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Cablegate: U/S Burns' Meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0873/01 2691252
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261252Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7541
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000873

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: U/S BURNS' MEETING WITH ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
BARTHOLOMEW I

1. (SBU) Summary. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
conveyed his appreciation for continued USG support and
reiterated the concerns of the Patriarchate in a meeting with
U/S Burns on September 18 in Istanbul. The Patriarch shared
his optimism concerning the results of recent Turkish
parliamentary and presidential elections while lamenting the
GOT's unwillingness to engage in dialogue. He hoped to call
on Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul in October to
congratulate them and express the concerns of the
Patriarchate in person. U/S Burns assured Bartholomew of the
USG's continued support and pledged to share the Ecumenical
Patriarch's concerns during his September 19 meeting with the
Prime Minister. End summary.

2. (SBU) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed his
appreciation to U/S Burns for Washington's continued support
during a September 18 meeting in Istanbul. He emphasized USG
support helped not only to ensure the continuation of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate's service to world-wide Orthodoxy but
also to support Christian ideals throughout the world.
Highlighting the Patriarchate's leadership role in advancing
global concern for the environment, Bartholomew noted he had
just returned from the Patriarchate's Seventh Symposium on
the Environment in Greenland. U/S Burns underscored the
respect and support the Ecumenical Patriarch receives from
all branches of the USG and reassured Bartholomew that the
Department leadership understands Patriarchate problems well
and that this is the right time to resolve them.

3. (SBU) His All Holiness stated he was especially grateful
to U/S Burns for reminding Turkish authorities of the need to
re-open Halki Seminary in his September 13 Atlantic Council
speech. U/S Burns assured Bartholomew that the U.S. will
continue its strong support for the Patriarchate. He had
raised the Halki issue during a January meeting with PM
Erdogan in Ankara, stating he had been to the Seminary and
that it was in Turkey's interest to re-open it. U/S Burns
recounted that, at the time, the Prime Minister had shared
his desire to do something about the issue. U/S Burns
pledged to re-visit the issue during his September 19 meeting
with PM Erdogan.

4. (SBU) Citing recent Turkish parliamentary and
presidential elections, Bartholomew remarked he was happy
with the results and that he had reason to be optimistic. He
characterized PM Erdogan as a "courageous leader" who has a
steadfast will to bring Turkey into the E.U. President Gul,
His All Holiness noted, is well known internationally and has
a good worldview. Bartholomew informed U/S Burns that he had
asked for meetings with PM Erdogan, FM Babacan and President
Gul and expected to visit Ankara in early October to
congratulate the new administration and submit his
expectations regarding resolutions to Ecumenical Patriarchate
grievances.

5. (SBU) Above all, Bartholomew confided, he wants the GOT
to understand that the existence of the Patriarchate does not
represent a threat to Turkey but rather, it is a blessing to
have the center of world-wide Orthodoxy and its associated
history tied to Turkish soil. Re-opening Halki Seminary and
facilitating the election of future Patriarchs by allowing
non-Turkish citizens to be eligible would be the best proof
of religious freedom in Turkey, he said. U/S Burns agreed,
noting the US interests in the concerns of the Patriarchate
were tied to the US belief in religious freedom and that it
was important for the United States to encourage Turkey to do
more.

6. (SBU) Bartholomew particularly lamented the lack of
dialogue with the GOT, stating he had sent over 30 letters to
Turkish officials and had yet to receive a response. He
emphasized that he did not want to give the impression that
he was attempting to impose solutions through the U.S. and
E.U. but that when he is asked about the problems of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate he is obligated to respond honestly.
He and his Patriarchate colleagues were among Turkey's most
loyal citizens, he argued, pointing out that he had served
two years in the Turkish military. Noting the portrait of
Ataturk in the Patriarch's office, U/S Burns pledged to tell
PM Erdogan that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is looking for
dialogue without publicity as a partner with the government
to find solutions to its problems.

7. (SBU) Asked what other messages U/S Burns could pass on
to the GOT on behalf of the Patriarchate, Bartholomew
responded that he wants to be received in Ankara next month
and that he needs the government's help to resolve

ISTANBUL 00000873 002 OF 002


Patriarchate problems but that he is optimistic. He
expressed concern for confiscated church properties, lack of
juridical personality and the ecumenicity of the
Patriarchate. Regarding the latter issue, Bartholomew
asserted that contrary to some government official claims, he
did recognize and appreciate that the GOT did not respond to
the 2004 appointment of non-Turkish citizens to the Holy
Synod; however, this was not enough, he stressed. U/S Burns
promised to address these problems with the Prime Minister
and re-assured the Patriarch of the USG's continued, though
discrete, involvement.

8. (U) U/S Burns cleared this message.
WIENER

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