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Cablegate: Bmena Faces Challenges in Turkey

VZCZCXRO4031
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0319/01 2261519
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZDS CTE SVC RUEHSD 0109
P 141519Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9121
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000319

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED MISSING SENSITIVE CAPTION)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL MC XI ZR XF
SUBJECT: BMENA FACES CHALLENGES IN TURKEY

ISTANBUL 00000319 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. On July 31, NEA Acting DAS Madelyn Spirnak
met with the director and officers of the Turkish Economic
and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) Foreign Policy Program
to discuss the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA)
initiatives and methods of achieving greater GOT buy-in to
the programs. TESEV had recently finalized its feasibility
study for a Middle East and North Africa gender institute
based on a mandate from the 2008 Forum for the Future held in
Abu Dhabi. Program director Mensur Akgun said that TESEV was
pushing GOT MFA to take part in the BMENA process. Success in
this endeavor would require a reorientation of BMENA
initiatives. Instead of "talk shop" conferences, as he
categorized the current Forums for the Future, Akgun
suggested establishing an OSCE-like institution with a
regional network of civil society organizations as a means of
motivating more civil society and government support and
involvement. End Summary.

Cairo Speech Reaction
---------------------

2. (SBU) In response to A/DAS Spirnak's request for civil
society reaction to President Obama's Cairo speech, Akgun
said the speech had more of a negative than positive impact
on interest levels. Specifically, delivering the speech in
Cairo, indicated that the President was focused more on
regional "security aspects" than on establishing benchmarks
for democracy in the region, he said. Akgun said he
understood this would increase Egyptians' willingness to
develop closer relations with the U.S. However, he noted that
civil society representatives from the Middle East with whom
he spoke at a recent Athens conference were extremely
disappointed that the President did not take a stronger
stance on regional democracy issues. Akgun said he thought
the speech in Ankara was stronger than that in Cairo. DAS
Spirnak advised Akgun that several young democracy advocates
participating in a Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)
met with State and NSC officials the day after the speech and
gave a much more positive r
eview of the speech. She advised Akgun to review the
President's Ghana speech (he was not familiar with it) to
gain more insight into the Administration's views on
governance, the rule of law and human rights.

3. (SBU) Because of disappointment in the Cairo speech and
concern that the Obama Administration might not support
continuing BMENA, Akgun urged Secretary Clinton's attendance
at the next Forum for the Future. He emphasized the
importance of USG public statements noting continued support
and involvement in BMENA initiatives. He also suggested that
the civil society network established through the Forum for
the Future be institutionalized and focused on one particular
issue at the next Forum. The format he suggested would mirror
the OSCE or Council of Europe. Such an OSCE-like institution
could not be created immediately, but this would be the goal.
He said he believed Turkey would be ready to play a
leadership role in such an institution. In response to A/DAS
Spirnak's question regarding the willingness of BMENA
countries to follow a Turkish lead, Akgun said that a recent
poll about impressions of Turkey conducted in seven Arab
countries indicated they would be willing to support Turkey's
regional lead
ership.

4. (SBU) Akgun dismissed A/DAS Spirnak's discussion of
potential Presidential initiatives in the areas of education
and economic empowerment; he did not consider these BMENA
objectives to be worthwhile, questioning the use of U.S.
resources in these areas. He expressed his pessimism about
the private sector's efforts to contribute to the
democratization process of countries given that they are
"generally clients of the regime in power."

Anti-Americanism Detracts from GOT's BMENA Involvement
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) Akgun also opined that given the anti-American
atmosphere the GOT was unlikely to invest more effort in
BMENA initiatives. He cited the example of Prime Minister
Erdogan's condemnation of America's "Greater Middle Eastern
Initiative" in a recent off-the-cuff speech. Most Turks are
not aware that the GOT is a participant in BMENA and
Erdogan's populist approach exploits America for his own
political ambitions, according to Akgun. Akgun suggested a
new, "non-geographically-tagged" name for BMENA that might
spare it from such public condemnation.


ISTANBUL 00000319 002.2 OF 002


Moroccan Gender Studies Institute
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) TESEV received positive and receptive response from
the government of Morocco on its initiative to open a gender
studies institute in Morocco. Additionally, according to
feedback from countries in the region, they support the
establishment of an umbrella organization/institution that
collects information for general consumption and use by
regional NGOs. TESEV's Ozlem Gemici described the benefits
to such an institution as regional NGO network building, the
sharing of best practices, and the coordination and
collaboration between NGOs on proposals and grant
opportunities. In addition to the main office in Morocco,
regional respondents indicated they would like to see
regional offices of the Institute in the Middle East and Gulf
as well.

7. (SBU) Comment. If Akgun's observations and speculations
are correct, BMENA faces significant challenges in gaining
support in Turkey. A restructuring of the strategy of Forum
for the Future with clearer objectives in fewer policy areas,
and a confirmation of continuing USG support for BMENA could
help sway the Turks to re-engage. TESEV's dismissal of
BMENA's economic and educational initiatives, despite their
support for the democracy initiatives, may in part be related
to the fact that TESEV itself does not operate in those
areas. The cable has been cleared by A/DAS Spirnak. End
Comment.
WIENER

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