Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2008
In Today's Papers
Football Diplomacy: President Gul Pays Historic Visit to Yerevan
The top news story today is President Gul's weekend visit to Yerevan
for the World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Armenia.
Media coverage is very positive about the meeting, with most media
noting Gul's comments that the visit "tore down the psychological
walls" blocking Turkey's relations with Armenia and that Gul felt he
had to go to Yerevan because the invitation was "an opportunity not
to be missed." Mainstream Hurriyet carries the headline, "Football
Helps Mend Fences between Turkey and Armenia." Islamist-oriented
Zaman reported over the weekend, "President Gul opened a new chapter
in relations with Armenia when he accepted the invitation from
President Sarkisian to attend the game," and calls the meeting of
the two presidents "an historic turning point." In addition, the
paper noted "French President Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister
Kouchner praised the visit," as Sarkozy called Gul's visit
"courageous" and Kouchner said "The EU is pleased." Zaman also
notes "Turkey accepted the invitation to the match to show that
Turkey was not responsible for creating deadlock in bilateral
negotiations with Armenia," and "to show that Turkey sees a
difference between the Armenian government and the Armenian
Diaspora." Liberal Radikal reported the meeting "inspired hope" as
the two leaders discussed their "common history and common culture."
In addition, Radikal reports Georgian Foreign Minister Nalbandian
told the paper, "This meeting marks the first step in the process of
addressing the problems affecting relations between Turkey and
Armenia," and while Armenia respects the Armenian Diaspora's views,
"the Armenian government makes its own decisions regarding political
issues." Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak reports President Gul "called
for a discussion of dialogue, not a discussion regarding genocide."
Mainstream Aksam reports, "Gul told reporters the issue of
'genocide' did not come up in the discussions between the two
President Gul also told reporters he and President Sarkisian will
conduct a second round of talks soon in New York during the UN
General Assembly meetings later this month. Gul emphasized that
they agreed to move forward towards the resolution of their
problems. President Gul also invited his Armenian counterpart to
attend a rematch game between two national teams in Turkey on Oct.
14 next year.
Some papers also gave extensive coverage to the meeting between the
Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers after President Gul left
Yerevan. In, "Intensive Night Shift in Yerevan," Sabah reports that
Foreign Ministers Babacan and Nalbandian met 2.5 hours and discussed
a wide range of issues, including developments in the Caucasus.
Radikal carries an interview with Armenian Foreign Minister
Nalbandian indicating his confidence the two presidents "have paved
the way" toward future successful relations.
Radikal columnist Cengiz Candar agreed with Foreign Minister
Nalbandian, and he wrote today: "President Gul's visit was
historically important. But there has to be some concrete results to
call it historic in real terms. The most imminent concrete steps
should be the establishment of diplomatic ties and the opening the
Taraf daily carried an interview with a retired Turkish Ambassador
Volkan Vural in which he was quoted as saying "Turkey put itself in
a difficult position by ignoring the events of the past. There is a
problem and politicians should resolve it, not historians. The
genocide claim has become an industry but Turkey should be able to
apologize for the agony that Armenians experienced."
Editorial Commentary on Turkey-Armenia Relations
Ismet Berkan wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal: "President Gul's
visit to Armenia broke a long-standing taboo in Turkey. Now is the
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time to talk about real issues. Turkey should continue efforts to
deal with our bilateral problems instead of deny them. The problems
in Cyprus could have been settled right after the 1974 military
intervention. ASALA terrorist acts began after Turkey failed to
deal with the Cyprus issue, and PKK terrorism erupted after the
ASALA problem. None of this is a coincidence. Turkey will liberate
itself once it manages to release itself from the self-inflicted
burdens it carries on its shoulders."
Fatih Cekirge wrote in mainstream Hurriyet: "In the aftermath of
President Gul's trip to Yerevan, there are indications of a new era
in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey seems to be
playing the role of intermediary in this era. Gul is going to Baku
soon. It will not be surprising to find the two sides discussing a
new road map for the future of Karabakh."
Yasin Aktay wrote in Islamist leaning Yeni Safak: "Turkey finally
realized that no progress can be achieved unless foreign policy
issues are revised across the board. As Turkey skillfully
accomplishes this from the EU to the Middle East and from the
Caucasus to Armenia, it gets even closer to the ideal of 'peace at
home and peace in the world.' President Gul made a risky and a
brave decision to go to Yerevan; this decision will bring many
Semih Idiz observed in mainstream Milliyet: "As recent developments
indicated, Azerbaijan can no longer rely on a military plan to
include Karabakh in its territory. Russia will not allow such thing
to happen. The developments also made clear that the U.S. will not
fight against Russia for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is in need of
political support from the U.S.-NATO axis now more than ever before.
Thus, Baku should evaluate issues with a broader perspective and
not overreact to Gul's visit to Yerevan any longer."
Papers: PM Erdogan Cited in Deniz Feneri Money-Laundering Case
All media outlets report over the weekend and today that German
prosecutor Kerstin Lotz says Mehmet Gurhan, a manager for the
German-based Deniz Feneri charity, acknowledged that charity
donations raised in Germany for tsunami victims were transferred to
Prime Minister Erdogan. Weekend papers said the German prosecutor
would also ask the Turkish Justice Ministry to investigate
additional related charges against Radio and Television High Board
(RTUK) President Zahid Akman and Kanal 7 TV managers Zekeriya
Karaman, Ismail Karahan, and Mustafa Celik, who were all
shareholders in the companies set up within the framework of the
organization. The suspects are accused of laundering 41 million
Euros in raised donations in Germany to Turkey. The indictment
claims the charity funds went to Istanbul and not to the intended
recipients, who were victims of disasters in Pakistan and Darfur.
Between 2003 and 2006, Deniz Feneri couriers carried 14 million
Euros to Istanbul, which was allegedly given to Zederiya Karaman,
manager of Islamist-oriented television channel Kanal 7, a media
outlet with close ties to the AKP government. The prosecutor also
said the Turkish government heavily pressured officials Germany to
drop the case when the investigation into Deniz Feneri was launched.
Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal said "The AKP government seems to
be closely linked to these charges," of money laundering. "Did you
take the money or not," Baykal asked PM Erdogan. Opposition MHP
deputy chairman Atilla Kaya said the claims were "very serious,"
adding the PM was acting with a "psychology of guilt."
PM Erdogan Targets Media Mogul in a Public Spat
Sunday papers report Erdogan lashed out at Aydin Dogan and the media
mogul's Dogan Media Group, saying Dogan launched a smear campaign
against the government, the AKP, and his family because Dogan's
demand for re-zoning in order to construct multi-storey residences
within the compound of the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul was rejected.
Erdogan told Aydin Dogan he has five days to reveal "the actual
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reason behind the media group's campaign against the government."
On Sunday, Aydin Dogan accused the PM of "political blackmail" and
attempting to silence the free media. "History will judge the PM
who silences the free press in Turkey as a dictator," Dogan said.
Mainstream Hurriyet on Sunday accused the PM of quarreling with
journalists instead of taking the German indictment seriously.
Mainstream Milliyet quotes several German parliamentarians of
Turkish heritage who criticize Erdogan. Lale Akgun, SPD Federal
Parliament lawmaker, said she "congratulates" the Dogan Group papers
for "paying wide attention to the scandal," and stressed "Turkish
prosecutors should cooperate with German prosecutors."
Editorial Commentary on Deniz Feneri Investigation
Gungor Mengi wrote in mainstream Vatan: "PM Erdogan used the last
two days to curse and threaten the Dogan media group and Aydin Dogan
for reporting on the "Deniz Feneri" case. He is trying to silence
all media until the court case ends in Germany. Now we understand
why the AKP government tried so hard to take over the Sabah-ATV
media group. What lies under the PM's aggressive threats? All
these threats alarm us because these threats show the powers of the
state are being used incorrectly. This appears to be a case of
potential future blackmail."
Mehmet Barlas wrote in mainstream Sabah: "Turkey has witnessed
conflicts between politicians and the media before. In fact, public
spats between Aydin Dogan and PM Erdogan are nothing new. No one
has benefited from these conflicts in the past. In pluralist and
liberal democracies, media figures and politicians should adopt more
careful attitudes towards each other."
Mustafa Balbay in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet: "Throughout the
continuing Ergenekon investigations, PM Erdogan has pledged that
underground gangs will be eliminated. The same Erdogan displays a
totally different attitude regarding the Deniz Feneri investigation
-- he can't even stand the reports in the papers. A considerable
part of the media works, in a way, as the AKP's special media
branch, like a mouthpiece of the AKP. If Erdogan rendered the Dogan
Media Group ineffective, he'd have complete control over all media
in Turkey. After the Constitutional Court decided not to close the
AKP, it was hoped that the PM and the AKP administration would learn
its lessons and act in a more balanced way, but we see that is not
Six Killed in PKK Attack in Semdinli
Sabah, Milliyet, Zaman, Cumhuriyet, Vatan, Hurriyet and others:
Papers report that three soldiers, including a first lieutenant, and
three village guards were killed in a clash between security forces
and the PKK in Semdinli, Hakkari on Sunday. Two more soldiers were
slightly injured in the clash. Papers note that a large-scale
operation was launched to capture the terrorists. Mainstream Sabah
reports that on its web site, the Turkish General Staff stated that
9 PKK members were killed during operations last week.
Opposition Leaders Reject Meetings with Babacan
Sabah, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, Hurriyet, Vatan and others: Foreign
Minister Ali Babacan began holding talks with political party
leaders regarding the Third National Program. Sabah says Babacan
met with opposition party BBP first and explained the program to the
party's leader Muhsin Yazicioglu. He will meet with opposition
party DSP leader Zeki Sezer today. The leaders of the CHP and MHP,
the two largest opposition parties, rejected Babacan's request for
an appointment. CHP leader Baykal passed the request to his deputy
Onur Oymen; MHP Leader Bahceli passed the request to his deputy
chairman Osman Cakir.
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- Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek confirms municipality officials inspect
restaurants and shops selling alcohol, but adds the inspections were
related to "safety and hygiene."
- Turkey will expand labor union freedoms within the framework of
the EU harmonization process.
- Despite the high growth reported over the recent years, Turkey has
made poor progress in catching up with average per capita income in
- EU Commissioner Olli Rehn told a meeting of EU foreign ministers
in France Turkey's efforts for resolution of regional crises would
help ease reservations about Turkey's EU membership.
- During a summit in Italy, Vice President Dick Cheney accuses
Russia of selling arms to countries who support terrorists.
- John McCain and Barack Obama will visit Ground Zero in New York on
Thursday to mark the seventh anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.