Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

COURT ENDS ASSET FREEZE OF AL-QAEDA LINKED FINANCIER

From Andkronos International

Istanbul, 21 July (AKI) - Turkish Council of State, the country's top court, has overturned a order from Turkey's previous government to seize the assets of a suspected al-Qaeda financier, Yasin Al-Qadi. The ruling on Thursday could jeopardise Washington's efforts to gain Turkish's assistance in co-ordinating its fight against terrorism.

The previous Turkish government, at the request of the United States, had ordered the seizure of the assets of al-Qadi, a Saudi businessman and reputed al-Qaeda financier, following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Al-Qadi allegedly has had business links with Cuneyd Zapsu, one of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top advisers.

The court's decision came two weeks after Erdogan defended al-Qadi as a "philanthropist."

"I know Mr. Yasin and I believe in him as I believe in myself," Erdogan told private NTV television in an interview on July 11.

"It is not possible for Mr. Yasin to establish ties with a terrorist organization and support it. ... He is a person who has no specialty other than being a philanthropist," he said.

The previous Turkish government had issued a Cabinet decree to freeze the assets of al-Qadi and another suspected al-Qaeda financier in December 2001.

Erdogan's spokesman Akif Beki two weeks ago said that the prime minister would not change his opinion on al-Qadi, which was based on their personal acquaintance, until it was proven otherwise.

Beki said the list of suspected financiers of terrorism issued by the U.N. Security Council was not based on any court decision, noting that being included on the list did not necessarily mean they were guilty.

Beki noted that the reason why the list was constantly updated was because individuals on the list were found innocent, adding that they knew that al-Qadi had applied to the U.N. Security Council to be removed from the list.

The Turkish Police Department said last Friday al-Qadi was banned from entering the country because of an order issued by the previous government, but noted that they had no documents or evidence against him.

The Turkish media has accused Erdogan's government of blocking an investigation into reported money transfers to al-Qadi in the late 1990s by one of his top advisers, Cuneyd Zapsu.

The main opposition, strictly secular Republican People's Party (CHP) last week filed a criminal complaint against eight people, including al-Qadi, Cuneyd Zapsu, Abdulaziz Zapsu (a relative of Cuneyd Zapsu), Mustafa Latif Topbas (a conservative businessman and relative of the Istanbul Mayor), Mehmet Fatih Sarac (Qadi’s business partner), Ibrahim Halit Cizmeci (Qadi’s business partner), Wael Julaidan (Qadi’s business partner) and Gaye Zapsu (Zapsu’s mother) for laundering money and financing terrorism.

The assets of al-Qadi, who heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq Foundation, have been frozen by the European Union.

U.S. Treasury officials allege the organization he heads is an al-Qaeda front used to funnel millions of dollars to the global terror organization,

A report - compiled by Turkey's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) in 2004- says that Zapsu, in 1997 transferred 60,000 US dollars to the al-Qadi’s Muwaffaq Foundation. A 250,000 dollar transfer was also made by Zapsu's mother to the foundation in 1999 according to the report.

The court’s decision today could be appealed by the orime ministers office, the finance ministry or the foreign ministry within 30 days.

Turkey Requests New Bid from Eurofighter

From Zaman

The Turkish Air Force requested a new bid from Eurofighter as part of efforts to strengthen its forces by replacing its planes with a new generation of jet fighters.

In response to the Turkish Ministry of Defense’s decision to increase the number of jet fighters it will purchase, Eurofighter’s producer, Aeronautica, began to prepare lower prices for the tender.

The company will also issue a response to Turkey regarding its demands for partnership, technology transfers, and industrial participation.

Authorities evaluate Turkey’s new demand about technology transfers from Eurofighter, which is the competitor of American Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two companies that are opposed to any technology transfers, as an important development.

If both parties reach an agreement, Turkey will become one of the production bases of Eurofighter jet planes and a full partner of Aeronautica along with Italy, England, Spain and Germany.

Aeronautica CEO Giovanni Bertolone emphasized if the agreement is signed, Turkey will have access to all the source codes of Eurofighter. Turkey will also have the ability to make changes in design and in production phases of the plane in accordance with its needs, just as other partners using “System Design Responsibility.”

Bertolone spoke with Turkish journalists during the Farnborough International Airshow in England’s capital London, and emphasized Eurofighter is not just an industrial project.

Bertolone defined the cooperation as having three aspects: Political, military and industrial.

“We see Turkey as the most appropriate candidate country for cooperation in all three of these aspects, and will make our offer accordingly,” Bertolone said.

This statement means that Turkey will not only have the chance to transfer technology with the world’s best selling multi-purpose new generation jet fighters, but will also be able to fly its own planes independently and without restrictions.

Bertolone further said Turkey far exceeds the countries in its region considering its Air Force power and rapidly developing economy, and should only be compared to countries like England and Italy.

The Aeronautica CEO said the United States will use F-35s, also known as Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), combined with the dominant F-22 in its air force to provide maximum air to air and air to land efficiency.

Consequently, Bertolone advised Turkey to use two platforms, JSF and Eurofighter, simultaneously.

The JFS’s constitute an important place in the Turkish Ministry of Defense’s modernization project for the Turkish Air Force.

Authorities estimate that if Turkey orders JSF’s as early as today, the planes will not be delivered until 2014; however, the Eurofighters will be fully operational in three years time.

Constantino Panvini Rosati , head of Eurofighter's Turkey Campaign, said Turkey should evaluate both platforms, from air to air and from air to land, in the frame of empowering its air forces.

Europe Outdates US with Typhoon

The double-engine Eurofighter Typhoon is designed to be able to take off and land on shorter runways, in addition to their high maneuverability capacity. Authorities asset that the European aviation industry has surpassed the American aviation industry for the first time with the “aveonics” system on Eurofighter.

Turkey needs 120 Eurofighters to fully control its air space.

Erdogan Phones Ahmadinejad About Middle East Crisis

From Zaman

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a phone conversation with Iranian President Ahmedinejad on Friday. The two leaders discussed the Middle East crisis and the PKK terror organization.

Erdogan and Ahmadinejad both agreed that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) should play an active role in defusing the crisis in the Middle East.

The Iranian President, for his part, said that the international community was standing on like a spectator before the massacre of the Lebanese people.

Erdogan said that Syria and Iran should contribute to a cease fire and to the end of violence in the region. "Iran should act to extinguish the fire.”

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had phone talks with US President Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday.

PM Erdogan also discussed the PKK terror organization and Turkey's intention to crackdown on the PKK terrorists hiding out in north Iraq.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Truth Still Banned in Turkey, EAFJD Says

From Yerkir

YEREVAN (YERKIR) - The Turkish Court of Appeal, on the 12 July, confirmed the suspended jail sentence which faced Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist.

Mr Dink was initially condemned in October 2005 under article 301 of the Turkish penal code for an article published on 13 February of 2004. In that publication, he had called upon the Armenians to "turn toward the renewed blood of independent Armenia".

The European Armenian Federation is highlighting this new incident against freedom of speech as it occurs only a few days after legal actions were taken by Turkish extremist organizations against Karekin II, the Catholicos of all Armenians.

His Holiness Karekin II was in fact giving a pastoral visit to his flock in Turkey at the end of June. During an interview with the Turkish press, when interrogated on the Armenian Genocide, he had stated that 'historians committees' are no longer relevant since the "Armenian genocide has been studied by
scholars for more than 90 years".

After the declaration of His Holiness, and in order to protect the Armenian minority from the threats it had received, the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, Mgr Mutafyan felt obliged to iterate the denials of Ankara by stating that "the 1915 issue should be submitted to historians
and scholars from each side to achieve a better understanding of the sensitivities of each side".

“It is now clear to everyone that beyond the usual attacks against freedom of speech, Turkey targets specially the truth about the Armenian genocide," said Laurent Leylekian, the executive director of the European Armenian Federation.

"We hail the reaction of the European Commission against this blatant violation of the right to freedom of speech. However, to follow the process to its logical conclusion, the Commission should now assess the Turkish denial policy as such, as it does for freedom of speech, minority rights or gender issues.

It is politically incorrect that this criterion is left out of the assessment process and that it is only skimmed over in the regular reports," concluded Leylekian, reported the EAFJD press unit.

Erdogan: Turkey will Make no Concessions on Cyprus

From Zaman

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had important messages for the European Union upon his arrival in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to attend the 32nd anniversary commemoration of the Turkish operation on the island.

Erdogan was met by TRNC Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer upon his arrival at Ercan Airport, and told him, “We’ve fulfilled our obligations, and the international community should immediately lift the unfair sanctions imposed on Turkish Cyprus.”

Erdogan made clear that Turkey will not make any concessions.

Later on, Erdogan held a joint press conference with TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat following a meeting between the two leaders.

Erdogan reiterated that Turkey wants a UN-backed solution to the Cyprus problem. “The world should remove the isolations imposed on the TRNC so that Turkey may fulfill its responsibilities. We have always supported a peaceful solution, and will continue to do so.”

Furthermore, Erdogan stressed Turkey will continue to be a “brother” to the TRNC as it has done in the past.

Talat also offered support for Erdogan’s peace plan, and called on Greece and Greek Cyprus to do the same.

‘We are pursuing your goals’

United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari’s visit to the island was at the core of the Erdogan-Talat meeting.

Turkey welcomed the message that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan may step in to resolve the Cyprus issue, and highlighted the importance of Greek Cypriot’s starting negotiations.

Erdogan reassured the TRNC saying, “Don’t worry. We will not open Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot traffic.”

Erdogan later met former Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktas at his office.

“We are pursuing your goals. We will make no concessions over the Cyprus issue,” Erdogan reportedly told Denktas.

The Independent: Turkish Cypriots are Europe's Forgotten People

Turkish Cypriots appeared suddenly on Britain’s agenda when a Greek Cypriot sued a British couple who built a house on property he was forced to abandon in Turkish Cyprus.

The British newspaper, The Independent, published a report on the TRNC’s socio-economic status, citing the TRNC has lived in a legal and political vacuum since 1974.

Turkish FM Gul Warns of Anti-western Backlash in Turkey

From Zaman

Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned that vacillations in negotiations for Turkey's European Union membership coupled with the US policies in the Middle East, are fueling an anti-western backlash in Turkey.

In an interview with the London Financial Times on Thursday, Mr Gul said that failure to resolve the Cyprus issue was "tainting" Turkey's EU membership negotiation process.

In addition, the Turkish FM opined that failure to solve the Cyprus issue has had a "global impact" on other areas, such as security cooperation.

Gul went on to stress the backing of Turkish government the latest efforts by the United Nations to re-start the Cyprus peace process with a proposal to set up technical committees to deal with cross-border matters such as crime.

Minister Gul also warned that some EU members using Cyprus as a pretext to delay the negotiations.

Gul added that US support for Israeli actions in Lebanon would result in a backlash throughout the Middle East.

As regards the effect of EU difficulties and the Middle East crisis on the public attitude in Turkey, FM Gul went on to declare, "Moderate citizens (in Turkey) are becoming anti-American and anti-EU."

"If our young, dynamic, educated, and affluent population becomes bitter, if their attitudes and feelings are changed, it is not good. Their views have changed towards these global policies and strategic issues. This is dangerous."

Speaking about the continued presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq, Gul stated, "This is very dangerous…We cannot tolerate this. We will definitely use all our rights under international law.

"Of course we understand the Iraqi government's position, but if they are not able to control their land, they should co-operate with us.

"If they cannot stop it, we will have to take action."

Gul added that the PKK was armed with guns and explosives obtained in Iraq and from the Iraqi army.

CURRENT MIDDLE EAST CRISIS TESTS FRIENDSHIP WITH ISRAEL

From Andkronos International

Istanbul, 20 July (AKI) - Could growing Turkish outrage over Israel's military intervention in Gaza and Lebanon jeopardise the long-standing friendship between the Jewish state and Turkey, its most strategic ally in the Muslim world? On Wednesday,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Israel's assault on Lebanon.

"One cannot hold a country (Lebanon) repsonsible for an act by an organisation (Hezbollah). One cannot annihilate an entire country and all the civilians in it. It does not contribute to global peace."

Ordinary Turks appeared to share their premier's sentiments.

"Israel and Syria stir up trouble. But innocent people die. I support the Palestinians, they have been suffering for years," said Mehmet Demir, a Istanbul-based civil servant.

Pensioner Bedriye Tellioglu, also from Istanbul, was more direct. "I hate Israel. It wants to weaken Arabs with the support of the United States. I'm for the Arabs," he said.

Part of Turkey's anger with the conflict stems from the failure of its attempts to mediate in the early stages of the crisis when it sent a special envoy to meet with Syrian leader Basher al-Assad in a bid to convince Damascus to use its influence with Hamas to secure the release of the Israeli soldier.

Israel's destroying of the Erez Industrial Zone in Gaza further riled Ankara.

But despite political leaders' remarks, the media with its reportages detailing the harm caused to Lebanese and Palestinian civilians by Israeli bombs and anti-Israeli street protests, some analysts believe the Turkey-Israel friendship will survive the current crisis.

"Relations between Turkey and Israel are ultimately based on Turkey's relations with the United States," Bulent Akarcali, a government foreign policy advisor during the 1980s-90s, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

"Turkey's national interests prevent it from cutting its ties with Israel. The reasons: Turkey needs the help of American Jewish lobbies to curb the influence of the Armenian lobbies who are working to have Armenian genocide claims to be accepted by Washington," says Akarcali who in 1984 first set up ties between Turkish parliamentarians and Jewish political lobbies in Washington.

Also according to the veteran foreign policy advisor, Turkey knows it can't count on the Arab world.

"Turks know that the Arabs did not support Turkey neither on the Cyprus nor the Armenian issues. In fact, despite repeated calls by Ankara, not a single Arab country has to date recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," he says.

Also business ties between Turkey and Israel are booming. The volume of trade between the two countries amounted to 30 billion dollars in 2005, while almost 400,000 Israeli tourists visted Turkey in 2005, a 30 percent increase over the previous year.

Ultimately, both countries view each other as a bulwarks against Islamic extremism and terrorism, an alliance which continues to be cemented by joint military exercises.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turkey Eases Visa Rules for GCC Nationals

From Arab News

Turkey has announced that it has eased visa rules for nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, including Saudi Arabia, granting them long-term entry visas on arrival at Turkish entry points.

“Saudi passport holders can obtain visas immediately on arrival at any Turkish airport or border point or they have the choice to get visas from the Turkish Embassy or its consulate in Jeddah well before their departure,” Turkish Ambassador Ugur Dogan said in a statement yesterday.

The entry visa, to be issued on arrival at Turkish border points, will be for multiple entries with a 90-day validity. This visa regime is for visitors only; other visas will still require applying at the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jeddah.

The simplified visa procedure is expected to boost business and tourism traffic between Turkey and the Gulf countries.

More than 37,000 Saudis visited Turkey last year, marking a growing trend in the number of visitors to that country from the Kingdom.

Predicting a major increase in Gulf travelers to Turkey this year, Dogan said Turkey had much to offer to visitors from the region as the country represents a blend of history, nature and hospitality, making it a unique destination for Arab tourists.

Turkey has set out a broad vision to tap tourism market of the Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, by holding promotional programs and generating awareness.

“A number of fascinating sites and monuments, facilities and edifices, beautiful mosques from Ottoman and Seljuk eras, sites of pre-Islamic times and above all the nature with mountainous forests, lakes and rivers are major attractions in Turkey,” said an embassy statement.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Official Support for Turkey on Cyprus

From Zaman

The Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a policy think-tank in Brussels, renowned for its policy research studies on the European Union (EU), offered its support to Turkey on the Cyprus issue.

The CEPS report, submitted to the EU term president Finland, reads: “Northern Cyprus, accepting the internationally recognized first and only solution, the Annan Plan, cannot be held responsible for the division on the Island any longer.”

The CEPS also asked for isolations imposed on the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) to be removed.

The report was presented verbally to Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhahen.

The CEPS evaluated Turkey’s EU membership and the Cyprus issue in the report titled ‘Strategic issues in a broader Europe’.

The report reminds the remarks made by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn suggesting that the negotiation process with Turkey is heading towards a “train wreck.”

“These are logical conditions to be put before a candidate country. However, Turkey also has logical demands,” reads the report.

Emphasizing the Greek Cypriot’s rejection of the Annan Plan in a simultaneous referendum on the island, the report criticized the Greek government, saying, “The legitimacy of the referendum is indisputable. However, the Greeks did not use their willpower to renegotiate the plan.”

The CEPS presents three choices to resolve the issue and warns that the EU should not be intimidated by the Greek Cypriots.

The first and potentially most successful of the alternatives involves coming to an agreement by reviewing the Annan Plan, the second involves lifting of all isolations on the TRNC exerting just pressure on the Greek Cypriots by the other 24 EU members.

The final suggestion involves “Disregarding the absurd isolations.”

Frassoni: I Understand Turkey

Monica Frassoni, the co-chair of the Greens Group at the European Parliament, stated that Turkey should fulfill its obligations and implement the Additional Protocol.

“Nevertheless, I understand Turkey’s questions. Turkish Cypriots went to great pains to ensure the approval of the Annan Plan and the continuing strength of Papadopoulos threatens any hopes of a solution on the Island.”

Frassoni, reminding that they opposed the accession of Greek Cyprus to the EU before the matter was solved, noted: “Our warnings proved true.”

Turkey Warns it will Exercise its International Rights

From Zaman

The Cabinet Council, which convened on Monday to discuss the recent security developments and PKK terror attacks, signaled that a cross border operation is still an option.

Turkish Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said, “Turkey has the right to exercise its rights which are based on international domestic law.”

The struggle against terrorism will continue at any cost, Cicek told reporters.

“The entire world should be aware that we will carefully watch for offers of support and a show of sincerity from our allies, which is our right. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization and every country has the authority and the right to fight against terrorism.”

Cicek informed that Turkey carries out activities to prevent acts of terrorism with three institutions; the National Security Council (MGK) and the Turkish Higher Anti-Terror Board (TMYK) and the government. Any measures the security forces seek, including legal arrangements have been taken and their needs are being met even though they exceed the budget, said Cicek.

“If political determination and guidelines are considered necessary, they will be discussed in the meeting”, continued Cicek, who asked that the struggle against terrorism not be politically exploited, but reminded that it is part of the state’s political policies.

Call for US and Iraq to ‘Take Measures’

Cemil Cicek highlighted that the separatist terror organization, the PKK, is nourished in northern Iraq and sheds blood in Turkey.

“We want the Iraqi government and our ally the US to end the conflicts in accordance with international law. We have conveyed our thoughts to our alliances many times. However, Iraq has a new government and new responsibilities to fulfill within the counterterrorism program. We expect Iraq to take the necessary precautions to prevent possible attacks against Turkey, and the US to help Iraq in this sense.”

In response to a question, government spokesman Cemil Cicek said a state of emergency (OHAL) was not on the agenda and has not been mentioned in recent meetings.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lagendijk: AKP will not Take New Cyprus Steps

From Zaman


Turkey-European Union Joint Parliamentary Commission (JPC) Co-chairman Joost Lagendijk has said that he did not expect the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to take a new step regarding Cyprus.

"The AKP can continue to take more steps on the freedom of speech and the Kurdish problem but it seems impossible for the AKP to take a new step on Cyprus," Lagendijk said in an interview published in the Milliyet daily on Monday.

The EU official that the AKP would not risk losing the support of its followers by taking a new step on Cyprus as the country was heading towards elections.

The next legislative election will be held in November 2007 with the next presidential elections due in May 2007.

Turkish presidents are elected by parliament members every seven years.

Lagendijk said that the ruling AKP was in a dilemma over Cyprus and over the suspension of the EU accession talks.

"The ruling AKP believes it is the EU's turn to take a new step on Cyprus. The ruling AKP will not take a new step."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has stressed that the prospective new round of peace talks on Cyprus should be carried out on the basis of the Annan Plan.

Signaling a firm stance over Cyprus, Prime Minister Erdogan has said that Turkey will not open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic even if it jeopardizes the EU talks.

Last year Turkey had signed the additional protocol of the Ankara Treaty which extended Turkey's custom union agreement to the 10 new members of the European Union, including Greek Cyprus.

The signing of the additional protocol had been a condition imposed by the EU prior to the opening of accession talks with Turkey on October of last year.

At the time Turkey specified that its signing of the protocol did not imply recognition of Greek Cyprus.

Turkey has since then declined to implement the EU protocol by opening its ports to Greek Cyprus, due to the lack of a settled solution to the division of the island between the Turkish north and the Greek south.

The EU, which opened actual accession talks with Turkey on June 12, has repeatedly called on Turkey to open its ports to the Greek Cypriots.

Lagendijk said that Turkey's failure to open its ports to the Greek Cypriot traffic would not suspend the accession talks but would stir up a crisis. "The Cyprus issue is a problem but it is not an issue that will stop the talks."

Lagendijk added that the influence of the Turkish army on politics should be reduced.

US-Turkey relations seriously damaged by Iraq war

From Spero News

While Turkey has the potential to be an invaluable partner as Washington seeks to improve its standing in the Muslim world, U.S.- Turkey relations have been severely damaged by the war in Iraq.

The growing schism between the West and the Islamic world is one of the primary challenges confronting American foreign and defense policymakers. As a consequence, the relationship between the United States and Turkey — a Western-oriented, democratizing Muslim country — is strategically more important than ever, according to a new Council on Foreign Relations Special Report.

While Turkey has the potential to be an invaluable partner as Washington seeks to improve its standing in the Muslim world, U.S.- Turkey relations have been severely damaged by the war in Iraq.

Turks believe that the Bush administration committed two sins, says the report:Before the war, Washington dismissed Ankara’s warnings about the consequences of invading Iraq; And now, Turks believe the United States has not taken sufficient care to address Turkey’s security concerns about the emergence of an independent Kurdistan, which could stoke nationalist sentiment among Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

“Time is growing short to build new momentum in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. Over the course of the next two years, both countries will face a series of tough foreign policy questions concerning Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, and Cyprus just as politicians in both capitals are entering election cycles,” says the report, Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations.

In that report, the Council’s Douglas Dillon Fellow Steven A. Cook and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Alliance Relations Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall outline a simultaneous, two-track approach for immediate implementation by the United States and Turkey to rebuild their historically collaborative relationship.

Recommendations of the first track include time-sensitive initiatives to address current problems:

- Manage the impact of Iraq: “The most urgent issue that links Washington’s interests with Ankara’s is the successful establishment of a unitary Iraqi federal state.” The United States should “launch and lead a trilateral dialogue on Kurdish issues with the Turks and legitimate representatives of the Iraqi Kurds.”

- Resolve the Cyprus dispute: “Renewed leadership to end the island’s divided status is also required, and the U.S. government is well positioned to provide it.” The United States should appoint a new Special Cyprus Coordinator, urge EU leaders “to use their collective clout to require more constructive behavior from the Cypriot government,” and take concrete political, diplomatic, and economic steps to break Turkish Cypriots from their international isolation.

- Support EU accession: “A goal of U.S. diplomacy with its principal European partners should be to develop a plan for anchoring Turkey in the West through the EU and strong bilateral ties,” particularly with Germany, which has the largest Turkish Muslim community in Europe.

The second track includes longer-term efforts to create mechanisms for cooperation:

- The United States should establish a high-level U.S.-Turkish Cooperation Commission that would include a “strategic security dialogue,” the “expansion of economic and commercial ties,” and the “development of cultural exchanges, with emphasis on the expansion of educational opportunities.”

Despite recent problems, the report notes that “the two countries share long-term interests in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The goal should be to anchor Turkey in its partnership with the United States, conclude Cook and Sherwood-Randall.

Two Kurdish rebels killed in southeastern Turkey

From People's Daily Online

Turkish security forces have killed two members, including a woman, of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey, an official statement said on Monday.

The statement issued by Batman Governor's Office said that two PKK rebels opened fire at a patrolling panzer in Gercus town of Batman province and killed one police officer on Sunday.

Security forces later raided a house and killed the two militants in a gunfight.

On Saturday night, seven Turkish soldiers and one village guard were killed in a landmine blast near the village of Dagdusu in the southeastern province of Siirt, bringing the death toll of Turkish soldiers to 13 in three days.

Dozens of soldiers and PKK militants have been killed in clashes in the mainly Kurdish southeast in recent months, which have coincided with a series of attacks in Istanbul.

The PKK launched an armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in 1984 and called off a unilateral ceasefire in 2004. Ankara, which considers the PKK a terrorist organization, blames it for more than 30,000 deaths.

Source: Xinhua

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nabucco Opens the Gates of Vienna

From Gates of Vienna

Nabucco Opens the Gates of Vienna.

That’s the actual title of an article in the July 12th edition of Turkish Daily News.

“What,” you may ask, “is ‘Nabucco’?”

Nabucco is the title of an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. It’s the Italian version of the name of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

Nabucco is also the name chosen for a natural gas pipeline planned to run from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe. The disagreement between Ukraine and Russia over their natural gas pipeline earlier this year drove up the price of natural gas and forced Europe to consider alternative energy supply routes. The Nabucco project was the result.

Here’s a summary from a few weeks ago in Pravda:

Energy ministers from Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria signed an agreement to build the Nabucco gas pipeline at a meeting in the Austrian capital Monday, Austrian media reported.

[…]

Construction of the pipeline is scheduled to begin in 2008, with the first gas expected to start flowing in 2011, the Austria Press Agency reported. Construction is expected to cost between Ђ4.6 billion (US$5.8 billion) and Ђ5 billion (US$6.3 billion), according to APA.

Below is a map of the proposed route:

Projected route of the Nabucco pipeline

As you can see, the Turks are hoping that natural gas will make up for the failure of their Janissaries to breach the Gates of Vienna.

The Turkish Daily News has this commentary:

The negotiations Turkey is conducting with the European Union to become a full member of the bloc will still be taking place by the time the pipeline is operational in 2011, as planned. Experts indicate that the Nabucco project, so highly valued by the EU, will at that time be even more loaded with meaning and will become a key factor in the membership negotiations with Turkey.

So, obviously, Turkey is looking to use the Nabucco pipeline as extortion leverage in negotiations with the EU.

But that’s five years from now. Look what’s happened in the last five years — how will the entrance of Turkey into the EU be regarded by the average German or Swede in 2011? How about the Danes, the Dutch, and the Belgians? How many more infidels will have been slaughtered in the streets of European cities by then? How many more Crusader “whores” will have been raped by Muslims? How many more no-go zones will there be for police in Rotterdam or Malmö?

I’m not sure even the promise of cheap natural gas will be enough to induce Europe to accept a potentially huge influx of Muslim migrants coming in through a newly unguarded Turkish border.

And look at the route of the pipeline. Do you think it will be safer than the one through Russia and Ukraine? It would be a tempting target for the mujahideen whenever EU policies displease them. Just imagine the possible protection rackets.

The northern route is vulnerable only to the whims of Vladimir Putin and his successors. But if an Islamist party were to be elected in Turkey…

After Nabucco, Europe’s attitude towards Israel can be expected to become even less friendly, if that is possible.

I don’t think the choice of name for the pipeline is an accident. Verdi’s Nabucco, after all, follows the tribulations of the Jews after they are attacked and subsequently exiled from their homeland by King Nebuchadnezzar.

For once, Muslims look with favor upon a tyrant from the jahiliyah.

How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide

From New York Times

BATMAN, Turkey — For Derya, a waiflike girl of 17, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Consumed by shame and fearing for her life, she said, she decided to carry out her family’s wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but she survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.

“My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world,” she said recently from a women’s shelter where she had traded in her veil for a T-shirt and jeans. She declined to give her last name for fear that her family was still hunting her. “I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and to die.”

Every few weeks in Batman and the surrounding area in southeast Anatolia, which is poor, rural and deeply influenced by conservative Islam, a young woman tries to take her life. Others have been stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their offenses ranged from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative or having consensual sex.

Hoping to join the European Union, Turkey has tightened the punishment for attacks on women and girls who have had such experiences. But the violence has continued, if by different means: parents are trying to spare their sons from the harsh punishments associated with killing their sisters by pressing the daughters to take their own lives instead.

“Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves,” said Yilmaz Akinci, who works for a rural development group. “Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option.”

Women’s groups here say the evidence suggests that a growing number of girls considered to be dishonored are being locked in a room for days with rat poison, a pistol or a rope, and told by their families that the only thing resting between their disgrace and redemption is death.

Batman (pronounced bot-MON) is a grim and dusty city of 250,000 people where religion is clashing with Turkey’s official secularism. The city was featured in the latest novel by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, “Snow,” which chronicled a journalist’s investigation of a suicide epidemic among teenage girls.

In the past six years, there have been 165 suicides or suicide attempts in Batman, 102 of them by women. As many as 36 women have killed themselves since the start of this year, according to the United Nations. The organization estimates that 5,000 women are killed each year around the world by relatives who accuse them of bringing dishonor on their families; the majority of the killings are in the Middle East.

Last month, the United Nations dispatched a special envoy to Turkey to investigate. The envoy, Yakin Erturk, concluded that while some suicides were authentic, others appeared to be “honor killings disguised as a suicide or an accident.”

“The calls keep coming,” said Mehtap Ceylan, a member of Batman’s suicide prevention squad. She said she had very recently received a call about a 16-year-old girl who had committed suicide, her family said, because they would not let her wear jeans. But when Ms. Ceylan visited the house, neighbors told her the girl had been a happy person and had been wearing jeans for years.

“The story just doesn’t add up,” Ms. Ceylan said. “The girl’s family says their daughter was eating breakfast, walked into the next room and put a gun to her head. They were acting as if nothing had happened.”

Psychologists here say social upheavals in a region rocked by terrorism have played a role in the suicides. Many of the victims come from families in rural villages who have been displaced from the mountains to the cities because of warfare between Turkey and a Kurdish guerrilla group that wants to create an independent state for Kurds in southeastern Turkey.

Young women like Derya, who have previously led protected lives under the rigid moral strictures of their families and Islam, are suddenly finding themselves in the modern Turkey of Internet dating and MTV. The shift can create dangerous tensions, sometimes lethal ones, between their families and the secular values of the republic that the young women seek to embrace.

The price can be heavy. When a woman is suspected of engaging in sexual relations out of wedlock, her male relatives convene a family council to decide her sentence. Once news of the family’s shame has spread to the community, the family typically rules that it is only through death that its honor can be restored.

The European Union has warned Turkey that it is closely monitoring its progress on women’s rights and that failure to progress could impede its drive to enter the union.

Until recently, a family member of a dishonored girl, usually a brother younger than 18, would carry out the death sentence and receive a short prison sentence because of his youth. Sentences also were reduced under the defense that a relative had been provoked to commit murder.

But in the past two years, Turkey has revamped its penal code and imposed life sentences for such killings, known as honor killings, regardless of the killer’s age. This has prompted some families to take other steps, such as forcing their daughters to commit suicide or killing them and disguising the deaths as suicides.

In an effort to bring honor killings out from underground, Ka-Mer, a local women’s group, has created a hot line for women who fear their lives are at risk. Ka-Mer finds shelter for the women and helps them to apply to the courts for restraining orders against relatives who have threatened them.

Ayten Tekay, a caseworker for Ka-Mer in Diyarbakir, the regional center, said that of the 104 women who had called the group this year, more than half had been uneducated and illiterate. She said that in some cases the families had not wanted to kill their relatives but that the social pressure and incessant gossip had driven them to it.

“We have to bring these killings out from the shadows and teach women about their rights,” she said. “The laws have been changed, but the culture here will not change overnight.”

Derya, fiercely articulate and newly invigorated after counseling, said she was determined to get on with her life. “This region is religious and it is impossible to be yourself if you are a woman,” she said. “You can either escape by leaving your family and moving to a town, or you can kill yourself.”

Derya said the underlying problem was inequality between the sexes, even though the prophet Muhammad argued in favor of empowering women.

“In my village and in my father’s tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth,” she said. “As long as families do not trust their daughters, bad things will continue to happen.”

Another Kafkaesque case by Turkey's judiciary

From Turkish Daily News

EMİNE KART

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Just as a Turkish Daily News interview with Yusuf Alataş, head of the Human Rights Association (İHD), explicitly implied that there was still a long way to go for the improvement of human rights and freedom of expression in the country, an ongoing trial against a prominent writer makes this fact clear.

It is difficult to explain in English, just as it is difficult to explain or understand even in Turkish, the reasoning as to why writer-professor Fikret Başkaya of the Free University is being prosecuted.

Let's give it a try. In an interview published in March 2001 in a local newspaper called Fırat'ta Yaşam (Life in Fırat) in the southeastern Anatolian province of Gaziantep, Başkaya replied to a question by saying: "Nongovernmental organizations are tools of de-politicization in the era of neo-liberal globalization."

In Turkish "de-politicization" is written as "apolitizasyon" -- the first three letters of which form the word "Apo."

"Apo" is also a nickname used for Abdullah Öcalan, the now-imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The same nickname is commonly used for those who are called "Abdullah."

First of all, the newspaper was confiscated at the time for "publishing propaganda in favor of terror organization leader Abdullah Öcalan by using a title that was irrelevant with the content of the article."

Civil society: "Tool for de-politicization [apolitizasyon]", was the title that led to the paper's confiscation.

Later, the now-abolished Adana State Security Court (DGM) opened a case against Başkaya charging him with publishing the propaganda of an outlawed organization.

The case is still going on, in a way which is briefly described by Başkaya as "humorous."

"It is regretful that such a case was opened in the first place. It is an exact scandal. De-politicization is a concept of political literature," Başkaya plans to tell the court in his defense that will be released to a local high criminal court in Ankara later this month upon request from the court in Adana.

"The case is befitting of the 'independent Turkish judiciary' and 'the rule of law'," Başkaya said in a brief conversation with the Turkish Daily News, with a bitter and sarcastic tone.

"There is so much to say, but this case is also very important since it gives an idea both about the miserable situation of the judicial system in Turkey and about the intellectual level of the members of the judiciary," Başkaya said.

Başkaya served years in prison in the past purely on the basis of what he wrote about.

Pro-Kurdish party leaders charged

From Green Left

Simon Cooper, Istanbul

In three successive days, criminal investigations were launched against five leaders of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) by Turkish government authorities. The alleged crimes are of “praising and aiding” the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) through public statements and in DTP leaflets.

In the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, the public prosecutor’s office completed an indictment against the DTP mayor Osman Baydemir on July 4 for a single sentence in a speech he made during a series of pro-Kurdish protests that erupted throughout Turkey in March.

The mass demonstrations began after the public funerals of 14 PKK members killed by the Turkish military in the eastern province of Bingol. Turkish police and troops immediately declared the protests illegal and met the demonstrators with severe repression. More than 20 people were left dead.

According to the New Anatolian, Baydemir has been charged for making the following comment: “This city, this region, was mourning 14 people but now it’s risen to 16.” Baydemir was referring to the 14 dead PKK activists, along with a further two protesters killed at the beginning of the mass demonstrations.

Turkish authorities argue that this comment amounts to siding with both the “illegal” demonstrations and the PKK (which is listed as a terrorist organisation). If convicted, Baydemin faces up to 10 years in prison — a little over eight months’ jail for each word uttered.

Baydemin already faces other criminal charges for alleged ties to the PKK, including for allowing a Diyarbakir city ambulance to transport the dead body of a PKK member slain by Turkish security forces. Charges have also been filed against another DTP mayor from the nearby city of Batman for alleged membership of the PKK.

In another case, Mahmut Almak, the DTP head in the north-eastern city of Kars, is facing a lengthy sentence for a speech he gave at a recent conference. Commenting on the struggle for democratic rights and Kurdish autonomy, Almak argued that a successful and democratic resolution of the ongoing conflict will not come about through the existing officialdom of the Turkish state. Instead he called for the launch of a civic political alliance between the Turkish and Kurdish peoples to achieve democratic change. The public prosecutor is seeking a 15-year sentence for Almak.

Almak condemned the new charges against him in the July 6 edition of the New Analtolian, declaring Turkey to be a graveyard for the democratic rights of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples but heaven for those in power. In the six months since he became the head of the Kars branch of the DTP, Almak has had seven charges laid against him for making statements allegedly in praise of the PKK and the Kurdish struggle.

Two central leaders of the DTP were also charged on July 6 for handing out what authorities have called “pro-PKK leaflets” at the March 8 International Women’s Day protest. DTP chair Ahmet Turk and former party co-chair Aysel Tugluk have been accused of distributing leaflets that included remarks about imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, which is an illegal act under Turkish law. If found guilty, they can expect two years and six months in prison respectively.

Turkey to get tough with Kurds

From al-Jazeera

The Turkish prime minister has signalled that his government is planning a tough response to the mounting violence by Kurdish fighters in the southeast of the country.

In a televised speech on Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We have so far tried to handle this issue with patience... to resolve this problem with a democratic approach... [but] these are not acts that one can put up with."

The response came after a week in which 13 members of the Turkish security forces were killed by Kurdish fighters.

The latest clash took place overnight on Saturday in the Siirt province when seven soldiers and one member of the village guard, a government-paid Kurdish group supporting the Turkish army, were killed by fighters thought to belong to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The army launched a security operation at dawn on Sunday in response, bombing the area to which the fighters had fled and deploying elite commando teams.

Earlier killings

Five soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion blamed on the PKK, on a rural road in Bitlis province on Thursday.

A PKK fighter had also been killed after ignoring calls to surrender during a security operation, a news agency reported on Sunday citing the local governor.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

It has fought for Kurdish self-rule in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

The number of clashes in the region has risen since 2004 when the PKK called off a five-year unilateral ceasefire.

At least 85 Kurdish fighters and 49 members of the security forces have been killed this year in the southeast and Kurdish groups have claimed responsibility for 11 blasts in urban centres, in which nine people were killed and nearly 140 others injured.

Iraqi border

In recent months the Turkish army has shifted thousands of troops to areas near the Iraqi border to stop the infiltration of PKK fighters from the mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq.

Many fighters have found refuge in the Kurdish enclave in Iraq since 1999, when the unilateral truce was declared.

Turkey has been frustrated by the reluctance of both Baghdad and Washington to take military action against the PKK in Iraq and Erdogan has spoken out about this in the past.

Turkey’s PM Getting Ready to Visit Northern Cyprus

From Focus English News

Athens/Nicosia. At a time when Greece and Cyprus are looking for diplomatic solutions to the problems Ankara is creating Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is getting ready to visit Northern Cyprus, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reads today.

In the recognized only by Ankara Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Prime Minister Erdogan will attend the celebration of the anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of the island. During his visit Recep Tayyip Erdogan will take part in a series of Northern Cyprus government sessions.

The Greek newspaper reminds that according to publications in Turkish media the parliament will not ratify the Customs Union enlargement protocol with the 10 new EU member-states this year, one of which is the Republic of Cyprus.

Crisis meeting as rebels kill Turkish soldiers

From Irish Examiner

Turkey’s military and civilian leaders held an emergency meeting today to discuss escalating attacks by Kurdish guerrillas.

Rebels have killed eight soldiers and one village guard in the latest reported clash in south-eastern Turkey.

The meeting between high military, civilian, police and intelligence officials was called after the clash late last night in Siirt province, the prime minister’s office announced.

Turkish troops, reinforced by helicopter gunships, were pursuing the guerillas in the rugged region near the town of Eruh.

The clash increased the number of Turkish soldiers killed by Kurdish guerrillas to 13 since Thursday, when five soldiers were killed in the explosion of a land mine, believed to have been planted by the guerrillas.

The guerrillas have also gunned down a policeman and two Turkish non-commissioned officers in separate attacks in the south-east over the past week.

In other violence today, troops killed one Kurdish rebel in a clash in Bingol province, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Kurdish guerrillas belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, have stepped up attacks recently in their war for autonomy, which has claimed more than 37,000 lives since 1984. The rebels operate in small bands in the country’s southeast and have their main bases in neighbouring Iraq.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Turkey To Be E.U.'s Engine With Its Young Population, Babacan

From TurkishPress.com

ISTANBUL - Turkey will be EU's engine with its young and dynamic population, Turkish State Minister and EU chief negotiator Ali Babacan said.

Making a keynote speech on Turkish economy and EU relations in a meeting held by the Turkish Young Businessmen's Association (TUGIAD) in Istanbul, Babacan said that reform process continues and underlined importance of implementation of reforms.

''Turkey will be a different country in five or ten years. The national income per capita will be around 10,000 USD at the end of the negotiation process. Investing in Turkey will mean being a global and competitive company because Turkey has a strategic location among the Middle East, Africa, Caucasus and Europe,'' he stressed.

''Turkey is an important country for peace projects, and projects for co-existence. It is a country which brings forth common cultural identities and unity,'' he added.

Polygamy a holdover in Turkey

From Chron.com

ISIKLAR, TURKEY - With his five wives, 55 children and 80 grandchildren, 400 sheep, 1,200 acres of land and a small army of servants, Aga Mehmet Arslan would seem an unlikely defender of monogamy.

Yet if he were young again, said Arslan, a sprightly, potbellied, 64-year-old Kurdish village chieftain, he would happily trade in his five wives for one.

"Marrying five wives is not sinful, and I did so because to have many wives is a sign of power," he said, perched on a divan in a large cushion-filled room at his house, where a portrait of Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who outlawed polygamy in 1926, is prominently displayed. "But I wouldn't do it again."

Banned by Ataturk as part of an effort to modernize the Turkish republic and empower women, polygamy remains widespread in this religious and rural Kurdish region of southeastern Anatolia, home to one-third of Turkey's 71 million people.

The practice is generally accepted under the Quran.

Polygamy is creating cultural clashes in a country struggling to reconcile the secularism of the republic with its Muslim traditions. It also risks undermining Turkey's drive to gain entry into the European Union.

"The EU is looking for any excuse not to let Turkey in, and polygamy reinforces the stereotype of Turkey as a backward country," said Handan Coskun, director of a women's center.

Because polygamous marriages are not recognized by the state — imams who conduct them are subject to punishment — the wives have no legal status, making them vulnerable when marriages turn violent.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan tried to attack polygamy by criminalizing adultery, after prominent members of his Justice and Development Party were rumored to have taken second wives.

Even though the EU condemns polygamy, it criticized him for intervening in the nation's bedrooms, leading him to back down.

In Turkey, polygamy experts explain the practice as a hangover from the Ottoman period's harem culture.

Remzi Otto, a sociology professor at Dicle University in Diyarbakir, who conducted a survey of 50 polygamous families, said some men took second wives if their first wives could not conceive sons. Some also take widows and orphan girls as second wives to give them a social safety net.

Turkey tops agenda of Finnish EU presidency

From Kathimerini

The European Union’s relations with Turkey will be one of the issues topping the agenda of Finland, which has taken over the EU’s six-month presidency, one of its top diplomats told Kathimerini yesterday.

“I think Turkey is a country that is changing and nearing the values and principles of the EU,” Jari Vilen, chairman of the Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee, said during a brief visit to Athens. “It still has ground to cover. They know it and we know it. But it is important that the prospect of EU membership remains.”

Vilen added it was vital to solve the Cyprus problem before Turkey can join the EU.

“At the same time, I have to say that the possibility of Turkey joining the EU offers the prospect of improved safety and the guarantee of prosperity and economic development for EU citizens,” he added.

Rehn sees no reason to suspend talks with Turkey now

From The New Anatolian

European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn stated on Friday that there's no reason to cut off negotiations with Turkey if the country keeps its commitments and restarts reforms.

Urging Turkey to speed up reforms to bring the country closer to European Union membership, the Finnish commissioner stated that there are significant difficulties in the sphere of freedom of speech, alluding to a case in which Turkey's highest court enforced a previous court's ruling sentencing a reporter (Hrant Dink) for holding the "wrong" opinion.

"A country that doesn't apply core values, such as the principle of freedom of speech, couldn't be envisaged as a member of the EU. Fostering rule of law is just as important as recognizing Greek Cyprus," said Rehn.

Turkey cornered by EP over protection of religious heritage

From The New Anatolian

A written declaration claiming that most churches and monasteries in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have been looted or used for other purposes won a majority of votes in the European Parliament.

The declaration, prepared by Greek Cypriot Member of the European Parliament Panayiotis Demetriou and Italian MEP Illes Braghetto, who aimed to make the religious heritage issue an obstacle to Turkey's European Union membership bid, collected 403 of a possible 732 MEP signatures.

EP analysts stated that the issue could be added to the agenda of the European Commission and the European Council as it won a great majority.

The declaration says, "Among more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries located in the northern part of Cyprus … 78 churches have been converted into mosques, 28 are used as military depots and hospitals and 13 are used as stockyards. Their religious items, including more than 15,000 icons, have been illegally removed and their location remains unknown."

It condemns the pillage of Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries and the removal of their religious items, and calls for the Commission and the Council to take the necessary action to ensure respect for the European Community Treaty and the protection and restoration of the affected Greek Orthodox churches.

A call for the Commission and the Council to examine the matter under the relevant chapters of negotiations with Turkey is also made in the declaration.

Eagerness for EU membership dwindles over reforms

From The Washington Times

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Turkish enthusiasm for membership in the European Union is ebbing, eroded by the bloc's criticism of the pace and extent of essential reforms.

Diplomats cite negative opinion polls, according to which 35 percent of Turks would like to join the bloc, or half the number before the negotiations started last year.

The most recent drop apparently was caused by a barrage of EU warnings of suspending the membership talks unless Turkey conforms to a trade protocol and allows Greek Cypriot ships and aircraft into its harbors and airports.

According to one Greek diplomatic assessment, "Turkey increasingly feels like an unwanted bride" of the European Union.

Despite speculation that the Turkish government is considering a "B plan" of closer relations with the Arab world in the event of a breakdown of the EU talks, a "European future" is still the pillar of the foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party.

At the same time, Turkish officials talk of the need to rebuild what they describe as "a fractured alliance" with the United States, particularly after last week's Washington trip by Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who also serves as deputy prime minister.

In talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials, Mr. Gul discussed what the Turks describe as "a document outlining a common vision on essential international problems."

Although Turkish opinion polls show dislike of Americans as political and military partners, the United States has been a major voice in pushing Turkey's EU membership, seeing it as advantageous for both the union and Turkey.

The main objections to the United States by the Turkish public are U.S. policy in Iraq and support for the Kurds, which many perceive as undermining Turkey's security by spurring Kurdish nationalism.

Washington thinks that delaying Turkey's EU membership is likely to lead to a breakdown of the talks and a major readjustment of Turkey's foreign policy, possibly against Western interests. That is why the U.S. has been pressing the union to spare Turkish sensitivities during the negotiations.

The next EU assessment of Turkey's reform performance is expected in October, with considerable criticism of slow progress on the rights of minorities, women and religious freedom. Turkey hopes to conclude talks on the second of the 35 "membership chapters" by the end of the year.

The European bloc is expected to stress in its October report that in Turkey, "violence against women is sometimes considered as a normal social phenomenon by both men and women."

EU analysts say 58 percent of women in Turkey's less-developed areas experience violence in their families, including "honor killing," which is often tolerated by law.

Despite EU pressure, Turkey has refused to allow Greek Cypriot air and maritime traffic without major economic concessions to the Turkish Cypriot state established in the north of the island after the 1974 Turkish invasion and recognized only by Turkey.