Cablegate: Turkish Ambassador in Bucharest Territorial About Turkish Minority
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHBM #1639/01 2981103
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251103Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5431
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0086
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0061
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001639
FOR EUR/NCE - MPEKALA; EUR/SE - MBRYZA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2016
TAGS: PREL SCUL RO
SUBJECT: TURKISH AMBASSADOR IN BUCHAREST TERRITORIAL ABOUT TURKISH MINORITY
REF: BUCHAREST 618
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Mark Taplin for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. On October 11, Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Okcun met with the Ambassador to discuss "increased U.S. activity in the Dobrogea region directed at the Turkish minority," who he referred to as "his people." Okcun asserted that the activities centered at the American Corner in Constanta were unsettling to the community and potentially disruptive to his efforts to promote Turkish-style Islam and combat extremism. In a repeat of an earlier request (see reftel), Okcun suggested that the US Embassy check with him in advance before engaging with the Turkish minority. The Ambassador stressed that we feel no need to seek permission to engage with any community in Romania but offered to review American Corner programs to ensure suitability. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Okcun requested a meeting with the Ambassador on October 11 to discuss "increased U.S. activity in the Dobrogea region directed at the Turkish minority." According to Okcun, the Turkish community and the Turkish consulate in Constanta have noted a sharp increase inU.S. "approaches to his people" in the Dobrogea region, centering on the American Corner in Constanta. The Muslims of Romania, with only a handful of exceptions, are Turks, he said. "My community is confused by the approach and turn to me for guidance."
3. (C) Okcun wondered whether we were "working toward the same aims, against the same enemies." "Islamic extremism is trying to infiltrate my communities," he said. "I am trying to fight back and promote Islam as Turkey understands it. I have been successful, but I may be fighting a losing battle."
Fundamentalists have too much money and appeal to the younger generation. There are 50 officially recognized imams in Romania, but the unofficial numbers are much larger and these are the concern, he said. The extremists are buying off imams one by one. While Bucharest has one official mosque, there are 17 others that operate unofficially. The fundamentalists have built orphanages and schools, and are "buying" children from their parents to attend. The Mufti, Iusuf Muurat, is a good man, but young and with many enemies.
He constantly turns to me for advice, calling five times a day, Okcun said. The Turkish Embassy is fighting back on new fronts, with plans to open an USAID-like development assistance program in Constanta and to launch a Turkish-language radio station. Aside from fundamentalist concerns, the PKK is also active in Romania and raises money by force from the Turkish community, representing another outside threat.
4. (C) Asking what our intentions are for future "approaches to his citizens" in Dobrogea, Okcun proposed that the Ambassador consult with him in advance on our activities with the Turkish minority so that he can "reassure" them of US good intentions. He acknowledged that our programs were public and above board, but stated that US activities bring a new factor to the Turkish embassy's established relationship with its minorities in Romania. "There have been no negative responses so far because I control the community," he said. Okcun mentioned a recent US program in Constanta on trafficking in persons, which he claimed was confusing to the Turkish community by portraying Turkish government officials as complicit in the problem. Okcun recognized that our intention was not to single out Turkey, but that some of "his people" saw such programs as an attack on the Turkish state. He also questioned why the Turkish Consul General in Constanta was invited to a program in Bucharest on Muslims in America, but no one at his Embassy had been informed or invited. In a reference to the International Visitors Program, Okcun said that US offers of travel to the Turkish minority were enticing to a community that is largely poor and underprivileged. (N.B. Mufti Muurat was nominated for an IVP in 2006, but declined due to pressure from Ambassador Okcun.)
5. (C) The Ambassador emphasized that we see the Turkish minorities as Romanians first. Our mission worldwide is to explain ourselves, our values, and our policies to the people of other nations. In Romania, we have opened several American Corners in the past year to make this dialogue more accessible throughout the country. Constanta has one of these Corners, which may explain the Turkish Embassy's perception that our "approaches to the Turkish community" have increased. The US is making a particular effort through all our embassies to reach out to Muslim communities to improve our mutual understanding. While stressing that we feel no need to ask permission to dialogue with any group in Romania, the Ambassador agreed to personally review our American Corner programs in Constanta and discuss the matter again in the near future with Ambassador Okcun.
6. (C) COMMENT. Turkish Ambassador Okcun continues to challenge our interaction with Romania's Turkish minority and insist that the Embassy clear our programs through him in advance. Post communicated this problem to the Department and Embassy Ankara in April when it last arose. We understand the Turkish MFA told Ankara that Okcun's actions do not represent official Turkish policy. Regardless, Okcun persists in his efforts to discourage our outreach to the Turkish community, which represents a significant share of Romania's overall Muslim community. END COMMENT.