Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Tgs Dep Chief Basbug Focuses On Iraq and Cyprus

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

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 006270


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/03/2013

(U) Classified by Ambassador Eric S. Edelman. Reason: 1.5
(b) and (d)

1. (S) Summary: The Ambassador's lengthy (1.5 hours)
initial call on the TGS DCHOD, General Basbug, focused
primarily on Iraq and Cyprus. On Iraq, Basbug asserted that
TGS supports a GOT decision to contribute troops to Iraq,
preferably before a new UNSCR is passed, although he worried
that media reports of political conditions on the $8.5
billion US loan program for Turkey might complicate the GOT's
deliberations. He expressed understanding why the US would
not take significant military action against the PKK/KADEK in
northern Iraq now, but suggested a "token" act, e.g., turning
over one or two leaders or an air strike, would reinforce
what he hoped would be a strong message from both countries
that the PKK/KADEK's days in Iraq were numbered. Information
that Kurds would make up 50% of Iraq's new defense forces
concerned TGS, he said. Basbug worried that the Cyprus issue
might complicate Turkey's EU accession ambitions, and
suggested that lifting the embargo on northern Cyprus would
contribute to a solution. He did not respond to the
Ambassador's suggestion to cancel exercises on the island.
On other issues, Basbug acknowledged that the Turkish Land
Forces' attack helicopter procurement project was "frozen"
but the requirement and the program were was still valid; TGS
J5 would be convening a meeting on the program's fate the
following week. He also said he would "study" a proposal to
hold the High Level Defense Group in November with an acting
ASD if one were offered. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---
US-Turkey: Recovering from March 1 and the HLDG
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (C) The Ambassador made his initial call on TGS Deputy
Chief of Defense General Mehmet Ilker Basbug on October 2.
After opening the discussion by contrasting different
approaches to international politics (Basbug is a believer in
realpolitik), the general raised Iraq. Recalling the
reaction to the failed vote to permit US forces to transit
Turkey on March 1, Basbug said the media coverage of the vote
and statements attributed to senior USG officials
"disappointed" the Turkish armed forces whose support for the
GOT's position had been clear. He asserted that although the
vote had a negative impact on the bilateral mil-mil
relationship, it had not damaged it. As a result, he
preferred to talk about the need to "improve" the
relationship, not to "repair" it. To that end, he noted that
a meeting of the High Level Defense Group (HLDG) could be
helpful, but he had heard that his counterpart, ASD Crouch
would be leaving his position. The Ambassador responded that
that US could accept the Turkish dates with the understanding
that acting ASD Ricardel would chair our side. It would
likely be some time before a permanent successor to Dr.
Crouch was in place. Basbug noted that it would be useful to
have a meeting this year and requested the US side provide
the proposal to convene the HLDG during the week of November
17 as TGS proposed, and he would consider it. (Comment:
Septel makes recommendations on how to do this.)

TGS Backs Contribution to Stability Force

3. (C) Regarding Turkey's possible troop contribution to
the stability force in Iraq, Basbug confirmed the
Ambassador's understanding that TGS supported a contribution
as both in Turkey's interest by contributing to Iraq's
territorial integrity and by strengthening US-Turkey
relations but that the final decision was up to the
government and the parliament. Basbug emphasized that Turkey
"should not be indifferent" toward developments in Iraq and
that while TGS was "quite optimistic" about a positive
decision, he was not sure when that would come. Nonetheless,
the generals were advising the politicians that it would be
"even better" for Turkey if Ankara were to decide before the
UN Security Council passes a new resolution.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Concerns About Iraq: Favoritism, Kurds, Loans...
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (C) Basbug recalled that in the run-up to the March 1
decision to not approve passage by the 4ID through Turkey,
Turkish officials had offered American interlocutors who
asked the following advice on Iraq:

-- Iraq's territorial integrity must be preserved. The way
to do that was by treating all ethnic groups equally. Not
doing so would be "seeding some problems" for the future.
Although Basbug understood that relying on the Kurds "in the
short term" was expedient, he worried about information he
had received that the new Iraqi defense force would number
40,000 by the end of next year with half its members being
Kurds. He also had heard that the numbers would swell to
200,000 by the end of 2013, yet Kurds would continue to make
up half the force. He thought dissolving the former Iraqi
armed forces had been a mistake. The Ambassador said he was
unaware of any ethnic quotas in assembling a new national
army in Iraq. One key objective in Iraq was to move people
toward thinking of themselves first as Iraqis and not as
Kurds, Shia, etc.

-- The interim administration of Iraq should be effective.
The way to do this was to include individuals who were
respected by the Iraqi people. Basbug reiterated this point
several times throughout the meeting. Rocgnizing that Basbug
was trying to promote the new Iraqi Turkmen Front leadership,
the Ambassador responded that the US was following recent
developments within the ITF closely.

5. (C) Turning to the USG's $8.5 billion loan guarantee
program for Turkey, Basbug stated that TGS was concerned that
the political conditions in loan agreement could negatively
impact on the parliament's consideration of the troop
contribution question. The conditions in the agreement about
avoiding unilateral action in northern Iraq were "nonsense,"
and "irrelevant," he said. Currently, there was no reason
for Turkey to consider a cross-border operation; in the
future there might be. However, there is only one authority
in Iraq and that is the US, Basbug declared, and it was
unimaginable that Turkey would enter Iraq without consulting
with the US first. He accepted the Ambassador's explanation
of how the loan agreement simply reflected the law
authorizing the credit guarantees which included the
condition because of the circumstances last spring when it
was adopted. Basbug nevertheless lamented that the language
had an impact on public opinion despite the public denials by
US representatives.

Need Joint Action Against the PKK/KADEK

6. (S) "Today a very important meeting is occurring,"
Basbug stated, referring to S/CT Ambassador Cofer Black's
meeting with a GOT interagency team (septel). He explained
that TGS did not want action against the PKK/KADEK tied to a
Turkish troop contribution to Iraq, underlining that Turkey
needed action taken against the terrorists regardless of its
troop decision. At the same time, the PKK/KADEK issue is a
"vital" and "sensitive" issue for Turkey. He said that a day
earlier he had told MFA officials that they should try to
convince the US to issue a joint declaration. The Ambassador
summarized Ambassador Black's approach for Basbug.

7. (S) Basbug agreed that the major objective for the time
being should be to convince the PKK/KADEK that its time in
northern Iraq is about to end. Both countries' taking a
clear and firm position was "more important than physical
action for the time being," he said. He agreed with the
Ambassador's assessment of the news reports' negative impact
and noted that military intelligence suggested the PKK/KADEK
leadership had been nervous about what would happen to them
when the OIF began, but now they believe they are safe. If
the PKK/KADEK membership could be made to believe their
future in Iraq is dark, many would take advantage of the
Repentance Law.

8. (S) Basbug declared that simply putting the organization
on the EU foreign terrorist organzations list would not solve
the problem. The public expected action, although he allowed
that that could come later. For now, he thought a signal
would be important to underscore the seriousness of Turkey's
and the US's resolve. For example, if the US were to hand
over one or two PKK/KADEK leaders, it would be a "great blow"
to the organization. Alternatively, Basbug suggested one or
two aircraft could conduct an air strike against PKK/KADEK
locations in the mountains. The point would not be to kill
the terrorists, but just to shake them up. Basbug understood
that the US did not have any available forces for a major
operation against the PKK/KADEK now, but he hoped that would
change in the future. He noted that Turkey was always ready
to participate in a joint effort, although DAS Pascoe's
statement that the US would not want Turkish forces involved
puzzled him.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Cyprus: Worried about EU and Resettlement; Mum on
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

9. (C) Basbug next turned to Cyprus. He affirmed Turkish
armed forces' support for EU membership but worried that the
Cyprus issue could be a serious obstacle. The general
understood that the status quo could not continue forever and
that a solution must be found, but finding one after Cyprus
joins the EU would be very difficult. A lasting solution, he
thought, must preserve the bi-zonal system because there is
currently a lack of confidence between the two communities.
He also thought the guarantee powers system should be
preserved with some military presence, although "the numbers
are not important," he said. He thought the lifting of the
trade embargo on northern Cyprus would "help the situation."
Although he claimed not to be opposed to the Annan Plan (or
any plan) per se, he thought recommendations should be tied
to events. He said he agreed with FM Gul that a new approach
should be found. The Ambassador responded that the period
between the December northern Cypriot elections and Cyprus's
May 2004 EU accession would be the best opportunity to reach
a settlement. It was clear that the people on both sides
want a settlement and that the Annan Plan was the best
available for a quick solution. The US had already set aside
funds to help deal with the resettlement problem. Basbug
picked up on the last point to lament the huge problem
resettlement will pose, with 100,000 families moving, costing
up to $5 billion. The Ambassador argued that the price tag
may be a bit inflated, and noted that he hoped Special
Negotiator Weston would visit Ankara in the near future where
this issue could be further explored.

10. (C) The Ambassador asked whether Turkey could follow
last year's precedent of canceling its annual fall exercise
with Cyprus if the Greek side did the same. Basbug did not
respond. (Note: The Ambassador had raised this same subject
with DefMin Gonul on October 1. Gonul understood the
importance of the issue, but he was not prepared to respond
at that time.)

Other issues: Attack Helicopters, EUCOM Visit

11. (C) On other issues, the Ambassador asked Basbug of
TGS's attitude toward the long-stalled Land Force's attack
helicopter procurement. Basbug said the "project is not
dead," at least not yet. "Frozen" (a word PM Erdogan used
with a visiting American Turkish Council delegation earlier
in the week) was correct at the moment. Basbug emphasized
that the requirement and the program were still valid. He
recalled two problems with the program: the unit price "is a
little high;" and, the lack of agreement on the terms and
conditions regarding the mission computer. He said that
TGS J5 would be convening a meeting next week on the program
after which the Turkish side would inform us of the program's

12. (C) The Ambassador recalled that Basbug had received an
invitation from EUCOM Deputy Commander Gen Wald. Basbug
acknowledged receiving the invitation, but gave no indication
of when he would want to take it up.

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