Cablegate: Codels Tanner and Leahy Meet with Pm Erdogan,


DE RUEHAK #1055/01 1581414
P 061414Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In May 29 meetings with Codels Tanner and
Leahy, President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan lauded
improved U.S.-Turkey relations and expressed gratitude for
U.S. support against PKK terrorism. Erdogan complained of
Congressional resolutions introduced on Cyprus and the Aegean
that work against Turkey's interests. Both stressed that
Turkey will continue its military and reconstruction support
to allied efforts in Afghanistan and the Balkans, while using
its prestige to promote democracy and stability, and mediate
disputes, in the Middle East. They noted the importance of
NATO and Turkey's support for enlargement and engagement with
Georgia and Ukraine. Erdogan was pessimistic about prospects
for stability in Iraq, but he and Gul pledged to pursue
improved relations with Iraq and continued assistance.
Erdogan described government efforts to improve economic and
political conditions in Turkey's southeast in order to defeat
PKK terrorism. Both leaders expressed concerns about Iran's
nuclear ambitions, calling for international unity to get
Tehran to change its stance, while downplaying the
significance of Turkey's energy discussions with Iran.
Meeting separately with Defense Minister Gonul, Codel Tanner
urged Turkey to reduce national caveats on its ISAF forces,
consider additional contributions to Afghanistan, and be
mindful of the need for NATO interoperability in upcoming
defense procurement decisions. End Summary

U.S.-Turkey Relations: Coinciding Agendas

2. (SBU) Gul and Erdogan described the U.S.-Turkey
relationship as one of "coinciding agendas and mutual goals"
in confronting global terrorism, human and drug trafficking,
and regional challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and
Caucasus. Drawing particular attention to Ambassador's
efforts, Erdogan stated a new era in bilateral cooperation
had begun with his November 5, 2007 meeting with President
Bush and the clear U.S. commitment to helping Turkey combat
PKK terrorism. "The Turkish people appreciate this," Gul
told the Codels. Gul and Erdogan highlighted NATO as the
cornerstone of Turkey's security in a changing world. Turkey
is maintaining its commitment to Afghanistan with over 800
troops in ISAF, while contributing to Balkans peacekeeping as
well. Erdogan informed that Turkey will contribute 32
civilian police to the EULEX mission in Kosovo. Both Gul and
Erdogan stated that Turkey was disappointed not all MAP
countries were invited to join NATO at the Bucharest summit
and hopes that this will soon be remedied, while welcoming
NATO's engagement with Georgia and Ukraine.

3. (SBU) Afghanistan is an important test for NATO, Gul told
the Codels. Training the Afghan army is vital, as is winning

over the public. Afghans want us to teach them to defend
Afghanistan, rather than sending our children to do the job,
Gul commented. Praising US efforts and commitment, Gul
added, "the ultimate success rests in winning the hearts and
minds of the people." Through its PRT and Turkish NGOs,
Turkey is building schools that have educated 50,000 children
and hospitals that have treated over one million Afghans, Gul
said. If we tell them not to raise poppies, we must tell
them what to raise instead, he stressed. We must look for
ways to win over the people, such as paving roads that are
now deep mud - a project Turkey has allocated $50 million to

But Concerns with Congressional Resolutions

4. (SBU) Expressing condolences for the death of Rep Tom
Lantos, Erdogan said that his government looks forward to
working with the next Congress on areas of mutual concern.
He complained, however, that the current Congress had
introduced sixteen resolutions against Turkey's interests,
the majority appearing to take the Greek side on Aegean
disputes and Cyprus. He claimed that seven of the
resolutions introduced addressed the Cyprus situation in a
way unfavorable to Turkish interests, despite the fact that
Turkish Cypriots had voted in favor of the Annan Plan after
Turkey closely consulted with Congress. Meanwhile, U.S. and
EU promises to ease Turkish Cypriot isolation remain to be
fulfilled and the Annan Report on the 2004 referendum has not
been published. Turkey hopes the next Congress will see
things differently.

5. (SBU) Senator Leahy and Rep Tanner both expressed their
appreciation for Turkey's progress and understanding for
Turkey's challenging neighborhood. Tanner praised Turkey's
invaluable contributions to NATO over the years and expressed
his gratitude for improved Turkey-U.S. relations since last
fall. Rep McCarthy said that any family has its
disagreements. She said she had been a sponsor of the
Armenian genocide resolution (HR 106) but she and others had
taken their names off the bill when Rep Tanner explained the
potential harm to our bilateral relations.


6. (SBU) Responding to Codel's questions, Erdogan said the
situation in Iraq is not promising. In addition to ongoing
ethnic and sectarian violence, al Qaeda is using Iraq as a
training ground, as are PKK terrorists. The Iraqi government
lacks an effective national army, with Kurds in the north and
Shi'a in the south maintaining their own military formations.
Meanwhile, strong central authority is lacking and a
hydrocarbons law has yet to be passed. Gul and Erdogan
stressed that Turkey seeks to help by improving bilateral
relations, trying to establish an industrial zone along the
border with Kuwait, and promoting democracy with all parties.
Asked by Sen Leahy if al Qaeda operationed in Iraq before
the fall of Saddam Hussein, Erdogan stated that al Qaeda had
not come until after Saddam's removal from power.


7. (SBU) Asked about the government's success in dealing with
the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Erdogan said military and law
enforcement measures would not be enough; sociological,
psychological, cultural and economic measures are also called
for. He explained that his Justice and Development party
(AKP) is the strongest party in southeastern Turkey. AKP has
70 Kurdish-origin members of parliament and four of the
government's ministers have Kurdish roots, he claimed. The
government has invested $8 billion in the southeast and is
planning $12.5 billion in additional new projects in the
region over the next five years, focusing on food, water, and
transportation needs. Erdogan reported that 95 percent of
the schools in the southeast now have computers. The
government's drive to bring the wealthy west and poor east
into balance is already undermining the PKK's appeal, Erdogan

Israel-Syria and Lebanon

8. (SBU) Codel members congratulated Erdogan and Gul on their
recent efforts to mediate peace between Israel and Syria and
asked about the likelihood of success. Erdogan reported that
both sides had expressed an interest in peace and had
accepted Turkey's offer to mediate. Success will require
great patience and shuttle diplomacy, but early indications
are promising. The current plan is for stakeholders to meet
three times per month, but could also meet more frequently if
desirable. Gul cited Turkey's mediation efforts in
Israel-Syria talks and its role in resolving the recent
Lebanon crisis and examples of its direct involvement in
finding regional solutions. He assured the Codels that
Turkey remains in close touch with the U.S. on its mediation
efforts with Syrian and Israel, and in Lebanon.


9. (SBU) Gul told the Codels that Turkey is working hard with
all regional actors to achieve stability, while advancing
democracy, transparency and multi-party politics. The over
one million Iranian and Syrian tourists who visit Turkey each
year compare the level of freedom and economic development in
Turkey with that in their countries. Gul said Iran must be
convinced not to pursue a nuclear weapons program, although
he doubted that Iran had made much progress given its
technical isolation. Nevertheless, the international
community must remain united in its stand, Gul concluded.

10. (SBU) On the margins of the meeting with the Prime
Minister, Codel members challenged AKP MPs on GOT efforts to

foster energy cooperation with Iran at a time when Iran is
not cooperating with the international community demands
regarding its nuclear program. Parliamentary Foreign Affairs
Committee chairman Murat Mercan stated that Turkey above all
countries does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, which
would strengthen the influence of a regional competitor. The
Head of the Turkish Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary
Assembly, AKP MP Vahit Erdem, stated that Turkey might also
be compelled to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does so. He
and Mercan downplayed Turkish energy cooperation with Iran as
preliminary, with little serious follow-up to date. Mercan
noted that he had seen Western business people in Tehran
hotels. The West must approach Iran in a unified fashion,
using political and economic levers in harmony.

Meeting with MOD Gonul

11. (SBU) In a separate May 29 meeting with Minister of
Defense Vecdi Gonul, Codel Tanner recognized Turkey's
significant assistance in Afghanistan, emphasizing that NATO
is uniquely placed to help the Afghan people. Rep Tanner
told Minister Gonul that the caveats imposed by Allies on
their troops hindered NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. He also
urged Turkey to consider the importance of interoperablity
when making military procurement decisions. Gonul flagged
Turkey's unique role as the only Muslim member of NATO and
noted the common cultural ground between Turkey and
Afghanistan. He recounted the essential responsibilities
Turkey had in NATO for so many years, with the longest Warsaw
Pact border of any Ally. Turkey is working on sending more
forces to Afghanistan, Gonul claimed to Tanner, but is
constrained by the needs of its own terrorist fight against
the PKK. Tanner urged Turkey to take on a greater role in
training and mentoring the Afghan Army. On the Codel's
question of how to convince other Allies to provide more lift
support in Afghanistan, Gonul argued that a more equitable
system of burden sharing be implemented, suggesting that
wealthier Allies should contribute more than they do
currently. Gonul told Tanner that the Turkish people
appreciated the U.S. intelligence sharing on the PKK, and
stressed that Turkish military strikes against PKK terrorists
in northern Iraq would continue to be carefully aimed so as
not to harm civilians.

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