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Cablegate: Tesev to U/S Burns: Constitutional Reform Is The

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIT #0896/01 2751327
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021327Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7569
INFO RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000896

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL TU IZ
SUBJECT: TESEV TO U/S BURNS: CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM IS THE
PRIORITY

REF: A. ISTANBUL 0050
B. ISTANBUL 0664

1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) Leaders of Turkey's most progressive civil society
think tank, the Turkish Economic and Social Studies
Foundation, stressed to U/S Burns that while reform of
Article 301 was important, the government must carefully
decide where to spend its new-found political capital.
Constitutional reform that re-calibrates the balance of civil
and military authority has the potential to have a broader
impact and should therefore be given the highest priority.
The group also discussed the challenges facing the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and opined on the sources of anti-Americanism in
Turkey, underscoring the need for the U.S. to take concrete
actions against the PKK while warning about the risks
associated with the proposed U.S. congressional Armenian
"genocide" resolution. End summary.

ARTICLE 301
-----------

3. (SBU) Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation
(TESEV) chairman Can Paker explained to U/S Burns during a
September 18 meeting that the government has decided to
change the controversial Turkish Penal Code Article 301 which
makes it a crime to insult "Turkishness." However, he
caveated, the administration hasn't decided whether to focus
on it as a single reform or address it within the context of
constitutional reform. Acknowledging the latter approach may
take longer than the U.S. and EU would prefer, Paker argued
constitutional reform is preferable because of its broader
implications. While change to Article 301 is necessary, he
noted, "other numbers exist."

4. (SBU) The director of TESEV's democratization program
Etyen Mahcupyan further argued that the constitutional reform
process adds legitimacy to any associated changes that
result. Agreeing with Paker that Article 301-type reforms
must be done because they are right for Turkey and not just
because the EU demands them as part of Turkey's accession
process, Mahcupyan concluded the government is using the
constitutional reform process to assess the public's
tolerance for change in other areas. Noting the ruling
Justice and Development Party's (AKP's) strong performance
during the July 22 parliamentary elections and the subsequent
election of one of its own to the post of President, U/S
Burns made the case that now was a good time for the
government to take steps on initiating reforms. Paker agreed
but cautioned it would be wiser for the government to use its
political capital on establishing a genuine, liberal
constitution than to spend it on a single issue.

HALKI SEMINARY
--------------

5. (SBU) U/S Burns also expressed USG concerns for the
rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, especially those
regarding challenges to the Patriarch's ecumenical title and
the re-opening of Halki Seminary. Paker stressed there was
no legal ground for closing the seminary and that it was
mainly a policy issue. Mahcupyan expounded that this policy
has been sustained by fears of demands the Muslim community
might make for opening its own Koranic schools should Halki
Seminary be opened. While handing U/S Burns a study TESEV
completed on the subject in December 2006 (ref A), Paker
exclaimed TESEV is in favor of re-opening the seminary. At
the same time, he added, legal actions concerning the
ecumenicity of the Patriarch (ref B) are "nonsense" and
simply the result of a nationalistic game that also has no
legal basis.

ANTI-AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Asked why Turkish public opinion of the United
States is so low, Mahcupyan responded there is a wide-spread
perception that while the U.S. has made fighting terrorism a
priority, it does not approach combating the PKK with the
same urgency. Paker, however, cautioned U/S Burns not to be
too focused on the results of a recent Pew Global Attitudes
poll indicating Turkish public opinion of the United States
is among the lowest in the world. "At times we've hated the
Brits, the French and others," he asserted, noting that the
questionnaire used for the poll was not formulated correctly.
Both Paker and Mahcupyan maintained that visible, concrete
action against the PKK would quickly change public
perceptions of the United States in Turkey. U/S Burns
stressed the US has had the strongest position against the
PKK and done more than any other country to combat it.

7. (SBU) Mensur Akgun, director of TESEV's foreign policy
program argued the U.S. needs a broader change in policy to
gain the respect of Muslim countries, to include
demonstrating a greater esteem for the United Nations. The
issues defining Turkish public perceptions of the U.S. are
not monolithic, he asserted. U.S. pressure on Iraq to
contain the PKK, the Cyprus initiative and the proposed U.S.
congressional Armenian "genocide" resolution (AGR) all factor
in, said Akgun. Regarding the latter issue, Paker and Akgun
warned that the AGR is easily exploited and that it doesn't
matter that the U.S. administration opposes it -- Turks will
view this as America's opinion.


CIVIL-MILITARY BALANCE
----------------------

8. (SBU) Responding to U/S Burns' suggestion that reaching
out to Kurdish regional leader Barzani and Iraqi President
Talabani would help the GOT gain Iraqi support for combating
the PKK, Paker observed that the government is beginning to
do that but Turkish foreign policy is "grossly" influenced by
the military. A greater civil balance is necessary, he
affirmed, lamenting that the military's involvement impedes
progress on resolving these problems. Praising the current
government for defending TESEV after the organization was
condemned by the military for taking up the civil-military
balance issue, Paker added, "until now, Turkey has had no
foreign policy, only a foreign position." Mahcupyan conceded
that the military is changing in response to a maturing
public that no longer needs it to define and protect Turkish
identity. Still, there are limits to the reforms the
military will tolerate, he asserted. "No general wants that
change while he's in office," warned Mahcupyan.

9. (U) U/S Burns cleared this message.

WIENER

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