Cablegate: Turks Take Steps to Address Trucker Security 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 02 ANKARA 005118
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD IZ MOPS PREL PTER TU
SUBJECT: TURKS TAKE STEPS TO ADDRESS TRUCKER SECURITY IN
IRAQ; WAITING ON U.S. RESPONSE
REF: A. ANKARA 4529
B. ANKARA 4600
C. ANKARA 4893
1. (SBU) Summary: In addition to their request for U.S.
assistance (ref a), Turkish officials -- recognizing that USG
resources for trucker security are limited and that the USG
cannot solve the problem -- have been exploring a number of
ideas Turkey could implement on its own to improve the
security of Turkish truck drivers in Iraq. An interim U.S.
reply addressing some of the security suggestions made by the
Turks would help them manage what they recognize is a
difficult issue that will only be resolved in the long term.
Turkish Actions to Reduce Truckers' Risk
2. (SBU) On September 8, MFA DDG for Bilateral Economic
Affairs Sakir Fakili asked Econoffs about a U.S. response to
the list of ideas that were passed in a non-paper to DCM on
August 11 (ref a). Fakili was grateful that one of the
Turkish suggestions had already been accomplished: Embassy
Baghdad had designated a point of contact on trucker security
and had already made contact with the Turkish Embassy in
Baghdad. On the other items, Fakili said extending escort
operations to all Turkish convoys -- not just those supplying
U.S. forces -- would be the ideal solution from the MFA's
point of view. Nevertheless, he recognized that the U.S.
military might not be in a position to do all that Turkey had
3. (SBU) Fakili stated that Turkey recognizes that the
Turkish drivers make an important contribution to the
stability and reconstruction of Iraq; and Turkey benefits as
well. According to Fakili, at any given time there are about
5-6,000 Turks in Iraq. Turkish companies have been awarded
contracts totaling USD 500 million, and Turkish exports to
Iraq have grown dramatically, more than doubling to USD 1
billion in the first half of 2004. On a macro level, this
trade has not been significantly impacted by the violence
against Turks that stepped up in August.
4. (SBU) Fakili said the government is working closely with
Turkish trucker associations and businesses to identify steps
Turkey can undertake on its own to improve security for
Turkish truckers: some Turkish companies are interested in a
plan to build secure rest stops for trucks inside Iraq, and
Turkey is looking into using contractors to enhance security
for truck convoys. Because Iraq will allow only Iraqi
security firms, Turkish officials have been talking with some
firms in Kirkuk about providing security teams for the
truckers. He added that security was also one of the main
topics discussed when Jalal Talabani and Nechirvan Barzani
visited Turkey this week.
Border Backlog Lower -- Turkey to Use Syria Route
5. (SBU) Fakili mentioned that the backlog of trucks from
Iraq to Turkey at the Habur Gate border crossing seems to
have eased recently. He said Turkey has already made a
number of improvements to increase the capacity of the border
crossing, including increasing the number of personnel and
installing computers to automate record checks. However, he
admitted that Habur will continue to be a problem. Building
a second border crossing would solve the problem, he offered,
but efforts to agree with the Iraqi side failed. As a
result, Turkey was looking into using the 55 km-long road and
rail corridor that runs through the extreme north-east corner
of Syria. Currently, 6 trains a week are transiting Syria.
(Note: TPIC, the export arm of the state oil company TPAO,
began making fuel deliveries by train via Syria in January
2004. We are not aware if Turkish truckers have been using
the road through Syria.) Fakili asked if the U.S. would have
any concern about Turkish truckers using the route through
Syria from the Nusaybin border crossing. (On September 9,
Transportation Minister Yildirim announced that Turkey and
Syria had announced an agreement to allow Turkish drivers to
transit Syria to Iraq.)
6. (SBU) Trucker security remains an important issue for the
GOT. As Turkish citizens continue to be attacked and
sometimes killed, the GOT recognizes that inaction on this
issue could lead to a political backlash against the
government's support for U.S. efforts and could lead to
truckers deciding that the risks they run to provide vital
supplies to the Iraqi economy and U.S. forces are no longer
worth it. Fakili and other MFA officials with whom we have
recently met recognize that there are no easy answers and
that Turkey will have to work with the government of Iraq to
find solutions over the long term. At the same time, the
government needs to be able to show its public that it is
taking action to protect its citizens. Thus the MFA
continues to look for a U.S. response to the list of ideas in
the non-paper to help improve security for Turkish drivers.
It is also encouraging that the government is taking action
on its own to reduce some of the risks.
7. (SBU) Action Request: We understand the difficulties
that implementing the Turkish ideas may entail. However, we
urge Washington to prepare an interim response to show that
we recognize the importance of this issue and to give Turkish
officials something to point to that the USG takes this issue
seriously and is working with Turkey to help. We offer the
following recommendations for elements of an interim response:
- A response on convoy security will take more time.
- We are ready to offer logistical and security assistance
for Turkish teams who want to travel to Iraq to examine
possible locations for building secure warehouse and rest
centers for truckers.
- We are ready to brief Turkish officials on the
communication options in northern Iraq. For example, to what
extent is cell phone service available in the area. What are
plans for improvements. Also, we recommend exploring options
such as establishing an information center at the border with
current information on the weather, security conditions,
etc., or providing regular (monthly) briefings from a U.S.
- Embassies Baghdad and Ankara have established POCs for
Turkish officials on trucker security.
- We are ready to help identify U.S. contractors to share
their experiences in Iraq dealing with insurance issues.