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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 001600

SIPDIS

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
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2008

In Today's Papers

TGS Chief Basbug Calls on NGOs to Support the Social Fight Against
the PKK
Sabah, Hurriyet, Milliyet, Vatan, Cumhuriyet, Radikal, Zaman and
others: General Basbug paid his first visit as the Chief of General
Staff to the Southern province of Diyarbakir. General Basbug and
military commanders met with Diyarbakir Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu
and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
Islamist-oriented Zaman says General Basbug asked for the NGO's
assistance in regard to the social aspect of the fight against
terrorism. Mainstream Vatan reports that during the meeting with
the NGOs, General Basbug said "the PKK is at a breaking point. In
order to eliminate the PKK, people should show great determination
against the terrorist organization."

Gul Breaks a Fundamental Taboo and Goes to Armenia
Reaction to Gul's visit to Yerevan remains overwhelmingly positive
in the mainstream and Islamist news outlets as they focus on the
details of the trip and the good will gestures involved in the trip.
However, nationalist outlets harshly criticize Gul for going to
Armenia and circulate provocative rumors to paint the visit in a
negative light. Islamist-oriented Zaman notes that Armenian
President Sarkisian will honor President Gul with "an Iftar at the
Presidential Palace" before the World Cup qualifying soccer match
between Turkey and Armenia on September 6th. In addition, the paper
notes during the bilateral meetings "Gul will support the
establishment of a commission of historians who can examine the
genocide claims, invite Armenia to join the Caucasus Platform, and
discuss the Nagorno Karabakh dispute." Mainstream Aksam reports
"Yerevan will ask that the border be opened between Turkey and
Armenia," but that Gul will "pressure Armenia to abandon its
genocide claims" and also "to withdraw its troops from Naghorno
Karabakh." Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak praises Gul in "The Bravest
Step: Gul's Decision to Go to Armenia is seen as open-minded Turkish
foreign policy." Liberal Radikal reports PM Erdogan supports Gul's
visit by saying, "You cannot achieve any objectives by running from
the table." Mainstream Hurriyet makes a comment on football
diplomacy by noting, "Turkish Armenians Will Attend the Match and
Wave the Turkish Flag." Leftist Taraf carries the headline, "Gul
Breaks a Taboo," as "Gul's visit to Yerevan breaks a 93-year period
by starting a new era of relations," which, "breaks one of Turkey's
most fundamental taboos." Star daily says President Gul will invite
President Sarkisian to the follow-up game in Istanbul on October 14,
2009 between the Turkish and Armenian national teams.


Meanwhile, beginning with an unsourced report on nationalist news
channel, Haberturk, some media focused on claims an Armenian
terrorist would attend the match as a guest of Armenian officials.
In "So-Called Provocation," Radikal reports, "Someone tried to cast
a shadow over Gul's trip to Armenia with baseless charges that Gul
will watch the match together with an Orly massacre suspect,"
referring to a terrorist attack in June 1983 in which a bomb killed
eight at the Turkish Airlines' desk at Paris' Orly airport. Radikal
cites the Haberturk report, who ran a story last night claiming "a
terrorist who was responsible for the Orly massacre will watch the
match as an official guest of the Armenian government," but Radikal
called the Haberturk story "a provocation" and "a baseless report
which attempted to undermine Gul's visit." Leftist-nationalist
Cumhuriyet, meanwhile, gives credit to the claims in "Gul's
Controversial Visit." The paper reports "Heated debates were
triggered when it was learned that Gul will watch the game together
with the Orly massacre suspect." Cumhuriyet also notes CHP Leader
Deniz Baykal sarcastically suggested, "Why doesn't Gul just go ahead
and lay a wreath at the genocide memorial in Yerevan?" Nationalist
Tercuman notes Gul is going to Yerevan "despite the reactions of the
Turkish people." Meanwhile, CNNTurk reports, "Armenian officials
reject reports that terrorist Varujan Garbisian is among the VIP
guests who will watch the September 6th soccer match."

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International Praise and Domestic Criticism Regarding the Visit
Mainstream and Islamist outlets proudly embrace international praise
for Turkey's efforts to soften its relationship with Armenia. Both
the EU and the U.S. showered praise on Gul's acceptance of the
invitation to attend the World Cup qualifying soccer match between
Turkey and Armenia. CNNTurk reports, "Matt Bryza says Gul's visit
will accelerate the solution to the Nagorno Karabakh issue." In
"The U.S. is Also Pleased," Islamist-oriented Zaman reports, "U.S.
State Department Spokesperson for Europe Mark Toner noted 'We
welcome Gul's decision and we congratulate the two presidents for
coming together and exerting efforts toward peace and
reconciliation." Zaman also reports EU Enlargement Commissioner
Olli Rehn "greeted Turkey's decision with pleasure," and noted,
"This visit will be included in the next report" regarding Turkey's
EU accession.

Papers also cover negative reactions from the two opposition
parties, CHP and MHP. MHP Deputy Chairman Vural urged President Gul
not to go to Yerevan. CHP leader Baykal sarcastically asked
President Gul to lay a wreath at the Genocide Monument in Yerevan.
PM Erdogan defended Gul amidst such criticism by saying, "We think
that this is a positive thing and Foreign Minister Babacan will
accompany Gul. There will be talks between the two presidents, and
the foreign ministry officials of both sides will follow up."
Regarding possible reaction from Baku about the Yerevan trip, PM
Erdogan told reporters that he explained the visit to Azeri
President Aliyev recently. Zaman reports President Gul will make an
official visit to Baku before he goes to the United States on
September 20.

Editorial Commentary on the President's Trip to Armenia:

Ferai Tinc commented in mainstream Hurriyet: "President Gul's
decision to go to Yerevan is a strong step toward peace in the
Caucasus. Gul's visit sets a good example for solving problems
through peaceful means as opposed to use of force like the
Russia-Georgia example. Armenia should no longer be left out of the
economic cooperation zone between Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia.
Given the current domestic conditions, both the Armenian and Turkish
presidents have taken brave steps."

Murat Yetkin advised in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "So far the
Armenian genocide issue has been a burden that has shackled Turkish
foreign policy. It was also a negative point in Turkish-American
relations. American presidents have intervened at the last minute
to prevent a vote on a U.S. congressional resolution recognizing the
events of 1915 as genocide. From now on, the only way to keep this
resolution off the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives is for
Turkey to develop relations with Armenia. Turkey should be able to
move forward in its relationship with Armenia by keeping in mind its
role as a regional player. Unlike his predecessor, President
Sarkisian clearly indicates his will to normalize bilateral ties and
adds that the genocide issue is not a precondition for
Turkish-Armenian relations. If this visit becomes a successful one,
President Gul will be remembered for his historic decision, despite
efforts that criticize the visit."

Mahmut Ovur wrote in mainstream Sabah: "It seems that President
Gul's visit to Yerevan will be a turning point in the tense
relations between Turkey and Armenia. The positive approach to a
football game could extend to positive developments regarding trade.
In addition, the opening of the Kars border gate may be discussed.
As a matter of fact, this visit is a very good start not only for
Turkey-Armenia relations but also is good for bilateral ties among
all Turkey's neighbors. President Gul made a very brave and
historic decision by going to Yerevan."

Fikret Bila wrote in mainstream Milliyet: "Prior to his visit to
Yerevan, President Gul told Baku that this visit will also serve

ANKARA 00001600 003 OF 004


Azerbaijan's interests. With this visit, President Gul will make a
positive start for the future. Presidents Gul and Sarkisian will
meet prior to the football game and later the foreign ministers of
the both countries will continue bilateral dialogue. The general
expectation from this meeting is to open discussions for the future
of the Caucasus, not to resolve Turkey's historic problems with
Armenia."

Ali Bayramoglu wrote in Islamist-leaning Yeni Safak: "President Gul
has taken a giant step toward the future of Turkish-Armenian
relations. By establishing relations with Armenia through bilateral
dialogue, Turkey can get rid of its 'genocide baggage.' Closer ties
between Turkey and Armenia will also make important contribution to
the ongoing peace efforts in the Caucasus."

Mustafa Balbay in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet: "PM Erdogan
approves of President Gul's travel to Yerevan, but doesn't want AKP
lawmakers to accompany Gul. Thus, it could be said that Gul is
embarking on this trip without the backing of his party. Has
Armenia announced a review of its traditionally anti-Turkish
policies? No. On the contrary, this visit may send the signal that
Turkey does not object to Armenia's claims. Some comments that this
visit will draw Turks and Armenians closer are wrong, because Turks
and Armenians are already close to each other. Aside from the
radical elements on both sides, we see no serious problem.
Nevertheless, may the best team win in Yerevan."

Ihsan Dagi in Islamist-oriented Zaman: "With President Gul going to
Yerevan, Turkey's soft power may have reached Armenia. The way to
strengthen this effort would be establishing ties gradually and
opening the border with Armenia. Turkey did not lose anything by
taking the initiative in Cyprus after 2002. Turkey pushed the
dynamics for change in Cyprus and a similar initiative must be taken
regarding Armenia. Turkey's efforts regarding Armenia should not be
restricted to the President's visit; the government, also, should be
able to take such initiatives."

Praise for Turkey as a Peacemaker - Israel/Syria Talks
Media outlets note the public praise for Turkey as a peacemaker from
French President Sarkozy and Syrian President Assad. Mainstream
Hurriyet reports "Sarkozy praised Turkey," for its efforts in the
Israeli/Syria peace talks, while Syrian President Assad said "We
could not have conducted these peace talks without my brother
Erdogan." Mainstream Sabah reports, "French President Sarkozy
praises the peace talks between Israel and Syria that were carried
out by Erdogan." Mainstream Milliyet reports, "Sarkozy says Europe
Appreciates Turkish Efforts." Mainstream Aksam reports "Sarkozy
Applauds Turkey at a Meeting in Damascus," and "while Sarkozy
opposes Turkey's EU entry, this time he praised Turkey." CNN Turk
reports, "Sarkozy Hails Turkey for its efforts in peace negotiations
between Israel and Syria."

Editorial Commentary on Turkish Peace Efforts between Israel-Syria

Mustafa Unal in Islamist-oriented Zaman: "Even though the talks were
indirect, Turkey initiated talks between Syria and Israel. Now,
direct talks between the two countries will commence after the
presidential elections in the U.S. The summit in Damascus also
brought Arab nations and Europe to the same table, which inspires
hopes toward peace and stability. While the talks did not produce
concrete results, Turkey has become a bridge that connects the
European and Arab Worlds."

RTUK Director Charged with Laundering Charity Funds to Turkey
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Radikal, and Cumhuriyet report independent
lawmaker Kamer Genc and opposition CHP lawmaker Cetin Soysal
submitted separate motions to parliament in connection with a German
High Court case alleging money laundering by the Turkish-owned Deniz
Feneri Islamic charity. According to the German indictment, the
funds were sent to several points in Turkey, including some media

ANKARA 00001600 004 OF 004


outlets such as the Islamist-leaning broadcaster Kanal 7 TV. Genc
said "Deniz Feneri managers raised around 41 million Euros by
exploiting the religious feelings of Turks in Germany," and
"transferred part of those funds to Turkey instead of helping needy
people." Genc asked if PM Erdogan was planning an investigation
into the alleged ties between the organization in Germany with the
Deniz Feneri Society in Turkey. He also asked whether the Radio and
Television High Board (RTUK) chairman Zahid Akman, a former partner
of Deniz Feneri in Germany, was involved. Mainstream Hurriyet
reports Akman, who stands charged with money laundering, was barred
by the court from entering Germany from May 2007 to May 2012 because
of additional investigations regarding Akman's possible illegal
activities in Germany. Other suspects charged in connection to the
Frankfurt case accused Akman of being a courier. Akman denied the
charges in a press briefing yesterday, and said he would go to
Germany soon to clear his name. German legal experts say Akman will
be detained if attempts to enter Germany, according to Hurriyet.

PKK 'Pardons' Riza Altun
Media outlets report Riza Altun, a top PKK member in charge of the
organization's funds in Europe, was pardoned for embezzlement. Last
year Altun was sacked for embezzling PKK money and cooperating with
foreign intelligence agents. However, following an interrogation on
Mount Kandil, Altun has been pardoned. According to unnamed
sources, PKK leaders Murat Karayilan and Murat Karasu wanted Altun
to be executed. Altun was captured in France in 2007 but was later
released. He was detained in Austria for forgery in July 2007, but
was allowed to go to Mount Kandil despite Turkey's requests for his
extradition.

TV News:
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- On Friday, PM Erdogan will meet U.S. Undersecretary of State for
Political Affairs William Burns at the PM office of Dolmabahce
Palace in Istanbul. Later that afternoon, Erdogan will meet with
Georgian PM Lado Gurgenidze in the same location.

- Opposition MHP MP Oktay Vural said AKP vice-chairman Saban Disli
resigned amid bribery charges in order to protect PM Erdogan, and
not to give the public a message against corruption.

- Renowned seismology specialist Professor Ahmet Mete Isikara
predicts an intense earthquake in Istanbul between 2010 and 2014.

International News

- Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said Greek
Cypriots could not afford to make any more concessions regarding a
bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

- EU foreign ministers will meet to discuss their line on Russia
ahead of talks next week between the French and Russian presidents
on the Georgia crisis.

- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said the United States sent troops to
fight in the Iraq war on a "task from God."

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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