Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2008
In Today's Papers
U.S. Ships Deliver Aid to Georgia and Stir up Black Sea Politics
Media largely reports on Turkey's approval of and the subsequent
passage of Georgia-bound U.S. military ships through the Bosporus.
Now, the focus is on concern that the U.S. ships could encounter
Russian ships. Mainstream Milliyet carries the front-page headline,
"The U.S. is Being Watched by Russia in Batumi." Meanwhile, the
paper also reports twenty-five protestors gathered at Dolmabahce
Square on the Bosporus with signs reading 'Yankee Go Home' to
protest the passage of U.S. warships into the Black Sea. Liberal
Radikal also notes concern about a potential standoff between
Russian and U.S. interests in Georgia in the article, "Russia is in
Poti and the U.S. is in Batumi..." Islamist-oriented Zaman notes,
"American Warships are within 80 Km of Russian Ships," in the Black
Sea. Ali Aslan of Zaman writes, "Ankara's suspicions are raised by
U.S. efforts to circumvent the Montreux Treaty by sending two giant
hospital ships," and these efforts contribute to "fear that the U.S.
seeks to weaken the Montreux Treaty." Mainstream Sabah reports,
"After passing through our straits, the USS McFaul 74 arrived at
Batumi port, 120 km from Abkhazia's capital Sohumi," which has
created "anxiety and tension between the Russians and the
Americans." Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak reports, "Russia is
Uncomfortable with the U.S. in Batumi." Mainstream Hurriyet
columnist Fatih Cekirge writes, "Turkey is alarmed by the war in
Georgia and is afraid of a possible plan to deploy NATO forces in
the Black Sea." In addition Cekirge notes, "even if NATO members
Romania and Bulgaria push for a revision of the Montreux Agreement,
Turkey will resist such pressures."
Russia's "Withdrawal Game." (Vatan) Russia's continued presence in
Georgia is covered by focusing on the stories of Russian troops in
Poti and the landmine explosion that struck a train carrying petrol
from Azerbaijan. Mainstream Milliyet reports, "In Poti, Georgian
protestors demonstrated against Russian 'peace keepers.'" The paper
also reports approximately 100 people gathered outside the Russian
consulate in Istanbul to protest Russia's attempts "to take over
energy routes and parts of Georgia." Mainstream Sabah reports, "A
suspicious explosion destroyed a train carrying fuel from Azerbaijan
after it passed through Gori." Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
reports, "Russian troops are reportedly in Poti and are stopping
traffic and patrolling the streets." Mainstream Vatan carries the
headline, "Russia's Withdrawal Game," and notes, "Despite the
ceasefire agreement, Russia enrages the West by not withdrawing from
Georgia," and, "Georgian officials hold Russian troops responsible
for the land mine that destroyed a train carrying petrol from
In a related story, yesterday's edition of mainstream Aksam reports,
"Moscow and Tbilisi have withdrawn their support for the Caucasus
initiative," which was proposed by PM Erdogan. Aksam reports the
Georgian Ambassador to Turkey Grigol Mgaloblishvili said, "We cannot
sit at the table when the Russians continue to occupy our country."
In return, Aksam reports, Moscow "will not join the platform as long
as President Saakashvili remains in office."
Editorial Opinion on Turkey/Caucasus/Armenia:
Fatih Cekirge wrote in mainstream Hurriyet: "There is a growing
concern that the U.S. will push for the revision of the Montreaux
Treaty. Experts note that the current regime for the Straits does
not address U.S. interests in the Black Sea. Major energy routes
pass through the Black Sea, and the US will eventually want its
warships, including aircraft carriers, to pass through the Bosporus
and into the Black Sea. The status of the Montreaux Treaty will
likely come up at the next NATO meeting. However, circles in Ankara
circles are diligently strategizing so as to prevent the Montreaux
Treaty from being diluted."
Soner Cagaptay wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "The Russian
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occupation of Georgia will cause long-lasting and negative impacts
against Turkey's interest in the region, namely from the East-West
energy corridor to Karabakh. Russia will retain its powerful role
as long as oil and gas prices remain high. For instance, Turkey's
Karabakh policy is based on Azerbaijan's claim to this territory;
however, Russia's actions in Georgia prove Russia is the strongest
obstacle to this goal. Based on the current developments and the
aftermath of war, Turkey must revise and reshape its policy
regarding the Black Sea, Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus."
Erol Manisali wrote in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet: "Turkey and
Russia share the same interests in not having the U.S. fleet in the
Black Sea. 65% of Turkey's energy resources are tied to Russia.
Thus, if Turkey allows U.S. fleets into the Black Sea, bilateral
between Turkey and Russia will be strained. Turkey and Russia have
similar interests regarding natural gas, Armenia, the status of the
Bosporus straits, The U.S.'s Greater Middle East/Kurdistan projects
and the U.S. and EU vision of spreading Capitalism and Christianity
throughout the world. However, it would not be a mistake to assume
that Russia will also align its interests with those of Iran."
Sukru Kucuksahin spoke with CHP Leader Deniz Baykal and wrote in
mainstream Hurriyet: "Opposition party CHP Leader Baykal is not
happy with recent foreign policy developments. Baykal bitterly
criticized the AKP government's foreign policy approach. Baykal
noted, 'During Ahmadinejad's visit, the Iranian leader ignored the
sensitivities of his host, Turkey, by making funny remarks about the
United States. Moreover, President Gul sat right next to him as he
made these remarks. All we as Turks got out of this visit was an
insult, nothing else.' With regard to Armenia-Turkey relations,
Baykal believes that the government decided to make concessions to
Yerevan; therefore PM Erdogan went to Azerbaijan to persuade Baku to
do the same. As desired by the US and the Western world, Turkey
will warm up to Armenia by ignoring genocide claims and the Armenian
occupation of Karabakh. That said, Baykal also claims that Gul will
go to Yerevan for the Turkey-Armenia soccer match; this will mark
the beginning of Turkey's concession process."
PM Erdogan's Spat with Environmentalists
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Radikal: On the third day of his visit to the
Black Sea town of Rize, PM Erdogan continued to criticize
environmentalists who openly oppose the government's efforts to
develop Rize. Erdogan accused the environmentalists in Rize of
"targeting the AKP government" with their protests. In addition,
Erdogan noted, "My government and I are the real environmentalists
and we are working very hard to improve the environment."
Mainstream Hurriyet and liberal Radikal report that 33
environmentalists, including 30 foreign activists, were detained in
Sinop while protesting outside the Sinop governor's office. The
governor closed their "Ecological Utopia Camp," which mainstream
Hurriyet notes "is the first camp of its kind to be shut down out of
all Ecological Utopia Camps worldwide since they were first
established 19 years ago."
"Biden Trouble" (Milliyet)
Mainstream Milliyet reports that "experts tied to Turkey in
Washington are worried about Joe Biden as VP." Islamist-oriented
Zaman notes Turkey is already experiencing a difficult time in its
relations with Armenia, but if Obama and Biden come to power, "the
crisis could deepen," as Biden is "tied to the Armenian lobby."
Mainstream Sabah carries the headline, "Obama's Zionist Vice
President," and notes a prior quotation from Biden to an Israeli
television station in 2007 when he said, "I am a Zionist. The
U.S.'s greatest power in the Middle East is Israel." Far right
Ortadogu reports in "A Sixty-five-year-old Shrewd Politician," that
Biden "is considered to be against Turkey." The Sunday edition of
Radikal reports, "For many years Biden has supported Armenian
genocide claims, and in Turkish disputes with Greece and Southern
Cyprus he has always sided with the Greek and the Greek Cypriots,"
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despite Biden being described as "well-acquainted with Turkey."
Editorial Opinion on the U.S. Election Campaign:
Omer Taspinar observed in mainstream Sabah: "Unlike Senator John
McCain, Senator Joseph Biden is not a neo-con. Biden is at least as
strong and experienced as McCain regarding Iraq, Iran, North Korea,
Pakistan, and Russia. Again unlike McCain, Biden believes that it
is very important to act in concert and compliance with the
international community. As a result, Biden appears to be the right
man for Senator Obama's rather challenging election campaign."
Semih Idiz commented in mainstream Milliyet: "Ankara was not
pleased with Barack Obama's VP choice. Joe Biden is well known in
Turkey because he does not support Turkey's interests regarding
regional issues, including Armenian genocide claims. However, some
circles in Turkey believe that Biden could be trained by the facts.
Since Obama's election campaign is based on the U.S. withdrawal from
Iraq, Biden cannot ignore Turkey's role in a withdrawal. However,
if Biden refuses to change his stance against Turkey, Turkey will
take the opportunity to show Washington that Turkey does not need
economic and social support from the U.S. Actually, many people in
Turkey have been waiting for such an opportunity for some time."
Olli Rehn Calls for Compromise in Turkey
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, in an article for
mainstream Milliyet, urged Turkey to review its EU reform process.
Rehn said that "repeated crises have exhausted Turkey's energy for
reforms." In addition, Rehn noted, "The closure case against the
ruling AKP revealed Turkey's urgent need for judicial and
Mainstream Hurriyet carried a front-page story on Saturday detailing
a joint U.S.-Turkey law enforcement operation against an
international chain of computer hackers. The Turkish National Police
stated the suspects were captured after a comprehensive operation
conducted in cooperation and coordination with the FBI. The hackers
stole an estimated $200 million by hacking into thousands of bank
accounts in the United States and Europe. 40 people were detained
in 12 provinces, including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. The gang is
reported to have been in operation since 2005.
Alevis/Compulsory Religious Education
Milliyet, Hurriyet, Cumhuriyet and Radikal report Alevi protestors
spoke to the press and then staged a sit-in for half an hour in
Taksim Square in order to protest mandatory education classes in
public schools. The protestors promised to engage in such
demonstrations every Sunday "until the AKP government obeys local
and international court rulings regarding religious freedom." The
Danistay (Turkey's High Court of Administrative Affairs) and the
European Court of Human Rights ruled against the government's
imposition of mandatory religious classes in public schools.
33 environmentalists taken into custody in Sinop were released.
PKK terrorists attacked a gendarme check point in Siirt; no
casualties were reported.
Lightening ignited a forest fire in Mugla, which burnt 150 hectares
Two bombs planted beside the highway near Bolu were neutralized by
the security forces.
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The White House expressed regret for any civilian deaths during
U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan.
A plane crashed 10 minutes after taking off from Bishkek airport,
killing 70 people.
Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from their
most advanced positions in Georgia, but left check-points in Poti
and South Ossetia.