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Cablegate: Codel Tanner Istanbul Meetings

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0308/01 1641238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121238Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8222
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITEHOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000308

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: CODEL TANNER ISTANBUL MEETINGS

REF: ANKARA 996

1. (SBU) Summary. Ten members of the U.S House Delegation to
the NATO Parliamentary Assembly headed by Congressman John
Tanner met in Istanbul on May 28 with public intellectuals
and civil society to discuss the economic and political
challenges facing Turkey. Their interlocutors acknowledged
that the AKP closure case is the primary source of political
instability in Turkey today, yet downplayed the effect of the
pending AKP closure case on the economy. The briefings
covered domestic politics and economics as well as Turkey's
relations with the United States and the European Union and
Turkish initiatives towards neighbors including Russia, Iran,
Syria, Israel and Lebanon.


YASED
---------

2. (SBU) Tahir Uysal, head of the International Investors
Association (YASED), explained YASED's take on GOT reform
policies to CODEL Tanner members and staff. Uysal cited the
informal economy, high taxes, and a flawed incentive system
as areas that must be dealt with in the short to medium term
to foster growth and investment. He noted the need to both
enact good laws and then to implement them citing
intellectual property rights legislation and the recently
passed R&D law as two examples that YASED is following
closely. Education reform, particularly to vocational
education, would be necessary for Turkey to produce the
skilled workers needed to attract greenfield investment, he
argued.

3. (SBU) Uysal underscored the importance of the EU accession
process as an anchor for market-based economic reform. In
response to a query about the primary obstacles to EU
accession, Uysal focused on the GOT approach to negotiations,
explaining that YASED had criticized the decision to dual hat
FM Babacan as chief EU negotiator. He claimed that support
for the EU goal was not wholehearted and that "indecisiveness
at all levels" hampered forward motion. He discounted the
argument that Turkey, as a majority Muslim country, was not
acceptable to the EU noting that current EU members are
apprehensive about Turkish membership for a variety of
reasons including Turkey large population (over 70 million)
and the possible impact of Turkey's large, inefficient
agricultural sector on EU agricultural policy.

Soli Ozel
---------

4. (SBU) Newspaper columnist and university professor Soli
Ozel discussed the intersection of politics on the economy
noting that while the group was meeting in Istanbul, PM
Erdogan was in Diyarbakir outlining his government's
development goals in the disadvantaged South East (reftel).
Ozel cautioned that PM Erdogan is in a precarious position
due to the pending AKP closure case, but argued that unless
the closure case causes "total havoc" the economy was
unlikely to be significantly affected by on-going political
instability. Ozel ascribed the closure case to a reaction by
the existing military/judicial/bureaucratic power structure
to a re-distribution of power away from traditional power
centers. In response to a query about the U.S. role in the
on-going debate on the closure case Ozel acknowledged that
the U.S. was in a difficult position. He argued that success
or failure in Turkey would resonate throughout the region and
for this reason the U.S. cannot ignore domestic political
tensions in Turkey. The U.S. must retain its credentials as
a supporter of democratic forces, he argued, but added that
neither the EU nor the U.S. had more than a marginal
influence at this point. Ozel, however, emphasized to CODEL
Tanner that "behind the scenes" dialog is a useful tool to
convey U.S. concerns to Turkish officials.

5. (SBU) Ozel outlined several foreign policy areas where
Turkey is taking a more active role including Lebanon,
Turkish-brokered negotiations between Syria and Israel and
the growing economic importance of Turkey in Kurdish areas in
both Northern Iraq and Syria. He explained Turkey's
relations with Iran and Russia were particularly sensitive.
In the case of Russia, Turkey sees significant commercial
opportunities in Russia and appreciates Russia's welcoming
attitude towards Turkish businessmen all the while remaining
concerned about energy dependence and sympathetic to Georgia.
Turks with experience living and working in Russia view
Russian positively because Turkish businessmen in Russia are
treated with respect, a situation that is not always repeated
in Europe, Ozel noted. Turkey's views toward Iran are

ISTANBUL 00000308 002 OF 002


similarly conflicted -- "no one wants a nuclear Iran" and
Turkey views itself as a counterweight to Iranian influence
in Lebanon. At the same time Iran is a neighbor and a
potential source of energy that could balance Russian
domination of energy supply.

Milliyet - Sedat Ergin and Sami Kohen
-------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Milliyet editor in chief Sedat Ergin described in
some detail the pending AKP closure case, describing it as
the primary source of instability in Turkey today. He noted
the irony that although closing a political party appears by
definition undemocratic it is in fact a constitutionally
acceptable option in Turkey. Ergin criticized the AKP for
failing to address the misgivings of those who view
secularism as under threat from a party with undeniable roots
in political Islam.

7. (SBU) Milliyet senior columnist Sami Kohen described
Turkey's three most important foreign policy priorities -
relations with the United States, relations with the EU and
multidimensional diplomacy. Kohen noted despite the damage
done by differences over Iraq, the United States has a
special priority in Turkish foreign policy. In many areas -
the war on terror, energy policy, the Balkans and Afghanistan
- Turkey and the U.S. share similar goals. Turkey's European
focus dates back to the late Ottoman/early Republican period
and was formalized in 1963 when the GOT applied to join the
European Economic Community. Kohen argued that the general
population has a European mindset and European identity and
thus will not easily abandon the quest for EU membership.
Multidimensional diplomacy describes Turkey's move away from
a bi-polar Cold War mentality to one that focuses on Turkey's
immediate neighbors and surrounding regions, according to
Kohen. This new focus is governed by a policy of having
"zero problems with neighbors" and has prompted Turkish
efforts to play the role of honest broker in conflicts
between neighboring countries.

WIENER

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