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Cablegate: Turkish Trucking Association Urges Halt to Work

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) Immediately following the August 2 murder of Murat
Yuce, a former Turkish trucker who had been held hostage in
Iraq, Turkey's largest transporters' association released a
statement calling on its members to halt work on all U.S.
military contracts in Iraq. The non-binding statement may
have led to the subsequent August 5 release of two other
Turkish truckers held hostage in Iraq, but also prompted
criticism from such groups as a rival transporters'
association and Turkey's major exporters' association, which
argued that Turkish companies must be free to play a role in
Iraq' future. Both transporters' associations tell us
privately, however, that, despite the risk, Turkish companies
will continue to seek more business in Iraq. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Turkish Truckers Association "Abandons" USG Contracts
--------------------------------------------- --------
2. (sbu) Murat Yuce, a plumber employed by the Turkish firm
Bilintur to handle laundry services at one of the U.S.
military facilities in Iraq, was taken hostage and murdered
on August 2 (reftel). Until a few months ago, however, Yuce
was a trucker for the Turkish firm Oztur. Immediately
following the internet broadcast of his murder, the
International Transporters' Association (ITA), which purports
to represent over 90 percent of Turkish transportation
companies, issued a statement calling on its members to halt
work on all U.S. military contracts in Iraq. (Note:
Following the statement, two other Turkish drivers for Oztur
were released in Iraq on August 5. End Note.) Despite the
declarative language of the statement (full text in para 7),
ITA Chairman Cahit Soysal told poloff on August 5 that the
decision was approved by only a majority of ITA's 19 board
members and has no binding authority on ITA's 900 plus member
companies. Soysal began by assuring poloff that ITA does not
see the U.S. as an "enemy." The August 2 statement, Soysal
argued, is the product of many months of concern about the
security situation for member employees in Iraq. ITA said
they have conveyed these concerns and specific suggestions to
improve the situation to Turkish, Iraqi, and USG officials
(including to Ambassador Bremmer during a February 2004
meeting in Baghdad with a Turkish commercial delegation).

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3. (sbu) Poloff remarked that the U.S. shares ITA's concerns
about the security situation. Soysal conceded that the U.S.
has taken some measures, but went on to argue that
shortcomings in these arrangements vitiate their
effectiveness. Even where there are convoys, he said, they
don't wait for trucks that have technical problems (even flat
tires) and they speed up whenever they come under fire,
sometimes leaving trucks behind. Additionally, the convoys
are provided only to Mosul and not back to the border --
would-be terrorists need only note which trucks are escorted
on the way to Mosul and then target them on the way back.
Soysal said that ITA does not hold the U.S. responsible for
the security situation and added that ITA is willing to work
with all of the relevant authorities to invest in measures
that can improve the situation. Additionally, Soysal assured
poloff that ITA is not encouraging its member companies to
cancel contracts with the U.S. military. "The statement was
a political, public-relations message," Soysal admitted.
Poloff noted that the USG is worried that the statement, by
seeming to respond to terrorist demands, may ultimately have
a detrimental effect on the personal security of Turks and
other foreigners in Iraq. Soysal said that, with sufficient
cover (i.e., additional security measures), ITA would be
eager to rescind the statement.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Rival Groups Denounce Statement as Irresponsible Posturing
--------------------------------------------- -------------
4. (sbu) While the ITA statement elicited some public support
(particularly from groups that are generally opposed to the
U.S. presence in Iraq), a number of business associations
were openly critical. The Chairman of the Turkish Exporters'
Assembly, for example, said that "Neither the Turkish
truckers nor the exporters have the luxury to say that 'I
don't want to play here.'" Saffet Ulusoy, Chairman of ITA's
principal rival transporters' association, the Ro-Ro Vessel
Operators and Combined Transporters' Association (RODER),
said that, "ITA does not have the authority or the right to
take such a decision. Only the government can take such a
decision." Cumhur Atilgan, the General Manager of RODER
(which claims to represent over 60 percent of Turkish
transport companies) told poloff on August 6 that RODER also
has security concerns but that many of its members had
criticized the ITA statement as "political posturing" that is
detrimental to their business and to the security of their
truckers in Iraq. (Note: Ulusoy, formerly ITA Chairman,
formed RODER when he lost reelection 2 years ago. ITA and
RODER share a number of members, but do not see eye to eye on
most issues. End Note).

Improving Security in Iraq?
5. (sbu) Despite their security concerns and the perceived
risks of working in Iraq, both ITA and RODER assured poloff
that their members were committed to pursuing such business.
Following the liberation of Iraq last year, trade between
Turkey and Iraq has risen dramatically. According to
recently released figures from the Turkish Exporters'
Assembly, trade with Iraq in 2003 was over USD 1 billion and
reached almost USD 800 million in the last 7 months. In
order to address their own security concerns, both ITA and
RODER told poloff that they are developing projects to
construct a warehouse and trans-shipment center in northern
Iraq where Turkish trucks can transfer their cargo to Iraqi
trucks. Both said that they were willing to invest their own
money, that they had already raised the idea with the Turkish
MFA and Ministry of Transportation, and that they are
planning to send delegations to Iraq to explore possibilities
on the ground. Both asked for U.S. support. Both
organizations also lamented the failure to implement earlier
proposals that Turkish trucks be given fake or temporary
Iraqi license plates to reduce the likelihood that they would
be targeted by terrorists.

6. (sbu) The ITA statement appears to have been a political
effort to insulate Turkish truckers from association with the
USG and to goad authorities into addressing their long-held
security concerns. Political and personal differences
between ITA and RODER will probably prevent any cooperation
between the two organizations on efforts to improve the
security situation for their companies. Regardless of the
inherent risks and the position of their associations,
however, Turkish transportation companies and exporters are
likely to continue to pursue lucrative business contracts in

ITA August 2 Statement
7. (u) International Transporter's Association supports the
development of political and trade relations between Turkey
and Iraq. However, it has observed that security and
stability in Iraq can not be maintained yet. Within the
framework of current developments, the ITA decided to stop
the transport of cargo which belong to the American troops in
Iraq as of August 2, 2004.


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