Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More



Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Mcconnell Visit to Turkey

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) ANKARA 6210 B) STATE 279625



1. Your CODEL arrives in Ankara at a time when Iraq remains
the focus of the US-Turkish relationship and where Turks are
seized with two primary Iraq-related issues: the presence of
PKK/Kadek terrorists in northern Iraq and whether Turkey will
contribute troops to the stabilization force in Iraq. While
the Turks insist the two issues are not linked, senior GOT
officials including PM Erdogan have made it clear that
concrete progress by the US on PKK/Kadek will strengthen the
GOT's hand in convincing a skeptical populace to support
contributing troops to Iraq. On its larger Iraq policy, the
GOT is trying in the face of some military and public
opposition to shift its Iraq policy away from one centered on
northern-Iraq and ethnic (Kurd or Turkmen) issues towards a
more central Baghdad-oriented policy based primarily on
stability through trade, humanitarian assistance and
commercial opportunities for Turkish businesses. The new
focus could help re-establish the confident cooperation that
characterized U.S.-Turkish relations until earlier this year.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

2. The GOT tells us it is committed to finding a
comprehensive solution on Cyprus, but continues to emphasize
flaws in the Annan plan and does not have an alternative
route to a comprehensive settlement. The GOT remains open in
principle to improving relations with Armenia, but refuses to
open its border with Armenia and insists that improvement of
bilateral relations can only after a resolution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Turkey has issued positive
statements in support of the Middle East Roadmap and a number
of high-level Israeli officials have visited Ankara recently,
but the Turkish populace generally sympathizes with the
Palestinians. Turkey has supported USG policy objectives in
Syria and Iran.

3. The governing Justice and Development (Turkish acronym:
AK) Party came to power with an overwhelming Parliamentary
majority in November 2002 and continues to pursue reforms
geared at gaining EU accession. However, there is a question
within Turkey as to whether AK is committed to reform and a
number of elements within the country continue to oppose AK
at every turn. On the economic front, two years of sound
fiscal/monetary policy and structural reforms, the rapid and
successful conclusion of the Iraq war, expected US financial
assistance, and unprecedented IMF support have combined to
bring down inflation and interest rates, restore modest
growth, and create some hope that Turkey can work its way out
from under a high public debt burden. The government has an
opportunity in the coming months to win the economy some
much-needed breathing room, but this will require committed
implementation of IMF-supported reforms as well as wise
conduct of foreign policy. End summary.


4. There has been a concerted effort on the part of the GOT
to shift its Iraq policy away from one centered on ethnicity
(Turkmen and Kurd) and northern Iraq towards a more central,
Baghdad-oriented policy based primarily on contributing to
stability through trade, humanitarian assistance and
commercial opportunities for Turkish businesses. However,
GOT efforts have not found much traction with the military,
the press or the public which remains focused on northern
Iraq issues. The Turks have taken a number of concrete steps
in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction since Secretary
Powell's April visit to Turkey. The World Food Program (WFP)
continues to ship considerable quantities of food through
Turkey, and Turkey is also the world's biggest supplier (in
value terms) to WFP. The GOT also has supported the US
military's efforts to establish a ground line of
communications (GLOC) here to re-supply US forces in Iraq.
Turkey recently facilitated a Turkish company's export of
electricity to Iraq, continues to support fuel barter deals
to supply essential energy supplies to the Iraqi people, and
has offered some commercial/aid deals that Washington and CPA
are considering.

5. The GOT is also considering making a military
contribution to the stabilization force in Iraq. The GOT
tells us it is working to convince the Turkish populace and
Parliament to support a Turkish role. Some Turks (including
President Sezer) argue that further UN action (i.e. another
mandate) is required. Others (including FM Gul) believe more
UN, NATO, or Iraqi involvement in requesting Turkish support
would convince Turkish public opinion that their support
would be welcome. PM Erdogan recently told us that he is
considering going to Parliament this month to seek broad
authority to allow the GOT to engage with us to define final
conditions under which Turkey could send troops to Iraq.

6. The Turks also remain concerned about the presence of
PKK/Kadek terrorists in northern Iraq. Parliament recently
passed a "re-integration" law allowing non-leadership members
of the PKK/Kadek to return voluntarily to Turkey. Results of
the law have been disappointing so far. The Turks are
looking to the USG to implement our commitment to eliminate
the PKK/Kadek threat from Iraq. State's Counter Terrorism
Chief Amb. Black was in Ankara October 2 to discuss PKK/Kadek
and agreed with the Turks on a plan of action using the full
range of statecraft tools to eliminate the PKK/Kadek threat.
The Turks also remain disturbed by what they consider to be
Kurdish (vice US or Iraqi central authority) control of the
Iraqi side of the Turkish-Iraq border and a perceived US
favoritism of Kurds over Turkish interests. As the US and
GOT attempt to put behind us hard feelings from a July 4
incident, where the U.S. arrested Turkish troops believed to
be working contrary to efforts to create stability, the event
and the Turks' perception that we mishandled it are likely to
linger in the background of the relationship.


7. The AK Government states that it remains committed to
finding a solution on Cyprus, both for domestic political
reasons and its interest in promoting Turkey's EU candidacy.
Turkey's long support for Denktash, his rejection of the
Annan plan and supporters in Ankara retard progress towards a
comprehensive solution. Much will depend on the government's
willingness to take on this issue between now and spring
2004, when Cyprus' EU membership becomes effective. AK owes
nothing politically to "TRNC" leader Denktash and is thus
interested in promoting transparent and fair elections in the
North this coming December. December Parliamentary elections
in northern Cyprus have become a de facto referendum on a
comprehensive solution, and we continue to encourage the
Turks to persuade Denktas to allow free and fair elections,
including international observers.


8. The AK government is much less wedded to Azerbaijans's
ruling Aliyev family than its predecessors. However,
continued GOT linkage of normalization of relations with
Armenia to improvements in Nagorno-Karabakh has retarded
progress. AK officials tell us they recognize the potential
trade and development benefits to Turkey from opening the
border. However, AK officials have made it clear, as have
the MFA and other Turkish officials, that passage of any
Armenian genocide language, even by only one chamber of
Congress, will set progress back significantly.


9. Turkey prides itself on its good relations with both
Israelis and Palestinians. While it supports the
U.S.-sponsored Road Map, Turkey is leery of getting too far
ahead of a Turkish populace that generally sympathizes with
the Palestinian side. On Syria and Iran, Turkey argues that
Turkey: 1) lives in a rough neighborhood and has an interest
in minimizing friction with its neighbors; and 2) shares the
same values and goals in the Middle East as the U.S.
(stability, democracy and prosperity). In this regard,
Foreign Minister Gul delivered a call for democracy and
reform in the Islamic world at the June OIC Summit in Tehran.


10. The governing AK Party, which came to power with an
overwhelming Parliamentary majority in November 2002,
continues to pursue democratic and political reform (para
12). Meanwhile, AK's principle challengers -- the opposition
CHP and the xenophobic Genc Party -- have lost momentum. AK
insists it is wedded to democracy and strong relations with
the EU and US. However, most people in the Turkish
establishment question AK's sincerity and remain concerned
about its religious roots. There are also questions about
AK's ability to field an experienced and competent
bureaucratic team. Turkey's generals are keen to protect
their status as Guardians of the (Kemalist) Republic and the
version of "secularism" that has prevailed in Turkey. They,
and much of the established State, see AK as a challenge to
the founding ideology of Ataturk's Turkey.

11. The AK Government handled the run-up to Operation Iraqi
Freedom badly and has not shown leadership in the debate
about whether Turkey should participate in a stabilization
force for Iraq. Apart from its Iraq policy, the government
has gained better footing since PM Erdogan took over in March
2003. The party's October 12 convention will provide further
indications whether Erdogan can or wants to bring coherence
to the party and the government.


12. In the first eleven months in power, the AK Government
has passed a series of democratization and political reforms
in the context of EU harmonization. In doing so, Turkey is
garnering praise from the EU, which should decide by Dec.
2004 whether to begin formal accession talks with Turkey.
The reform packages expand freedom of expression including
mother tongue (i.e. Kurdish language) rights, crack down on
torture, and raise the relative authority of elected
civilians vis-a-vis the military. There are questions,
however, whether the AK government will implement these
reforms rapidly, particularly given the resistance from those
in the judiciary, military and other elements of the State
which are content with the status quo and suspicious of AK,
the EU and the US. The AK Government has also launched an
anti-corruption drive that appears far more comprehensive
than any conducted by previous governments. Nevertheless,
many Turks wonder how far AK will take its anti-corruption
drive, including against allegations of corruption in the
military and corruption within AK itself.


13. Two years of sound fiscal/monetary policy and structural
reforms, the rapid and successful conclusion of the Iraq war,
expected U.S. financial assistance, and unprecedented IMF
support have combined to bring down inflation and interest
rates, restore modest growth, and create some hope that
Turkey can work its way out from under a high public debt
burden. The Turkish Government has an opportunity, between
now and the end of the year, to build on this momentum and
thus push the economy away from the financial precipice on
which it has been perched for the past three years. This
will require the government, which so far has implemented the
IMF recovery program with muted enthusiasm, to complete the
next IMF review rapidly, proceed with scheduled
privatizations, win a positive EU report in October, and
improve the environment for foreign direct investment.
Failure to take advantage of this opportunity will not
necessarily mean another crisis, but will leave the economy
extremely vulnerable to external or internal shocks and
undermine the potential for prosperity. In late September,
the US and Turkey signed an agreement under which the USG
will provide $8.5 billion on low-interest loans to support
Turkey's economic reform efforts. Money under the agreement
could begin flowing as early as late October.


14. Turkey has been a signatory to the Hague Convention
since August 2000. Since that time, we are unaware of any
children being returned to any country without the agreement
of the abducting parent. There are systemic problems: 1)
Courts meet for 10 minutes monthly on an individual case and
do not focus on Hague issues; 2) judges do not understand the
Hague Convention requirement and rule on custody rather than
Hague issues, thereby requiring a lengthy appeal process; 3)
the legal process lasts between 2-3 years total; and 4) the
Ministry of Interior does not focus resources on finding the
abducted child and the parent. The US currently has four
applications pending, each for return of one child to the US.
In one case the child has now been in Turkey over a year due
to the slow court process and the judge used that delay to
rule the child should stay in Turkey. In another case, the
Government of Turkey has been unable to locate a child
abducted to Turkey in October 2002. Due to physical abuse by
the abducting father, the Turkish court ordered the child
returned to the mother immediately. The Interior Ministry
places a low priority on these types of cases and has been
unable to locate the child.


15. Turkey has a lively and colorful media scene. Reporting
often includes absolute fantasy passed as fact. Despite the
large number of newspapers, however, readership is not as
broad and deep as might be expected. Newspapers are
influential in major cities but not far beyond. Most Turks
get their news from television. Except for government-owned
TRT television, all television stations in Turkey, like the
print media, are owned by either individual businessmen or
conglomerates. The press will be interested in your visit and
seek comments at a number of venues.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.