'The U.S. has nothing to do with PJAK and does not support or
work with PJAK." Yet only a month ago, Osman Ocalan, a top PKK
leader, told the LA Times, "The U.S. supports both the PKK and PJAK,
but keeps this support on an unofficial level in order to be able to
deny it when pressured.' It is fair to ask why the U.S., Turkey's
strong ally, did nothing for Turkey in its fight against PKK terror
for 24 years. The November 5th summit was presented as a big
achievement for us; President Bush promised to provide intelligence
assistance in the fight against the PKK. However the share of
intelligence, especially regarding terrorism, is a must among NATO
allies. The U.S. did not care about this obligation to Turkey for
24 years. The fact of the matter is for over two decades, the U.S.
did not side with Turkey in its fight against terrorism; moreover,
the U.S. supported the PKK. When Turkey showed its full
determination to finish off the PKK during cross-border operations,
even without the support of the U.S., then Washington had no choice
but to support Turkey in order to not to lose any further prestige.
On this issue, the United States is the side who was obliged to
provide support to Turkey's cross border operations into northern
PKK/PJAK Clash with Iran Forces
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others feature reports of intense fighting between the Iranian
military and the PKK/PJAK along the Iraq-Iran border. The fighting
is situated in the Kaledize region on the Iraqi side, as well as the
Serdest, Konemisk, Mahabat, and Piransar regions on the Iranian
side. Papers quote Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Peshmerge
Forces, as saying heavy clashes were taking place in the Casusan and
Doletuk regions on the Iranian side of Kandil. "These clashes have
been continuing sporadically since Sunday," said Yawar.
PKK Attacks Civilians and Soldiers
Saturday's mainstream Hurriyet and Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
report that the PKK detonated a remote-control land mine Friday
morning, which hit a village minibus en route between Batman and
Yuvalicay. Four people died and another four were seriously injured
in the attack. Hurriyet reports that the minibus was carrying
village guards, a village teacher and other local residents. Yeni
Safak reports, "PKK terrorists detonated a road-side explosive in
Bingol while a military vehicle was passing by. One
non-commissioned officer and two soldiers were injured."
Council of State (Danistay) Calls on the EU to Respect Turkish
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Sunday's papers reported on the comments of Danistay (Council of
State) President Sumru Cortoglu at the 140th anniversary of
Danistay's establishment. Cortoglu said "We support constitutional
amendment initiatives that are in line with the fundamental and
irrevocable principles of our Republic and universal values that
meet the needs of all segments of society, and that guarantee and
improve human rights and freedoms. Foreigners should show the same
respect to the independent Turkish judiciary as they show to their
own judicial organs, lawsuits and verdicts." Cortoglu added,
"Judicial decisions can be criticized, however the criticism should
be made carefully and people should refrain from accusing judicial
staff when criticizing." Sumru Cortoglu will retire tomorrow.
The Government's Security Test With the EU
Liberal Radikal reports that the 24th chapter of EU membership talks
signals problems. The chapter is entitled, "Justice, Freedom, and
Security," and requires Turkey to adopt a guide for police behavior,
pass laws regarding police ethics, establish an autonomous committee
to review reports of human rights violations by police, and
establish an independent and effective system for dealing with
complaints against the police. These EU negotiations face
difficulty as the police and gendarmerie oppose the idea of
inspections by an autonomous committee related to civil rights
- Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, Ambassador Murat Ozcelik, will
meet with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud
Barzani in northern Iraq this week.
- A survey conducted by the Ankara Chamber of Trade says 15.4
percent of Turkish people live below the poverty line.
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a USD 3.65 billion
loan to Turkey, the final segment of a three-year standby credit.
- Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey would have decreased the
number of its troops in Cyprus if the Greek Cypriots had backed the
Annan Plan for reunification.
- The Arab League will send a high-level delegation to Beirut in an
effort to mediate a way out of Lebanon's civil strife.
- Iraqi security forces launched a massive offensive against
al-Qaeda militants in the city of Mosul over the weekend.