Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Hastert

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
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for Codel Hastert

Ref: STATE 247385

1. (SBU) Summary: Your visit to Turkey comes at a bumpy
period in the bilateral relationship, in large measure
connected with developments in Iraq. This message
provides a brief overview of the state of bilateral
relations, cooperation in Iraq, Turkey's EU accession
prospects and the state of the economy. End Summary.

The Bilateral Relationship

2. (SBU) Bilateral relations have entered another choppy
period. The Turks are freely criticizing U.S. policy in
Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, but do not offer
constructive alternatives. A barrage of media
disinformation about Falluja and U.S. actions in general
in Iraq -- fanned by statements by PM Erdogan and by
Foreign Minister Gul alleging excessive use of force and
civilian casualties - is creating negative public
opinion. Some observers have characterized the general
attitude in Turkey toward the U.S. and our role in the
world as the most negative in memory.

3. (SBU) The negative Turkish attitude towards the U.S.
reverberates in other areas. During a recent visit by
Greek Orthodox Americans to discuss religious freedom,
Turkey dug in its heels reiterating its resistance to
reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Halki
Seminary and the ecumenical nature of the Patriarchate
in Istanbul (an ecumenical nature recognized in
Orthodoxy since the sixth century). The delegation's
visit set off a round of accusations that the U.S.
refused to respect "Turkish sensitivities" and had an
ulterior motive.


4. (SBU) Turkey shares our goals for Iraq: a secure and
stable, democratic country, united and territorially
whole. To that end, Turkey has provided valuable
assistance and cooperation. Ankara offered to send
peacekeeping troops to Iraq in October 2003, approved
the use of Incirlik Air Base for tankers to refuel
aircraft on support missions for both Operation Enduring
Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF),
authorized the transit of US troops from Iraq on
rotation out, and permitted the transit of supplies for
our forces and humanitarian goods. Turkey is also
active in reconstruction efforts, including providing
electricity for Iraq and training Iraqi diplomats, and
has offered senior military leadership training in
Turkey as its contribution to NATO's Iraq training

5. (SBU) This cooperation is provided despite the fact
that our actions in Iraq are highly unpopular with the
Turkish public. Many Turks in and out of government
worry about the fragility of Iraq's territorial
integrity, fearing that the Kurds in the north aspire
for independence and that the tensions between Sunni and
Shia Arabs might become intractable. The Turks insist
on interpreting U.S. failure to date to go directly
after the Kurdish PKK terrorist organization in northern
Iraq, the friendly U.S. attitude toward northern Iraqi
Kurdish leaders Barzani and Talebani, and the U.S. view
that the number of Turkmen in Iraq is significantly
lower than the figure cited by Turkey as "evidence" that
the U.S. supports both the PKK and an independent
Kurdish state. The future of oil-rich Kirkuk is a
particular source of concern, as the return of Kurds
forcibly expelled by Saddam could disrupt an uneasy
balance between resident Arabs and Turkmen, the latter
with whom the Turks feel a bond of kinship. The Turks
have gone on record supporting the IIG and full
participation in elections, which they want to see move
forward by January's end.

6. (SBU) More recently, the rising number of Turkish
truckers abducted and executed in Iraq has raised
concerns among the public and Turkish officials. To
address this issue, the first trilateral US/GOT/IIG
talks on security in Iraq were held on November 30.

7. (SBU) The Turks have been an active partner on other
fronts in the global war on terrorism and international
security: Our militaries coordinate assistance to
Georgia and Azerbaijan, improving their abilities to
protect important energy transportation routes. Turkey
subscribes to every arms control arrangement it is
eligible to join, including the Proliferation Security
Initiative. Ankara has been supportive of international
efforts to press Iran to meet its commitments to the
IAEA. The Turkish military's Partnership for Peace
Training Center provides counterterrorism and other
training to personnel from PfP partner countries. The
military has recently established a NATO Center of
Excellence for the Combat Against Terrorism that will
provide more specialized training opportunities for both
NATO partner nations and alliance members. And Turkey
will again assume the command of ISAF in Afghanistan in
February for a six-month period during which they will
significantly increase their contribution to this
important NATO mission.

EU Accession

8. (SBU) The European Commission in its October 6 report
recommended the EU open accession talks with Turkey. At
the December 17 Summit, the EU is widely expected to
follow through on this recommendation by setting a date
for talks. This would be a major step forward in
anchoring Turkey's future and in our strategic vision
for Turkey and the region. However, the GOT is
concerned about some of the conditions that may be
attached to the EU offer. They worry the EU is still
not committed to its membership and continues to raise
barriers. For example, the EU is pressing the Turks to
sign, before the Summit, a protocol extending the EU
Association agreement to the 10 new EU members,
including the Republic of Cyprus. GOT officials say
they are willing to negotiate on this point, but insist
they are not required to sign before beginning accession
talks, and they tell us this is presented as a
concession to and recognition of the Republic of Cyprus,
something they are only willing to see as part of a
settlement of the island's division.

9. (SBU) The Turks are also concerned about how the EU
will define the "open ended" nature of accession talks.
They recognize the successful outcome of the talks
cannot be pre-determined. GOT officials say they cannot
accept language indicating that Turkey may be offered
something less than full membership even if it meets all
accession criteria, as some (the Austrians, German CDU
leader Merkel) have suggested.

10. (SBU) The EU has indicated that it plans to apply a
"screening process" before opening formal talks on each
chapter of the EU acquis. The Turks say they can accept
this, as long as the screening begins in early 2005 and
the formal talks start later in the year. However, they
reject any arrangement that would postpone the start of
formal talks until 2006.

11. (SBU) Many in Turkey see the U.S. and EU
relationships as a zero-sum choice. They believe that
relations with the EU can improve by distancing
themselves from us. Others also look for a third
alternative based on partnership with Russia - which was
a theme in the recent Putin visit.


12. (U) The Turkish economy has recovered strongly from
the financial crisis of 2000-2001 and is growing at an
annual pace of around 10 percent. However, the recovery
remains vulnerable due to a large current account
deficit (about 5 percent of GDP) and a large debt with a
short maturity structure. Unemployment and poverty
remain high, and ordinary people have not felt much
benefit from the overall macroeconomic improvement.
Macroeconomic success has also bred a sense of
complacency about the need to persist with difficult
reforms, such as privatization, and reform of the
banking, social security and tax systems, all of which
are being addressed in a new three-year IMF standby

13. (U) Due to historic economic/political volatility
and opaque regulatory/judicial systems, Turkey has long
received less foreign direct investment than other
countries of similar size and potential. Many in the
Turkish elite are convinced that there will be a flood
of foreign investment if the Turks get a date for EU
accession negotiations later this month. However, this
is unlikely to materialize unless more is done in the
area of structural reform. In addition, there appears
to be a lack of appreciation for the enormous challenges
Turkey will shoulder in the accession negotiations, for
the fact that EU accession will affect nearly aspect of
their lives, and that it may in the end be quite costly
for Turkey to comply with EU directives in environmental
protection and other areas.

© Scoop Media

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