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Cablegate: Patriarchate,S Readout of Pm Erdogan and Patriarch

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PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHIT #0326/01 2311539
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191539Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9142
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000326

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2019
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV TU GR OSCE
SUBJECT: PATRIARCHATE,S READOUT OF PM ERDOGAN AND PATRIARCH
MEETING

REF: A. ISTANBUL 323
B. 08 ISTANBUL 382
C. 07 ISTANBUL 873

Classified By: DPO Win Dayton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. Summary. (C) Press officer for the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Father Dositheos on August 18 elaborated to poloff about the
August 15 conversation between Prime Minister Erdogan and the
Ecumenical Patriarch (Ref A). Dositheos reported that during
his visit to the Greek sites on the island (the first by a
Turkish Prime Minister), Erdogan implied to the Patriarch
that the non-Turkish members of the Holy Synod should apply
for Turkish citizenship. He also requested the Patriarch's
help in attaining greater rights for the Muslim minority in
Greece while commenting positively on the Patriarchate's
intended use of the Buyukada Orphanage facility. European
attendees at the lunch suggested that the United States
played and continues to play a significant role in the GOT's
recent movements toward democratic reform. End summary.

Buyukada Orphanage Still Not in Patriarchate's Hands
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (C) According to Dositheos, the group toured the Buyukada
Orphanage. In July 2008 the European Court of Human Rights
entered judgment in favor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and
against the Government of Turkey (GOT) in a case concerning
the Patriarchate's title to this former orphanage that had
been annulled by the Turkish authorities (ref B). According
to Dositheos, the GOT has yet to hand over the property title
to the Patriarchate. He acknowledged that the delay may be
due to the need to convert the property's foundation status
from mazbut (controlled by the GOT) to one fully controlled
by a Greek Orthodox community foundation. Erdogan reportedly
replied that he would be happy to see the orphanage facility
used as a center of ecological studies and interfaith
dialogue as the Patriarch planned, and he then gathered his
ministers together for a private discussion that lasted
several minutes, according to Dositheos. He had not yet
learned of the content of this discussion, he said.

The Question of the Holy Synod and Succession
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (C) Dositheos reported that during the walk, lawyer Kezban
Hatemi (one of the event's organizers), told Erdogan that one
of the biggest mistakes of the Turkish state was to "neglect
the rights of the country's minorities and to violate the
Lausanne Treaty." Erdogan replied by asking if the GOT's
implicit approval of the six non-Turkish members of the
Patriarchate's Holy Synod should be considered a violation of
the Lausanne Treaty, Dositheos said (Ref C). (Note: The
members of the Holy Synod elect the next Ecumenical Patriarch
from among their ranks. According to a mandate from the
Istanbul Governorship in 1923 and 1970, the members of the
Synod must be Turkish citizens as the Patriarch must be a
Turkish citizen. End note.) Erdogan reportedly said, "We
overlooked the appointments out of love and concern for our
Greek Orthodox brothers" and then asked the Patriarch why the
Patriarchate has not pursued obtaining Turkish citizenship
for any of the six non-Turkish appointees. Dositheos said the
Patriarch did not respond to this question.

Erdogan Requests Greater Rights for Muslim Minority in Greece
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

4. (C) According to Dositheos, Erdogan later asked the
Patriarch to request of Greek Foreign Minister Dora
Bakoyannis that the mosque in Athens be completed and the
Turkish minority in Thrace be given more rights, including
the right to elect the community's imams. Dositheos said the
Patriarch responded that he has always asked for greater
rights for the Muslims in Greece.

Touching upon Halki
--------------------

5. (C) Dositheos said that the Patriarch had gestured to
Heybeli Island during the walk and said, "That building
there, the Halki seminary, belongs to us." Erdogan responded
that "by the beginning of the academic year the problem would
be resolved." Dositheos commented that he does not know what
"problem" would be resolved and noted that Erdogan said no
more on the topic within the group. However, the Patriarch
and Erdogan spoke together privately for fifteen minutes.

ISTANBUL 00000326 002 OF 002


When Dositheos asked what was discussed, the Patriarch only
said "we feel hopeful" but nothing more. When the two
rejoined the group, the Patriarch invited Erdogan to visit
the Patriarchate and Halki. The Prime Minister did not
respond, but Bagis and Arinc both accepted the invitation to
visit the Patriarchate. Dositheos said he and the Patriarch
would follow up with their offices when the Patriarch returns
this weekend. According to Dositheos, for the four weeks
prior to the lunch, the Patriarchate and the German
Ambassador had been trying to set a date for the Patriarch to
meet with Bagis with no success.

A Warm Exchange
----------------

6. (C) At the end of the tour the Patriarch presented Erdogan
with a tespih (non-denominational prayer beads) blessed by
himself at a monastery in Greece. In return, Erdogan reached
in his pocket and gave the Patriarch his personal tespih.
The Patriarch responded to this gesture in kind and gave
Erdogan his own personal tespih from his pocket.

Speculation on U.S. Influence on Reform Process
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (C) Acting German CG in Istanbul Peter von Wessendonk
contended that President Obama's visit and continued pressure
on Erdogan and the GOT is at the base of the recent turnabout
and focus on democratic reforms. He speculated that Erdogan
and the GOT had been at an impasse and now are pushing to
remove stumbling blocks on the way to reforms. "Turkey has
come a great distance but still has hiccups." More than
anything, Erdogan "doesn't want to get it from Obama a second
time." According to Wessendonk, the United States carries
much more weight than the European Union, in part because the
U.S. is not involved in the carrots and sticks of EU
accession. Wessendonk's perspective on the influence of
Obama's visit tracked with the opinion of the Greek Deputy
Principal Officer who also attended the lunch (Ref A).

8. (SBU) Comment: While no concrete resolutions have come
from the August 15 meeting, the Patriarchate appears
cautiously optimistic. We will probe our GOT counterparts to
learn more about GOT intentions, and look for opportunities
to spur both parties to build on the constructive weekend
atmospherics. End Comment.
WIENER

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