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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 006523

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DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/SE, EUR/PD, NEA/PD, DRL
JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2006


In Today's Papers

Pope Benedict Pays Landmark Visit to Turkey
All papers report Pope Benedict XVI, on his first visit to a Muslim
country since becoming pontiff last year, will travel to Ankara on
Tuesday amid tight security. Protests are expected by small groups
of Islamists and hardline nationalists.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will hold a brief talk with the Pope
at Ankara airport before leaving for a NATO summit in Riga. After
his talks with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the religious
affairs directorate Diyanet, the Pope will visit Ephesus near the
Aegean port of Izmir where the Virgin Mary is believed to have
lived. Benedict XVI will then move on to Istanbul for talks on
Christian unity with Patriarch Bartholomew I.

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"The Pope is the head of the Catholic world and maintaining good
ties between the Islamic and Catholic worlds is in everybody's
interest. Disagreeing with somebody does not mean we are not
hospitable to that person," said Professor Ali Bardakoglu, who heads
Diyanet. Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said "We believe that
this visit is an important opportunity to show to the entire world
that Turkey is a country of tolerance and hospitality."

"Benvenuto!" says Sabah, defining the pontiff's visit as "historic"
at a time of rising strains between the West and the Islamic world.
Sabah says in a positive tone the Pope will visit a mosque for the
first time in Istanbul, will issue messages of religious brotherhood
and will support Turkey's EU bid. Diplomatic sources said Benedict
would tell Erdogan that he had dropped his former opposition to
Turkey joining the EU, says Sabah. Cumhuriyet comments the visit
will turn into a "rapprochement summit" with the Pope holding his
most important talks with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew
I.

Several papers report Turkish Foreign Ministry (MFA) officials
intervened in a press filing center in Istanbul where Greek Orthodox
Patriarchate members were handing out press registration cards
reading "Papal Voyage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate," claiming the
Patriarchate was not authorized to hand out press accreditations. A
crisis was averted after talks with the MFA, and the Directorate
General Press and Information Office at the Turkish Prime Ministry
started registering the press members to follow the pontiff during
the visit.

Pope Benedict XVI will leave Turkey on Friday.

Finland's Cyprus Plan Collapses,
All papers report the EU term president Finland said on Monday that
its Cyprus plan collapsed and there is no progress on the Turkish
Penal Code's Article 301, which restricts free speech. EU
enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said accession talks with Turkey
will not be stopped, but will mov more slowly after Ankara's
failure to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from
Cyprus.

Prime Minister Erdogan said the failure of the Finnish initiative on
Cyprus did not mean that efforts would slow down, stressing that
Turkey fulfilled all its duties. Foreign Minister Gul said he does
not think that the EU leaders will decide to freeze talks with
Turkey. Gul noted that Turkey can open its ports to Greek Cypriot
use, but the EU should implement its earlier decision to end the
international isolation of Turkish Cyprus. A spokesman for the
Turkish Foreign Ministry (MFA) told the press yesterday, "The
failure of the Finnish proposals, despite our constructive attitude,
should not affect our negotiations negatively."

Erdogan May Meet Bush at NATO Riga Summit
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman, Yeni Safak
and others report Prime Minister Erdogan is to participate on

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Tuesday in a summit meeting of NATO in Riga. Afghanistan will be
raised as the top issue at the summit which will also discuss
developments in Iraq as well as the Alliance's operations in Kosovo,
Darfur and the Mediterranean. Unidentified US officials told Zaman
there was no planned talk between President Bush and Prime Minister
Erdogan, but that the two leaders may meet at lunch or on the
sidelines of the summit.

Commenting on the NATO Summit, Ilter Turkmen warns in the mainstream
Hurriyet that Turkey, as a non-EU member, stands to lose out if NATO
is weakened: "NATO is not the only security actor in Europe. EU as
well, developed a security and defense policy. The two
organizations coordinate in their missions, but, from time to time,
problems occur in this coordination. Some of the issues to be
discussed at the Riga Summit relate closely to Turkey, for example
missile defense. It is a potential threat for Turkey that Iran will
not end its nuclear weapon project and continues to produce long
range missiles. Therefore, I am sure, Turkey will support NATO's
'joint missile defense system' proposal wholeheartedly. The second
issue that interests Turkey is energy. Establishment of a defense
system for the energy infrastructure will be discussed at the summit
as well. NATO is very important for Turkey from many angles. If
NATO is unsuccessful in some of its missions, Turkey will be
affected negatively more than any other European country as it is
not an EU member. In order to help NATO maintain its strength,
Turkey should not avoid some serious responsibilities, such as in
Afghanistan."

Writing in the Islamist-intellectual Zaman, Fikret Ertan observes
that Afghanistan will be at the top of the NATO Summit agenda: "Two
issues will determine the NATO Summit's agenda in Riga today. The
first and most important issue is Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a
very important country for global security, but one beyond NATO's
mission limits and, yet, NATO officially took over the
responsibilities in this country and got involved in fighting. The
increasing death toll of the NATO Forces in Afghanistan forced some
of the NATO members to bring some restrictions to their military
forces and decide not to send them to war zones. As an example,
Germany is refusing to move its troops from relatively safer North
Afghanistan to the South. These caveats (limitations) and the
shortage of forces and equipment, affects NATO's fighting force and
ability negatively. This is why Afghanistan is going to be on the
top of the agenda in Riga. One other important issue to be
discussed at the summit is NATO's 'global mission.' Defenders of
this mission stress that NATO is not a regional alliance any longer
and it should be responsible for global military and security
missions."

Newsweek on Coup Chances in Turkey
Zaman and Yeni Safak report on the Newsweek International op-ed by
Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute in which Baran wrote, "The
chances of a military coup in Turkey occurring in 2007 are roughly
50-50." Derya Sazak of Milliyet said this was not a realistic
assessment and that Turkey today was not the Turkey of the 1980s.
Asli Aydintasbas of Sabah said the Newsweek column reflected views
of some individuals in Washington, and asked Prime Minister Erdogan
to pay attention to the "changing winds" in Washington. Sabah
editor-in-chief and columnist Fatih Altayli alleges that Baran is
connected with a senior State Department Official, implying that
Baran's views should be viewed in that context. Kursat Bumin of
Yeni Safak criticized both Baran and Newsweek, saying, "Would a
serious expert write such a thing?" Both papers quote Baran as
claiming some important details had been lost after her article was
abridged by Newsweek. "None of my military sources said they would
try a takeover," Baran said, adding they were talking about a
"postmodern military intervention."


TV Highlights
NTV, 6.00 A.M.

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Domestic News

- Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said the EU needs to
suspend accession talks with Turkey.

- Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul called on the EU to be impartial
while dealing with the Cyprus problem. Government spokesman Cemil
Cicek said Cyprus is not a precondition for EU membership.

- The Turkish government sent to IMF a letter of intent for
approval.

International News

- Prime Minister Olmert offered peace concessions to Palestinians if
they turn away from violence, saying they will be able to establish
an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in real peace
talks with Israel.

- President Jalal Talabani visits Iran to discuss Iraqi security.

- The British Defense Secretary Des Browne said the number of
British troops in Iraq may be reduced by thousands next year.
- Jordan's King Abdullah warned that three civil wars might break
out in the Middle East next year if the international community
fails to intervene.

- An Iranian military plane crashed at an airport in Tehran, killing
at least 37 people.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at

http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

© Scoop Media

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