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Cablegate: Ambassador's Esf-Linked School Visit Generates

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 001090

SIPDIS

STATE PASS AID FOR TMEFFORD AND VKWOK
TREASURY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - ASHAH AND
CPLANTIER
NSC FOR BRYZA AND MCKIBBEN

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL EFIN KPAO TU
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S ESF-LINKED SCHOOL VISIT GENERATES
MORE POSITIVE NEWS COVERAGE

REF: A. Ankara 912 B. 2004 Ankara 6213

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador and Minister of
Education visited a primary school in a poor
neighborhood of Ankara February 23. The school visit
was linked to the U.S. ESF grant to a project providing
cash to poor families conditioned on their keeping
their children in school. There was widespread and
favorable coverage in both print and televised media.
The photos of smiling Minister and Ambassador side by
side, surrounded by children and agreeing on the two
countries' shared values, provided a positive contrast
to recent coverage of strains in U.S.-Turkish
relations. End Summary.

---------------------------------------------
Ambassador Visits School in Poor Neighborhood
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On February 23, the Ambassador visited the
Huseyin Gullu Ceylan Primary School in the Altindag
municipality of Ankara. The immediate vicinity of the
school, like many neighborhoods in Altindag, has a
mostly low-income population, with many recent migrants
from other provinces (see ref b for a description of a
previous visit to another neighborhood school). The
visit was designed to highlight the U.S. $9 million
dollar ESF grant through the World Bank to the Social
Risk Mitigation Project which provides cash payments to
poor families on condition they keep their children
enrolled in school (ref a describes signing ceremony
for the grant). The visit to the Ceylan school --
selected because of the high number of project
beneficiaries -- enabled the Ambassador to meet first-
hand with students as well as with mothers who receive
the cash payments.

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---------------------------
Education Minister Joins In
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The day before the visit, Minister of
Education Celik decided to join the Ambassador, thereby
increasing press interest. Moreover, the Minister's
evident enthusiasm, both in being seen in the school
milieu and in being there with the Ambassador, helped
make it a more compelling story for Turkish mass media,
and provided a visual image of US-Turkish friendship
and cooperation.

4. (SBU) The visit included a meeting between the
Ambassador and Minister, a press conference, a chat
with 5 mothers benefiting from the cash payments, a
visit to a classroom, and a stop at the school's
library where both Minister and Ambassador presented
gift books.

-------------------
Improving the story
-------------------

5. (SBU) The classroom visit provided the best photo
opportunity: the papers and TV featured a photo of the
beaming Ambassador and Minister wedged into well-worn
classroom benches, surrounded by children. Mass-
circulation Sabah even included some of the
Ambassador's Q-and-A with the kids: "How many children
do you have?" "When you were a kid, did you work hard?"
This arguably does more for the U.S. image then
exchanges with the press on bilateral relations, though
during the press Q-and-A, the Ambassador was able to
make the point that the U.S. and Turkey shared common
values and ideals, a point that the Minister agreed
with. The Minister underlined the atmosphere of warm
bilateral relations by volunteering that the Fulbright
program in Turkey was expanding, noting that he would
soon be going to the U.S. on a Voluntary Visitor
program, and saying there were no tensions with the
U.S. Overall, the Minister's evident friendliness to
the Ambassador, combined with the gusto with which he
chatted with the project beneficiary mothers and the
children, greatly added to the human interest angle for
the press and conveyed an image of good bilateral
relations.

6. (SBU) As a result, there was widespread favorable
coverage, in both print and televised media. CNN-Turk,
Channel 7, Channel D, TGRT, Channel B, and NTV all had
footage of the classroom scene. Channel D
characterized the visit as the U.S. Ambassador's effort
to improve relations despite recent tensions. Mass-
circulation newspapers Sabah, Hurriyet, Star, and
Radikal carried photos with positive headlines.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The Education Minister's willingness to be
seen to be friendly with the Ambassador was probably
helped along by his upcoming Voluntary Visitor Program
in the U.S. but also by an evident new desire on the
part of GOT officials to downplay press reports of
problems in the bilateral relationship since Secretary
Rice's visit. Whatever the motivation for the change
in tone, the Minister of Education seemed willing to
help make the school visit a good news story for
bilateral relations. As noted in reftel, ESF funding
for this kind of project can go a long way in helping
the U.S. image.

EDELMAN

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