Cablegate: Turkish Businessmen Describe Threat to Work In
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 004893
STATE FOR EUR/SE, AND NEA/I
NSC FOR MBRYZA
ALSO FOR MNF-I AND MNF-NORTH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER ETRD ECON IZ TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH BUSINESSMEN DESCRIBE THREAT TO WORK IN
IRAQ, REQUEST US HELP
REF: A. ANKARA 4529
B. ANKARA 4600
C. ANKARA 4713
1. (Sbu) Summary: In recent days the head of the Turkish
Chamber of Commerce, as well as executives of
two leading Turkish USG contractors in Iraq (Tepe and Yuksel)
have all met with the Ambassador to press for
US consideration of additional security measures to enhance
security for Turkish truckers and contractors in
Iraq. The businessmen,s proposals dovetail with those in
the GOT non-paper (ref b) but are significant in that
these are credible contacts, struggling to continue to do
business in Iraq, including significant work for the
USG. Post reiterates its request for guidance in Ref B.
Meeting with Chamber of Commerce and Truckers, Association:
2.(Sbu) The President of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce
(TOBB) Rifat Hisarciklioglu and the President
of the International Transporters Association of Turkey
(UND) Cetin Nuhoglu met with the Ambassador
August 23 to discuss security of Turkish truckers in Iraq.
Hisarciklioglu claimed that 41 Turkish drivers have
been killed, are missing or have been kidnapped. (Of the 41,
two kidnapped drivers have since been released
and 8 of the missing drivers have been found.) He cautioned
that some Turkish businesses are "re-thinking"
working in Iraq. Hisarciklioglu said TOBB still hoped the
U.S. would help implement recommendations it
made in a February 2004 report. In particular,
Hisarciklioglu emphasized the need for insurance. He said
TOBB recently updated its proposals to improve security for
Turkish truckers and other workers and urged
that Turkish and U.S. officials work together to report on
these issues to Washington and Baghdad.
3. (Sbu) TOBB,s new proposals include 1) designating secure
routes from the border to the major destination
points (Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad); 2) enhancing security at the
transshipment depots; 3) providing security for
all convoys (not just those supplying U.S. programs; 4)
enhancing communication among drivers (most of whom
carry cell phones) by establishing a GSM network in northern
Iraq; 5) establishing secure accommodation
facilities on the route, where drivers can safely rest; and
6) providing investment incentives for construction
of logistical warehouses in Iraq.
4. (Sbu) The Ambassador thanked Hisarciklioglu for the
proposals and TOBB,s support, adding that the U.S.
has a strong interest in finding solutions. He noted that
the Turkish truckers are essential in providing supplies
to U.S. forces and Turkish companies are playing an important
role in reconstruction. However, since the
transfer of sovereignty, the U.S. has less ability to
implement the proposals ) most decisions must be made by
the IIG in Baghdad. The Ambassador undertook to pass the
proposals to Baghdad and Washington.
5. (Sbu) Hisarciklioglu said that TOBB is close to concluding
a contract with the GOT,s Customs Undersecretariat
to begin the long-delayed modernization of the current border
infrastructure at Habur Gate. However, he warned
that the issue of the second border crossing &will play a
role.8 The Ambassador reminded Hisarciklioglu that the
U.S. supports a second crossing and even offered a TDA
financed feasibility study on the best possible route, but
political problems on both sides have stalled any progress.
6. (Sbu) On August 19, CEO Ali Kantur and Deputy General
Manager Suleyman Son, of Tepe Group, a
large Turkish construction company with substantial USG
subcontracts in Iraq, met the Ambassador.
Kantur said that Tepe has completed fifteen projects in Iraq
(mostly prefab buildings for camps for the
U.S. military) and continues to work on three others. Kantur
described how security problems are
impairing its ability to peform under the contracts. As
reported in ref A, terrorists kidnapped two
employees of Tepe,s subsidiary, Bilintur. The terrorists
murdered one hostage, Murat Yuce, on the
Internet, and have threatened to kill the other unless Tepe
pulls out of Iraq.
7. (Sbu) Kantur and Son, explained that one of their biggest
problems now is how to transport prefabricated
housing to the Falluja area under a subcontract with KBR.
Though they used to transport through Syria and
switch to Iraqi drivers on the Iraq side of the border, that
route has now become too insecure to use. After
four months at the border, Tepe has brought the goods back up
through Turkey to the Habur Gate and
actually buried them on the Iraqi side, near Zahko, but still
lacks a secure way to get them to Falluja.
8. (Sbu) More broadly, Kantur said Tepe has lost 15 trucks
worth of goods, worth millions of dollars. Nearly
all of these losses have occurred since the beginning of
2004, when*according to Kantur*the security situation
in Iraq became much worse. Sometimes KBR has been able to
arrange US military escort, but usually not.
When escort has been provided, sometimes it requires trucks
to wait for weeks. Now Tepe is simply unable
to deliver the goods. Because of the kidnappings near
Falluja, Tepe has had to pull out of the area and even
in Baghdad it is moving its people to the Green Zone or
evacuating them. Son said that now even Iraqi
drivers will not go to Falluja.
9. (Sbu) Also on August 19, Emin Sazak, and Hakan Ferhatoglu,
senior executives from the Turkish construction
company Yuksel, came in to see the Ambassador. Yuksel, like
Tepe, is a significant USG contractor in Iraq and
in Afghanistan, where it is building the new U.S. Embassy.
Yuksel has subcontracts with both KBR and Fluor in
Iraq. Sazak and Ferhatoglu described problems in Iraq
similar to Tepe,s.
10. (Sbu) Sazak said Yuksel brings all its goods to Zakho,
where it changes to Iraqi drivers. Now it has trouble
finding Iraqi drivers willing to take the goods south. Sazak
went into some detail about the convoy escort
provided by MNF-I. He said there is usually one US military
vehicle in front and one in the rear, going about
60-70 km/hr. Sazak echoed a concern raised by the GOT MFA:
If a truck has a problem and needs to stop,
the military escort will only stop briefly, often leaving the
truck behind. Sazak said Yuksel has had at least
one case of its people killed in an escorted convoy, and in
one case had to leave a truck behind.
11. (Sbu) Sazak said that in addition to the loss of life,
insurance is a big problem since Yuksel cannot document
losses. It would be very helpful, he added, if the US
military escort would be willing to provide a report of an
attack, or a truck lost to attackers. Sazak also wondered
whether the US military could not consider some sort of
air patrol, since the truck route in Northern Iraq is a flat
area and surveillance from the air might have a deterrent
effect. Near Fellujah, where the camp Yuksel employees were
working in came under mortar attack, Sazak
wondered whether the insurgents weren,t getting inside
information since they seemed to be finding their range
as though someone was spotting the efficacy of the rounds.
12. (Sbu) Sazak also passed on a problem specific to Camp
Anaconda. Whereas in every other camp in Iraq*and
previously in Anaconda itself*Yuksel employees had been able
to circulate in the camp with a green badge, a new
US commander in Anaconda has taken away these badges,
inhibiting the Yuksel people,s movements. Sazak
claimed that the commander,s reasoning is that Turkey is not
part of the coalition.
13. (Sbu) Sazak said that Yuksel is the largest Turkish
contractor in Iraq, with eight hundred employees and is
struggling not to pull out. He pointed out that a Yuksel
pullout would be a &big deal8 but did not imply that they
were close to any such decision.
Comment and Action Request:
14. (Sbu) While post has no independent means to verify the
Turkish businessmen,s reports, in many ways their
accounts*particularly Kantur and Sazak,s*are more credible
than those of the MFA. Kantur and Sazak are well
known to the Embassy and both have extensive ties to*and
business with*the U.S. They genuinely seem to be
struggling to stay engaged in Iraq. Post reiterates its
request in ref A for Washington guidance on how to respond
to Turkish proposals on transport security into Northern
15. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.