Cablegate: Turkey Raises Northern Cyprus Aviation Links In

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

1. (SBU) Summary: Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta
and his visiting delegation reviewed the bilateral
transportation relationship with Turkish Minister of
Transportation Binali Yildirim in a full day of meetings in
Istanbul on Monday, May 24. Yildirim took the opportunity to
press for the establishment of direct aviation links as part
of the U.S. review of its policy towards Northern Cyprus.
Secretary Mineta responded that that review is ongoing, and

that we are committed to ensuring that Turkish Cypriots are
not "punished" as a result of the outcome of last month's
referendum. The two ministers also reviewed the gamut of
other transportation issues, stressing the benefits that both
sides have gained in the civil aviation area from our "open
skies" agreement, and exploring possible areas of cooperation
on maritime and land transport. The Secretary made a strong
pitch for Boeing aircraft in Turkish Airlines' (THY) current
procurement decision; THY officials responded that price and
technical issues are key, and that the process is "close to
conclusion." In the afternoon, the two Ministers toured the
Bosphorus and received a briefing at the headquarters of the
Vessel Traffic System (VTS) in Istinye. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Cyprus: The major bilateral issue on Yildirim's
agenda was transportation linkage to Northern Cyprus. He
expressed appreciation for U.S. efforts to secure a
settlement in the run-up to last month's referendum, and
noted that while Turkey would have preferred a "yes-yes"
outcome to the referendum, since that had not happened it is
now focused on seeking removal of the "unfair restrictions"
that the international community has imposed on the Turkish
side of the island. He noted that Turkey is grateful for
U.S. steps to do this, and expressed hope that direct flights
would be one of the measures adopted. Yildirim noted that
Northern Cyprus has worked to bring its ports and airports up
to international standards, and provided documentation to
that effect to the Secretary. Secretary Mineta responded
that our review of our Cyprus policy is underway, and that we
are committed to ending the isolation of Turkish Cypriots and
ensuring that they are not punished as a result of the
referendum's outcome. He stressed that we are coordinating
our actions with the EU, and that better results will be
obtained if actions are coordinated at the ICAO, and that he
will speak to our Ambassador there as well. Ambassador
Edelman added that our goal is to end Northern Cyprus'
economic isolation and help make the economic balance between
north and south more equal. To that end, he said, we will
work both within the U.S. policy process and with
multilateral institutions.

3. (SBU) Aviation: Secretary Mineta stressed the two
countries' common interests and noted that our bilateral
"open skies" agreement had proved advantageous to both sides
(a point with which U.S. companies concurred during a
business breakfast with the Secretary before his bilateral
meeting). On security issues, he noted that lead
responsibility in the U.S. government has passed to the
Department of Homeland Security, but emphasized that the
Department of Transportation remains deeply involved.

4. (SBU) Maritime/Land Transport: In response to Secretary
Mineta's outline of his efforts to encourage short-sea
shipping in the United States to ease road congestion on the
coasts, Minister Yildirim noted that the same issue exists in
Turkey. He attributed Turkey's high rate of road accidents
to the "lack of balance" between various transport modes,
with Turkish shippers primarily using road transportation.
As a result, he noted, Turkey's road fleet is the largest in
Europe. The resulting congestion and infrastructure
deterioration, Yildirim said, explains the high number of
fatalities on Turkey's roads. He outlined a similar effort
to encourage freight to move by sea rather than by road.

5. (SBU) THY Procurement: In closing, Secretary Mineta
touched on the upcoming procurement decision by Turkish
Airlines (THY), emphasizing our hope that the airline and
government would give serious consideration to Boeing
aircraft in their deliberations. Yildirim responded by
highlighting the dramatic growth that the civil aviation
sector in Turkey has experienced over the past six months (a
period in which air travel is up 30 percent). He attributed
the development to the entry of private companies into the
market. In the face of this private sector competition, he
indicated, THY, which has also experienced growth, is
determined to carry through with its fleet expansion plans.
He then turned the floor over to THY General Manager
Gundogdu, who emphasized that discussions with Airbus and
Boeing are ongoing, and that the airline, together with
Finance Minister Unakitan, will meet with Boeing next week in
the U.S. Price and technical issues are key, he said, and he
suggested that the Secretary talk to Boeing on the price
issue. He added that the process is "close to a conclusion."
Regarding price, Ambassador Edelman noted that Turkey can
help itself by adopting the Capetown Convention on aircraft
financing, which enables U.S. export credit agencies to offer
better rates. The Minister responded that the Foreign
Ministry is now working on the issue, and that the convention
should be ratified soon.

6. (SBU) Bosphorus Shipping: Both in the bilateral meeting
and during an afternoon Bosphorus tour, Minister Yildirim and
his maritime deputies emphasized the volume of traffic that
is transiting the straits. They noted that nearly 50,000
ships made the passage last year, some 8,900 of them with
dangerous cargo. Vessel Traffic System (VTS) Director Tuncay
Cehreli provided a detailed briefing on VTS operations during
a stop at VTS headquarters in Istinye, emphasizing that the
system is essentially a monitoring one. While Yildirim
stressed that the system is not intended to increase or
decrease traffic, but to increase its safety, he did note
that with the VTS in place traffic levels have increased in
the first part of 2004. Total passages, he said, are up 10
percent and passages by ships with dangerous cargoes are up
25 percent. Turkish officials remain concerned that only 39
percent of ships request pilots for the tricky and dangerous
passage through the heart of Istanbul, though they did note
that 99.5 percent of ships with dangerous cargoes take on a
pilot, largely for insurance reasons.

7. (U) Cable cleared by DOT A/S Bhatia for delegation.

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