December 21, 2004 Ankara Pleased With Outcome of EU Summit, Date for Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - Characterizing the EU summit’s decision to begin accession talks with Turkey in October 2005 as placing the “reconciliation of civilizations between Christianity and Islam” on a “concrete base,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara did not receive 100 percent of the terms it had requested from the EU for the start of the talks, but he described the outcome of the summit as “a success.” He vowed to press forward with reforms as Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey had “entered a period of permanent stability” following the decision. The issue of Ankara’s refusal to recognize EU member Cyprus, a stumbling block that nearly derailed negotiations at the December 16-17 summit in Brussels over the terms for offering a date for talks, was resolved when Turkey agreed to sign a protocol extending its customs union agreement with the EU to all 10 new member countries, including Cyprus, before the October 3 launching of the talks. While the EU would view such a move as the de facto recognition of Cyprus, Erdogan stated that the extension of the agreement to include Nicosia would be a “technical procedure” and would be “in no way a recognition” of Cyprus. Gul asserted that it would be “out of the question” for Turkey to sign any bilateral protocol with the “Greek Cypriot administration.” Turkey has repeatedly stated that it would only grant recognition to a new political entity that might result from a comprehensive settlement for the reunification of Cyprus. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said the outcome of the summit satisfied the demands of the Cyprus government “to a great extent” and “achieved what was feasible under the circumstances” with regard to the recognition issue. He described the decision concerning the customs union agreement as a “significant first step forward,” noting that it “brings about normalization, at least in the stages that it covers,” with respect to matters such as the free movement of persons and goods. Papadopoulos made clear that, if Turkey reneged on its commitment to sign the protocol by October 3, the Cyprus government “has the right to not agree to the initiation of accession talks” for Turkey at that time. With differences between Turkey and Greece concerning the Aegean Sea in mind, the presidency conclusions issued at the summit also “welcomed the improvement in Turkey’s relations with its neighbours and its readiness to continue to work with the concerned Member States towards resolution of outstanding border disputes,” while also welcoming “the exploratory contacts to this end.” In addition, the text said “unresolved disputes having repercussions on the accession process should if necessary be brought to the International Court of Justice for settlement.” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis maintained that Greece had achieved all of its objectives at the summit, noting that the clear European framework of rules governing Turkey’s actions would lead to “further normalization of Greek-Turkish relations.” In response to the concern of certain EU countries that Turkish workers could flood the labor markets of member nations or that Turkey’s large agricultural sector could burden the bloc’s finances, the presidency conclusions stated that “long transition periods, derogations, specific arrangements, or permanent safeguard clauses . . . which are permanently available as a basis for safeguard measures, may be considered.” The conclusions said that “transitional arrangements or safeguards should be reviewed regarding their impact on competition or the functioning of the internal market.” Although the conclusions retained the stipulation that membership talks would be “an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand,” a phrase opposed by the Turkish government, Ankara was pleased that “accession” was designated as “the shared objective of the negotiations.” In addition, the conclusions stated that, if Ankara “is not in a position to assume in full all the obligations of membership, it must be ensured that [Turkey] is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond.” The conclusions also noted that, in the event of “a serious and persistent breach in . . . the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law” in Turkey, the Commission would “on its own initiative or on the request of one-third of the Member States, recommend the suspension of negotiations and propose the conditions for eventual resumption.” The text said the European Commission would continue to closely monitor and report on Turkey’s progress toward the irreversibility of the political reform process and the full implementation of reforms, particularly those regarding fundamental freedoms and full respect of human rights, including a “zero-tolerance policy relating to torture and ill-treatment.” U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, welcoming the EU’s decision on Turkey’s accession talks, said the move reflected “Turkey’s impressive reform accomplishments” and was “a great success for both Turkey and the EU.” Washington is “confident that the accession process and Turkey’s eventual membership in the European Union will bring great benefits to Turkey and the EU,” he stated. Powell added that “a Turkey that is firmly anchored in Europe and sharing European values will be a positive force for prosperity and democracy” and will be “good for Turkey, for the broader European region, and for the United States.” Both France and Austria said they would hold referenda on Turkey’s accession following the conclusion of membership talks, which are expected to last at least 10 years. With opinion polls in Austria indicating that only 28 percent of Austrians favor Turkey’s entry, the EU nation currently most opposed to its membership, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said he would push for an EU-wide referendum. December 17, 2004 EU Offers Negotiation Date to Turkey, with Cyprus Recognition Issue Presenting Greatest Hurdle Washington, D.C. - At their December 16-17 summit in Brussels, European Union leaders agreed to begin accession talks with Turkey on October 3, 2005, but Ankara’s approval of the terms of the EU's offer was stalled by differences over the issue of Turkey'’s recognition of Cyprus. EU and Turkish officials worked together to re-write the Cyprus portion of the bloc's proposal in order to reach a compromise on a timetable for this recognition. The EU had wanted Turkey to initial an agreement at the summit that would extend its existing customs union with the EU to include the 10 new member states that joined the bloc in May, including Cyprus. EU officials said the agreement could then be signed before accession talks begin, a move that would amount to de facto acknowledgement of the country. Turkey rejected this proposal, saying that recognition of Cyprus, either directly or indirectly, was "out of the question." It has said, in the past, that it will only recognize the political entity that emerges from a Cyprus settlement under the auspices of the United Nations. Turkey offered a statement of intent that it will sign an accord acknowledging Cyprus before the accession talks begin. The EU also urged Turkey to continue its reforms, stipulating tough monitoring and inspections to ensure that Ankara carries out its promises on free speech, an end to torture, and other human rights reform. The membership talks will be "open-ended," meaning that they will not automatically lead to membership, although that will be the goal. If the talks fail to result in full membership, the EU will ensure that Turkey "is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond." Negotiations may be stopped if Turkey backslides on completing the reforms required for membership. December 10, 2004 Countdown to Summit Decision on Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - As the debate continued over suggestions primarily by European conservatives that Turkey be offered a partnership with Brussels that would fall short of full EU membership, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted on three conditions for the expected decision at the December 16-17 EU summit that membership talks begin: the EU had to offer Turkey full membership, a clear starting date for the negotiations, and no further criteria to be fulfilled. "Turkey has met all political conditions" for starting talks, Erdogan said. In a joint statement, Turkey's political and military leaders said, "It is the just expectation of the Turkish nation that the EU member countries decide to open negotiations in 2005 without delay or [new] conditions, with the aim of Turkey's membership in the Union." The statement added, "It is a requirement under the EU's obligations toward Turkey that the EU clearly preserves our membership perspective . . . without creating any doubts." European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn stated that, if the EU decides to begin accession talks with Turkey, "the clear aim is membership if the conditions for it are met," adding that "there is no Plan B." He noted that the EU had officially considered Turkey to be part of Europe since 1963, when it concluded its association agreement with Ankara, and Turkey had been a candidate for membership since 1999, giving the bloc little choice but to honor its commitment to move the country toward accession. "We have the responsibility to accept the country as a member if it fulfills the criteria," Rehn said. European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles, during a visit to Turkey, which included meetings with non-governmental organizations, representatives of non-Muslim religious groups, and local officials and civic bodies in the primarily Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the southeast, stated that Ankara should be aware that "public opinion in Europe is currently against Turkey's becoming an EU member immediately." He said he believed European countries would "make a better decision after they learn more" about the country through the long pre-accession process, noting that he believed entry talks should begin during the first half of 2005. The EU, he said, will strengthen Turkey's political and economic ties, which will, in turn, strengthen democratic values and human rights. "A stable and prosperous Turkey is necessary for stability and peace in the Middle East," he asserted. A second draft of the presidency conclusions prepared by the EU's Dutch presidency for the summit, according to leaks to the press, states that the screening process comparing Turkish laws to those of the EU will begin in April 2005, with accession negotiations beginning in October. The draft also reportedly suggests that EU member states can hold referenda on whether to accept Turkey into the bloc. In addition, in an apparent reference to the disputes in the Aegean between Ankara and Athens, the document states that the bilateral problems Turkey has with neighboring countries should be resolved through the International Court of Justice in The Hague if the problems have an effect on the country's accession course. It also removes the stipulation that a minimum vote of one-third of the member states would be required to endorse a suspension of the talks if Turkey backtracked on its reform process, while mentioning that the European Commission will report regularly on Turkey's progress toward a zero-tolerance policy concerning the torture and ill treatment of detainees. Two weeks before the summit, the Turkish parliament approved the criminal procedure bill, which the European Commission, in its October 6 report on Ankara's progress toward meeting EU criteria, had said must be passed prior to the summit. The new law, to go into effect on April 1, 2005, includes provisions that establish a judicial police to handle the interrogation of suspects, grant suspects the right to have a lawyer present during an interrogation, place limits on the period suspects can be detained, and deal with police searches and the tapping of telephones. Angela Merkel, the head of Germany's conservative opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), intensified her public opposition to Turkey's candidacy for EU membership by asserting that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was not being honest about the risks for the EU posed by Turkish membership and accusing him of "self-deception" in his support for Ankara's entry. She maintained that the key issue was whether Turkey could be integrated into the EU, noting that attempts to build a multi-cultural society in Germany that integrated the Turks already living in the country had failed. "The EU with Turkey will be a new EU," she said, adding that "the degree of European integration achieved over 50 years must not be thrown away." Turkey's geopolitical importance, she said, is not a reason for it to be admitted to the EU. Merkel and Edmund Stoiber, the head of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), wrote to Schroeder urging him to block the start of EU entry talks with Turkey and begin supporting a privileged partnership between the EU and Ankara instead of full membership. They asserted that Turkey's accession would "overstretch" the EU. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende sent a letter to Merkel expressing his objection to her campaign for a privileged partnership. He ruled out the likelihood of offering such a partnership at the summit since it would constitute a "change of game rules in an ongoing game." In recent months, the CDU's overwhelming lead in polls over Schroeder's Social Democrats has diminished from 50 percent in March to 38 percent, with Schroeder's party reaching 32 percent, up from a low of 23 percent during the summer. At the CDU's annual congress on December 7, the party's leaders raised the possibility that, if the party wins the parliamentary elections in 2006, a CDU-led government could stall Turkey's membership talks by delaying the endorsement of individual chapters Turkey must conclude, corresponding to the 31 policy areas into which EU law is divided, on its way to membership. French President Jacques Chirac has signaled that he may insist that the possibility of a status for Turkey other than full membership be included in the presidency conclusions in case talks fail, a proposal backed by Austria and Denmark, but he has said that he does not want the expression "privileged partnership" to be present in the conclusions. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Turkey will be sacrificed to Islamic fundamentalism if it is not brought into the European Union, noting that the EU should consider what it will cost the bloc if Turkey does not become a member, "instead of raising concern over what Turkey's membership could lead to." Prime Minister Erdogan pledged that his government would remove any remaining obstacles to religious freedom in Turkey as he inaugurated a complex called the Garden of Religions, which includes a mosque, a church partitioned into Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox sections, and a synagogue, in the Mediterranean resort of Belek, near Antalya. It will mainly serve foreigners vacationing in the region. The inauguration was made possible after Turkey, in preparation for EU membership, changed laws that restricted the opening of places of worship other than mosques. Dutch Minister for European Affairs Atzo Nicolai, who attended the ceremony, urged Turkey to decrease "state intervention in worship." Turkey is currently engaged in a dispute over the status of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. Turkey has long refused to accept any international role for the patriarch and argues that he is only the spiritual leader of Istanbul's dwindling Orthodox community. December 10, 2004 Raging Debate Over Cyprus Recognition Washington, D.C. - In a letter to the Dutch EU presidency, the Turkish government stipulated that it would extend recognition to the political entity that is established through a settlement to the Cyprus problem, and not to the current Republic of Cyprus, stressing Ankara's commitment to finding a "mutually acceptable settlement." The Turkish Cypriot prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, echoing Ankara's view, said it was out of the question for the Turkish government to recognize anything but a Turkish Cypriot-Greek Cypriot partnership government that would be established as a result of settlement negotiations. "Ankara will recognize only the ‘new Cyprus' and nothing else," Talat stated, adding that there was no single government in Cyprus that currently represented the entire territory and its two peoples. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview, talked about the possibility that Turkey would suspend the EU membership process if Brussels insisted upon introducing new conditions such as the recognition of the "Greek Cypriot government" as the government of all of Cyprus. Both Erdogan and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said the demand that Turkey recognize Cyprus was "unjust" in view of the Turkish Cypriot endorsement of the Annan plan in the April referendum and its rejection by the Greek Cypriots. "We believe that the question of Cyprus will find a solution in the U.N.," Erdogan said, adding that "only the U.N. can ask us to recognize Cyprus, and this has nothing to do with the European Union." Stating that Turkey believed that the EU had "made a mistake" in admitting Cyprus, Erdogan said Ankara did not want to discuss the recognition issue before or during the summit, asserting that it would be addressed after the summit. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, urged Turkey to make a move toward recognizing Cyprus before the summit. He stated during a visit to Nicosia that the Ankara agreement, which, in 1995, established the Turkey-EU customs union, "is possibly the cornerstone to finding solutions" to the issue of the recognition of all EU member states by Turkey. He said "the element of the Ankara agreement could really help" in the direction of solving the Cyprus problem, which "is not part of the Copenhagen criteria [for EU membership] but we all want to take steps which could lead to starting to improve the situation." Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said the reference in the presidency conclusions to Turkey's expected extension of the Ankara agreement to cover all new member states did not sufficiently address the recognition issue. He asserted that the conclusions should contain a specific reference to normalizing relations between Ankara and Nicosia. The Cyprus government is attempting to convince the EU that recognition of all new member states is a precondition for starting Turkey's accession talks required by the acquis communautaire, the body of EU laws. European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles, during a visit to Ankara, appealed to Turkey to recognize Cyprus. "In order to negotiate and hold talks with somebody, one has to recognize that person . . . and, therefore, negotiating with the EU implies negotiating with Cyprus and recognizing Cyprus," Fontelles said. He added that this recognition is not something "that should be done before these negotiations are opened, but this is implied." Also on a visit to Ankara, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht stated that the recognition of Cyprus was not a precondition for opening talks with Turkey, but it was evident that the problem had to be solved. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he hoped that it would not be necessary for Turkey's recognition of Cyprus to become one of the main issues at the summit. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said, "Turkey's failure to recognize the Republic of Cyprus and the presence of Turkish occupation troops in its northern sector are a paradox that is incompatible with the philosophy and the institutional and political reality that are entailed in how the European family functions." December 10, 2004 Putin's Visit Envisions Strategic Cooperation in Security, Energy, Trade Sectors Washington, D.C. - During a landmark visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey, the first ever by a leader of Russia, Ankara and Moscow pledged to expand bilateral cooperation in the counter-terrorism, defense, and trade and economic sectors, while also considering the construction of a new pipeline that would enhance Turkey's role as a link between Russian oil and gas resources and Western markets. The visit by Putin, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Industry and Energy Minister Victor Khristenko, reflects a transformation in relations between the two countries, which have competed for influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia for centuries, but have dramatically strengthened economic ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin said he would like "to especially underscore that the two countries' approaches on the struggle against terrorism are identical," while they also have similar views on the Caucasus, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East peace process. He stated that he would like to thank Turkish officials "for the moral and political support they have extended to Russia's struggle against terrorism." Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told Putin that Turkey was determined to cooperate with Russia in the fight against terror. The two leaders signed a declaration committing their countries to joint efforts against terrorism through bilateral "consultation and cooperation mechanisms." The Russian leader expressed satisfaction with the position on Chechnya taken by Turkey, which recently passed a law that effectively bans private charities from sending funds to Chechnya. The week before Putin arrived in Turkey, Turkish authorities arrested nine suspected Chechen militants and three pro-Chechen Turks that police said had links to al Qaeda. Ivanov called on Ankara to take further steps to capture suspected Chechen militants that may be in Turkey and hand them over to Moscow if apprehended. Russia has, in the past, accused Ankara of tolerating the activities of Chechen rebels on its territory and failing to prevent Turkish citizens from joining their ranks. Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul told Ivanov that Turkey would like Moscow to declare the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist organization. Ivanov stated that the issue was under consideration by Russia. Turkey has long maintained that PKK militants receive safe haven in Russia. Gonul also discussed questions concerning maintaining stability in Georgia with Ivanov. Putin told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow was interested in defense and energy privatization tenders in Turkey, particularly a stalled tender for the privatization of the state-owned oil refinery, Tupras. Russia is also focusing on tenders for the modernization of the Turkish military, with Putin lobbying Ankara to buy attack helicopters from a joint venture between the Russian Kamov Company and Israeli Aircraft Industries. Bilateral trade rose by 60 percent to $4.6 billion during the first half of 2004, compared to the same period in 2003, a figure that might exceed $10 billion for all of 2004 and could reach $25 billion in a few years. Turkey has a deficit in its trade with Russia resulting primarily from the purchase of Russian natural gas through the Blue Stream pipeline, which runs under the Black Sea. Fifteen years ago, bilateral trade was only $200 million. Turkey attracts more than a million Russian tourists each year, and Russia is Turkey's largest trading partner after Germany. Putin stated that Turkey could be a transit country for Russian energy resources to other markets. While Turkey now imports 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually, Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, is seeking to expand its distribution network to transport gas from the Blue Stream pipeline to areas of Turkey outside Istanbul and Ankara, and eventually on to Israel. In addition, Russia is researching Turkey's potential for underground gas storage. Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said Turkey would increase the amount of gas it purchases from Russia, while Khristenko expressed Russia's desire to help Ankara build a nuclear energy plant. At a time when the U.S.-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, running from the capital of Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, is nearing completion, Turkish and Russian officials discussed the potential for an alternative pipeline for the transport of Russian oil to Western markets that would bypass the congested Turkish straits. Having not yet agreed on a route for such a pipeline, they said talks on the matter would continue. Guler said Turkey preferred a route from the Black Sea city of Samsun to Ceyhan. Russia would like a pipeline to run from the Black Sea through Thrace in northwestern Turkey to the Aegean Sea. During Putin's visit, in addition to the agreement on counter-terrorism, Turkey and Russia concluded several agreements establishing cooperation in finance, energy, and defense, which included provisions for preventing incidents at sea between the two countries' navies and for a commitment to the safety of navigation in the Turkish straits, a major outlet for Russian oil. Turkish officials said they were disposed toward supporting Russia's bid to obtain observer status in the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). December 3, 2004 Final Stretch to Decision on EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - Several weeks before the December 16-17 EU summit in Brussels, where it is widely believed that Turkey will be given the green light to begin accession talks by October 2005, the European debate on Turkey's candidacy centered on whether Ankara should be granted full membership or an alternative partnership with the bloc, the call for Turkey to recognize Cyprus, and the human rights and political reforms that remain to be legislated and implemented in the country. A first draft of the presidency conclusions of the summit, prepared by the Dutch presidency and leaked to the press, says there is no guarantee that the open-ended process of the negotiations will eventually lead to membership, while Turkey's entry, if it is granted, cannot take place until 2015 at the earliest, since no financial provisions for a Turkish accession can be made before the budget cycle starting in 2014. The document also states that restrictions might be applied to the free movement of the Turkish labor force within the EU. In an apparent reference to Turkey's talks with Greece to resolve longstanding Aegean disputes, the document states that the EU welcomes Turkey's commitment to good relations with neighboring countries and its readiness to continue to work with member states for a solution to "pending border differences." There is considerable public opposition to Turkey's EU membership in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands, countries with sizable Muslim immigrant populations and right-wing parties that are eager to exploit immigration issues in upcoming electoral campaigns. While Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reiterated the government's firm position that it would agree to "no alternative" to full membership in the EU, advocates for a "privileged partnership" between Ankara and the bloc continued to step forward. Former French president Valery Giscard D'Estaing, the chief architect of the EU's constitution, publicly announced his support for a privileged partnership. D'Estaing asserted that Turkey's accession to the EU would require the drafting of another constitution to replace the one awaiting ratification, which "was not conceived to welcome in a national power the size of Turkey" and would need to be amended to include limits on the influence of new member countries with large populations. He noted that Turkey's population was expected to reach 89 million by 2024, which would represent 15 percent of the EU's population and would give it 96 deputies out of 750 in the European Parliament and a dominant voice in the Council of Ministers. Despite French President Jacques Chirac's support for Turkey's full membership, French Economy and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was elected on November 28 to the chairmanship of Chirac's governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), continued to express his opposition to Turkey's membership and his support for a privileged partnership. Sarkozy is expected to run as a presidential candidate against Chirac in 2007. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said that, if EU leaders set a date for Turkey's accession talks at the summit, the presidency conclusions must state that these talks could lead to a status for Turkey that falls short of full EU membership. Schuessel said, "We want to have control over our labor market. This alone means that we will need a different concept that the full membership we know today." A September poll indicated that 76 percent of Austrians were against membership talks for Turkey. Germany's conservative opposition, the Christian Democratic Union, favored in recent opinion polls though parliamentary elections are not anticipated until 2006, continues to push for a privileged partnership rather than full accession, while Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder supports full membership. A reference to a privileged partnership for Turkey was reportedly voted out of the draft of the presidency conclusions. In addition, the document does not include a start date for accession talks. Following Gul's November 24 meeting in The Hague with the new European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, and the foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which will assume the EU presidency in January, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot dismissed the idea that the EU develop an alternative to full membership for Ankara. He also said accession talks were unlikely to begin before the second half of 2005, during Britain's presidency, since a screening of Turkish laws was expected to take place during the first half of the year to check their compatibility with EU legislation. Bot stated that there was still no consensus among EU countries on whether Turkey has fulfilled the membership criteria for accession and recommended that Ankara accelerate reforms in the weeks leading up to the summit. He said the EU wanted Turkey to obtain parliamentary approval for laws on criminal procedures and the judicial police before the summit, legislation that the European Commission's October 6 report had said was still pending. Bot noted that the situation concerning the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Turkey continued to be "a serious source of concern" and that four key laws, including one enacting a new penal code, had been adopted by parliament but had not yet gone into effect. In addition, Bot said the EU hoped the issue of recognizing Cyprus would be settled before accession talks begin. In Italy, a strong supporter of Turkey's entry into the EU, the parliament held a debate on December 3 concerning its membership. In addition, one of the parties in the governing coalition, the Northern Union Party, said it would organize a protest rally against Turkey's accession two days after the EU summit concludes that would emphasize the "Christian roots of Europe." Turkey is continuing its contacts with European officials to promote the setting of a date at the summit for talks. The first two days of December included a trip by Gul to Slovenia to meet with Foreign Minister Ivo Vajgl, and meetings in Ankara between Gul and European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles and Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht. December 3, 2004 Cyprus Recognition Looms as Stumbling Block with EU Washington, D.C. - According to media reports, a first draft of the presidency conclusions of the December EU summit indicates that the bloc will not directly call on Ankara to recognize Cyprus. Instead, it will prod Turkey to proceed with its stated decision to extend its customs union agreement with the EU to all member states, including Cyprus, which would constitute de facto recognition of the Cyprus government as being sovereign over the entire island. No deadline is set for this recognition. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he found it "hard to understand and hard to explain" why the EU was pressuring Turkey concerning this issue, stating that both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots had promoted the reunification of Cyprus by supporting the Annan plan, while the Greek Cypriots had rejected the plan. "We have done our best in order to find a solution on the island," Erdogan said, adding that it was now the Greek Cypriots' turn "to take a step." Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, stating that Turkey is "not the reason for the problem that the European Union is now facing" with regard to the recognition issue, said Turkey would consider demands to recognize Cyprus after accession talks begin. The recognition of Cyprus by Turkey could result in a political backlash against the Erdogan government since many Turks consider the matter to be a national issue. This recognition would necessitate ending Turkey's 21-year policy of being the sole country to recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said his government was not against the start of Ankara's accession talks, but Turkey "must comply with all its obligations toward the Union as well as Cyprus." Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgios Koumoutsakos, stating that Athens still backed Turkey's entry into the EU, said Greece expects the EU to "take decisions safeguarding a process of normalization of Turkey's relations with all 25 EU member states," noting that "the major matter of Turkey's recognizing the Republic of Cyprus" cannot be disregarded. Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianides asserted that recognition of Cyprus by Turkey was "an obvious legal and political requirement" for starting accession talks. December 3, 2004 Turkish Sentiment Against U.S.-Led Offensive in Fallujah Grows Washington, D.C. - As Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the "excessive use of force in Iraq" was of concern to Turkey in response to the U.S.-led military offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, the chairman of the Turkish parliament's Human Rights Investigation Commission characterized the U.S. operation as "genocide" and the speaker of parliament said the offensive had violated the rules of international law. The chairman of the parliament's Commission, Mehmet Elkatmis, who is a prominent member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, asserted that "the occupation has turned into barbarism" and "has entirely imperialist aims." He stated that "such a genocide was never seen in the time of the pharaohs nor of [Adolf] Hitler nor of [Benito] Mussolini." Speaker Bulent Arinc said that "ending these attacks, which involve violence against civilians in defiance of all human rights conventions, would be a big contribution to world peace." In addition, Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, attached to the prime minister's office, described the war in Iraq in a public statement as an "unstoppable humanitarian tragedy," adding that it had "turned into savageness." A statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said that the claim that the U.S. was committing genocide in Iraq was "baseless, inflammatory, and offensive." A diplomat at the embassy also said, "Such unfounded, inaccurate, exaggerated claims are not good for relations, especially at a time of strain when Turkish public opinion is so critical of what the United States is trying to do in Iraq." On November 30, officials from Turkey, the U.S., and Iraq met in Ankara to discuss security measures for Turkish truck drivers working in Iraq, who have been increasingly targeted in armed attacks. The death toll among these drivers has risen to at least 68, and 16 additional Turkish nationals are missing in Iraq. November 24, 2004 Escalating Concern over Safety of Turkish Workers in Iraq Washington, D.C. - With some 60 Turkish workers having been killed in Iraq, at least 10 of them in November alone, the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed concern over what it described as a worsening security situation in the country and urged Turkish citizens not to travel there. Noting that ongoing clashes in Iraq have recently escalated, posing a threat to both Iraqi citizens and foreigners, the ministry's advisory said that, if Turks had to travel to the neighboring country, they should abide by security measures in place. The ministry released a similar warning in October. The ministry stated that the number of Turks killed in attacks, particularly against truck drivers transporting goods from Turkey to Iraq, was on the rise, despite attempts by the Iraqi interim government, local Iraqi authorities, the coalition forces in Iraq, and the U.S. and British governments and their representatives in Ankara and Baghdad to curtail them. It said even convoys with escorts were being attacked and that members of the Iraqi interim government and their families were being targeted by the attackers. On November 7, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned President Bush to express Turkey's worries over the situation. According to a report by the Anatolia News Agency, Erdogan, the same week, also conveyed Turkey's concern over the killings of Turkish truck drivers during a phone conversation with Vice President Richard Cheney, in which the prime minister also stated Turkey's unease over the U.S. military offensive on Fallujah, particularly its potential for causing civilian casualties. Turkey has established a coordination center near the Iraqi border to provide information for Turks working in Iraq concerning the safety level of various routes, along with suggestions to drivers to prevent ambushes along roadsides. Some Turkish companies have chartered planes to transport their workers to Iraq in order to avoid the dangers posed to buses on the roads. At a November 22-23 international conference on Iraq in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, which was attended by Turkey and all of Iraq's other neighbors, the question of border security emerged as a major issue. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, stated that Baghdad would ask Turkey and Iran to reinforce security along their common borders with Iraq in order to prevent foreign militants from entering the country. Syria has already agreed to take measures in this regard. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey welcomed Zebari's proposal. Gul reiterated Turkey's concern over Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in northern Iraq, as well as the intentions of Kurdish groups in the area, which Ankara fears could move the north in the direction of independence. He called on the United States to conduct an operation to rid the area of the PKK, stating, "How much longer can [the U.S.] postpone the operation? They have lost the [support of the] Turkish people already." In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on the sidelines of the conference, Gul conveyed Turkey's expectation that Washington take steps against the PKK in Iraq, emphasizing that their presence was a serious problem for Turkey. As apparent follow-up to an August accord signed by Erdogan and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, in which Tehran agreed to outlaw the PKK, Iranian security forces began apprehending PKK militants operating within Iran in early November. The Iranian government disclosed that at least one security officer had been wounded in clashes between the security forces and the PKK near the Iranian-Turkish border. November 19, 2004 Ankara Continues European Tour as Countdown to EU Summit Begins Washington, D.C. - One month before the European Union is to make a decision at its mid-December summit on whether to grant Turkey a date for accession talks, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, which will hold the rotating EU presidency the first half of 2005, said his country wanted negotiations with Ankara to take place by the middle of the year. "I exclude the concept of a privileged partnership [for Turkey]. That is not an option," Juncker said. "That is the status quo, slightly improved. If partnership means just political [relations] and not in the institutions, that would be a lack of respect for Turkey," he noted. Juncker said that, during the 10 to 13 years of negotiations, prejudices against Turkey would be eliminated in Europe, adding that "our final target is Turkey's full membership." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Luxembourg as part of his tour through European capitals to garner support for Turkey's bid to move forward with accession talks, appealed to the EU to treat Turkey "just as the other candidate countries are treated" and not give it "special treatment." He said that, if the EU is to become a global force, it should promote compromise among civilizations, which could be facilitated with the accession of Turkey. Erdogan added that he hoped Turkey's situation would be evaluated without the matter being made "a tool for internal politics." French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the French government expected accession negotiations with Turkey to begin at the end of 2005 or in early 2006 in order to give several countries, including France, time to hold referenda on the EU Constitution. In addition, Barnier said that "a preparatory period will be needed" before the opening of talks with Turkey, giving no further details. In the Czech Republic, whose parliament has voted to support the start of Turkey's talks at the EU summit, 3,400 people signed a petition against Turkey's membership in the bloc. David Gresak, the head of the citizens' committee that organized the signature drive, said, "We want the Czech government to vote against the start of admission talks with Turkey at the EU summit," adding that the petition had been submitted to the government. He asserted that Turkey did not meet EU standards in many areas, such as human rights and the country's economic situation. When asked at a press conference in Luxembourg if Turkey would recognize the Republic of Cyprus before the summit, Erdogan said, "At this moment, it is not a subject before the December 17 [summit] decision" on whether to grant Ankara a date for accession talks. After he attends an international conference on Iraq in Egypt on November 22-23, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is scheduled to meet with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Foreign Minister Ben Bot of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency. November 12, 2004 European Leaders Weigh In on EU Bid as December Summit Approaches Washington, D.C. - Although the Dutch government, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, endorsed the opening of Turkey's accession talks with the bloc, it called on the EU to clearly state the consequences of Turkish non-adherence to its reform path in preparation for membership. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot and European Affairs Minister Atzo Nicolai, in a letter to parliament, said, "The government is, in principle, of the opinion that, in line with the recommendation of the Commission, the European Council can take a positive decision [to start talks with Turkey]." The leaders of several large parties in the Dutch parliament that have expressed doubts over Turkey's entry into the EU also demanded a clearer statement of the government's policy on Ankara's accession. Maxime Verhagen, the parliamentary leader of Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats, said the EU should not promise a date to Turkey for starting accession talks since such a step would "diminish the pressure" on Ankara to continue its reform process. Verhagen emphasized that his party also wanted the Turkish parliament to adopt six additional human rights laws, including one concerning freedom of association, and said Ankara needed to put an adequate mechanism in position to stamp out torture. There are 350,000 Turks in the Netherlands, and the Dutch are becoming increasingly opposed to immigration. In addition, as the largest net contributor to EU finances, the Dutch government fears that the bloc's costs will rise significantly if Turkey joins. The president of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell Fontelles, reaffirmed the intention of the Parliament to hold a vote, probably on December 2, regarding Turkey's bid to become an EU member. Stating that it was appropriate for the EU's only directly elected body to express its opinion on Turkey's membership, he said he would travel to Ankara the day after the vote to deliver the result to the Turkish government. The Parliament's decision on the matter is not legally required and will not be binding. French President Jacques Chirac, while reiterating that he fully supported opening accession talks with Turkey, said "one can't underestimate the possibility that, in a few years' time, we come to realize that . . . the road that Turkey has to travel doesn't permit it to adopt all the values of Europe." Chirac added, "In that case, what has to be found is a means to create a sufficiently strong link so that there is no separation between Europe and Turkey, without there being integration." France's conservative Union for French Democracy (UDF) has insisted, through a letter to the French parliament's speaker, that parliament hold a second special session to debate Turkey's bid to join the European Union. In addition, the UDF has called on the legislative body to vote on a proposal offering Ankara a "privileged partnership" with the EU instead of full membership, despite a previous decision by the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission rejecting the UDF's call for such a partnership. The UDF is a junior partner in the coalition behind French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, but it is not part of the cabinet. The French parliament held a special session in October to debate Turkey's membership, but the parliamentarians held no vote. In Germany, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, Angela Merkel, who advocates a privileged partnership for Turkey, reiterated that the country should not be admitted into the EU because its entry could overburden the current members and the differences between Turkey and the EU were too great for full membership. "Ten to 15 years is not long enough to overcome numerous differences," Merkel stated. Claudia Roth, the chairperson of the German Green Party, which supports Turkey's EU membership, stated that Ankara's "recognition of the Kurdish identity is a key on the path leading to European Union membership." A privileged partnership, she stated, would mean "an open refusal" to Turkey and would be "worse than protecting the status quo." In addition, she asserted, "Those who do not want Turkey's entry into the EU should know that the EU process is indispensable for Turkey's democratization." Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said his government would work toward the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus before the December 17 EU summit "as fervently as we can." He said he believed the withdrawal of the troops was "Turkey's obligation toward the EU and Cyprus," adding that it was one of the issues Cyprus "must evaluate, with due seriousness, when the time comes for us to make a decision" at the summit on granting Turkey a date for accession talks. According to an opinion poll, 52 percent of Greek Cypriots want Cyprus to vote against the start of talks. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Brussels to explain the Cyprus government's positions on the necessity for Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, to sign its customs union with Cyprus, to open Turkish ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft, to lift its vetoes on Cyprus's participation in various international organizations, and to remove all obstacles concerning the participation of Cyprus in the EU's Common Foreign and Defense Policy. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, on November 9, told Turkey's parliament that "Turkey has no obligation to recognize" Cyprus. The Czech Republic said it would support the start of Turkey's EU accession talks, noting that the talks would constitute an "open process" and not "a promise of any timetable when the negotiations should be completed." In addition, the Czech government said, "the result [of the negotiations] is not guaranteed." The Turkish parliament has passed a law that removes legal snags hampering the work of non-Muslim religious foundations, establishes a judicial police, and amends criminal procedures. The European Commission, in its October 6 report on Turkey's readiness for opening accession talks, demanded that the Turkish parliament pass the legislation before the summit. November 5, 2004 Ankara Continues Efforts to Gain Date for EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara with Claudia Roth, the co-chairperson of the German Green Party, which supports Turkey's EU bid. Roth headed a delegation of the German Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance that came to Turkey to discuss the human rights situation in the country with government officials and human rights organizations. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul met in Lisbon with President Jorge Sampaio, Prime Minister Santana Lopes, Parliament Speaker Mota Amaral, and his Portuguese counterpart, Antonio Monterio, to gain their support for accession talks. In November and December, Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc will meet with delegations from the Belgian, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish parliaments, as well as one headed by European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles. A group of Turkish parliamentarians, consisting of members of the EU Harmonization Commission, will travel to Finland, France, Portugal, and Spain, while also hosting representatives of their sister commissions in the Irish and German parliaments. Members of the Turkish parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission will meet with officials in Italy and Belgium, and will host their Estonian counterparts in Ankara. Erdogan, along with the leaders of EU candidate countries Bulgaria and Romania, went to Rome the last week of October to sign the new European Constitution. “The fact that our country is present alongside EU countries and candidates at this historic stage is of utmost importance because it shows Turkey is an inalienable part of Europe's future,” Erdogan said. The Turkish daily Milliyet noted that it was the first time Turkey had signed an EU document that referred to the Republic of Cyprus. Reflecting the implementation of one of Turkey's key reforms in preparation for EU membership, Turkey's top security body, the National Security Council, held its first meeting on October 27 under a civilian secretary general. The former Turkish ambassador to Greece, Yigit Alpogan, assumed the position, having been appointed in August to replace a senior military officer. In a move designed to curb the military's influence on the country's politics, the Council, which brings together civilian and military leaders, has been transformed from a committee that set many of the country's policies on leading issues to an advisory body. During its meeting, the Council called on the EU to handle Turkey's accession process in the same manner as it handled other candidate countries. Sharp divisions within the government-sponsored, 78-member Human Rights Advisory Board, an agency attached to Erdogan's office, became public during a press conference when a member of the board tore up a speech held by Ibrahim Kaboglu, the head of the board, as Kaboglu began presenting a report authored by the organization. The report criticized what it said was a lack of rights and freedoms in Turkey, and noted widespread opposition in the country to advancing cultural freedoms for ethnic Kurds and non-Muslim communities. It also said the declaration in the constitution that Turkish is the official language of Turkey was “impossible to understand,” given the country's international treaty commitments to minority rights. In addition, it said torture continued in the security services and the courts protected the accused rather than the victims of crime. The report maintained that Turkey's understanding of minority rights has fallen behind international norms, and it proposed far-reaching amendments to the constitution and the passage of related laws in addition to the reforms Ankara has already implemented. Turkey has not yet approved a Council of Europe Framework Convention on Protection of National Minorities. It adheres to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which grants minority status only to non-Muslim communities in Turkey. In response to the EU's call for more cultural rights for Turkey's Kurdish community, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug stated that Turkey's “unitary structure” was not open to debate. Turkey's leading human rights organization, the Human Rights Association (IHD), and representatives of the country's pro-Turkish Democratic People's Party (DEHAP) told a session of a European Parliament human rights sub-committee that systematic torture persisted in Turkey, despite the fact that the European Commission, in its October 6 report on Ankara's progress toward EU membership requirements, stated that it did not. IHD Chairman Husnu Ondul said the conclusion arrived at by his organization and DEHAP was based on the criteria put forward in the United Nations Convention Against Torture. November 5, 2004 European Hesitance Toward Ankara's EU Accession Continues Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced proposals in certain European countries to hold referenda on Turkey's accession to the European Union as unprecedented in the bloc's history and characterized the proposals as "clear discrimination." The leader of the France Democracy Union (UDF), Francois Bayrou, a leading opponent of Turkish membership, said his party was pushing to initiate a second parliamentary debate on Ankara's entry, follow-up to a debate on the issue by parliamentarians in early October. The UDF, like the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, advocates a "privileged partnership" between Ankara and the EU rather than full membership for Turkey. Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, a Christian Democrat, asserted that Turkey should be brought as close as possible to the European Union but should not be given full membership. France's Armenian community said it would appeal to France's highest administrative tribunal, the Council of State, to request that French President Jacques Chirac oppose the start of EU accession talks with Turkey unless Ankara acknowledges that a genocide occurred in 1915-1917, when 1.5 million Armenians died during World War II. The French parliament passed legislation in 2001 stating that the deaths of the Armenians should be characterized as a genocide. Two far-right political parties in Germany, the National Democratic Party (NPD) and the German People's Union (DVU), have launched a signature campaign against Turkey's EU membership. Udo Voigt, the chairman of the NPD, known for its anti-minority views, stated that the party rejected a multi-cultural society. The DVU, led by Gerhard Frey, is seen as an anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant party. Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, referring to recent activity in the Aegean by Turkish fighter jets and vessels that Athens has said constitutes a series of violations of Greek airspace and territorial waters, said, "I believe that Turkey's orientation toward the EU is genuine, but various nationalist actions that are irreconcilable with European values continue to occur." Greece is a supporter of Turkey's EU membership bid. Former European Commission president and influential French socialist Jacques Delors asserted that a decision by the EU to deny Turkey the start of membership talks would "mean the repudiation, the rejection, of another culture and would be a sin against freedom and good sense." November 5, 2004 Attacks Continue on Turkish Civilians in Iraq Washington, D.C. - In the latest in a string of attacks on Turkish drivers and workers in Iraq, insurgents killed the driver of a Turkish truck in the northern city of Mosul and set the truck on fire. Turks working in Iraq have increasingly become the targets of insurgents in the country, with several being killed in armed attacks and some being beheaded after being taken hostage. A number of Turkish companies have stopped operating in the country to save the lives of their kidnapped employees. At least seven Turks have been among some 32 foreign civilians killed in Iraq. Many others have been attacked or kidnapped along the highway from Turkey into the country. More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped. Syria has lifted restrictions on Turkish shipments to Iraq via a railway linking the three neighboring countries. Ankara views the railway from Turkey to Iraq through Syria as a safe route for transporting goods to Iraq. October 29, 2004 Germany, France Reiterate Support for Turkey's EU Accession Washington, D.C. - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac, during an October 26 meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Berlin, reaffirmed their backing for Turkey's EU membership, though Chirac said he would adhere to his plan to initiate a referendum in France to approve Ankara's entry. Schroeder said that he and Chirac "are both of the opinion that, on December 17 [at the EU summit]," a decision "should give Turkey the opportunity to negotiate with the European Commission with the explicit aim of Turkey joining the European Union and with no other aim." Chirac, noting that negotiations with Turkey could last 15 years, if EU leaders grant Turkey a date for talks at the summit, said the French people "would have the last word" on Turkey's membership when the negotiations have neared their completion. "My wish," he stated, "is that Turkey join as soon as conditions allow." Chirac noted that the membership of Turkey "would be in the interest of Turkey and in the interest of the stability and democracy of the world and our region." In response to the endorsement of Turkey's accession by the two leaders, Wolfgang Schauble, a prominent German conservative lawmaker, said, "A full membership for Turkey will dramatically worsen or, basically, destroy a real political union developed by a collective political will." Michael Glos from Germany's Christian Social Union party said, "It apparently does not matter to [Schroeder and Chirac] that in France and Germany clear majorities have spoken out against the entry" of Turkey into the bloc. During his visit to Berlin, Erdogan attended the signing of an agreement for the $2.8 billion purchase of 36 planes from Airbus for Turkey's national carrier, Turkish Airlines. The airline said it would also be buying 15 Boeing aircraft for $982 million. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, during an October 26 meeting in Prague with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, stated that the Czech Republic supported the start of Turkey's accession negotiations, noting that it was "clear that this process has no guaranteed outcome, just as it did not have in our case." Gul also met with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in Paris on the sidelines of an October 25 meeting of foreign ministers of Mediterranean countries. Gul has sent letters to European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen and Ben Bot, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, requesting clarification of certain proposals in the October 6 European Commission report on Turkey's progress toward completing requirements for accession talks, including the suggestion that these talks be an "open-ended" process whose "outcome cannot be guaranteed." In addition, Gul requested that the Commission explain the explicit conditions under which the EU would suspend negotiations with Ankara. The Turkish foreign minister met with Bot in The Hague as part of his tour of European capitals to gain support for Turkey's EU membership bid. Austrian President Heinz Fischer stated that negotiations with Turkey should start, "but under the condition that a date for its possible full-fledged membership in the bloc be clearly indicated." Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, referring to a series of actions by Turkish warplanes and vessels that Athens said constituted violations of Greek airspace and territorial waters, stated that Turkey's "attitude, in an environment of cooperation and the promotion of very good relations, is not a step in the right direction and is also unacceptable in view of the efforts being made for Turkish membership in the European Union." Acting Greek government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said Greece still backed Turkey's bid for EU membership, adding that he could "see no change in this reality." The Turkish government said that, prior to December 17, it would "urgently" push several more reforms through parliament, which had been mentioned in the October 6 European Commission report as legislation that still needed to be passed. These reforms consist of removing legal obstacles that hinder the functioning of associations and non-Muslim religious foundations, establishing a judicial police, and amending criminal procedures and rules related to the execution of punishments. October 22, 2004 Ankara on Campaign in Europe for Accession Talks Date Washington, D.C. - As part of Turkey's Europe-wide campaign to urge EU leaders to grant a date at their December summit for unconditional accession talks with Ankara, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul held talks on October 18 in Berlin with his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, who said Germany would do "everything in its power" at the summit to persuade other EU leaders to vote in favor of a date for Turkey's negotiations. Referring to Turkey's potential EU membership, Fischer said, "To modernize an Islamic country based on the shared values of Europe would be almost a D-Day for Europe in the war against terror." It would be "the greatest positive challenge for these totalitarian and terrorist ideas," he stated. Fischer noted that, before the September 11 attacks, he had been skeptical about the EU having borders with Syria, Iraq, and Iran, "but [the EU's] security will be defined for at least five decades in this region." In a meeting with Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which leads in public opinion polls, Gul failed to change her view that a "privileged partnership" with the EU for Turkey instead of full membership in the bloc should be pursued. Gul said he opposed this option, maintaining that Turkey already has such a partnership through its customs union with the EU, established in 1995. "What other privileges one can think of, I don't know," he stated. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes, in talks in Lisbon, said they would both vote at the summit for a date for Turkey's talks. An opinion poll released in Germany on October 17 indicated that 45 percent of Germans backed eventual EU entry for Turkey, while 48 percent were opposed. On October 26, the same day he is scheduled to meet with Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in Berlin, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit France to address the French public on state television concerning the steps Turkey has taken to prepare for EU membership. An opinion poll released on October 10 indicated that 75 percent of the French people would vote against Turkey's accession in a referendum. Erdogan met with the secretary general of the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD), Donald Johnston, in Paris on October 21, the day the OECD released a 180-page survey on Turkey's economy that praised the country's economic performance over the last three years and noted that it now had one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD. The survey's recommendations included calling on the Turkish government to improve public services and spending controls, boost privatization, and revamp the tax system to rein in the country's massive black market, which currently accounts for more than half of all jobs in Turkey. Johnston stated that Turkey's economic performance "can only be described as stunning in terms of the turnaround from 2001 to the present," adding that "it is in the interests of Turkey and the European Union that Turkey should become a member of the EU." October 22, 2004 Debate on Turkey's EU Accession Expands Across Europe Washington, D.C. - A debate is underway in Italy over the desirability of holding a referendum on Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has asserted that he would like to see the EU start accession talks with Ankara in 2005. Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, a member of Italy's Northern League, one of the four parties of the right-wing coalition government, has spoken out in favor of a referendum on Turkey's entry. Determining whether or not Turkey should join the EU, he stated, "cannot depend solely on a decision by the [Italian] government" and should be decided by the Italian people. The other parties of the coalition have said that bringing predominantly Muslim Turkey into the EU would be the best defense against Islamic extremism. Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Adolfo Urso said a referendum would be "useless and harmful." In Austria, a country where public opinion against Turkey's accession is high, a far-right coalition partner recently threatened to leave the coalition if the country votes "yes" at the December summit to entry talks for Ankara. European Parliament President Josep Borrell said he favored an EU-wide referendum on Turkey's entry into the bloc, asserting that he was skeptical about proposals to hold separate national referenda on the matter. Borrell said the Parliament would have its own debate on Turkey's accession on December 2. The Greens Group of the European Parliament, staunch supporters of Turkey's entry into the EU, held its general assembly meeting in Istanbul, voicing strong criticism of stated plans by countries, such as France, to hold national referenda on whether Ankara should join the bloc. The president of the Greens Group, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, said the Greens had arrived in Turkey as "critical friends," so that issues in the country that remained to be resolved, such as the situation regarding the ethnic Kurds and other minorities, or women's rights, could be "openly discussed among friends." He said, "We must have uncomfortable discussions on, for example, Cyprus and the role of the army" in Turkey. Joschka Fischer, a Green Party member, took part in the meeting. European Union High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said Turkey's entry into the EU was needed for Europe's security, noting that the country had a "geographically strategic position in a world shaken by crises in the Middle East and the threat of global terrorism." Assessing Turkey's commitment to full press freedom, Reporters Without Borders stated that, although legislative reforms undertaken by the Turkish government in preparation for EU membership have been "positive" for journalists, "Turkey still does not fulfill all the necessary conditions for real press freedom" and "it is still very difficult for the most critical journalists to function." The Turkish courts, it stated, "continue to impose prison sentences and exorbitant fines that push journalists to censor themselves extensively on the most sensitive subjects such as the army and the Kurdish question." Television and radio stations are still subject to "brazen censorship" by the High Council for Broadcasting (RTUK), the organization said. The country's new penal code, it asserted, stipulated that "insult" is punishable by three months to three years in prison, with the sentence increasing if the crime is committed by means of the press. The improvements in press freedom, it stated, included the elimination of the closure of news organizations or bans on the printing and distribution of reports when the government deemed certain reporting to be a violation of the penal code. The Conference of European Churches, which represents Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox churches across Europe, issued a statement concerning Ankara's EU membership bid that said European churches had "deep concern about the situation of Christian minorities" in predominantly Muslim Turkey. Although Turkey's secular laws guarantee religious freedom, non-Muslim communities lack legal status and the training of their clergy in the country is banned. In addition, these communities operate under restrictions on property ownership and on receiving help from foreign churches. Hans Joachim Meyer, the head of the Central Committee of German Catholics, said, "It is a scandal that the situation of the Christian minority in Turkey plays no role for the supporters or the opponents of the country's membership in the EU." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special representative on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, stated that security forces in Turkey are still resisting full implementation of democratic reforms and continue to treat human rights campaigners with suspicion. Although Jilani also praised Ankara's democratization efforts as "genuine steps toward change" at the end of a ten-day investigation into the working conditions of Turkish rights activists, she said torture persisted in the country despite serious efforts by the government to stamp out the practice. In addition, she called for easing restrictions on the peaceful assembly of civic groups. A leading human rights group in Turkey, the Human Rights Association (IHD), stated that a sharp rise in human rights abuses occurred in the country's southeast in September, with more than one-third of detainees complaining they had been tortured by police. October 22, 2004 U.S. Proposes Sidewinder Missile Sale to Turkey Washington, D.C. - The Bush administration has proposed that it sell 225 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to Turkey in conjunction with a planned modernization of the country’s fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft. Acquisition of the missiles by Turkey would boost Ankara’s ability to contribute to NATO operations and the war on terror, while furthering the interoperability of Turkey’s weapons systems with those of U.S. forces, according to the administration. A mandatory notice to the U.S. Congress released by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the $96 million sale would not affect “the basic regional military balance or U.S. efforts to encourage a negotiated settlement on the divided island of Cyprus.” The primary contractor for the heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missiles would be Raytheon Systems Corporation of Tucson, Arizona. October 15, 2004 Ankara Seeks Changes in European Commission Report on Turkey Washington, D.C. - The Turkish government, assessing the October 6 European Commission report recommending the start of Turkey's EU accession talks, cited references in the report to possible restrictions on the free movement of Turkish labor throughout the EU and the "open-ended" nature of the entry negotiations "whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand" as elements that, in Ankara's view, contravene the principle of "fair treatment of all candidate countries" and "suggest a kind of discrimination." Turkish government spokesman Cemil Cicek said Turkey would seek clarification from the European Commission concerning these references and would ask that the wording of the report, with regard to these points, be changed prior to December 17, when EU leaders will decide at their summit whether to grant Ankara a date for negotiations on the basis of the report. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey hoped that EU member nations would reach a decision on Turkey's accession talks "with no conditions attached" and would "allow no discrimination" regarding the outcome of the negotiating process. Erdogan said Turkey would insist on receiving the same treatment from the EU during this process that the 10 nations that joined the bloc in May received. In Germany, Angela Merkel, the leader of the conservative main opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), abandoned plans for a signature drive in favor of a "privileged partnership" between Turkey and the EU, rather than full EU membership for Ankara, because she feared the move might be "misinterpreted." The idea of holding a signature drive was originally proposed by a member of the ultra-conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and was backed by its leader, Edmund Stoiber. Several conservatives stated that the collection of signatures would have been interpreted as hostility toward the 2.5 million Turks living in Germany and could have hurt the CDU at the ballot box. According to opinion polls, the CDU is well placed to win the next parliamentary elections in 2006. The president of Germany's Turkish community, Hakki Keskin, had warned that such a signature drive "would be taken as a declaration of war against Turkey and Turks living in Germany." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who supports Turkey's entry into the EU, had sharply criticized Merkel's call for the gathering of signatures. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a member of the Green Party, the junior partner of Schroeder's Social Democrats in the ruling coalition, had said that such a move would damage relations with Turkey and offend "a very important partner," though it would not have led to a referendum under German law. Claudia Roth, a Green Party parliamentarian, stated that she favored a referendum on Turkey's accession and that her party would submit a draft bill to the German parliament calling for the referendum. Schroeder stated that Turkey's membership in the European Union would be "more of a security gain than a risk for the EU" and would "create a link between European enlightenment and non-fundamentalist Islam." German President Horst Koehler defended the concept of open-ended accession talks between the European Union and Turkey, asserting that the EU should "make sure that what has been achieved will not be put in danger by steps to be taken in the future." French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin asked that the French parliament's agenda be amended to allow a debate on Turkey's EU bid on October 14, which was not followed by a vote on the issue. During the debate, Raffarin stated that "neither Europe nor Turkey" is currently "ready for Turkey joining" the bloc. Raffarin favors a referendum in France on the accession of Turkey, when it is ready for membership in more than a decade, as does French President Jacques Chirac, who supports Ankara's eventual entry into the bloc. Chirac stated that, "at any moment, France can withdraw, or use its veto . . . and at that moment negotiation [with Turkey] stops." An opinion poll released on October 10 in France indicated that 75 percent of the French people would vote against Turkey's accession in a referendum. France fears that a start date for accession talks during the first half of 2005 could adversely influence the result of a planned referendum on the EU's first constitution and is reportedly pushing for a date during the second half of the year. Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul have launched a tour of European capitals to push for the granting of a date for accession talks early in 2005 at the December EU summit. Erdogan will hold talks in Berlin on October 26 with Schroeder and Chirac. Gul will meet with Fischer in Berlin on October 18-19 and will hold talks with his French counterpart Michel Barnier on the sidelines of a gathering of representatives of Mediterranean countries in Paris on October 24-25. Gul will also talk to leaders in the Czech Republic on October 26 and those in Slovakia and Portugal in November. He has already met with his British and Swedish counterparts in Ankara. On October 11, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer signed into law the country's new penal code, widely seen as the last legislative reform required to align Turkey's laws with EU norms. Most of the changes in the code will go into effect in one year, and some will take effect in two years. In a separate development, a Turkish court sentenced Young Party leader Cem Uzan to eight months in prison for calling Erdogan "treacherous" and "godless" at a rally in Bursa. October 15, 2004 Germany May Lift Its Suspension of Arms Sales to Turkey Washington, D.C. - The European Commission's October 6 report citing improvements in Turkey's human rights record and recommending that it be given a date to open EU accession talks is expected to open the way for Germany to resume arms sales to Ankara, according to German Defense Minister Peter Struck. "I do think that the fact the EU is now heading toward membership talks [with Turkey] will and should lead to a change in opinion among those who have up to now opposed the sale of Leopard II [main battle] tanks to Turkey," Struck stated. The German government was prepared to sell 1,000 surplus Leopard II tanks to Turkey in 1999, but Germany's Green Party, the junior partner of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats in the ruling coalition, opposed the $8.6 billion sale, citing Ankara's human rights record and treatment of minorities, such as the ethnic Kurds. One of the joint presidents of the Green Party, Reinhard Buetikofer, suggested that the party would now drop its opposition to the sale. In 1999, "there was a civil war [and] at that time you had to be concerned that these weapons would be used in that civil war," Buetikofer stated, referring to the conflict between separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish government forces. The conflict largely subsided during the second half of 1999, after PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was apprehended and sentenced to death for treason, a sentence that was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002, when Turkey abolished the death penalty. Germany's arms export laws prevent sales to countries in which the weapons might be used for internal repression or the abuse of human rights. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a member of the Green Party, stated that the government would decide on the basis of "changed realities" whether to consider selling Leopard II tanks to Turkey. A Defense Ministry spokesman said no formal request for the tanks had been submitted by Turkey, which is now reportedly interested in acquiring 250 main battle tanks. The spokesman said Struck would visit Turkey in November to discuss the country's military needs with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. The Leopard II, manufactured by the Munich-based firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, was designed for combat in central Europe's open and flat regions, and it no longer suits the German military's new concept of being able to respond quickly to situations outside of the traditional NATO boundaries. October 15, 2004 Germany Extradites Turkish Militant to Istanbul Washington, D.C. - German police have extradited Metin Kaplan, an Islamic militant charged with masterminding a failed 1998 plot to fly an explosives-laden airplane into the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, in Ankara during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the republic. Turkish authorities said the attack was prevented when police arrested 23 suspected members of Kaplan's group, the Caliphate State, the day before the ceremony. Kaplan, a long-time resident of Cologne, was returned to Turkey on October 12 shortly after his arrest by German authorities and a German court's approval of his deportation. The court ruled that he was seen as an "identity figure for Islamic extremism" and could no longer be allowed to reside in Germany. Kaplan's group, which is banned in Germany, calls for the overthrow of Turkey's secular government in order to replace it with an Islamic state. Kaplan served a four-year prison sentence in Germany for inciting his followers to murder a rival Islamic leader in Berlin in 1997 and had been free since May 2003. He evaded arrest earlier this year when an extradition warrant was issued for him. Prior to Ankara's abolition of the death penalty in June 2002, Germany had refused to extradite Kaplan to Turkey, stating also that his followers had been subjected to torture by Turkish authorities. Turkey, which has introduced measures to prevent torture, assured the German government that Kaplan would not be ill treated and would get a fair trial. October 8, 2004 European Commission Recommends Opening Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - The European Commission, in its October 6 report, recommended that the European Union open accession talks with Turkey, since Ankara had fulfilled the required political criteria. The decision on whether talks will begin will be made by EU leaders at their December summit in Brussels. The Commission noted that its recommendation, which did not include a suggested start date for the negotiations, was contingent on Turkey's implementation of the new penal code, the law on associations, and legislation concerning intermediate courts of appeal, as well as adoption of the code on criminal procedure, legislation establishing the judicial police, and the law on execution of punishments and measures. The criteria that had been met, according to the Commission, included substantial legislative and institutional convergence toward European standards, particularly after the 2002 parliamentary elections; the adaption of civil-military relations to European norms, with the government increasingly asserting its control over the military; the strengthening of the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, while implementing important changes such as the abolition of State Security Courts; the launching of public administration reform; recognition of the primacy of international and European law with regard to human rights; and the alignment of laws with international conventions and rulings, resulting in decisions such as the abolition of the death penalty. In addition, the Commission stated, the scope of fundamental freedoms enjoyed by Turkish citizens, such as freedom of expression and assembly, had been substantially extended. Civil society had grown stronger; cultural rights for ethnic Kurds had begun to be recognized; the state of emergency had been lifted throughout the country; the process of normalization had begun in the southeast; and Turkish foreign policy was contributing positively to regional stability. The report said Turkey "has and continues actively to support efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem," noting that Ankara had agreed to the solution to the problem put forward in the Annan reunification plan. It said relations with Greece had "developed positively," through the signing of bilateral agreements and the adoption of confidence-building measures, while a process of exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece had continued. The report also noted that Turkey remained on the black list of the secretariat of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State controls, as Cypriot vessels or vessels that have docked in Cyprus remain unable to enter Turkish ports. Presenting the report to the European Parliament, European Commission President Romano Prodi said the Commission's green light for Turkey's negotiations was "a qualified yes," accompanied by a large number of recommendations for follow up and monitoring during the talks. He stated that "the outcome [of the talks] is not a foregone conclusion." Prodi asserted that the EU had to ensure that developments concerning Turkey's rapid progress in the direction of democratic values and standards "really are irreversible and that they will be pursued to completion." He added, "We must tell our Turkish partners . . . that any breakdown in this process towards democracy, human rights, fundamental rights, and the rule of law . . . will automatically bring negotiations to a halt." In the report, the Commission stated that it would recommend "the suspension of negotiations in the case of a serious and persistent breach of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded," to be decided through a qualified majority of the European Council. Prodi noted that a number of factors such as Turkey's size, geographical position, traditions as a regional power, population and demographic growth, infrastructure, and large rural and farming population "call for profound reflection and clear precautions in conducting accession negotiations, so as to prevent Turkey's integration from weakening the structure we have been building for over 50 years." However, he said, "we cannot imagine a future for Europe in which Turkey is not firmly anchored," noting that "we must consider the opportunities that Turkey's integration will bring us in terms of growth and prosperity." The EU, he said, "has nothing to fear from Turkey's accession." Citing areas where further efforts are required by Turkey, the Commission noted that the implementation of reforms remained uneven; the armed forces continued to exercise influence through a series of informal mechanisms; corruption remained a serious problem in almost all areas of the economy and public affairs, despite the adoption of a number of anti-corruption measures; numerous cases of ill-treatment, including torture, continued to occur, despite an official zero tolerance policy toward such actions; and journalists and other citizens expressing non-violent opinions continued to be prosecuted, while the new penal code provided "only limited progress as regards freedom of expression." In addition, the Commission said, there were reports of the continued use of disproportionate force against demonstrators; non-Muslim religious communities continued to experience difficulties connected with legal personality, property rights, the training of clergy, schools, and internal management; discrimination and violence against women remained a major problem; child labor was still an issue of serious concern, with trade union rights falling short of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards; considerable restrictions remained in the area of broadcasting and education in minority languages; and no integrated strategy to reduce regional disparities and address the economic, social, and cultural needs of the population of the southeast had been adopted. Concerning the economic sector, the Commission said Turkey had made considerable progress toward achieving a functioning market economy, while economic stability and predictability had been substantially improved since the 2001 economic crisis. High inflation had come down to historic lows, political interference in economic matters had been reduced, and the institutional and regulatory framework had been brought closer to international standards. Noting that preparations for Turkey's accession would "last well into the next decade," the Commission identified a number of issues to consider when accession talks proceed. The combined impact of the country's population, size, geographical location, and economic, security, and military potential "give Turkey the capacity to contribute to regional and international stability," leading to improving bilateral relations with its neighbors, the Commission said. In addition, Turkey would be an important "model" of a country with a majority Muslim population adhering to the principles of liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. The economic impact of Turkey's accession on the EU "would be positive but relatively small," due to the modest size of the Turkish economy and the degree of economic integration existing before accession, the Commission stated. Although the integration of Turkey into the EU's internal market would be beneficial, the accession of the country, as a lower middle-income nation, would increase regional economic disparities and "would represent a major challenge for cohesion policy," it said. The migration of additional Turks to other EU countries "could make a contribution to offsetting the aging of EU societies," it said, adding that long transition periods and a permanent safeguard clause could be considered to avoid serious disturbances on the EU labor market. Turkey would need considerable time to make a number of its agricultural sectors more competitive in order to avoid substantial income losses for Turkish farmers. Turkey's accession would help to secure better energy supply routes for the EU, while the management of the EU's long new external borders would constitute an important policy challenge and require significant investment, the Commission noted. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara hoped to start negotiations during the first half of 2005. Erdogan referred to the Commission's report as "positive," stating that the Turkey did not want "different treatment" and would continue to work on its reforms in order to meet EU requirements, particularly concerning the implementation of new legislation. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the Commission's recommendation to begin talks was "a historic step for both the EU and Turkey." Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Greece, one of the staunchest advocates of EU accession for Turkey, believed "that a European Turkey is not only in the interests of the Turkish people, but will also contribute to the stability, security, and prosperity of our region as well as to progress in Greek-Turkish relations and the effort to find a fair, viable, and practicable solution in Cyprus." "Among the issues on which there needs to be quicker and more productive progress are matters of particular concern to Greece," Roussopoulos said, an apparent veiled reference to the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean Sea. Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that the recommendations in the Commission's report "contain a good base on which to build." He added, "There is now a framework and a procedure in which our side can act so as to make use of the possibilities toward realizing our targets on the Cyprus issue." With respect to the vote of EU leaders in December on whether a date will be set for Turkey's accession talks, Chrysostomides said, "We do not wish to exercise the right to veto, [and] we do not wish to hamper the start of accession talks with Turkey, but basic concerns should be taken into consideration." Read Commission report. October 8, 2004 Cyprus Included in Turkey-EU Customs Union, No Recognition Washington, D.C. - Turkey, on October 2, announced that it had decided to include Cyprus, along with the nine other European Union members that joined the bloc on May 1, in its customs union agreement with the EU, but it said the decision "does not imply in any way the recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration by Turkey." Turkey, which entered a customs union with the EU in 1995, has no diplomatic ties with Cyprus. Ankara's statement said that "the Greek Cypriot administration is equally obliged, according to its Treaty of Accession with the EU to provide customs union treatment to goods coming from Turkey." The European Commission "has given written confirmation that the Greek Cypriot administration is accepting the free circulation under the customs union of goods from Turkey" as of May 1, 2004, it added. The Turkish government also stated that Turkey remained "committed to its special relationship with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and its obligations emanating from this special relationship," noting that the EU had yet to fulfill its commitments concerning an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. The secretary general of the Cyprus Foreign Ministry, Sotos Zaheos, stated that, although he believed Turkey "would not be given an open check" for EU membership unless it recognized Cyprus, he said the lack of recognition would not mean that the Cyprus government would veto the start of Turkey's accession talks at the December EU summit. The Turkish Cypriot prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, said the inclusion of Cyprus in Turkey's customs union agreement with the EU would "have serious effects on the Turkish Cypriot people because the Cyprus dispute remains unresolved." In addition, he said, if Turkey recognized the Republic of Cyprus before the Cyprus problem was resolved, "this would cause chaos for the Turkish Cypriots." Talat noted that the European Council needed to enact the measures proposed by the European Commission, which included $321 million in economic aid to the Turkish Cypriots and provisions for allowing direct trade between the EU and northern Cyprus. He also said certain measures would be taken to protect entrepreneurs in northern Cyprus, adding that the Turkish Cypriots have already begun holding talks with officials in Turkey and Brussels concerning the matter. On October 1, Turkey cancelled a conference providing a second dialogue between EU countries and the Muslim nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), scheduled for October 4-5 in Istanbul. The cancellation occurred after the current Dutch presidency of the EU said it would not attend the meeting because of Ankara's insistence that the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus should be represented, as an observer at the forum, as the "Turkish Cypriot State." The Dutch presidency had called on other EU members not to attend the meeting as well. Turkish Cypriots were represented at the first EU-OIC conference in 2002 as the "Turkish Muslim Community of Cyprus." Turkey maintained that the term "Turkish Cypriot State" should be used at the October conference, since it was the designation for northern Cyprus decided upon by the OIC at its annual meeting in June 2004. On October 4, Peter Scheider, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, announced that two Turkish Cypriot representatives would be permitted, for the first time, to participate in all of the assembly's sessions, including those of the General Assembly and the commissions, both of which they would be allowed to address. Scheider said the decision did not indicate recognition of the Turkish Cypriot administration, and the two Turkish Cypriots had not been granted voting rights. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the two would be appointed by the Turkish Cypriot political parties and would be on the list of representatives of the Cyprus House of Representatives. Previously, the Turkish Cypriot representatives were only allowed to attend commission meetings where Cyprus was discussed and could only watch the General Assembly sessions from the audience gallery. In addition, they had to be included in the Greek Cypriot delegation. October 1, 2004 Passage of New Penal Code Welcomed by European Commission Washington, D.C. - After the European Commission made it clear that the passage of Turkey's new penal code would be a condition for opening accession talks with the EU, the Turkish parliament debated and passed the remaining articles of the code during an emergency session on September 26, just 10 days before the Commission was to issue its recommendation on Ankara's readiness for talks to the EU Council of Ministers. The proposal to include a ban on adultery in the code was dropped by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), following sharp criticism of the provision by EU officials and a warning that its inclusion could have a negative effect on the Commission's recommendation. In its October 6 report, the Commission, which had characterized the penal code as the "centerpiece" of reforms Ankara must legislate in order to meet EU requirements, is now widely expected to recommend to EU leaders that they decide at their December summit to set a date for Turkey's accession talks. The new penal code is viewed as a major contribution to Turkey's human rights record, although critics said it failed to totally ban virginity tests, preserved an article that could be used to reduce the sentences of those who carry out honor killings, and punished consensual sex between minors. The code will go into effect on April 1, 2005. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the government would continue to work on remaining deficiencies regarding required reforms, which concerned primarily the implementation of those that had already been passed. The debate within Europe on Turkey's accession prospects has intensified. French President Jacques Chirac backed earlier calls for a referendum in France on whether Turkey should enter the European Union by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, widely viewed as a challenger to Chirac in the 2007 presidential elections. Chirac made it clear that it would be unlikely for such a referendum to take place until more than a decade has passed, the time period estimated for Turkey to implement the changes required for EU membership. He said he had asked the government to look at ways to amend the French constitution so that the accession of all new EU members would be submitted to a vote in France, rather than be decided by parliament. Chirac, who supports Turkey's entry into the bloc, said, "We share an interest in having Turkey with us. It creates the perspective of democracy and peace taking root on the entire European continent." His conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) opposes Turkey's entry. Josselin de Rohan, the leader of the UMP in the Senate, said there was "a very broad agreement in the UMP" on the idea of holding a referendum on Turkey's accession. Sarkozy said he advocated an alternative status for Turkey within the EU instead of full membership. He said his reservations over Turkey's accession stemmed from the fact that the size of its population was as large as that of the 10 new EU members that joined the bloc in May and not from the fact that it was a predominantly Muslim nation. Turkey has 70 million inhabitants now and will have 100 million by 2050, he stated. An opinion poll released on September 28 indicated that 56 percent of the French people would oppose Turkey's entry into the EU if a referendum were held now. Sarkozy's view echoed the opinion of Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany's center-right opposition Christian Democratic Union, who wrote to other center-right leaders in the EU calling on them to block Turkey's full membership in the bloc and offer, instead, a "privileged partnership." She criticized German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who supports Turkey's EU membership, for what she said was his failure to adequately inform the German people about the consequences of its potential entry into the bloc. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said it was clear, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, "how much a European Turkey is important for our security." A poll carried out on September 28 and 29 showed that 55 percent of Germans were in favor of Turkey's entry into the EU, while 41 percent remained opposed. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel stated that he would support the start of accession talks for Turkey if "a greater range of options" were made available "as far as the outcome is concerned." The one option at the moment, "full membership or nothing," he stated, "is too simple." The coalition partner in Denmark, the Denmark People's Party (PPD), also called for a referendum on Turkey's eventual EU membership, noting that the country did not have a place in Europe. Amnesty International's EU office stated that, although there was still evidence of torture and other serious human rights offenses in Turkey, Ankara's human rights record had shown "significant improvement." Dick Oosting, the head of the office, said the use of "systematic torture" by government or other authorities had stopped. September 24, 2004 EU Ready to Make Recommendation on Accession Talks After Turkey Pledges to Pass Penal Code Legislation Washington, D.C. - Following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pledge to accelerate passage of Turkey's reformed penal code, omitting the article criminalizing adultery, European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said there would be "no further conditions which Turkey must fulfill" before the Commission released its report on October 6 assessing Ankara's readiness for EU accession talks and recommending whether talks should go ahead. Verheugen, after meeting with Erdogan in Brussels on September 23, stated that the assurances he had received from the prime minister would allow him "to make a very clear recommendation" concerning accession talks. "We have been able to find solutions for the remaining outstanding problems," Verheugen added. A decision on whether to set a date for negotiations is to be made by EU leaders at their December summit on the basis of the October 6 report. The Commissioner also said that, following further examination by Commission experts, he was confident that there was no basis for accusing Turkey of "systematic torture," despite claims by Turkey's top human rights group, the Human Rights Association, that such torture still existed in the country. In Brussels, Erdogan told Verheugen that he would call the Turkish parliament to an extraordinary session on September 26 in a push to finalize the new penal code before October 6. The speaker of the Turkish parliament, Bulent Arinc, confirmed that the legislative body would convene on that date. Verheugen had previously said the new penal code must become law if Turkey was to be granted a date for talks. After reconvening on September 14, more than two weeks before its summer recess was to end on October 1, in order to pass the penal code legislation, the Turkish parliament unexpectedly recessed four days later until October 1 without finalizing the provisions of the code. The recess occurred after dissent within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over whether the bill criminalizing adultery should be included in the code reportedly prompted the party to withdraw the reform package from the floor and refer it back to the constitutional committee. Jean-Christophe Filori, Verheugen's spokesman, had previously stated that an article in the penal code making adultery a criminal offense "would certainly cast doubt on the direction of Turkey's reform efforts and would risk complicating Turkey's European prospects." The EU had said that such an article would violate European standards of equality between the sexes and civil liberties. Erdogan had characterized Filori's statement as interference in Turkey's domestic affairs and had said that the EU was not "indispensable for Turkey." Prior to Erdogan's visit to Brussels, Deniz Baykal, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which opposed the adultery bill, had called on the parliament to reconvene on September 28 to discuss and pass the remaining articles of the penal code, stating that failure to finalize the legislation before October 6 could jeopardize Ankara's hope of opening EU entry talks. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin stated that he did not doubt the good faith of Erdogan, "but to what extent can today's and tomorrow's governments make Turkish society embrace Europe's human rights values?" "Do we want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?," he asked. French President Jacques Chirac backs Turkey's bid for EU membership, though his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is opposed to Turkey's entry into the bloc. September 24, 2004 Military Cedes Control of Turkey’s Borders to Interior Ministry Washington, D.C. - As part of efforts to comply with European Union laws in preparation for membership in the bloc, Turkey has agreed to shift control over the country's borders from the military back to the Interior Ministry. The Turkish armed forces have controlled the borders since 1988, when an increase in international terrorism led to a decision to transfer border control from the Interior Ministry to the military. Ankara said it would establish a Border Guard General Command, responsible to the Interior Ministry, to patrol the country’s land borders and the shores of the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean seas. September 17, 2004 Ankara Warns U.S. Over Attacks on Turkomans in Iraqi Town Washington, D.C. - U.S. and Iraqi forces lifted their 12-day sustained land and air assault on the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on September 14 and allowed some 50,000 ethnic Turk civilians to return, one day after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that Ankara would stop bilateral cooperation concerning Iraq if the town’s Turkoman majority continued to be harmed in the attacks. Ensuring that adequate protection is being provided for Iraq’s Turkomans has been a high priority of Turkey’s post-war Iraq policy. Turkey supplies logistical help for U.S. forces in Iraq, including the use of Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey to rotate American troops in and out of Iraq. It is also a major trade and supply route into the country, with hundreds of Turkish trucks hauling goods for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians daily from Turkey. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman and called on Washington to halt the siege of Tal Afar. Turkish officials expressed concern over the strikes, telling the ambassador that many of the more than 50 people killed in the attacks had been Turkoman civilians, while thousands had been forced to flee the offensive. Edelman said U.S. forces had been trying to keep civilian casualties to a minimum as they targeted Iraqi insurgents in order to restore Iraqi government authority in the town, which American soldiers had been unable to enter. Located near the Syrian border, Tal Afar has functioned as a safe haven for non-Iraqi militants smuggling men and arms from Syria into Iraq and as a transit point for launching attacks elsewhere in Iraq. The ambassador also said Washington was planning to work with the Turkish government to coordinate the delivery of Turkish humanitarian aid to Tal Afar, which Gul later confirmed. Turkey has also expressed concern over what it considers to be efforts by Iraqi Kurds to take over northern Iraqi cities, such as Tal Afar and Kirkuk, where Turkomans are concentrated. The Turkish military has long maintained a small number of troops in northern Iraq as a buffer against Kurdish separatists that maintain bases there. A videotape released on September 13 indicated that a Turkish truck driver, who had delivered supplies to an American base near the Iraqi town of Tikrit, had been killed by forces loyal to Abu Musab al Zarqawi. A Turkish translator kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq on July 24 was released to the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad on September 14, the same day two additional Turkish truck drivers were abducted between the towns of Kirkuk and Tikrit. On September 13, it was reported that Iraqi militiamen had released a Turkish journalist abducted in Tal Afar on September 8 and held captive for two days in northern Iraq. September 17, 2004 Adultery Bill Withdrawn from Penal Code Reform Legislation Washington, D.C. - Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) abandoned its proposal to introduce a bill criminalizing adultery for inclusion in the country’s reformed penal code, following the European Union’s criticism of the bill. The proposed bill had met with protests from newspaper columnists and opposition politicians, as well as hundreds of Turkish women, who marched on parliament saying the law would discriminate against women, as had a previous law outlawing adultery that was ruled unconstitutional in 1996 by Turkey’s highest court. The parliament reconvened on September 14, two weeks before its usual first session on October 1 following the summer recess, in order to pass all the legislation involved in finalizing the new penal code as soon as possible in view of the scheduled October 6 release of the European Commission’s report on Turkey’s readiness to begin EU accession talks. In reforming Turkey’s 78-year-old penal code to bring it in line with EU laws, the lawmakers must debate and vote on 346 articles in the code, which include those expanding civil liberties; imposing more severe punishments for offenders such as rapists, those engaging in torture, and human traffickers; recognizing rape in marriage and sexual harassment as crimes; and providing life sentences for people who commit genocide. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had repeatedly said he endorsed including criminalization of adultery in the penal code as a way to protect the family, a stance some European officials viewed as a nod toward the AKP’s conservative Islamic base. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said such legislation would undermine Turkey’s campaign for entry into the European Union. Erdogan has asserted that Turkey’s ties with the European Union will suffer if EU leaders do not set a date for the start of Ankara’s accession talks when they meet in December at the EU summit in Brussels. As it worked on finalizing its October report, the Commission sent a senior official to Turkey the week of September 13 to investigate allegations by Turkey’s top human rights group, the Human Rights Association, that systematic torture still existed in the country. The group had presented its claims to Verheugen during his visit to Turkey the previous week. If the Commission was convinced that systematic torture existed in Turkey, “it would have serious consequences,” Verheugen stated. Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu stressed that there was no “systematic torture or other mistreatment of prisoners” in Turkey, adding that the government had a “zero-tolerance” approach to such behavior. Five or six of the 30-members of the European Commission reportedly oppose Turkey’s accession to the EU or have serious reservations about its candidacy. Statements by two commissioners have reflected the division within the Commission on the matter. Frits Bolkestein of the Netherlands, the EU’s single market commissioner, warned that Europe risked being dominated by Islam if Turkey became a member of the bloc, and it would mean that the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna would “have been in vain.” Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler of Austria wrote in a nine-page letter to fellow commissioners that doubts remained concerning Turkey’s long-term secular and democratic credentials, noting that there could be “a fundamentalist backlash” in Turkey after its entry into the bloc. Fischler also stated that Turkey was “far more oriental than European,” with a largely agrarian population that remained culturally estranged from the more developed continent. Both Bolkestein and Fischler expressed concern over the costs of Turkey’s accession to the EU, particularly with respect to agricultural subsidies, which Fischler estimated would cost more than $13.9 billion annually. Erdogan is scheduled to meet European Parliament leaders in Strasbourg on September 23 to answer questions on Turkey’s bid for accession talks. September 17, 2004 Trial Resumes for Al Qaeda-Linked Terror Bombing Suspects Washington, D.C. - Two of the nine Turkish defendants currently on trial in Istanbul for suicide truck bombings against Jewish and British targets in that city in November 2003, killing 61 people, claimed links with al Qaeda during their testimony in mid-September, as the trial of the 69 people suspected in the case resumed following a two-month adjournment for the summer. Harun Ilhan described himself as an “al Qaeda warrior” and warned that future attacks against Turkey would take place if the country continued to support the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and continued friendly ties with Israel. Praising the September 11, 2001 attacks against New York and Washington, Ilhan said that “our jihad will continue,” even if Osama bin Laden dies. Adnan Ersoz stated that he “cannot speak of an al Qaeda branch in Turkey, but there are ties of mutual assistance.” He noted that Habib Akdas, a man Ilhan said was a ringleader behind the bombings, had asserted that Turkish Islamist militants received $150,000 from al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and Iran. Ersoz also said he had arranged a 2001 meeting between Akdas and a former top lieutenant of bin Laden, Abu Hafs al Masri. Al Masri said al Qaeda wanted to carry out an attack on an Israeli ship making a call in Turkey or on Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, and he is believed to have arranged for Akdas to meet bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2001. Akdas was reportedly involved in the kidnapping of several Turkish workers in Iraq in recent months and was reported to have been killed in Iraq in early September 2004 in a U.S. raid. Prosecutors are demanding life sentences for five suspects who they say played direct roles in the November bombings against two synagogues, the British Consulate, and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC Bank. The other 64 could face sentences ranging from 4 to 22 years. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002 as part of its effort to prepare for EU membership. Several top ringleaders of the attacks remain at large. September 10, 2004 European Commission in Final Review of Accession Talks Readiness Washington, D.C. - European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, on a four-day trip to Turkey to assess its progress on fulfilling the political criteria required for EU membership, stated that "nothing can or should postpone a decision in December" on whether Ankara should open accession talks with the bloc. The Cyprus problem, Verheugen said, "must not influence the EU's decision," referring to the effort to reunify Cyprus and Turkey's accession negotiations as "two separate issues." In addition, the commissioner stated, the EU had never stipulated that Turkey must grant diplomatic recognition to Cyprus as a condition for opening the negotiations. However, he said, Turkey should extend its customs union agreement with the EU to include Cyprus, noting that "the issue may harm the process of talks." Adriaan van der Meer, the European Commission's representative in Cyprus, said Turkey, during Verheugen's visit, had promised the commissioner that it would be recognizing Cyprus and including it in Ankara's customs union agreement with the EU. Van der Meer did not specify whether the Turkish government had set a deadline for this move, stating that Turkey needed to fulfill its legal obligations under the customs union agreement by recognizing all EU members. Verheugen, who met in Turkey with government officials, ambassadors from EU countries, staff of non-governmental organizations, local authorities, the business sector, and representatives of the country's non-Muslim religious minorities, was conducting a final fact-finding tour prior to finalization of the European Commission's progress report on Turkey's readiness for opening accession talks, to be made public on October 6. The report will be the basis for the decision of EU leaders at their December 16-17 summit in Brussels on whether a date for accession negotiations will be assigned. The Commission's report, Verheugen said, would be "fair, objective, and honest" and would take into account "the impressive progress made by Turkey" in preparing for membership. He said the report would acknowledge that "shortcomings" remained, noting that the implementation of the needed reforms had not been completed, a situation he characterized as "normal" since work on the reforms would continue after accession talks began. "My question . . . is whether we have enough critical mass to make a political judgment that implementation is on track," Verheugen stated. There will be "no new conditions" presented to Turkey as criteria for membership, he said, since the country "does not get another or tougher treatment" than other countries do. Verheugen said the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had taken preparations for EU accession "very seriously" and had "done well the things they were asked to do" in this regard, but "much of the work" in catching up with European Union norms still lay ahead. "I'm not sure we'll have enough of a track record to allow us to make a forecast on whether Turkey will meet the criteria," the commissioner said. Referring to the limited Kurdish-language broadcasts that have begun on state-owned radio and television and the Kurdish classes being taught in a few private schools as a "beginning," Verheugen called on Ankara to do more to advance the cultural and social rights of the country's 12 million ethnic Kurds. During a trip to the predominantly Kurdish region of Diyarbakir in the southeast, he urged authorities to improve economic conditions in the area and help tens of thousands of Kurds who were displaced from their homes during the fighting between separatist guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and government forces to return to their villages. He said the EU "gives great importance to the development" of Turkey's southeast. With regard to the ruling Justice and Development Party's proposal to re-criminalize adultery as part of its effort to reform Turkey's penal code, Verheugen said he had raised his concerns over the proposal to Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. In an interview with CNN-Turk, the commissioner said such an action would be a mistake and "can only be a joke." "I cannot understand how a measure like this could be considered at such a time," he stated. In statements quoted in the newspaper Vatan, Verheugen said, "If Turkey tries to include crimes that are not in other countries' laws in its penal code, EU countries could interpret this as Islamic law entering Turkish law." In 1996, Turkey's top court abolished a law penalizing adultery and said, in its ruling, that the law had been used primarily against women. A September 7 article in Britain's daily newspaper Independent stated that Verheugen's spokesman, Jean-Christophe Filori, had warned that the adultery legislation issue "could affect the perception in the EU of Turkey's reforms." The article noted that some EU officials believed that outlawing adultery could breach Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, creating a new legal obstacle to beginning accession talks. Verheugen said the government should be determined that those involved in torture will be punished in "the severest way possible." He said, during his trip, he had received complaints from one human rights organization in Turkey that torture was still systematic, though representatives of all the other organizations he had met with said there had been an overall improvement in the situation. A nine-member independent commission investigating Turkey's potential membership in the EU, chaired by former Finnish president Martii Ahtisaari, has found that Turkey's entry into the bloc would not result in a massive migration of Turks into other EU countries. A report on the commission's findings said 2.7 million people would be expected to arrive in these nations from Turkey, which would comprise 0.5 percent of the EU's population. It said those leaving Turkey following EU accession would be more likely to include a greater number of "professional and better educated people" than was the case in the 1950s and 1960s, when Turks were welcomed into Europe from rural areas to fill labor gaps. About 3.8 million Turkish migrants currently live in Europe. Foreign Minister Bernard Bot of the Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and which has been considered, along with Austria and France, to be among the countries most skeptical of Turkey's EU membership, stated that he thought accession talks should start "immediately" if it is determined that Ankara has met the political criteria. Bot said Turkey was likely to start talks in 2005 on the strength of a "positive" assessment of its progress on human rights. He noted that there was "broad support" in all 25 EU countries for opening talks next year if the European Commission's October report finds no "serious shortfalls" in Ankara's efforts to meet the required criteria. On September 5, up to 1,000 ultra-nationalists belonging to the Grey Wolves of the Nationalist Action Party clashed with police during a demonstration held outside the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. The demonstrators were protesting Turkey's reported intention to reopen a critical Christian Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Heybeliada (Halki, in Greek), as part of its effort to expand religious freedom to meet EU membership criteria. The Patriarchate continues to seek to reopen the seminary, which has been closed since 1971, when the state nationalized all private institutions of higher learning. By law, all religious community leaders in Turkey must be Turkish citizens. As a result, the Christian Orthodox Church is unable to train new clergy for eventual leadership in Turkey. September 3, 2004 No Recognition of Cyprus by Ankara in the Offing Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that any steps Ankara takes to include Cyprus in the customs union agreement between Turkey and the European Union will "never mean a political recognition" of the Cyprus government. Though a process is underway to address the customs union issue, Gul said, "everybody knows that political recognition is out of the question." Turkey, which is the only country in the world that recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has no diplomatic ties with the Cyprus government. Although the European Union has put pressure on the Turkish government to include Cyprus in the customs union, Brussels has stated that the exclusion of Cyprus from the agreement will not influence the EU's decision on whether to grant Ankara a date for accession talks, expected at the bloc's December summit in the Netherlands. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said, "Turkey would find it very difficult to secure European Union accession without having any formal ties with fellow member Cyprus." "How can we take a position on issues raised when we don't have an embassy in Ankara to be informed first-hand as every other country does," Iacovou stated. September 3, 2004 Turkish Government Proposes Making Adultery a Crime Washington, D.C. - Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will submit a bill making adultery a crime, as part of the upcoming penal code reform aimed at meeting criteria set by the European Union for membership in the bloc. Women's groups protested the proposal because Turkey's top court abolished a law penalizing adultery in 1996 and said, in its ruling, that the law had been used primarily against women. The groups said reinstatement of the law would be a step backward for Turkey's image as a modern secular state. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said it would not challenge the proposed legislation, provided men face the same penalties as women under the law. Parliament is scheduled to convene on September 14 to debate the new penal code, which is expected to be passed by October 1, ahead of the release on October 6 of the European Commission's report on Ankara's preparedness for opening EU accession talks. August 27, 2004 First Civilian Head of National Security Council Assumes Post Washington, D.C. - Turkish leaders appointed the first civilian to head the country's National Security Council (MGK), a body comprised of generals and government officials through which the military, in the past, has influenced key decisions on important domestic and foreign policy issues. Mehmet Yigit Alpogan, who has served as Turkey's ambassador to Greece, takes over the post from General Sukru Sariisik, assigned to head an army post on Turkey's Aegean coast. Legislative reforms aimed at curbing the say of the military in politics and authorizing the government to nominate a civilian as MGK secretary general were passed by the Turkish parliament in the summer of 2003 with an eye toward EU criteria regarding civilian-military relations. The reforms limited the former powers of the MGK, reducing the influence of the military over the government and giving the body more of an advisory role. In October, the European Commission will release a progress report on Turkey's preparedness for launching accession talks with the EU. The report is expected to form the basis for the decision of EU leaders at the bloc's December summit in the Netherlands on whether Turkey will be assigned a date for opening the talks. August 13, 2004 Terrorist Bombs in Istanbul Kill Two, Injure 11 Washington, D.C. - An Islamic group claiming links to al Qaeda and a Kurdish separatist group both said they had carried out nearly simultaneous bomb attacks on two small hotels in Istanbul that killed a Turk and an Iranian and injured 11 others. Two other bombs exploded at a storage complex for liquid petroleum gas on the outskirts of the city but caused no injuries. Those injured in the pre-dawn hotel attacks included Dutch, Chinese, Ukrainian, and Spanish citizens, as well as a Turk and a Turkmenistan national. In a message on an Islamist web site, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades group said it was behind the attacks, which it stated were "the first in a series of operations which will be launched against European countries." The statement called for rejecting American policies that it said were resulting in the killings of "Muslims in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Muslim world." This group also claimed responsibility for the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people. The Mezopotamya News Agency released a statement by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a previously unknown group, in which the group claimed responsibility for the bombings, stating that they were carried out in retaliation for Turkey's "recent operations in Kurdistan and the execution of Kurdish guerrillas." The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, in another statement, warned tourists to leave Turkey, saying the group was planning further attacks in the country. "Taking account of the fact we shall particularly target the tourism sector, we call on all tourists to leave Turkey and those who are intending to come to change their plans," the group stated. In addition, it urged "those who invest in Turkey, locals and foreigners, . . . to withdraw and suspend their investments." Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu suggested that police were looking into the possibility of Kurdish involvement in the bombings, noting that four alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), now called Kongra-Gel, had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a July car bomb attack against the governor of the eastern province of Tunceli, in which six were killed and 23 injured. The state-run Anatolian News Agency reported Deputy Police Chief Ramazan Er as saying the police had established that the PKK was behind the blasts. There were fears that the bombings could harm Turkey's tourist industry. The number of foreigners visiting Turkey increased 43 percent during the period from January to June this year compared to the same period in 2003. The government and investors view earnings from tourism, the country's leading source of foreign earnings in 2003, as a way to help curb Turkey's growing current-account deficit, with 16 million tourists expected this year. August 6, 2004 IMF Releases Loan Installment, Laud's Economic Performance Washington, D.C. - Praising Ankara's economic performance, the IMF, on July 31, approved a new $661 million installment of a $19 billion loan program for Turkey, the eighth installment under the program since it was implemented in 2001. Turkey has not yet drawn about $2 billion of the loan package, which expires in February 2005. Rodrigo Rato, the IMF's managing director, said growth in the country had been sustained and rapid, and was likely to exceed the 5 percent target for 2004. Inflation, he said, had been lowered to single digits, improving on the 12 percent target for the year set by the IMF. The official said Ankara should observe "strict financial discipline" in order to reduce its current account deficit, currently 2.9 percent of GDP, to 2.4 percent in 2005. Rato also encouraged Turkish officials to accelerate efforts to privatize state firms and attract foreign investment, which now stands at only $500 million annually. Turkey is expected to decide by September whether it will seek a new IMF program, following the expiration of this one. IMF Turkey Desk Chief Reza Moghadam was in Ankara the week of August 2 for talks with Turkish officials on the possible economic strategies open to the country through the IMF for the period covering 2005-2007. Turkey's exports for July, at $5.7 billion, were about 34 percent higher than those in July 2003, continuing a strong trend in booming overseas sales. August 6, 2004 Turkish Hostage Murder Halts Truck Deliveries to U.S. Troops in Iraq Washington, D.C. -Turkey's truckers association, which is independent from the Turkish government, said it would stop delivering goods to U.S. forces in Iraq, following a wave of kidnappings of Turks working in Iraq and the execution of one of them by the Tawhid and Jihad group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The catering company the executed man was working for said it would withdraw all its staff from Iraq. Cahit Soysal, head of the Istanbul-based International Transporters' Association (UND), said the organization had issued a binding decision to its members to halt services to U.S. forces until the safety of the drivers could be guaranteed. Most of Turkey's 900 trucking firms are members of UND. The stoppage affected up to 300 Turkish trucks owned by more than a dozen companies that cross into Iraq daily to carry supplies to Americans. Some 1,800 Turkish trucks that enter Iraq for other purposes continued to cross the border. At the time of Soysal's announcement on August 2, two Turkish drivers were being held hostage by al-Zarqawi's group, another driver had been killed when Iraqi insurgents opened fire on his vehicle, and a Turkish worker and another driver were missing. Although the two kidnapped drivers were subsequently released, following a statement by their employers that the companies' operations in Iraq would be suspended, another Turkish driver has since been killed and two more kidnappings of Turkish workers have occurred. Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Kursat Tuzmen said Turkey would continue to trade with Iraq but would impose new security measures to help protect drivers. July 30, 2004 EU Prods Ankara to Include Cyprus in Customs Union Agreement Washington, D.C. - EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, during talks with Turkish officials and business circles in Ankara, told the Turkish government that it had to resolve its exclusion of Cyprus from the customs union between Turkey and the EU, resulting from the lack of diplomatic relations between Ankara and the Cyprus government. Lamy said Turkey's failure to extend the customs union agreement to include Cyprus was an important problem for the EU and would be resolved soon. The commissioner said he and Turkish officials had discussed a "pragmatic means" of settling the matter. The commissioner also stated that the issue would have no bearing on the European Commission's report on Turkey's preparedness to begin EU accession talks, to be released in October. He praised the "huge progress" made by Turkey in its efforts to align its laws with EU norms. Lamy noted that EU investment in Turkey was below the desired level and suggested that Ankara and the bloc increase cooperation in the services sector and in government procurement. July 30, 2004 Erdogan Discusses PKK, Economic Issues with Iran Washington, D.C. - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a July 27-29 visit to Tehran, sought increased cooperation with Iran in the fight against guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the wake of clashes between Iranian security forces and the PKK in July near the Turkish border and accelerated attacks by the rebels on Turkish forces since June 1, when the PKK ended its unilateral five-year truce. The PKK now calls itself Kongra-Gel. Both Turkey and Iran have large ethnic Kurd minorities and share a concern that any move toward greater autonomy by the Kurds in northern Iraq could spark separatism and unrest among these minorities. Erdogan stated that both countries advocate the preservation of Iraq's "territorial integrity." In mid-July, an Iranian-Turkish Joint Security Committee met in Ankara to discuss enhancing security along the border between Iran and Turkey. In Erdogan's talks in Tehran with First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref and Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, furthering bilateral economic cooperation was also high on the agenda. Iranian officials and the Turkish delegation, which included State Minister Kursat Tuzmen, said they would work toward achieving a bilateral trade volume of $5 billion annually in the coming years. In 2003, bilateral trade increased by about 90 percent, reaching $2.4 billion. Turkey's exports to Iran have already risen by 54 percent during the first half of 2004. The officials also discussed promoting improvements in the infrastructure at gates on the Turkish-Iranian border, introducing new instruments for financing bilateral trade, furthering relations between the two countries' banking sectors, and allowing Iran to use Turkey's Black Sea ports to transport goods to European countries. Aref stated that Turkish entrepreneurs had undertaken projects worth $130 million in Iran and the Iranian government wanted to continue cooperating with Turkey in sectors such as public works, telecommunications, and energy. Bilateral trade relations have been damaged by a disagreement between Ankara and Tehran over the price of the natural gas Turkey has imported from Iran under a 1996 agreement. Turkey halted the imports, complaining that the quality of the gas was poor and asking Iran to reduce the price. Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler and Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh are working together to resolve the problems concerning the gas accord and will discuss the possibility of transporting Iranian natural gas to Western countries through Turkey. July 23, 2004 Turkey Seeks France's Support for EU Bid Washington, D.C. - With the October release of the European Commission's report on Ankara's readiness for EU accession talks approaching, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to France, where opposition to Turkey's EU membership remains high among political parties and the public, to assure its leaders that Turkey has undertaken sufficient reforms to begin talks. Despite the opposition of his ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), and its junior coalition partner, the Union for French Democracy (UDF), to Turkey's entry into the bloc, French President Jacques Chirac said, "Turkey's integration into the EU is welcome as soon as it becomes possible." He stated that Ankara had made "considerable progress" and must continue and intensify its implementation of democratic and economic reforms. During Erdogan's July 19-21 visit to Paris, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said that France would study the Commission's report this fall "with the greatest attention." Foreign Minister Michel Barnier asserted that Turkey still had "a long way to go" before it became an EU member, although it had "been on this road for some time, preparing itself and making progress." Erdogan referred to the 400,000 Turks living in France as "a bridge between the two nations." While the Turkish prime minister was in France, Jan Peter Balkenende, the prime minister of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, stated in an address to the European Parliament that the decision concerning Turkey's accession talks at the December EU summit "must be arrived at honestly, under the ground rules to which we previously, in 2002, committed ourselves," meaning "strict application of the criteria laid down, but without inventing new criteria." He added, "We must not allow ourselves to be guided by fear, for example of Islam," since "raising barriers to any particular religion does not fit in with Europe's shared values." Erdogan, accompanied to France by a large business delegation as well as State Minister Mehmet Aydin, Finance Minister Keman Unakitan, and Communication Minister Binali Yildirim, called on the support of the French business world for Turkey's EU membership, emphasizing the investment opportunities that existed through cooperation between the two countries. While Erdogan was in Paris, Ankara agreed to purchase 36 Airbus aircraft from the Franco-German consortium based in Toulouse, France, to upgrade the fleet of Turkey's national carrier, Turkish Airlines, a deal reportedly worth more than $1.5 billion. Other possible bilateral cooperative ventures include the involvement of France in the modernization of the Turkish armed forces and the investment of French companies in the privatization process in Turkey in the sectors of nuclear energy, banking, iron and steel, tobacco, telecommunications, and the media. Erdogan emphasized the fact that Turkey will become an important terminal of the global energy market, which will open up investment opportunities. July 16, 2004 Virginity Tests Banned in Preparation for EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament's justice commission will introduce an amendment to Turkey's penal code to ban virginity tests for women, unless they are demanded by a prosecutor or judge in criminal cases. In addition, the amendment will introduce jail terms of between three months and one year for those who conduct the examinations without legal permission. Conducting these tests on women and teenage girls has been quite common in Turkey's rural areas, although, in 1999, the Justice Ministry issued a circular restricting the procedure to gathering evidence in court cases. Two European judges also visited Turkey in mid-July to assess the progress the country's judiciary has made in its reforms regarding issues such as the independence of the judicial system and the role played by judges and prosecutors in the system. The visit, which was follow-up to visits by European judges to Turkey last year for the same purpose, was part of the process the European Commission is undertaking as it drafts its October report concerning Ankara's readiness to begin accession talks with the EU. July 16, 2004 Kurdish Former Lawmakers to be Retried Washington, D.C. - In a case that will be closely watched by the European Union as Turkey works toward meeting criteria by the end of the year for opening EU accession talks, a Turkish appeals court ordered a new trial for four Kurdish former parliamentarians, their third since 1994. The trial for Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak, and Orhan Dogan will be held in a newly established specialized criminal court. Their first two trials were conducted in state security courts, which have been abolished as part of the country's effort to bring its judicial system in line with EU norms. The appeals court also overturned the 1994 convictions of the former lawmakers, upheld in April 2004, on charges of links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which led to their imprisonment over the last 10 years on 15-year sentences. No date has been set for the new trial. The court, which ordered the release of the four in June 2004, said the former deputies did not receive a fair hearing at their original trial in 1994 or at their second trial in April 2004, which took place after the European Court of Human Rights, in a 1991 ruling, condemned the original trial as unfair. Jean-Christophe Filori, a spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, said, "The Commission is upset that still a satisfactory conclusion has not been reached on the issue" of the former lawmakers. He said the European Commission welcomed the overturning of their convictions, but it would closely monitor the re-trial process. On July 9, Turkish police said they had petitioned prosecutors to file charges against the four, alleging that they had made "separatist speeches" at political rallies they attended in Turkey's southeast, following their release from prison. In addition, the police said the four had spoken Kurdish at the rallies, which is prohibited, while also breaking traffic regulations and laws of public assembly. Their participation in the rallies was also criticized by the military. July 10, 2004 Ankara Implements Further Reforms for EU Accession Washington, D.C. - Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul stated that Turkey's National Security Council would soon, for the first time, be headed by a civilian instead of a military officer, a factor that would be taken into consideration as the European Commission prepared its report on Ankara's progress toward meeting EU criteria, to be released in October. Gonul said the move, authorized by a law legislated in 2003, would be in keeping with laws that have already led to the removal of military representatives from the recently-banned state security courts, the Higher Education Board, and the Supreme Board of Radio and Television. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer is reportedly planning to appoint Turkey's permanent representative to the United Nations, Umit Pamir, to the position following a meeting of the Higher Military Council in early August. Media reports have said that Osman Koruturk, Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, is also being considered. As part of its reform of Turkey's penal code, the Turkish parliament is expected to introduce mandatory life sentences for those who carry out "honor killings," the murder of girls or women for behavior that their families regard as shameful. The European Union has long urged Ankara to increase the now-lenient penalty for such killings, which occur primarily in the eastern and predominantly Kurdish southeastern regions, as part of its attempt to improve its human rights record. The parliament is expected to vote on the revised penal code, which also introduces articles that tackle gender discrimination, in September, following the summer recess. The European Court of Human Rights, founded within the framework of the Council of Europe, rejected an appeal by a Turkish student barred from an Istanbul medical school in 1998 because she was wearing an Islamic-style headscarf. The Court said the prohibition on the wearing of such headscarves in government buildings and universities in Turkey did not violate freedom of religion and was a valid way to counter Islamic militancy. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the ban should be overturned. The ban, which is supported by the Turkish military and other secularists, has been termed "an unwarranted infringement on the right to religious practice" by the New York-based Human Rights Watch. July 2, 2004 EU Calls on Turkey to Extend Its Customs Union Agreement to Cyprus Washington, D.C. - The European Union, in the presidency conclusions issued at the bloc's June 17-18 summit in Ireland, called on Turkey to extend its customs union agreement with the EU to include Cyprus. The Turkish government had already extended the agreement to the other nine countries that became EU members on May 1. The conclusions said, "The European Council invites Turkey to conclude negotiations with the [European] Commission on behalf of the Community and its 25 Member States on the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement to take account of the accession of the new Member States." The 1963 Ankara Agreement was the original Association Agreement between Turkey and the EU. The heart of the agreement was the establishment of the customs union, which took effect on January 1, 1996. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the close of the EU summit, stated that he expected Cyprus to be incorporated into the customs union agreement but did not say when it would happen. Turkey has no diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus, recognizing only the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said that he considered the reference in the presidency conclusions concerning the customs union agreement to be "satisfactory," adding that he believed "there is no way for Turkey to avoid extending the agreement towards Cyprus." Erdogan expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that the European Union had not yet announced its measures to ease the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. On July 7, the EU is expected to approve a package of measures it is preparing for this purpose. July 2, 2004 Key Support for Ankara's EU Bid at NATO, EU Summits Washington, D.C. - Both German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac, attending the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, publicly expressed support for setting a date at the EU's December summit to begin accession talks with Turkey if the European Commission's October report indicates that the country has met the necessary criteria. "If the [political] conditions are fulfilled, and they have improved in a way unthinkable a few years ago, we can only keep our word, which we gave 41 years ago," Schroeder said, referring to the EU's 1963 Ankara Agreement, or Association Agreement, with Turkey. Schroeder said he thought the Commission's report would be positive. Turkey was named a candidate for EU membership in December 1999. Chirac stated that there was "an irreversible movement leading to Turkey's accession," noting that a decision at the end of the year on talks would depend on the Commission's findings. President Bush, in remarks made on the sidelines of the NATO summit, repeated a call for Turkey's entry into the EU, stating that its membership would be "a crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West," since the country is part of both. Including Turkey in the EU, Bush stated, would prove that Europe is "not the exclusive club of a single religion," and "it would expose the ‘clash of civilizations' as a passing myth of history." In addition, the leaders of Britain, Greece, Italy, and Spain reiterated their support for setting a date for Turkey's accession talks while attending the NATO summit. In a related development, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said Cyprus would not "introduce any obstacles to beginning the process of Turkey's entry into the European Union." As the Netherlands assumed the rotating EU presidency on July 1, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, in reference to the December decision on accession talks, said, "The question is whether, by [December], Turkey will have stable institutions that safeguard democracy, the rule of law, and human rights." Balkanende stated that, as the holder of the presidency, "the Netherlands feels a responsibility to make sure that [the EU's] decision is well-reasoned and rock-solid." He asserted that the bloc "should not suddenly add new criteria" for starting the talks. Along with France and Austria, the Netherlands is widely viewed as being among the EU members that are most skeptical about Turkey's readiness for accession negotiations. In the presidency conclusions of the June 17-18 European Union summit in Ireland, the EU reaffirmed its prior commitment that it would open accession negotiations with Turkey "without delay" if the bloc decided at its December summit, on the basis of the October report by the European Commission, that Ankara had fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria for the start of talks. The conclusions also stated that the EU welcomed "the significant progress made to date by Turkey in the reform process, including the important and wide-ranging constitutional amendments adopted in May." The EU said work was still needed concerning strengthening the independence and functioning of the judiciary; protecting the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of association, expression, and religion, as well as cultural rights; furthering the alignment of civil-military relations with European practice; and improving the situation in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country. The bloc emphasized the importance of passing the remaining legislation required and accelerating efforts to implement reforms at all administrative levels throughout the country. It also noted that Ankara must demonstrate its commitment to economic and financial stabilization. On June 22, the Council of Europe decided to end the monitoring of Turkey's human rights performance, citing the country's democratic reforms over the past three years. The decision by the Council's parliamentary assembly was made on the basis of a report, adopted in March by a special monitoring committee, saying that Ankara had proved its commitment to constitutional and legislative reform and no longer needed to be watched. Since 1996, Turkey had been on a list of countries the Council monitors for democratic and human rights shortcomings. July 2, 2004 Turkey Urges U.S. to Act Against PKK in Northern Iraq Washington, D.C. - As attacks on Turkish security forces by militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) escalated in Turkey's southeast, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged President Bush to take "concrete steps" against some 5,000 PKK guerrillas operating out of northern Iraq. Some 2,000 of them are estimated to have crossed into Turkey since June 1, when the PKK, now known as KONGRA-GEL, ended its five-year unilateral truce. Since June 1, at least 14 Turkish officers and 25 PKK insurgents have been killed in clashes in southeastern Turkey and along Turkey's border with Syria. Meeting with Erdogan in Ankara prior to the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, Bush stated that the U.S. would "take serious steps on the PKK issue" and would work with both Turkey and the new Iraqi government concerning the matter. Bush noted that, "what al Qaeda means for us is the same as what the PKK means for Turkey," adding that the U.S., which has placed the PKK on the State Department's list of "foreign terrorist organizations," understood Turkey's concerns. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that there was no place for the PKK in Iraq. Erdogan said the Turkish government was concerned because the U.S. had taken "no serious steps" so far concerning the PKK in Iraq. On June 18, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman stated that he did "not anticipate any direct military action against the PKK" in northern Iraq "in the immediate future," noting that U.S. military forces in Iraq had "a very daunting challenge on the security side." He added that the U.S. was working with European and Turkish allies to "make life more difficult for the PKK members in terms of recruitment and raising money." In his talks with Bush, which also included Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Erdogan raised concerns over the restructuring of Iraq. Ankara believes the restructuring process gives too much influence to Iraqi Kurds and grants insufficient political representation to Turkmens, Iraq's third-largest ethnic community, which has close linguistic and ethnic ties to Turkey. Erdogan stated that Turkey was still opposed to a federal political structure in Iraq that guaranteed broad autonomy for the country's Kurds. Turkey fears that, if Iraqi Kurds consolidate their autonomy, it could rekindle separatism among Turkey's own ethnic Kurds. Despite stringent security measures imposed in the run-up to and during the NATO summit, two days before the arrival of Bush in Turkey, a bomb on a bus in Istanbul killed four persons, while two policemen and a passer-by were injured in Ankara in a blast in front of the hotel where the U.S. president was scheduled to stay. It is believed that the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) was behind the Istanbul blast, while the Ankara attack has been attributed to the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). The second day of the summit, a bomb exploded aboard an empty Turkish Airlines plane on the ground at the Istanbul airport, when a cleaning crew opened a bag found on the aircraft. Three members of the cleaning crew were injured. June 15, 2004 Ankara to Chair Organization of the Islamic Conference Washington, D.C. - Turkey will, for the first time, chair the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at a time when it hopes to be granted a date for opening accession talks with the European Union and would like to be perceived as a geographic and political bridge between the West and Islam. Ankara, which maintains close ties with Israel, said that it is aiming at promoting structural changes in the 56-nation organization, established in 1970, to enable it to become an effective player in global affairs amidst new international challenges. At the June 14-16 meeting of the OIC foreign ministers in Istanbul, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, presented by Turkey as a reform candidate, became the organization's secretary general, defeating candidates from Malaysia and Bangladesh, and will hold the position for four years. The OIC's choice of Turkey to chair the organization could signal further movement toward reform within the group and within its member states. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, speaking at the meeting, said, "It is of vital importance that members of the OIC demonstrate the clear will to accelerate the ongoing political, social, and economic reforms in order to catch up with the contemporary age," while adopting "a realistic and case-by-case approach building on the domestic dynamics and the particularities of each country." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was up to the OIC countries to heed calls for reform from the early June summit of G-8 leaders in Sea Island, Georgia, while Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the Islamic world "must continue with its evolution toward more democratic, transparent, open societies." Gul added that the "Turkish experience on reform and progress can be a source of inspiration for others who want to embrace modernity, while preserving traditional values." Although the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will maintain observer status in the OIC and will not be accorded member status, the foreign ministers decided that, from now on, the TRNC delegates at the meetings of the organization will be referred to as representing the "Turkish Cypriot state," the term used in the failed Annan settlement plan. In the past, the Turkish Cypriot observers have been considered representatives of the "Turkish Cypriot community." It was made clear that the title "Turkish Cypriot state" does not confer diplomatic recognition on the TRNC. Turkey has not officially appealed to the OIC member countries to extend recognition to the TRNC, recognized only by Turkey. Bosnia and Thailand also attend the OIC meetings as observers. Gul, in an address to the OIC meeting, urged the international community to establish direct economic, commercial, social, and cultural relations with the Turkish Cypriots. In their joint communiqué, the ministers called on the global community to take "immediate concrete steps" to end the isolation of northern Cyprus, while urging the OIC member states to promote "direct transport, trade, tourism, culture, information, investment, and sports contacts" with the Turkish Cypriots. In the latest in a series of criticisms he has directed against Israel since it launched its May military drive in Gaza and killed Hamas leaders, Erdogan said the Israeli government's actions were "leading to an increase in anti-Semitism in the world." Sezer stated that Israel was engaging in the "use of excessive force" that did "not serve to any end other than further escalating tensions and harming civilians." June 15, 2004 Netherlands Upbeat Toward Turkey's EU Reform Process, Urges Implementation Washington, D.C. - The prime minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkanende, during a June 15-17 visit to The Hague by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he appreciated the process of reform in Turkey over the last two years in preparation for EU accession talks. He noted that Ankara could begin talks "without delay" if an October European Commission report evaluates Turkey's preparedness for negotiations positively. The Netherlands will hold the rotating EU presidency during the second half of 2004, beginning July 1, a period that encompasses the December EU summit, where Turkey hopes to be granted a date for starting accession talks. Balkanende said the EU leaders' decision-making process concerning opening talks with Ankara would be "fair" and "honest." He stated that, although he welcomed Turkey's progress in legislating reforms in line with EU norms, he wanted to see equal progress made in implementing the reforms. "We are closely following moves to decrease the political influence of the military, and recent regulations in the human rights area and in democratization," Balkanende stated. Although the steps toward reform are positive, he said "it is not possible at the moment to express a certain view before seeing the Commission's report." He said The Netherlands would be in close contact with Ankara during its EU presidency. Erdogan stated that it would be impossible to completely eliminate problems related to the implementation of the reforms by December, noting that some current members of the EU still have deficiencies in the area of implementation. Along with France and Austria, The Netherlands is widely viewed as being among the EU members that are most skeptical about Turkey's readiness for accession negotiations. June 15, 2004 PKK Attacks Accelerate as Kurdish Former Parliamentarian Calls for Ceasefire Washington, D.C. - As attacks by militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) accelerated in Turkey's southeast, Leyla Zana, one of four Kurdish former parliamentarians who were released from prison in early June, urged the guerrillas to resume for six months a unilateral truce they lifted on June 1, maintaining that Turkey had not responded with a truce of its own. The truce was implemented in 1999, following the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. Zana's appeal was made during a demonstration in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir held by 20,000 people to celebrate the release of the former lawmakers and call for the peaceful resolution of the remaining problems ethnic Kurds face in Turkey. Thousands marched in Istanbul in a similar demonstration. Zana met with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul shortly after her release from prison. Murat Karayilan, one of the current leaders of the PKK, now known as KONGRA-GEL, said the group would not resume its ceasefire. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected a general amnesty request for PKK militants, stating that the government had implemented steps that had never before been taken to benefit ethnic Kurds, a reference to measures such as allowing instruction and broadcasts in the Kurdish language. In renewed violence between the PKK and Turkish security forces, at least eight Kurdish guerrillas and seven security personnel have been killed since June 1 in the southeast. On June 13, the Turkish military declared an overnight curfew in the town of Bingol after guerrillas staged a rocket attack on a club for military officers. Security officials estimate that more than 2,000 PKK guerrillas have entered Turkey in recent months and say they are returning from northern Iraq through Iran and Syria. On June 9, the European Court of Human Rights started to hear legal arguments for an appeal by Ocalan, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999 and whose death sentence for treason was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 when Turkey abolished capital punishment. His lawyers assert that he was treated inhumanely and was denied a fair trial in Turkey in February 1999. June 15, 2004 Suspected Plotters of Bomb Attack at NATO Summit Held Washington, D.C. - Turkish police, on June 16, detained four suspected Islamic militants believed to be planning a major bomb attack at the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, which President Bush and other heads of state and government of alliance nations will attend. Those detained are suspected of being members of Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to al Qaeda. Materials for making bombs were also seized. Police believe that the four had connections with 16 people arrested in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa in May on suspicion of planning a bomb attack during the summit. Nine of those detained in Bursa were charged with terrorism. June 11, 2004 EU Calls on Turkey to Extend Customs Union Agreement to Republic of Cyprus Washington, D.C. - The European Commission has demanded that Turkey extend its customs union agreement with the EU, in place since January 1996, to include the Republic of Cyprus. Following the accession of Cyprus and nine other countries to the European Union on May 1, Turkey extended the agreement to include all the new members except Cyprus, which it does not recognize. Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a sovereign state. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen instructed Fabrizio Barbaso, the general director of the Enlargement Directorate, to send a letter on June 4 to the Turkish government concerning the matter. The move followed a complaint by the Cyprus government, which had reportedly raised the issue during the discussions accompanying the drafting of the presidency conclusions for the EU summit in Dublin on June 17-18. Verheugen has said that the division of Cyprus will not play a decisive role in the Commission's October report on Turkey's readiness to open EU accession talks. "Turkey has demonstrated its will to find a [Cyprus] solution on the basis of the United Nations peace plan. That counts," Verheugen said. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos referred to the customs union matter in a June 7 letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, citing it as an example of Ankara's continuing "unjustified hostile policy against Cyprus." (See Cyprus, Country Updates, "Papadopoulos Rebuts Annan Report," June 11, 2004.) June 11, 2004 Broadcasts in Non-Turkish Languages Begin in Conformity with EU Practice Washington, D.C. - Two years after Turkey's parliament passed legislation lifting a ban on the broadcast of languages other than Turkish, Turkey's state broadcaster, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), has launched the airing of programs in a number of mother-tongue languages and dialects used in the country, including Kurdish. The delay in moving forward with these broadcasts was cited by the European Union in its May report on Ankara's preparedness for accession talks as one example of the government's failure to implement critical reform laws already passed. The government has, in the past, maintained that such broadcasts would promote separatism. The weekly schedule of programs, which began the week of June 7, is Mondays, the Bosnian language; Tuesdays, Arabic; Wednesdays, Kirmanji, the most commonly used Kurdish dialect; Thursdays, Circassian; and Fridays, Zaza, another Kurdish dialect. According to current regulations, broadcasts on state-owned stations will be limited to no more than 60 minutes a day, or five hours a week on radio, and no more than 45 minutes a day, or four hours a week on television. TRT Director Senol Demiroz stated that the broadcaster had completed the "infrastructural studies" necessary to broadcast the programs, which include coverage of national, international, and sporting news, as well as documentaries and cultural programs. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) has accelerated its preparations for regulating broadcasts in non-Turkish languages on private stations and channels, although there have been no offers from them up until now to schedule such broadcasts. Private language institutes started Kurdish classes in April, but state schools are still not teaching the language. On May 5, European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said "that Turkey is changing at high speed and that much of what we have been asking of them for years is now being realized." The Commission is scheduled to release a report in October on the level of Turkey's preparedness for opening EU accession talks. European Union leaders will consult the report as the basis for their decision at the December EU summit on whether Turkey should be granted a date for the talks. Turkey's "process of negotiation [for EU accession], which will possibly be decided at the end of the year, will take a long time, and, even if the EU member-states take a positive decision, it will take some time to prepare for the negotiations," Verheugen stated. The ambassador of the Netherlands to Turkey, Sjoerd Gosses, whose country will hold the EU rotating presidency the second half of 2004, stated that Turkey would be the only EU member that would cause "a transformation" in the bloc, because of its large population, culture, and religious and historical features, adding that this transformation would be beneficial for the European Union. Opposition to Turkey's EU aspirations have been a focus of certain political parties and groupings in Europe during the campaign leading up to the June 10-13 European Parliament elections. These include Joerg Haider's anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO), part of Austria's center-right government coalition; Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's conservative People's Party; and the ruling, conservative UMP party in France. In addition, Germany's main opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, has long opposed Turkey's accession to the European Union. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressing the ambassadors of EU member states to Turkey, said Ankara expected a decision to be made in December "which will facilitate opening of [accession] negotiations in the first months of 2005." June 11, 2004 Kurdish Parliamentarians' Convictions Overturned, New Trial to Be Held Washington, D.C. - Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the April convictions upholding the 15-year prison sentences of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish former parliamentarians at the end of a year-long retrial and has ordered a second retrial. The ruling was made on the recommendation of a prosecutor who cited procedural lapses during the first retrial in one of the country's state security courts, which were abolished through a constitutional amendment passed in April to bring Turkey's judiciary in line with EU norms. The appeals court ordered the release of the former deputies until the retrial, scheduled for July 8, begins. Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan, and Selim Sadak have been in prison since 1994, when they were convicted of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2001 that the 1994 trial had been unfair because a member of the military sat on the court, a retrial began in 2003. In his argument before the appeals court, the prosecutor asserted that the removal of the military member of the court during this retrial should have necessitated a repeat of the entire court procedure that had occurred during the original trial, which was not done. For example, witnesses called to give evidence in the original trial had not been called for the retrial, and press and police reports presented at the original trial had not been re-introduced. The European Commission, in a May report on Turkey's readiness for starting EU accession talks, called Zana a "political prisoner" and came out strongly against the state security court's April verdict that kept her and the other former parliamentarians in prison. June 11, 2004 Turkey Publicly Critical of Israeli Actions Against Palestinians Washington, D.C. - Following statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of "state terrorism" against the Palestinians and comparing their treatment by the Israeli government to actions against Jews under the Spanish Inquisition, the Turkish government on June 8 recalled its ambassador and consul general from Israel to Ankara for consultations. The move, a common diplomatic maneuver to express displeasure with a host country's policies, was played down by both sides, as Turkish officials said the diplomats would return to their posts during "the course of the week," describing the consultations as "regular and ordinary." Erdogan, attending the G-8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia, the same week, stated that Turkey has "positive relations with Israel and will continue" to do so. In addition, Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Pinhas Avivi, stated that Turkey's criticism "has not negatively affected mutual relations." The day the recall occurred, Erdogan said, "There is nothing acceptable in Israel's violent policies. Attempts that risk innocent people's lives - whether from Israel or Palestine - are unacceptable, and any violent act will face a condemnation from us. Policies of violence and counter-violence from both Israel and Palestine have to stop." Erdogan's criticism was directed, in particular, toward a May campaign by the Israeli Army in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza against Palestinian militants that resulted in the deaths of about 60 Palestinians, including civilians, as well as Israel's assassinations of prominent Hamas leaders. "We are in favor of the peace process being regenerated, and the government of Israel has not contributed to our efforts to do so," the Turkish prime minister stated. Turkey and Israel cooperate closely in the military, intelligence, and economic sectors, with bilateral trade reaching $1.2 billion in 2002. Israeli companies are carrying out several Turkish military modernization projects, and Ankara has purchased $3 billion worth of weapons from Israel since 1996. In addition, Turkey will be shipping water to Israel under a multi-billion agreement. At the G-8 summit, in which Erdogan participated as a guest along with the leaders of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen, as well as the interim president of Iraq, it was announced that Turkey would join G-8 member Italy and Yemen in forming the "Democratic Aid Dialogue," which will contribute to the promotion of political reforms in the Middle East and northern Africa. June 4, 2004 Conformity with EU-Inspired Reforms Postpones Trial of Terrorists Washington, D.C. - Adhering to the May constitutional amendment abolishing Turkey's state security courts in preparation for EU accession talks, the Turkish judiciary has postponed the trial of 69 Turks charged with involvement in al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombings in Istanbul until legislation establishing new criminal courts is passed, possibly by mid-June. The trial will be the highest-profile case in Turkey since the conviction of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. It is also the first time alleged al-Qaeda operatives will be tried by a court in Turkey. The suspects allegedly planned the November 2003 detonation of four truck bombs directed at two synagogues, the British Consulate, and the local headquarters of the London-based bank HSBC. Sixty-one people, including British Consul General Roger Short, were killed, and more than 600 were injured. Three alleged ringleaders of the attacks are still at large and believed to be outside Turkey. In an indictment made public on May 31, Turkish prosecutors stated that Osama bin Laden suggested the targets that were attacked, and his al-Qaeda network later provided $150,000 to the Islamic militants who carried out the bombings. The EU urged Turkey to close its state security courts, which have, until now, handled political and terrorism prosecutions, maintaining that they were a legacy of the country's 1980 military coup. June 4, 2004 Kurdish Separatists Announce End of Ceasefire Washington, D.C. - The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which now goes by the name of KONGRA-GEL, warned tourists and foreign investors to stay away from Turkey, as it announced that it was ending its five-year unilateral ceasefire on June 1. The ceasefire was implemented in September 1999, about six months after the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in February 1999. The warning was issued one month before Turkey is to host President Bush and other leaders at the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul. The group also cautioned that it would "not be responsible for the damage" if individuals chose to "invest in a conflict zone," where it would "engage in various types of activities targeting Turkish forces." KONGRA-GEL attributed its decision to end the ceasefire to operations by Turkish security forces against its fighters over the past three months. A representative of the Turkish Human Rights Association in Diyarbakir in the predominantly Kurdish southeast stated that a total of 26 people, including both Kurdish rebels and members of the Turkish security forces, had been killed in April and May, an increase in the low-level clashes between the two that have continued sporadically throughout the ceasefire. Reacting to the group's announcement, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Namik Tan said, "What we expect of the terrorists is that they hand in themselves and their arms to security forces and be tried in court." The day after the intention to end the ceasefire was announced, Kurdish militants opened fire on Turkish troops in the southeastern province of Tunceli, wounding a soldier near the town of Ovacik. According to the Turkish Daily News, Turkish intelligence sources estimate that about 4,500 Kurdish rebels are camped in northern Iraq, while a few hundred operate in southeastern Turkey. On June 1, Turkish police said they had detained 10 suspected Kurdish rebels who were preparing to carry out bomb attacks in Istanbul and in the southern city of Adana. Some 30,000 security personnel will be deployed during the NATO summit, which will bring 3,000 delegates and 3,500 journalists to Istanbul. Security plans will include the enforcement of a no-fly zone over the city by the alliance's AWACs early warning aircraft and strict control of the shipping traffic through the Bosporus. May 28, 2004 Kurdish Broadcasts to Begin as Part of Drive Toward EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - Turkey's Reform Watch Group, responsible for making certain that Ankara legislates the remaining reforms and implements existing laws to qualify for starting EU accession talks early next year, announced that television and radio broadcasts in languages other than Turkish, including Kurdish, would begin as soon as possible. The state broadcasting organization, TRT, said it would establish the infrastructure needed to broadcast in these languages, though "it was not possible to give an exact date when TRT will start the broadcasts." Launching the broadcasts would implement an amendment to the constitution that was passed in 2002. Turkey would like to make as much progress as possible toward achieving its reform agenda by October, when the European Commission will release a report assessing the government's efforts to meet the criteria for accession talks. The report will be the basis for the EU's decision at its December summit in The Netherlands on whether Turkey is ready for talks. The Watch Group, comprised of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, and Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu, also agreed that more places of worship would be opened for non-Muslims, particularly in areas frequented by tourists, such as those along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. The state will not build these institutions, but it will make it easier for private entities to do so on their own initiative, the government said. The EU expects Turkey to pass laws guaranteeing non-Muslim religious groups the right to own property, on which these new institutions will be built. The Group also pledged to promote an accelerated schedule for drafting a new penal code and a press code that will conform to a package of constitutional amendments passed by the parliament in mid-May. Other reforms include establishing new specialized courts in line with EU norms to replace the state security courts, abolished as part of this package. Gul has noted that the abolition of these courts, which rejected releasing four former Kurdish lawmakers, including Leyla Zana, during a retrial, would pave the way for their release, a move sought by the EU. The foreign minister stated that Turkey did "not want to leave any excuse to the EU" that could prompt it to postpone the opening of accession talks beyond early 2005. European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, referring to the EU's task of deciding at its December summit whether to begin accession talks with Turkey, said, "We cannot help but be conscious of the symbolism, at this time, of reaching out a hand to a country whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim." Patten added, "We need to open the debate, recognizing that the beginning of negotiations with Turkey would lead to a very different Turkey and very different relations between Europe and the Islamic world." He asserted that it was not only dangerous, but also a mistake to claim that Europe "is defined with terms based on religion." During a May 25 visit to Turkey, Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, whose country will hold the rotating EU presidency when the decision on accession talks is made, praised the significant progress the Turkish government has made in implementing important reforms. He and Gul signed an agreement on bilateral economic cooperation aimed at boosting Turkey's market economy and sustainable development. May 28, 2004 Press Freedom Watchdog Protests Ankara's Actions Against Journalists Washington, D.C. - On May 25, Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that monitors press freedom, protested a case brought by the Turkish judiciary against a Turkish journalist that resulted in a jail sentence and one against a Turkish newspaper that involved a large fine. Journalist Hakan Albayrak was given a 15-month sentence on May 20 under a 1951 law on crimes against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, for "insulting the memory of Ataturk." On the same date, the daily Vakit was ordered to pay $605,000 in damages to 312 generals in the Turkish Army for publishing an article in which the author accused top-ranking officers of incompetence, without naming any of them. In its 2004 annual report, Reporters Without Borders said that legislative reforms adopted by Turkey in preparation for EU accession talks have not, in practice, included any significant improvements in press freedom. "Journalists daring to criticize government institutions or to broach taboo subjects, like the role of the army in the country's political life, are censored, abusively taken to court, and subjected to heavy penalties," the organization said, noting that four journalists "are currently in jail [in Turkey] for doing their jobs." Article 159 of the Turkish penal code states that those who "insult state institutions," through a speech, article, publication, song, or other means should face prison terms of up to three years. Reporters Without Borders maintains that press offenses should not be punishable with prison terms according to the recommendations of the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). May 28, 2004 Sezer Vetoes Bill Broadening University Options for Religious School Graduates Washington, D.C. - Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed an education bill that would make it easier for graduates of religious vocational schools, known as "imam-hatip" schools, to obtain university degrees in subjects other than divinity studies, opening the way for them to hold government jobs. In a statement explaining his rejection of the bill, which was opposed by the military, Sezer said the "real aim" of the legislation was to encourage youths to attend religious schools. "Allowing graduates of religious schools to benefit from the same university education rights as graduates of general high schools does not comply with . . . the principles of secularism," Sezer stated. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who attended an imam-hatip school, responsible for training Islamic clergy, backed the law in parliament, arguing that graduates of such schools should be given an equal opportunity to continue their educations in whatever field they choose. If the parliament passes the bill a second time without any changes, the president will have to sign it into law, but he will have the right to ask the constitutional court to declare it unlawful. The military stated that the bill could "harm the principles . . . of secular education." It fears that the legislation could lead to a gradual Islamist infiltration into the government. May 28, 2004 Ankara Considers Command of Afghanistan Force Washington, D.C. - Turkey is considering assuming the six-month rotating command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in February 2005, a move that would result in an increase in the number of soldiers it currently deploys in the force from 150 to 1,500. Turkey held the command of ISAF from June 2002 to February 2003, when it deployed 1,300 troops in the country. The 6,500-member force from about 30 countries will remain under Canadian command until August, when Eurocorps, led by France and comprised of troops from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain, will assume command. ISAF, created in December 2001 following authorization by the U.N. Security Council, was placed under the command of NATO in August 2003. It is NATO's first deployment outside Europe or North America. May 28, 2004 World Bank Loan in Support of Financial Reforms Washington, D.C. - Turkey has signed a $1 billion loan package with the World Bank that will be used to sustain fiscal discipline and more efficient government spending, while also establishing transparency and accountability in public administration, to help prepare the country for EU membership. The loan is back up to an IMF-sponsored $19 billion economic reform program, in place since 2001. Half of the World Bank loan is expected to be released in June, while the other half will be available in the fall if Ankara achieves the required reforms. These include presenting a clear plan for privatizing two state banks, Ziraat and Halk, as well as legislating banking and agricultural support laws; strengthening the regulatory framework for banking; and consolidating the current stability of the banking system to position it for the country’s accession to the European Union. The Bank said its support for Ankara "represents the World Bank's confidence in Turkey, the government's reform program, and the prospects for growth and stability" in the country. The loan is part of a $4.5 billion Country Assistance Strategy that the Bank allocated for Turkey in 2003 to support reform programs between 2004 and 2006. May 21, 2004 Turkey, Greece Announce Major Cutbacks in Defense Expenditures Washington, D.C. - Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, following talks on the sidelines of a meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels, announced that their governments would reduce their defense expenditures and redirect the funds toward the education, health, and social welfare sectors of their respective countries. Both Greece and Turkey have had high military expenditures over the past few decades in comparison with other NATO countries. Greece's defense budget currently stands at about 4 percent of GDP, down from 5 percent in 2000, while Turkey spends 5 percent of its GDP on defense. The average defense outlay of NATO countries in Europe is about 2 percent of GDP, while the U.S. defense budget is currently 3.5 percent, up from 2.9 percent in 2000. Gonul said Turkey had canceled three long-running military tenders worth about $10 billion. Spiliotopoulos stated that the target of Greece's review of its armaments procurement program, which would be completed in July, would be to decrease military spending by 25 percent over the next five years, including the cancellation of two tenders. The Turkish government is calling off tenders for 145 attack helicopters, 250 main battle tanks, and unmanned aerial vehicles, while Greece is reportedly scrapping plans to buy a corvette (convoy escort and patrol warship) and 300 armored vehicles worth a total of $2.4 billion. Turkey was considering a purchase of King Cobra variants of the AH-1Z attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron in Fort Worth, Texas, priced at a total of $2 billion, as well as upgraded Kamov helicopters, which Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) had teamed up with Russian aircraft maker Kamov to produce. Turkey had also engaged in preliminary talks for a $4-5 billion tank purchase with General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights, Michigan, which produces the M1A2 tanks, as well as with French, German, and Ukrainian companies. Israel's Merkava Mark III tanks were also being considered. General Atomics of San Diego and Israel's Elbit Systems had been competing for a $1 billion contract to provide Turkey with unmanned aircraft. Both Turkey and Greece said they would seek to enter into future defense contracts that provided as much work as possible for their domestic defense industries. Military analysts said the decisions of Greece and Turkey concerning their military procurement likely stemmed from the changing nature of warfare in the post-September 11 environment. Smaller, more deployable forces, rather than large stationery forces, are needed to address global terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the threat to regional security posed by groups that engage in illegal activities, such as smuggling and trafficking in humans and drugs, and siphon the money earned into terrorist organizations. May 21, 2004 EU Urges Turkey to Implement Reforms, Pass Further Reform Legislation Washington, D.C. - At a meeting of the Turkey-EU Partnership Council in Brussels, the European Union presented a report that praised the democratic reforms the Turkish parliament has passed in recent months but emphasized that further action must be taken to bring political and human rights laws in line with EU norms and to ensure that all reforms legislated up until now have been implemented. Signaling some of the points that will be considered when the European Commission draws up its October report on Turkey's progress toward meeting the requirements for opening EU accession talks in early 2005, the document stated that a number of Turkey's laws "could be interpreted so as to unduly restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms." While the report described the May 7 parliamentary ratification of a package of constitutional amendments as "another significant step forward," it called on Ankara to effectively implement these and other reforms. The EU stated that Turkey had long had difficulty imposing new legislation throughout the entire country, "with its sprawling geographical size and weak administration." The document voiced concern regarding the role of the Turkish military in the country's political affairs, asserting that the Turkish parliament must exercise full control over defense expenditures. It also said the legislation permitting instruction and broadcasting in the Kurdish language had not been fully implemented since only three schools had begun Kurdish language courses and there was still no broadcasting taking place in languages other than Turkish. In addition, the EU stated that non-Muslim religious institutions continued to have problems concerning property rights. While welcoming the total abolition of the death penalty in the constitution, the report said claims of torture and ill treatment had continued. It also expressed disappointment over the April 21 verdict by a state security court, which upheld a 1994 court decision, ordering four former Kurdish parliamentarians to serve out the remainder of their 15-year sentences for membership in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The lawmakers included Leyla Zana, the recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for defending human rights. The report urged the government to establish an anti-corruption unit within the Prime Ministry to ensure effective implementation of measures to eliminate corruption. The EU also stated that it expected the revision of Turkey's penal code to protect the rights of women regarding honor killings. The EU gave Turkey high marks for progress made in reforming its economy, noting that productivity-led output growth, with an increase of 7.8 percent in 2002 and 5.8 percent in 2003, had remained significantly stronger than expected, while inflation had continued to decline. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who attended the Turkey-EU Partnership Council meeting, stated that the Turkish government would closely monitor and intensify the process of implementing the reform legislation. With respect to the case of Leyla Zana and the other former lawmakers, he said the government did not "have the authority to exert pressure on the judiciary." The 25 EU member states also said the bloc was determined to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, who met with Gul in Brussels, stated that the EU would propose measures in June to facilitate trade between northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus, while also allowing "direct trade from the northern part of Cyprus to the EU." May 21, 2004 Blair Supports Ankara's EU Membership Bid, Lifting Restrictions on Northern Cyprus Washington, D.C. - British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on the first official visit by a British head of government to Ankara since 1990, told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Britain "wants to see Turkey in the European Union" and "supports its membership," making it clear that he favored granting Ankara a date for the opening of accession talks at the EU's December summit. During his May 17 visit, Blair noted that the Turkish government had made "tremendous progress" over the previous few months in meeting EU membership requirements. If Ankara complies with the economic, social, and judicial Copenhagen criteria for membership, Blair stated, "there can be no other obstacles" to Turkey's entry into the bloc. The difference of religion and culture in Turkey is not a problem, Blair said, maintaining that "we now have an entirely different Turkey." Blair views Turkey as an important strategic partner, given its geographic location, and believes Turkish membership in the EU would contribute to the bloc's security as a bridge enabling the EU to reach out to the Islamic world. In discussions with Erdogan and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer that also included Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process, the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul, cooperation against terrorism, and Cyprus, Blair stated that "we must now act to end the isolation" of Turkish Cypriots and pledged to work toward the lifting of trade and air travel restrictions on northern Cyprus "as soon as possible," while ensuring that EU funds are disbursed to Turkish Cypriots. Erdogan urged Britain to also invest in the tourism sector in northern Cyprus. In a meeting that is expected to become an annual event, Erdogan and Blair agreed to expand British-Turkish efforts to bolster Turkey's EU membership preparations through periodic meetings between their foreign ministers and between technical delegations from the two countries. They also pledged to strengthen bilateral economic and cultural ties, and to cooperate to further stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, they signed a memorandum of understanding on enhanced counter-terrorism cooperation. Erdogan referred to the meeting as a "turning point" in Ankara's relations with Britain. Hours before Blair arrived in Turkey for his one-day visit, four small bombs exploded outside branches of the London-based HSBC bank in Ankara and Istanbul, causing minor damage and no injuries. No one claimed responsibility for the explosions. The main branch of the HSBC bank in Istanbul was the target of suicide bomb attacks in November 2003 that also hit the British Consulate and two synagogues, killing over 60 people. Extremist militants with links to al-Qaeda were blamed for the November attacks. Erdogan is expected to visit London in late May, while Blair will return to Turkey for the NATO summit. May 14, 2004 Constitutional Amendments Passed to Qualify for EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - Mindful of the upcoming October report by the European Commission on Ankara's readiness to begin accession talks in early 2005, the Turkish parliament passed legislation imposing further constitutional reform, including the end of the death penalty under all circumstances, the abolition of state security courts, and the removal of military representatives from the government boards that supervise the electronic media and the higher education system. Other amendments included those rendering domestic laws subordinate to international agreements in contentious cases, giving parliament full control over the military budget, and ensuring that the equality of men and women is applied in practice. The article that allowed state seizure of media firms if they participated in illegal publications was also removed. Amendments were made to 10 articles of the constitution, which was prepared by the military government after the 1980 coup and went into force in 1982. This is the eighth time the constitution has been amended since 1982. When the death penalty in peacetime was abolished in Turkey in August 2002, the constitution was amended to state that "capital punishment cannot be used unless the country faces war or near-war conditions or for terrorism crimes." The new reform package removes this sentence and adds the statement that "no one can be sentenced to the death penalty." It also annuls parliament's authority to approve the use of the death penalty. The state security courts, located in eight Turkish cities, were established in 1982 under the military government "to deal with security offenses against the indivisible integrity of the State . . ." and are seen as a creation of the military. These courts have one military judge and two civilian judges, while the prosecutor can be an army officer. In a 1998 decision, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that the presence of a military judge in these courts was a violation of the principle of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, safeguarded in the European Convention on Human Rights. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said the new constitutional reforms were indicative of Turkey's "strong commitment" to meeting democratic standards and constituted another step toward compliance with EU membership criteria. Noting that Ankara had displayed "very impressive dynamism in modernization, democratization, and liberalization," Verheugen said he did not agree with those favoring a delay in starting accession talks with Turkey. "If you take away the European perspective from Turkey, you stop effectively the process of democratization in the country," the commissioner said. "In the long run, you will be responsible for the loss of stability and predictability of that strategically important country." The commissioner said, "Relations between Western democracies and the Islamic world . . . will be the most important question of the 21st century. Turkey can make a difference." French President Jacques Chirac stated on May 9 that Ankara's accession to the EU would take place and "it is desirable for that to happen," noting that the integration of Turkey into European norms would be long and difficult. However, the electoral platform of France's ruling center-right UMP party states that "Turkey has no business in the European Union," which is consistent with UMP leader Alain Juppe's statement in April that "the UMP does not want to see [EU accession] discussions with Turkey at the end of the year." France is considered by many to be the country most likely to create obstacles for Turkey's EU accession, with 70 percent of the French public opposed to its membership in the bloc. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who supports Turkey's EU accession, stated that, as an EU member, Turkey would be a bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, though its bid for membership would present a "great challenge." Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero stated that the EU would assign Turkey a date for accession talks if the European Commission's October progress report on Ankara's reform process is positive. Warning of a possible halt to Turkey's ongoing Europeanization, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that "it will not be difficult for Turkey to channel its huge potential in another direction," if the EU fails to grant Ankara a date at its December summit in the Netherlands. Following the April 24 referenda in Cyprus and the failure to unify the country prior to its May 1 accession to the EU, European Commission President Romano Prodi said the results of the referenda would "not directly affect Turkey's interests" with respect to being assigned a date for talks, since the EU's focus in this process would be on whether Turkey has passed and implemented legislation fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria. The Turkish parliament also passed a separate higher education bill making it easier for graduates of religious high schools, considered vocational schools for the training of clerics, to study at universities other than theological institutions of higher learning, raising the possibility of tension between the government and the military. Prior to the passage of the bill, military officials stated that such a measure could "harm the principles . . . of secular education." The military fears that the measure could open the way for a gradual Islamist infiltration into government jobs. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer must sign the bill for it to become law. May 10, 2004 Bomb Plot to Assassinate Bush at Istanbul NATO Summit Foiled Washington, D.C. - Turkish police said an alleged plot to bomb the NATO summit in Istanbul on June 28-29 had been warded off with the arrest of nine Turkish nationals believed to be members of Ansar al-Islam, a banned militant Islamist group that Washington says is linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. has accused the group of being behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. The daily Hurriyet newspaper and other papers in Turkey said authorities suspected that three of the group's members were planning to carry out suicide attacks against President Bush at the summit, which will be attended by the heads of state and government of the 26 NATO members and other leaders. The papers also said several of the suspects had undergone training in Pakistan to prepare them for carrying out a suicide mission. A state security court in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa charged the men with membership in an illegal organization, following searches of the suspects' homes and workplaces in which guns, explosives, chemicals, books on bomb-making, forged identity documents, and 4,000 compact discs featuring training instructions from bin Laden were seized. Plans for an attack against a synagogue and a bank robbery in Bursa were also found. A Turkish prosecutor also issued indictments against 12 suspects linked to al-Qaeda in connection with a March suicide bomb attack on a Masonic lodge in Istanbul that killed one of the two bombers and one other person. Turkish authorities have been in a heightened state of security since four truck bombings blamed on a Turkish al-Qaeda cell killed 62 people in Istanbul in November. The trial of 69 suspects charged in connection with those bombings against two synagogues, the British Consulate, and a British bank is expected to begin later this month. More than 30,000 police and other security forces are expected to be on duty for the NATO summit. April 30, 2004 Germany Expresses Support for Ankara's EU Bid Washington, D.C. - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, during an April 26-27 visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Germany, reaffirmed Germany's support for granting Ankara a date to begin EU accession talks at the end of the year, if the European Commission's report on Turkey's preparedness is positive. "It seems to me that little indicates that the criteria [for accession talks] will not be fulfilled on paper and, above all, in practice by the end of the year in such a way that a positive decision is possible," Schroeder stated. He said Erdogan could "rely on Germany's readiness to keep its word," noting that, "if Turkey harmonizes moderate Islam and Western democracy, it will increase Europe's security." During talks with Schroeder, which also included the Cyprus issue and bilateral trade and economic cooperation, Erdogan emphasized Turkey's strong economic growth and stated that Turks were committed to "living in a democratic country in which human rights are respected." Turkey, he said, will "provide a new stimulus for economic dynamism." Schroeder urged Germany's main opposition Christian Democratic Union not to oppose Turkey's EU membership. The party argues that Turkey's accession would overstretch the EU culturally and financially. The chancellor praised Turkey's leaders for their support of the Annan plan for the reunification of Cyprus, which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots in the April 24 referenda. He said that "we must compliment Turkish politicians" for their position, while expressing regret that the effort to unify Cyprus through the plan failed. "If anyone tried to bring about a sensible decision," it was Turkey, he stated, adding that the Turkish Cypriots should not be punished because of the Greek Cypriots' action. Schroeder and Erdogan inaugurated the Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, established jointly in Cologne by the Union of Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges and the Union of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The event was also attended by Turkish State Minister Kursad Tuzmen and Turkish Industry and Trade Minister Ali Coskun, as well as a delegation of Turkish and German businessmen. Speaking at the inauguration, Erdogan said that integrating a country with an overwhelmingly Muslim population into Europe would "strengthen the atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation between Muslim and Christian worlds." He invited German businessmen to invest more heavily in Turkey. Schroeder said Turkish companies in Germany employed about 350,000 people. April 23, 2004 EU Denounces Turkish Court Conviction of Kurdish Lawmakers Washington, D.C. - AA spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said the Commission "strongly deplores" the April 21 re-conviction of four former Kurdish parliamentarians for membership in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) by a state security court in Ankara. Jean-Christophe Filori added that the verdict "gives rise to serious concern in light of the [EU's] political criteria and casts a negative shadow on the implementation of political reforms in Turkey." Leyla Zana, the 1995 recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for defending human rights; Hatip Dicle; Orhan Dogan; and Selim Sadak were convicted of membership in an armed rebel group and sentenced to 15 years in jail, the same verdict and sentence they received in the 1994 trial that the European Court of Human Rights said was unfair in a ruling three years ago. The Court ordered that the four defendants be tried again, and Ankara permitted the re-trial to begin in March 2003 as part of human rights reforms it has undertaken to prepare for EU accession talks. The defendants, jailed since 1994, will serve out their sentences, despite calls by the EU and human rights groups for their release. They will be eligible for release in 2005 since they have already served 10 years of their sentences. The defendants have said they will appeal their cases to the European Court of Human Rights a second time. The European Parliament, in a resolution, called on the Turkish government to release Leyla Zana, stating that "this case is symbolic of the gap which exists between the Turkish judicial system and that of the European Union." The resolution stated that the decision to keep her in prison "stands in clear contradiction to the judicial reform process started by the Turkish government." The Parliament has supported Zana's efforts to increase rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority of 12 million. The European Parliament also called for the "immediate abolition" of Turkey's state security court system and urged Ankara to "grant amnesty to all those imprisoned for their political views." Turkey's state security courts, dealing with political and security-related offenses are viewed as a legacy of the military rule that followed the country's 1980 military coup. The Turkish government is expected to propose draft legislation in late April to abolish these courts. The European Commission will publish a report on Turkey in October that will serve as the basis for a decision by EU leaders at their summit in December on whether Ankara is prepared to begin accession negotiations with the bloc. Filori stated that the EU regarded the four defendants as "political prisoners" since they had been imprisoned and sentenced "for having expressed opinions in a non-violent way." He said no country with political prisoners could begin accession talks with the EU. April 23, 2004 IMF Loan Installment Approved Amid Praise for Economic Progress Washington, D.C. - AExpressing strong support for the economic reforms Turkey has implemented, the IMF approved a new $495 million installment of an $18.6 billion loan granted under an economic support program that began in February 2002. With this seventh installment, Turkey has drawn $16.2 billion of the loan. IMF Acting Managing Director Anne Krueger stated that Turkey's economic program had "continued to deliver impressive results." She said economic growth had exceeded program targets for the second year in a row, interest rates had fallen sharply, inflation had declined to the lowest rate in a generation, and confidence in the Turkish lira had been restored. The inflation target the government has set for 2004 is 12 percent. The IMF predicted that inflation would be 10.6 percent in 2005. The IMF agreed to extend its support program through February 2005, while granting Ankara's request for waivers concerning budget targets, growth of the country's money supply, and the number of jobs to be eliminated at state-owned companies. The Turkish government promised the international lending institution that it would impose further reforms in the banking sector to bring the relevant legislation in line with EU standards, a key demand of the IMF assistance program. A weak banking system was the primary cause of a financial crisis in 2001 that led to Turkey's worst recession since World War II and precipitated the IMF loan bailout. The Turkish-Russian venture buying a majority stake in Turkey's state oil refiner, Tupras, will complete the $1.3 billion deal in late May. The privatization of Tupras, which controls 87 percent of Turkey's refining capacity, is central to the country's privatization program under the IMF loan accord. April 9, 2004 Slow Implementation of EU Criteria Impedes Accession Washington, D.C. - As Ankara continued to strive toward meeting EU requirements for opening accession talks by the beginning of 2005, the European Parliament adopted a report on April 1 asserting that Turkey had not yet met the criteria for negotiations since it had not established "a clear framework for guaranteeing political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights." The report said further reforms must be undertaken and rigorously implemented in many areas, noting that "more far-reaching efforts than reparation and amendments are needed to enhance the coherence between legal provisions and practice, which will underline the radical and fundamental character of Turkey's progress toward membership." The parliament also criticized "the continuing influence of the army in politics, business, culture, and education; continuing torture practices and mistreatment; the intimidation of human rights defenders; the discrimination of religious minorities; and the fact that trade union freedom is not fully guaranteed." The parliament said resolution of the Cyprus question, based on the U.N. plan, was "of essential importance to relations between the EU and Turkey and to Turkey's membership aspirations." It called on Turkish officials "to maintain their constructive attitude to achieve a solution" in Cyprus and urged them to withdraw Turkish troops from the country. In an apparent reference to the necessity for Turkey to resolve its Aegean disputes with Greece, the parliament also said Ankara must satisfy EU principles concerning the elimination of border problems and the establishment of good relations with neighboring states. The report asked Ankara to implement without delay the outstanding decisions of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Turkey. Though it welcomed Ankara's December 2003 payment of $1.34 million to Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot, for being denied the use of her property in northern Cyprus since 1974, the report urged Ankara to implement the 1996 judgment by the Court requiring Turkey to restore the "right of peaceful enjoyment of property to Mrs. Loizidou and all other displaced persons [in Cyprus] within the framework of a viable solution." On April 7, Michel Barnier, named France's foreign minister the week before, told the French National Assembly that he would oppose Turkey's entry into the European Union "under current circumstances," asserting that Ankara has not met the conditions necessary for becoming a member of the bloc, such as ensuring the independence of its judiciary and implementing human rights reforms. Alain Juppe, the leader of French President Jacques Chirac's ruling, center-right Union for a Popular Movement, stated that countries on the periphery of the EU, such as Turkey, "have no business joining [the bloc], otherwise it will be diluted." Juppe said the party sought "a privileged partnership" between the EU and Turkey similar to one that would be extended to the countries of north Africa and the southern states of the former Soviet Union. April 9, 2004 First Kurdish Courses Begin in Turkey Washington, D.C. - The first legal Kurdish language courses have begun at a private school in the city of Batman in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey, as part of reforms implemented to meet criteria for opening accession talks with the EU. Two other private schools in the southeast have also received permission from the government to begin offering Kurdish courses. In 2002, the Turkish parliament passed legislation allowing private institutions, not public schools, to teach the language of the 12 million ethnic Kurds in the country, but actual instruction in Kurdish has been delayed until now. In November 2003, the agency regulating Turkish media said it would permit limited television and radio broadcasts in the Kurdish language only on national stations, reversing an 80-year total ban on programs in Kurdish. However, no such broadcasts have begun. Regulations approved in January 2004 stipulated that Kurdish television programs would be restricted to two hours a day and would be required to have Turkish sub-titles. No children’s programming will be allowed. The Turkish government has banned broadcasting in Kurdish and in other minority languages since the formation of the Turkish republic in 1923, fearing that such programs might promote separatism. Kurdish was also banned as a spoken language in Turkey in 1983, but it was legalized in unofficial settings in 1991. April 2, 2004 Ruling Party Sweeps Local Elections Washington, D.C. - The ruling, conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidated its strong mandate to govern, exemplified by its two-thirds majority in parliament, by winning about 45 percent of the votes in the March 28 local elections. The social democratic Republican People's Party (CHP), the only opposition party in parliament, won 15 percent, while the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and True Path Party (DYP) each won 10 percent. The outcome of the elections was viewed as an endorsement of the AKP's focus on improving the economy, legislating sweeping reforms in pursuit of EU membership, and committing itself to resolution of the Cyprus issue, a radical departure from the Cyprus policy of previous Turkish governments. The CHP has criticized the speed with which the AKP has moved toward resolution of the Cyprus issue and its commitment to Turkey's EU accession. Under the AKP government, which assumed power with 34.4 percent of the votes in the November 2002 parliamentary elections, only 15 months after the party was formed, Turkey has experienced a period of political and economic stability, following a series of fractured coalition governments, corruption scandals, and economic depressions that characterized the 1990s. The AKP won the mayoral races in the capitals of 57 of the country's 81 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara. It was victorious in Antalya, Gaziantep, Hatay, and Kocaeli, long-time strongholds of the CHP, which won the mayoral races in only 9 provincial capitals. The party made significant inroads into the predominantly Kurdish southeast, which the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party (DEHAP) swept in 1999. Although DEHAP joined an alliance of several non-Kurdish left-wing parties under the umbrella of the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) to widen its electoral base, its candidates lost mayoral seats to the AKP in five Kurdish cities. The AKP's reforms to meet EU membership criteria have included lifting a ban on Kurdish language broadcasts and education. In the elections, the mayors of 3,184 towns and cities, as well as candidates for over 90,000 local assembly seats, were elected in the country's 81 provinces for five-year terms. March 12, 2004 EU Delegation Optimistic About Accession Talks Date Washington, D.C. - An "EU Troika" delegation visiting Ankara, comprised of the foreign ministers of the current and subsequent EU presidencies, European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, assured the Turkish government that the bloc would agree at its December summit to open accession talks with Ankara without delay, provided that the country has fulfilled the required membership criteria. The delegation met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to discuss Turkey's accession preparations and the Cyprus settlement negotiations. Brian Cowen, the head of the delegation as the foreign minister of Ireland, which currently holds the EU presidency, stated that Turkey had "made great progress in legislating for reform," but he emphasized that "implementation [of the reforms] would be a key element in the EU's decision" concerning the talks. In addition, he said that "the clear preference of the EU is for the accession of a united Cyprus" to the EU on May 1. The delegation called on the parties involved in the Cyprus problem to "redouble their efforts" to achieve a settlement. Cowen joined Bernard Bot, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, which takes over the EU presidency in July, Verheugen, and Solana in urging Ankara to impose more stringent measures to prevent honor killings, involving the murder of women by male members of their families for acts such as infidelity or childbirth out of wedlock. The Turkish parliament is currently discussing proposed legislative changes that include abolishing reductions in sentences for those who commit such killings. The delegation cited other deficiencies in the reform process, such as court cases against human rights organizations for "insulting the Turkish Armed Forces," the continued imprisonment of four former parliamentarians from the banned pro-Kurdish Democracy Party, and obstacles that were hindering broadcasts in languages other than Turkish, particularly Kurdish. The first Kurdish-language school in Turkey was scheduled to open in mid-March in the southeastern province of Batman. Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said the government was planning to submit a set of constitutional amendments to parliament that would be "an expression of our determination" to continue the reform process in the months leading up to the December EU summit. The amendments will deal with issues such as abolishing state security courts, which handle crimes against the state, and replacing them with courts responsible for hearing terrorist-related charges; and giving precedence to international treaties over Turkish law. Parliament has enacted a law that restores the rights of the so-called "1978 generation," thousands of people who were arrested, tried at military courts, detained for years, and tortured following the September 1980 military coup in Turkey up until the end of 1987. These rights include being eligible to run for political office and being able to work as civil servants. March 5, 2004 Council of Europe to Remove Turkey from List of Monitored Democracies Washington, D.C. - Citing "remarkable progress" in Turkey's constitutional and legislative reform process over the last several years, a special committee of the Council of Europe recommended that the Council drop Turkey from a list of countries it has been monitoring for democratic shortcomings. Approval of the recommendation by the assembly of the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, is viewed as a formality. The committee adopted a report that said Ankara had shown its "determination and capacity" to fulfill its statutory obligations as a Council member, noting that the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had "made good use of its absolute majority in parliament and the consistent support of the only opposition party . . . to accelerate and intensify reforms." Ankara had, it said, "in hardly more than two years realized more reforms than in the 10 preceding years," noting, for example, that the role of the National Security Council had been reduced to that of "a purely consultative organ on defense and national security." In addition, the report referred to a real desire by both the authorities and the Turkish people to move the country in the direction of "democracy, human rights, and more recognition of individualism." The report mentioned lapses that Turkey needed to address, such as the dissolution of political parties and the 10 percent minimum vote required for party representation in parliament, considered too high. It also called for changes in laws concerning state security courts, the creation of a citizen's ombudsman, reform of legislation on crimes of honor, and a review of laws dealing with political parties, trade unions, and the media to upgrade them to EU standards. The president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, in Ankara as the guest of Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc, noted the "impressive progress" Turkey had made in its reform process. Cox, the first president of the Parliament to visit Turkey while in office, urged the government to ensure that the reforms passed were implemented and to focus on promoting changes in "mentalities" within the country, reflected in "islands of resistance" to movement toward Europe. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, following talks in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, said he believed the European Union would agree at its summit in December 2004 to open accession talks with Turkey, if the Turkish government continued its present pace of reforms. He praised Ankara for the "huge amount of progress" it has made in improving its record on democracy and human rights, adding that it was "in the European Union's interest for Turkey to be inside the EU." March 5, 2004 Water Agreement with Israel Signed Washington, D.C. - After five years of negotiations, Turkey and Israel have signed an agreement providing for Israel's purchase of 50 million cubic meters of Turkish water annually over a period of 20 years, a move described by Avigdor Yitzhaki, the director general of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, as a “strategic and political issue.” Although the Israeli Finance Ministry has long contended that the Israeli government can find cheaper sources of water, Sharon has promoted the agreement, asserting that Israel has “a clear interest in maintaining its strategic relations with Turkey.” Turkey has linked defense contract deals, such as the purchase of Israeli tanks and air force technology, to passage of the water accord. Turkey's Manavgat River will be the source of the water, which will be transported to facilities near the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod in converted oil tankers. An eight-mile pipeline will be constructed to transfer the water from the coast into the national water network. Importation of the water, expected to begin in 2007 or 2008, will enable Israel to supply water to Jordan, as it has pledged to do under its peace treaty with its eastern neighbor. February 27, 2004 German Government Expresses Support for Ankara's EU Bid Washington, D.C. - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, during a visit to Turkey for talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials, stated that Ankara was on the right path, through the implementation of reforms to meet EU standards, to receive a favorable October report from the European Commission concerning its readiness to begin accession talks. "There are good chances to see that at the end of the year," said Schroeder, the first German chancellor to visit Turkey in 11 years. Based upon the October report, EU leaders will decide at their December 2004 summit whether Turkey is prepared to begin the talks following the summit. The chancellor said Ankara could count on Germany's support, noting that it would vote at the summit "for the start of accession negotiations in a shortest time if Turkey has fulfilled all the criteria." He also stated that granting Turkey a date for negotiations would boost the country's resolve to complete further reforms. Schroeder praised Turkey's role in promoting the resumption of Cyprus settlement negotiations, adding that its effort would have a positive influence on the EU decision in December. He noted that Turkey's "Islamic values," coupled with the "values of the European Union" would contribute to democracy in Turkey and to stability in the region. A recent poll in Germany indicated that 54 percent of Germans favored Turkey's accession to the EU in the medium to long term. Thirty-seven percent said they opposed admitting Turkey. Germany is home to 2.5 million ethnic Turks, Europe's largest Turkish immigrant community. The delegation led by Schroeder included a group of parliamentarians and a top official of the German Economy and Labor Ministry, who discussed ways to increase bilateral economic cooperation with Turkish Minister of Industry and Trade Ali Coskun. Also accompanying the chancellor were 13 top managers of major German firms, such as Siemens and Deutsche Bahn, the country's rail company. More than 1,000 Turkish-German companies are operating in Turkey, comprising 40 percent of all foreign investment in the country. At a meeting of a German-Turkish Economy Forum organized by the Turkish-German Industry Chamber, Erdogan called for greater bilateral business cooperation through joint ventures between Turkish and German enterprises in third countries. The head of the German Industry Association will visit Turkey in April to discuss expansion of bilateral business ties. Schroeder and Erdogan inaugurated a coal-fired power plant near the town of Iskenderun near the Syrian border, which was built by a German-Turkish consortium and will provide 7 percent of Turkey's electricity needs. The German investment in the project stands at $1.9 billion, the largest investment by a German company in Turkey. Germany is Turkey's largest trading partner in the European Union, with a bilateral trade volume of $18 billion in 2002. February 20, 2004 German Opposition Leader Against EU Membership for Ankara Washington, D.C. - The leader of Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel, during a visit to Ankara for talks with Turkish officials, said the European Union should aim for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey rather than granting it membership in the bloc. Such a partnership, she said, would include increased cooperation in the economic, cultural, educational, research, and defense sectors. Her proposal reflected the CDU's belief that Turkey does not fit within the EU economically or culturally. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Merkel's suggestion was "incomprehensible and out of the question" for Turkey, which has been a candidate for EU membership since December 1999. The European Commission will decide in October whether to recommend that European Union leaders open accession talks with Ankara after the December 2004 EU summit. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, congratulating Ankara for urging the Turkish Cypriots to resume settlement talks, said the EU had to indicate that it was serious about offering eventual membership to Turkey, provided that it completed the necessary reforms. He noted that Turkey already enjoyed a special status with the EU by being the only candidate country to have a full customs union with the bloc. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who will arrive in Ankara on February 22 for talks, supports Turkey's bid for EU membership. His visit will be the first by a German chancellor since Helmut Kohl's trip in 1993. February 13, 2004 Government Holds First Meeting with Amnesty International Washington, D.C. - For the first time, Turkish government officials met with the head of Amnesty International, signaling Ankara's commitment to improving its human rights record in a bid to begin EU accession talks next year. Secretary General of Amnesty International Irene Khan, meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu, and other officials, called for far-reaching institutional reform in Turkey to end violations of human rights. She noted that the organization, which works to protect human rights worldwide, acknowledged the progress Turkey had made in this area and wanted to encourage the government to continue in this direction. Khan said fundamental flaws in the Turkish criminal justice system continued to perpetuate human rights violations. A memorandum from the organization that was presented to Erdogan said the government must give priority to police and judicial reform, as well as independent scrutiny of state institutions, if the process of legal reform is to be truly effective. In particular, the organization cited continuing allegations of torture and ill treatment by law enforcement officials in Turkey, impunity for such crimes, continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and the criminalization of the peaceful expression of dissenting opinion, and violence against women. January 30, 2004 Prime Minister Discusses Cyprus, EU Accession, Iraq in Washington Washington, D.C. - President George W. Bush, after January 28 talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington, stated that he welcomed the prime minister's recent efforts to work toward a solution in Cyprus on the basis of the U.N. settlement plan by May 1, when Cyprus becomes an EU member. During the meeting, which was attended by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell, the two leaders agreed that negotiations should resume as soon as possible. In discussions that also covered Turkey's preparations for EU accession, bilateral cooperation in the war on terrorism, the Middle East, and Iraq, Bush assured Erdogan that Washington is working to prevent a break-up of Iraq that would lead to an independent Iraqi Kurd state. "The United States' ambition is for . . . a democratic Iraq that is territorially intact," Bush said. Turkey is opposed to a call by Iraqi Kurds for a federation in Iraq divided along ethnic lines, which would accord them greater autonomy. In a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, one of four ministers who accompanied Erdogan to Washington, Powell said the United States would "make every effort to assist" U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in the process of resolving the Cyprus problem and holding referendums on the U.N. plan by May 1. Powell said he "would get personally involved, as necessary, to work with the secretary general and the parties" to see if a settlement can be reached. He emphasized that the U.N. blueprint, put forward by Annan, is "the operative plan and the manner in which we move forward" in Cyprus. "We stand ready to use our good offices to help all the parties" during this process, he added. The secretary of state said it was time "for all of us to put pressure on all sides" to reach a settlement, noting that Washington was in contact with both the Greek and Turkish sides, as well as Annan, concerning the steps to be taken. "We're getting close to a solution," he said. In his discussion with Gul on Iraq, the secretary of state told the minister that the U.S. understood the difficulties associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He said that Washington "would be taking appropriate action to demonstrate that we share Turkey's concerns with respect to the activities of the PKK." Ankara has urged the United States to help eliminate several thousand PKK guerrillas in camps in northern Iraq near the Turkish border. Erdogan discussed Turkey's role in the rebuilding of Iraq with Vice President Richard Cheney. The U.S. has designated Turkey as one of the countries whose companies can serve as prime contractors in reconstruction tenders in Iraq worth $18.6 billion. The prime minister also met with Treasury Secretary John Snow, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and IMF Director Horst Kohler. In addition, he discussed ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation with Turkish and U.S. businessmen. Other members of the Turkish delegation included Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan, and Commerce Minister Kursat Tuzmen. President Bush is expected to pay an official visit to Ankara in June, when he will attend the NATO summit in Istanbul. January 23, 2004 Erdogan in Washington for Talks on EU Membership, Cyprus, Iraq Washington, D.C. - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's January 28 meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House, expected to concentrate heavily on Turkey's EU accession aspirations, Cyprus, and Iraq, will take place at a critical point in efforts to revive negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, aimed at reaching a Cyprus settlement before May 1, when Cyprus joins the EU. Prior to the White House meeting, Erdogan will meet with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, to present Turkey's suggestions on revising the U.N. plan to achieve a Cyprus settlement and request the resumption of U.N.-sponsored settlement talks. Annan will then determine whether the parties in Cyprus have demonstrated the political will to negotiate a solution, as well as a commitment to put the plan to a referendum, which are the secretary general's requirements for resuming talks. The Cyprus government has expressed a desire to restart negotiations. The prime minister will also present Turkey's revisions of the U.N. plan to Bush, who is expected to convey to Erdogan the urgency of promoting a settlement as soon as possible and the importance of Ankara's moving forward on fulfilling EU accession criteria. Turkey's final recommendations concerning the plan will be made during a meeting of the National Security Council in Ankara on January 23, to be followed on January 24 by Erdogan's consultations in the Turkish capital with Turkish Cypriot prime minister-designate Mehmet Ali Talat and his coalition partner Serdar Denktash. Erdogan plans to meet with Turkish Cypriot negotiator Rauf Denktash in Davos on January 25 before flying to the United States. In his discussion with Bush on Iraq, Erdogan will voice Turkey's opposition to Iraqi Kurd demands for an ethnically based federation in Iraq that would include a self-governing Kurdish zone in the north. Ankara fears that such an arrangement would promote the formation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. A White House statement said Bush's talks with the prime minister would also include counter-terrorism, trans-Atlantic relations, Afghanistan, Eurasia, the Middle East, and economics and trade. During his January 27-30 visit to Washington, Erdogan will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan, and Commerce Minister Kursat Tuzmen. Among the officials Erdogan is expected to meet are Vice President Richard Cheney, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Treasury Secretary John Snow, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler. Erdogan's U.S. visit comes at a time when Turkey is providing the use of its Incirlik Air Base as one of the military facilities that is involved in the rotation of some 130,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq and some 110,000 American soldiers into the country. Preparations are also underway for the June NATO summit, which will be hosted by the Turkish government in Istanbul and will be a topic for discussions between the prime minister's delegation and U.S. officials. January 23, 2004 Compensation for Victims of War Against Kurd Separatists Washington, D.C. - Turkey is preparing the way for thousands of people in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast to claim compensation for damages stemming from injuries or death, as well as from the destruction of property, livestock, and crops, during fighting in the region between government troops and separatist guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The conflict began in 1984 and was largely halted in 1999 with the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. As part of the Turkish government’s efforts to improve its human rights record in order to qualify for EU membership, the Justice Ministry, on January 19, published a bill stating that compensation will be paid to those who have incurred damages “from acts of terrorist organizations,” a reference to the PKK, and “from measures taken by the state in the struggle against terror.” The bill, which gave no figure for the amount of compensation, must be approved by the Turkish parliament in order to become law. According to Human Rights Watch, by 1994, more than 3,000 villages had been destroyed during the fighting, which resulted in the deaths of over 36,000 people. A state of emergency in the southeast, limiting freedom of expression and movement, was lifted last year as part of Turkey’s progress toward meeting EU membership criteria. January 23, 2004 German Government Views Turkey's EU Membership as Strategic Washington, D.C. - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in Ankara, stated that Turkey was Europe's strategic partner whose membership in the EU should be advanced to boost the bloc's security. He noted that Turkey is more important to European security than "a missile defense system." Fischer emphasized that Turkey's strategic importance to Europe had become even more evident since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "If we close the doors on Turkey, we will pay a very heavy price," he said. The minister stated that, although Turkey had made significant progress in meeting accession criteria, work still needed to be done, particularly in improving human rights. In addition, resolution of the Cyprus problem would be a very important development in the process of bringing Turkey closer to the EU, he said. The foreign minister's trip to Turkey was largely in preparation for a visit of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to Ankara on February 23. Germany's main opposition Christian Democrats generally oppose Turkey's membership in the EU, citing its large size, poor economic record, and cultural differences. January 16, 2004 Turkish Base Being Used for Iraq Troop Rotation Washington, D.C. - The U.S. has begun to use Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey as one of the military facilities participating in the rotation of some 130,000 American troops out of Iraq and the transport of about 110,000 more lightly armed soldiers into the country to replace them. It is one of the largest U.S. troop rotations since World War II. The process, also expected to involve bases in Kuwait and Germany, will be completed by May. Facilities in Bahrain, Qatar, and Spain could also be used. In addition to being only an hour’s flight from Iraq, Incirlik is well equipped to service and refuel planes en route to other destinations, a function currently carried out by about 1,400 American troops stationed at the base as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Expeditionary Wing, assigned to the base for more than three decades. Incirlik also has the infrastructure for the temporary housing of large numbers of troops while they are in transit, having hosted an additional 1,500 U.S. military personnel involved in the patrolling of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq, who withdrew from the base in May 2003. The accord authorizing the use of the base for the Iraq rotation was negotiated between the Turkish General Staff and the Pentagon in recent weeks to provide terms for the increased American military activity at the facility and the greater use of Turkish airspace. It was agreed upon within the framework of a June 2003 Turkish government decree that opened Turkey’s air bases and seaports to U.S. and coalition allies for logistical support for the post-war effort in Iraq. During the war, Turkey prohibited the use of Incirlik and other Turkish bases by planes conducting bombing missions over Iraq. The accord stipulates that the rotating troops brought to Incirlik will be considered transit passengers and will not be allowed to leave the base. January 16, 2004 European Commission President on First Visit to Turkey Washington, D.C. - European Commission President Romano Prodi, in talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, stated that a settlement in Cyprus would "greatly help Turkey's EU aspirations" and urged the Turkish government to "use all its influence on the political forces on the island" to promote a solution before May 1, when Cyprus becomes an EU member. The visit of Prodi, accompanied by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, was the first by a Commission president since Turkey concluded an association agreement with the bloc in 1963. Prodi said Turkey was "closer than ever" to the European Union, but he emphasized that the government should fully implement the democratic reforms it has already adopted, in addition to continuing with new elements of its reform agenda. The EU has called, in particular, for greater progress in establishing judicial independence and fundamental freedoms, eliminating the political influence of the military, and furthering the rights of ethnic Kurds. In an address to parliament, Prodi stated that European public opinion was divided over the prospect of Turkey's membership in the European Union. He said that some Europeans were concerned about "the religious dimension," while others have raised the issue of the capacity of Turkey to integrate into the bloc in view of its size, demography, economic development, and geographical location. "We need to reply to these concerns," he said. Turkey, a European Union candidate since December 1999, has not begun accession talks. At the December 2004 EU summit in the Netherlands, the EU will determine whether Ankara has met the requirements for starting talks in early 2005. January 9, 2004 First Visit by a Syrian President to Turkey Washington, D.C. -Just five years after Ankara threatened to take military action against Damascus because of its support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has visited Turkey to further consolidate steadily improving bilateral ties in the economic, trade, and security sectors. Although Syria's prime minister visited Ankara in July 2003, the first such visit in 17 years, the visit of al-Assad, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Faruq al-Shara and Minister of Tourism Saadallah Agha al-Qalaa, marked the first by a Syrian head of state since the country gained its independence from France in 1946. During discussions with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, Syria and Turkey, which both have large Kurdish minorities in regions bordering Iraq, expressed concern over the request by Iraqi Kurdish leaders for greater autonomy for northern Iraq and emphasized the necessity of preserving Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The officials also discussed the Middle East peace process and Syria's proposal to the U.N. Security Council for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Gul, maintaining that al-Assad’s visit had launched a new phase in Turkish-Syrian relations, with the potential for cooperation in a broad spectrum of new fields, stated that Syria was important to Turkey since it was considered Ankara's "gate to the Middle East," while Turkey was viewed as Syria's "gate to Europe." Al-Assad noted that, once Turkey acceded to the European Union, Syria would be a neighbor of the EU. He stated that this was significant since Syria aspired to being "a partner" of the EU in the future. Israeli officials have reportedly expressed the hope that Turkey, which has strong economic and defense ties with Israel, could become a conduit for messages between Israel and Syria. A spokeswoman from the Israeli Embassy in Ankara said Israel gave Turkey a message to convey to al-Assad, and Israel's ambassador to Turkey met with Erdogan following the Syrian president's visit. Erdogan stated that he would like Turkey to help mediate peace talks between Israel and Syria. To boost economic ties, the two countries signed agreements preventing double taxation, encouraging and protecting mutual investments, and promoting tourism during the visit. The possibility of establishing a joint free-trade zone and ways of easing the movement of people across the Syrian-Turkish border were also discussed. Trade centers will be set up in four Turkish provinces near the border, as well as a Syrian consulate in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, to facilitate reciprocal business activity. In addition, the two sides agreed to remove land mines along their border. Al-Assad, accompanied by a delegation of 100 Syrian entrepreneurs, attended a meeting in Istanbul hosted by the Turkish-Syrian Business Council. The bilateral trade volume reached $1 billion in 2003. The improvement in relations between Ankara and Damascus began following Syria's expulsion of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in October 1998. The two governments signed the Adana agreement the same month, in which Syria agreed not to provide support for the PKK or refuge for its members. In mid-December 2003, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding establishing cooperation in combating crime and terrorism following a series of car bomb attacks in Istanbul and the extradition of 22 suspects from Syria to Turkey, who were wanted in conjunction with the attacks. Issues between Turkey and Syria that have not been resolved are a dispute over how to share the waters of the Euphrates River, which originates in Turkey, and the fact that Syria does not recognize the 1939 incorporation of Hatay province, formerly part of the French mandate over Syria following World War I, into Turkey. December 12, 2003 U.S. Consults Ankara on Realignment of Bases, Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Washington, D.C. -U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, on a visit to Ankara to discuss Washington’s plans for a global realignment of American troops and bases, stated that the U.S. military wanted to continue to use Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey as part of this realignment, designed to better respond to new threats such as terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Grossman said new arrangements concerning Incirlik, which are being worked out through consultations with the Turkish government, would present “other opportunities in terms of training and operations.” In May, Operation Northern Watch (ONW), involving the patrolling of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq by 50 U.S. and British warplanes from 1997 until March 2003, was formally closed down at Incirlik, resulting in the withdrawal of the planes and the 1,500 U.S. military personnel carrying out the mission. About 1,400 U.S. troops remain at the base. These troops are part of the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Expeditionary Wing, which has been assigned to the base for more than three decades. It has no aircraft and is primarily a support and maintenance unit, which services and refuels planes en route to other destinations. During a separate visit, Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Turkish military officials in Ankara to discuss joint efforts against terrorism and cooperation in Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with President Bush in Washington on January 28 to discuss plans for further bilateral cooperation in these areas. Turkey is one of 63 countries that are eligible to bid for U.S.-financed reconstruction contracts in Iraq worth $18.6 billion. The Pentagon announced that competition for these contracts would be limited to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners, and force contributing nations. Turkey is included in the list as a “force contributing nation,” despite the absence of Turkish troops in Iraq. Turkey offered to send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq, but they were not deployed due to opposition from the Iraqi Governing Council. Albania, Bulgaria, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Romania are the other southeastern European countries that are eligible to compete. Greece and Cyprus are not on the list. Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek visited Washington in early December, in the wake of the four suicide bombings in Istanbul, to discuss anti-terrorism cooperation and joint security measures with Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller. The U.S. Department of Commerce will host a series of conferences in Turkey in January 2004 on the reconstruction of Iraq as part of an effort to involve Turkish companies in rebuilding the country. December 5, 2003 Government Links Four Bombings to Al Qaeda Washington, D.C. -For the first time since four suicide bombings occurred in Istanbul on November 15 and 20, the Turkish government has publicly linked the attacks to al Qaeda. Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener stated on December 1 that "those who were involved in the incidents as suicide bombers and people who are related to them are seen as close to al Qaeda." The bombings against two synagogues, the British Consulate, and the Turkish headquarters of HSBC, a British bank, killed 57 people and injured over 700. Claims of responsibility for the incidents have been made on behalf of both al Qaeda and a Turkish extremist group called the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders-Front (IBDA-C). DNA tests have determined that all four suicide bombers were Turkish nationals. Turkish newspapers have reported that two key suspects in the bombings met with and received instructions to carry out the bombings from Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al Zawahiri, according to a man identified as Yusuf Pulat. Pulat, captured while trying to cross into Iran, confessed to belonging to a 10-man al Qaeda cell in Turkey and was charged with "armed attempts to destroy the constitutional order," a crime analogous to treason. Reports stated that, according to police, Pulat gave the order for one of the synagogue bombings. Twenty-five other individuals have been arrested in conjunction with the attacks and charged with aiding and abetting illegal organizations. Sener confirmed that, on November 30 at Turkey's request, the Syrian government handed over 22 suspects who had been attending religious schools in Syria to the Turkish government. One of them was among the 25 arrested and charged with aiding and abetting illegal organizations, while the remaining suspects were questioned and released without charges. The repatriation was carried out under the Adana Memorandum of Understanding on security cooperation signed by Damascus and Ankara in late 1998 following the expulsion of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from Syria. November 24, 2003 Bombings Kill More than 50 in Istanbul Terror Attacks Washington, D.C. -Al Qaeda and an outlawed radical Turkish group known as the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders-Front (IBDA-C) both claimed responsibility for two November 20 truck bombs in Istanbul targeting the British Consulate and the Turkish headquarters of HSBC, a London-based global bank, killing 27 and injuring about 450. Consul-General Roger Short and 14 other members of the consulate's staff were among those killed by the blasts, which occurred five days after synchronized suicide bombings on the Jewish Sabbath against two synagogues in Istanbul killed 6 Jews and 19 Muslims, including the attackers, and injured 300 others. A claim of responsibility was issued by IBDA-C for the synagogue bombings, along with two claims made on behalf of al Qaeda. The attacks against British targets, five minutes apart, were timed to coincide with the visit of President George W. Bush to Britain, which has been Washington's staunchest ally in its hunt for al Qaeda militants and in the war in Iraq. By hitting HSBC, the world's second-largest bank and the largest British bank by market value, the attacks were also designed to strike a blow to financial markets. The bank employs 3,500 people in Turkey, where it has 160 branches. The IBDA-C, which has carried out three to four attacks a year since the 1970s, is one of several outlawed radical Turkish Islamist groups that use terrorist tactics to fight for the establishment of an Islamic republic in Turkey based on strict Sharia law. Turkey, a member of NATO and a close ally of the United States, is a secular democracy, although its population is predominantly Muslim. The founder of the modern Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, abolished the Caliphate in 1924, a significant factor in the campaign of militant Islamists against the Turkish government. In addition, Ankara has close economic and military ties with Israel. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the terrorist attacks in Istanbul. Blair stated that "we must affirm that, in the face of this terrorism, there must be no holding back . . . in attacking it wherever and whenever we can and in defeating it utterly." The bombings "should not lessen . . . our commitment to Iraq, he said. "On the contrary, it shows how important it is to carry on until terrorism is defeated there as well." Bush said "Great Britain and America and other free nations are united . . . in our determination to fight and defeat this evil wherever it is found." He added that "the terrorists . . . want to intimidate and demoralize free nations. They are not going to succeed." Investigators, using DNA evidence, determined that two Turkish nationals from the eastern province of Bingol had carried out the November 15 truck bombings against the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that the two had visited Afghanistan in the past and that investigators were looking for links between them and al Qaeda. Turkish police arrested six people in connection with the synagogue bombings, which Israeli authorities are helping the Turkish security services to investigate. Several people suspected of being involved in the attacks against the British targets were also arrested. In 1986, 22 Jews worshiping at the Neve Shalom synagogue were killed when two men believed to be affiliated with Abu Nidal's Palestinian militant organization entered the temple firing machine guns and throwing hand grenades. There are 25,000 Jews in Turkey, a country with a population of about 70 million. Turkish Jews and Muslims have highlighted the peaceful ties the two communities have enjoyed since the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire offered refuge to Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition. November 24, 2003 Iraqi Governing Council Mends Ties with Ankara, Seeks Multi-Level Cooperation Washington, D.C. -On a visit to Ankara as the rotating head of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Jalal Talabani, a top Kurdish leader, pledged that the new democratic Iraq would not let any terrorist group operate on Iraqi territory against Turkey or any other neighboring country. Turkey maintains several thousand troops in northern Iraq to stem cross-border attacks by some 5,000 guerrillas of the PKK (KADEK) camped in the mountainous border area. Ankara and Washington, which both consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization, are continuing to hold negotiations on working together to eliminate the group as a threat in northern Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Talabani that the PKK presence in Iraq should be ended, adding that the Council "has responsibilities in this regard." The Kurdish leader urged Erdogan to grant a full amnesty to the PKK guerrillas in Iraq rather than the present amnesty that excludes leaders of the organization. Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party have controlled northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war, and have been the focus of Turkey's fear that an independent Kurdish state could be established in the region as the new federal structure of Iraq emerges. These groups also fear that Turkey could intervene militarily if their autonomy in the north is consolidated under the new structure. The visit to Ankara by Talabani, 10 other Council members, Iraq's Central Bank deputy governor, and six ministers was viewed as a fence-mending overture following the strong opposition of the Council, spearheaded by Iraqi Kurds, to Turkey's offer to send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq to assist the U.S.-led stabilization force. In talks with Turkish government and business leaders, Talabani expressed the Council's desire to improve political, economic, trade, security, and cultural relations with Ankara, noting that Iraq would like to attract Turkish investment to boost the post-war reconstruction effort. The possibility of opening a second crossing point along the Turkish-Iraqi border, near the existing Habur gate, was also discussed as a way of promoting an increase in bilateral trade. Erdogan told the delegation that Turkey expected Iraq to take measures to ensure the security of the oil pipeline from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to Turkey's Yumutalik facilities on the Mediterranean Sea. Efforts to make the pipeline fully operational have failed due to repeated attacks on it. The prime minister also stated that no ethnic group in Iraq should be excluded from the political decision-making process, a reference to Turkey's concern over the weak representation of Iraq's Turkmens in the Governing Council. November 14, 2003 No Turkish Troops to Be Sent to Iraq Washington, D.C. - Turkey and the United States have agreed that Turkish troops will not be sent to Iraq to help the U.S.-led coalition stabilize the country, though Washington and Ankara will work together on its reconstruction. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the United States, the Turkish government, and the Iraqis recognized that the deployment of Turkish troops would not further the establishment of stability in Iraq as originally planned. He noted, however, that circumstances might change and permit their deployment in the future. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara had stated that it would send troops to Iraq if the contribution "would be of use," adding that "we saw that this is not the situation." Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, in a rare newspaper interview, stated that Turkey had lost its say in the political reconstruction of Iraq and did not know "what shape Iraq will take." Emphasizing that Turkey would watch developments in Iraq closely, he noted that terrorist activities were on the rise in the country. "If Iraq becomes a source of terrorism," he said, "that would be of close interest" to Ankara, while a divided Iraq would have a significant effect on Turkey. Iraq's interim foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called Turkey's decision not to deploy troops as "wise and rational." He stated that it would help Iraq develop future bilateral relations with Turkey in trade, cultural matters, and reconstruction activities. Although the Turkish parliament authorized the dispatch of up to 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq during an October 7 vote, Ankara had emphasized that it would not send the soldiers unless it received an invitation to do so from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which publicly expressed determined opposition to their presence in the country. Despite negotiations between Washington and the Council, the U.S. government failed to reverse the resistance of its members, who cited Iraqis' sensitivities to 400 years of Ottoman rule in the region up until World War I and their fear that deployment of troops from Iraq's neighbors could be part of a desire for external political influence in the country. There was particular opposition from the Iraqi Kurd members of the Council, who fear that a Turkish presence would threaten their current self-rule in northern Iraq. Despite overwhelming opposition among the Turkish public to troop deployment, Turkey had hoped that its participation in the stabilization force would give it a prominent role in the shaping of Iraq's political system, fearing that Kurdish groups in northern Iraq could use their post-war political gains to move toward an independent state. In addition, it had hoped its participation would further encourage the United States to facilitate the disarmament and eviction of some 5,000 guerrillas of the PKK (now called the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan, or KADEK) camped at bases in northern Iraq. Washington and Ankara, which both consider KADEK to be a terrorist organization, are continuing to hold negotiations on working together to eliminate it as a threat in northern Iraq. Gul said that Ankara was "still waiting for America to fulfill its promise" to remove the guerrillas from northern Iraq. Four days after Turkey and the U.S. agreed that Turkish troops would not go to Iraq, KADEK announced that it was dissolving and was planning to form a broader, more representative organization, the Democratic Liberation Party, which would pursue Kurdish rights by seeking a peaceful settlement with the nations of the region. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the group could "continue its way under different names." A press report quoted an unnamed Turkish military official as stating that Turkey would keep up its military pressure on the group until all of the guerrillas either surrendered or were killed. A media report also quoted a high-level Turkish official, who was not named, as describing KADEK's move as "a cheap tactical maneuver to shrug off their terrorist image." The Turkish government does not "take it seriously," the official said. When the group's name was changed to KADEK in April 2002, representatives of the organization stated that it would peacefully campaign for Kurdish rights. November 14, 2003 U.S. Loan Temporarily Shelved Washington, D.C. - Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan stated that Turkey did not currently need to tap into the $8.5 billion loan offered by Washington, which remains on the table despite the November 7 decision not to send Turkish troops to the U.S.-led security force in Iraq. The details of the loan, which was allocated in April and was not contingent upon Turkish troop deployment in Iraq, were finalized in September. The Turkish Council of Ministers has not yet ratified the loan agreement. Babacan said Turkey would draw on the loan "whenever we feel the need," adding that the Turkish government did not see a need to do so "in the near future." Ankara will have a year to draw on the loan from the date it ratifies the agreement. Once it accepts the loan, the money will be disbursed in four installments of $2.1 billion over a period of 18 months. Now that confidence in Turkey's economy is increasing due to an economic upswing in the country, the Turkish government has stated that it may be able to borrow private money on international markets at lower interest rates than the 7.5 percent offered by the United States. This positive economic trend involves appreciation of the lira, an upsurge in the Istanbul stock market, an expected growth rate of 5 percent this year, and a drop in the domestic borrowing interest rate from 66 percent in October 2002 to 30 percent in October 2003. Babacan said inflation was expected to be about 18 percent by the end of the year, slightly lower than the 20 percent target sought by the $16 billion IMF-backed economic recovery program. In addition, he stated that all of the major international rating organizations had upgraded Turkey's credit rating or outlook. As a practical matter, the Turkish government recently drafted a law removing six zeroes from the lira as of January 1, 2005. As a legacy of inflation rates that averaged about 80 percent in the 1990s and were nearly 50 percent in 2000 through 2002, one U.S. dollar purchased about 1.5 million Turkish lira on November 14, 2003. The World Bank stated that it expected to lend Turkey $4.5 billion over three years to help it prepare for entry into the European Union. The loan would target reform of the public sector, particularly social security, public spending, and the strengthening of the legal system; improved access to health care and education; and steps to improve the business climate. A $5 billion World Bank lending program for Turkey was in effect from 2001 until 2003. The IMF might meet in late November to consider a $500 million installment of its loan to Turkey. Babacan stated that Turkey had signed an agreement with the European Union for a $1.2 billion grant covering the period from 2003 to 2005, in conjunction with its candidacy for membership in the bloc, and had already used the first installment in mid-October. November 7, 2003 EU Progress Report on Turkey's Candidacy Released Washington, D.C. - The European Commission, in an annual report on steps taken by Turkey toward meeting the requirements for entry into the European Union, welcomed Ankara's progress in accelerating needed reforms in most sectors, noting, however, that their implementation had been "uneven." In the report, released on November 5, the Commission also stated that Turkey had "a decisive interest in providing determined support for efforts towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem," adding that "the absence of a settlement could become a serious obstacle to Turkey's EU aspirations." It said conditions were "favorable" for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to reach an agreement by May 1, 2004, when Cyprus formally becomes an EU member. The Commission said Turkey's domestic reform agenda had brought "far-reaching changes to the political and legal systems," but "a clear framework for guaranteeing political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights" had not yet been fully established. It recommended further efforts to align the country's legal provisions and practice with European norms and noted that the implementation of economic measures had been slow. The Commission recognized progress in "bringing the framework of civil-military relations closer to practice in EU member states" by curbing the powers of the military on the National Security Council. It said there was still work to be done in reducing the role of the military in political life, citing the presence of military representatives on the Supreme Board of Radio and Television, as well as on the Board of Higher Education. It also called for full parliamentary control over the defense budget and all military expenditures. While it praised the abolition of incommunicado detention in state security courts, the Commission said the functioning of these courts still needed to be brought fully in line with European standards, particularly with respect to the rights of the defense in court cases and the principle of a fair trial. In addition, it stated that Turkey's failure to execute numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights by paying compensation demanded in Court rulings or by conducting retrials recommended by the Court was "of great concern." It also said closer attention should be paid to furthering the cultural rights of ethnic Kurds, noting that, despite the passage of new laws to allow broadcasts and courses in Kurdish, these laws had so far "produced little practical effect." Citing certain progress in eliminating corruption, the Commission stated that "corruption remained at a persistently high level and affected many spheres of public life." Though the scale of torture had declined, it said, reports about specific cases of torture continued "to cause concern." The European Union will decide at its December 2004 summit in the Netherlands if Turkey, an EU candidate since December 1999, has made sufficient progress in its reforms to open accession talks with the bloc. November 7, 2003 Minority Religious Issues in Turkey, Greece Re-Examined Washington, D.C. - Turkish Education Minister Huseyin Celik said he would establish a commission to study the possibility of re-opening the Halki Theological School, a key center for the training of Christian Orthodox clergy in Turkey, but he called on the Greek government to take "mutual steps" by improving the educational system it provides for Muslims in the western Thrace region of northeastern Greece. The seminary, dating back to the 19th century, is located on the Turkish island of Heybeliada (Halki in Greek) in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a legacy of the Byzantine Empire, is located. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the current spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian world. Since the patriarch must be a Turkish citizen, the operation of the seminary, closed since 1971, is important for the survival of the Patriarchate in Istanbul. Celik stated that the Halki school was closed because the Patriarchate refused to place the institution under the authority of the Turkish Ministry of Education in accordance with Turkish law, which requires all Islamic, Christian, and Jewish educational institutions in the country to operate under the supervision of the state. The Patriarchate has continuously maintained that the seminary should be allowed to function autonomously, asserting that the restrictions imposed on its operation by the Turkish government constitute a breach of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. This treaty guarantees cultural, religious, and educational freedoms for the remaining minorities in both Greece and Turkey following the population exchange that occurred between the two countries after the Greek-Turkish war of 1920-1922. Those supporting the re-opening of the seminary also maintain that its closure was a violation of the Turkish constitution and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of religion. During the OSCE's October 2003 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, where the implementation of commitments to the organization regarding human rights and democracy by participating states was reviewed, the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association and the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe presented a report stating that education for the primarily Turkish-speaking, 100,000-member Muslim minority in Greece's western Thrace region "has been subject to excessive pressures and intervention" of the Greek government, with the result being that "the quality of education [has] substantially eroded." In addition, the report said that "minority schools are governed through a series of complex and controversial laws which are inconsistent both with Greece's national educational targets, as well as the delicate balance between [the] Turkish mother tongue and Greek." In western Thrace, Muslim students in 200 public elementary schools are offered bilingual education in Greek and Turkish. If these students choose to attend public secondary schools, they will be instructed exclusively in the Greek language. There are two private secondary schools available to them in western Thrace, in which instruction is in Turkish. Telemachos Hytiris, a spokesman for Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, stated that the Greek government is considering offering elective courses in Turkish as a second language in public secondary schools in western Thrace. In addition, he said the government would like to increase the 0.5-percent quota for the admission of students from the Muslim minority to Greek universities, while also extending the quota to technical and vocational schools of higher learning. Also under consideration is the possibility of granting the minority the right to elect managers of Muslim religious foundations and property, who are now appointed by the government. The government will continue to appoint Muslim religious leaders in western Thrace. November 7, 2003 Caspian Pipeline Funding Receives Boost Washington, D.C. - The World Bank's private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), approved a $250 million loan for further construction of the $3.6 billion pipeline being built from Baku, Azerbaijan, to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan through Georgia. About 40 percent of the 1,000-mile pipeline has been completed since construction began in September 2002. The IFC's move makes it more likely that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will go ahead with a $250 million loan for the project, encouraging import-export banks and other commercial lenders to join in the funding. When completed in 2005, the pipeline will initially handle exports of Azeri crude oil totaling 400,000 barrels a day. When the pipeline is fully operational, the volume is expected to increase to 1 million barrels a day. By transporting Caspian oil, the pipeline will reduce European and Japanese dependence on Middle East oil and provide export outlets for the oil outside of Russia. British Petroleum holds a 30-percent share of the pipeline, while other participants include Norway's Statoil, Turkey's TPAO, the U.S.'s Unocal Corp. and Conoco-Phillips, and Italy's ENI and Total. Turkey stated that it will earn about $200 million a year in transit fees associated with the operation of the pipeline. October 17, 2003 Ankara Calls on Muslim States to Take More Active Role in Iraq Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Malaysia, called on fellow Muslim nations to assume a more active role in efforts to restore order in Iraq, amid criticism from many of the countries concerning Ankara's decision to send peacekeepers to Iraq. At a foreign ministers' meeting preceding the October 16-17 summit of the organization, a grouping of 57 nations representing more than 1 billion Muslims, Gul stated that, since "we all attribute great importance to Iraq's territorial integrity, we can't just remain bystanders and express views." He urged his Muslim counterparts to "undertake initiative and develop a common stance" on Iraq. Turkey is the only OIC member that has decided to send troops to assist the U.S.-led forces in Iraq. The foreign minister of Malaysia, Syed Hamid Albar, stated that most Muslim nations would refuse to participate in peacekeeping operations in Iraq unless these operations were carried out under the aegis of the United Nations. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said Pakistan would participate if there were a U.N. mandate for the deployment and if other Muslim nations agreed to join the peacekeeping effort. Jordan's Foreign Minister, Marwan Al Muasher, stated that Amman did not think the introduction of forces into Iraq by nations bordering the country was "particularly helpful." He said that was the reason the Jordanian government did not send peacekeepers to Iraq and offered, instead, to train 30,000 Iraqi police in Jordan. In addition, Jordan's King Abdullah stated, prior to the summit, that "no border country should play an active role [in Iraq] because all have an agenda." Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, representing the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council at the foreign ministers' meeting, reiterated his opposition to the potential deployment of Turkish troops, noting that, as a neighboring nation, it could interfere in Iraq's internal affairs. He appealed to the OIC nations to contribute peacekeeping forces. The Turkish government stated that the October 14 bomb attack near the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, which injured two embassy staff, would not alter Ankara's decision to send troops to Iraq. Discussions between the U.S. and Turkish governments are continuing to determine the size of Turkey's force and other details such as the location and date of its deployment. Turkish Parliament Approves Troop Deployment to Iraq Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament voted overwhelmingly to grant the government permission to send troops to Iraq for a maximum of one year, following a cabinet decision to deploy the soldiers for that length of time to help stabilize the country. All of the deputies of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) voted against the deployment, resulting in a tally of 358 to 183. Turkey will be the first predominantly Muslim nation to contribute a significant troop contingent to Iraq for the post-war reconstruction efforts, preceded only by Albania, which has sent some 70 soldiers. The size of the force, where it will be deployed, how it will get to Iraq, the date of deployment, the command structure, and the source of financing remain to be worked out through negotiations between the U.S. and Turkish governments. Washington has requested that Ankara send up to 10,000 troops. Media reports have suggested that Turkish soldiers could be deployed in the Sunni-dominated areas west and north of Baghdad, where pro-Saddam loyalists have continued attacks against U.S. troops, or along Iraq’s border with Syria and Jordan. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops would serve in Iraq “not as an occupation force but as friends and brothers of the Iraqi people to help end the transition process as soon as possible.” He reportedly told parliamentarians that Ankara had to deploy troops in Iraq “for the sake of Turkey’s own well-being and future.” The government has said that the deployment would help deal with security threats that could stem from Iraq, such as those posed by the presence of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK/KADEK) camps in northern Iraq. Members of the U.S.-approved Iraq Governing Council (ICG), including Iraqi Interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari, have voiced their concern to Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, over the planned deployment of Turkish troops, asserting that neighboring nations might have their own strategic interest in the country. They said the ICG had unanimously agreed to reject the presence of soldiers in Iraq from Turkey or any other neighboring country, and would release a statement to that effect while working to gain concessions from Americans that may alleviate the worries of Iraqis. Bremer can veto any decision made by the Council. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States believed that Turkish troops would contribute to the stability of Iraq, adding that Washington would be working with both the Turkish government and the ICG to determine how these troops would achieve that goal. Spokesmen for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Iraqi Kurd groups that took control of autonomous zones in northern Iraq following the 1991 Gulf war, stated that both groups were opposed to the deployment of Turkish troops in the country, even if they stayed out of the predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. The PUK has, however, proposed that Turkey open consulates in Irbil and Suleimaniyah in northern Iraq. A recent opinion poll indicated that about two-thirds of Turks oppose any Turkish military involvement in Iraq. The parliament’s decision sparked protests throughout Turkey. October 10, 2003 Turkey, Bulgaria Aim at Increased Economic, Political Ties Washington, D.C. - During the visit of Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov to Turkey to discuss ways to boost bilateral commercial and political ties, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated that cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey was a significant factor in the process of strengthening peace and stability in the Balkans. Sezer noted that the two countries were cooperating in the fight against terrorism. Sezer said the members of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria and their families in Turkey had formed a "bridge" between the two countries and had played an important role in the development of Turkish-Bulgarian relations. Purvanov thanked Turkey for its support for Bulgaria’s entry into NATO, which will officially occur at the alliance’s summit in Istanbul in May 2004. Sezer said he would be pleased "to see Bulgaria as an ally beside Turkey." The Turkish president emphasized that the two countries were starting to realize the tremendous potential for expanded commercial and economic relations between them, while noting that bilateral cooperation was also continuing in the culture and tourism sectors. Sezer stated that the bilateral trade volume was expected to exceed $1 billion this year, making Bulgaria Turkey’s second-largest trade partner in the Balkans. He said the interest by Bulgarian and Turkish businesses in reciprocal investments in the two countries was also increasing. Purvanov, accompanied by a delegation of Bulgarian businessmen, suggested that Turkish and Bulgarian companies cooperate on projects in Iraq. October 3, 2003 U.S. Continues Discussions on Removing PKK Threat in Northern Iraq Washington, D.C. - State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator J. Cofer Black, following talks with officials in Ankara, stated that the U.S. and Turkey had continued to discuss removing the threat to Turkey posed by some 5,000 militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq through "elements of statecraft, diplomacy, law enforcement agencies, and cutting of financial links." Black said that "the United States has made it government policy to eliminate the threat presented by PKK-KADEK." In April 2002, the PKK changed its name to KADEK (Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan). Turkey has stationed several thousand troops in northern Iraq, near the Turkish border, to prevent the PKK rebels from returning to Turkey to launch attacks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he wanted parliament to make a rapid decision concerning Washington’s request that Turkey send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq. Turkey has asked for firm U.S. steps against the PKK prior to a decision to deploy the troops, amid widespread opposition among the Turkish public to such deployment. September 26, 2003 Turkey, Greece Sign Treaty Banning Land Mines Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, jointly signed the 1997 Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, storage, production, and distribution of anti-personnel land mines. The move will lead to the removal of extensive minefields along the Greek-Turkish border in Thrace, which have killed numerous illegal migrants and other civilians. In May 2003, Gul and Papandreou announced that they would simultaneously submit accords to the United Nations marking the ratification of the Convention by the Turkish and Greek parliaments. Greece ratified the treaty in March 2002, while Turkey ratified it earlier this year. As signatories to the Convention, Turkey and Greece join 137 other nations that have joined the pact. September 23, 2003 U.S.-Turkish Joint Plan for Dealing with PKK Washington, D.C. - The United States and Turkey have agreed on the joint steps to be taken to deal with the presence of some 5,000 Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq. Both Washington and Ankara consider the PKK, which now calls itself KADEK (Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan), to be a terrorist organization. The details of the steps, which were not released, were worked out during talks in Ankara between Turkish government, military, and intelligence officials and a U.S. delegation headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State B. Lynn Pascoe. Pascoe stated that the two sides had "a clear plan of action" concerning the PKK, which Ankara and Washington would carry out together. He denied Turkish media reports that U.S. forces had held talks with the PKK, noting that Washington does not "talk with terrorists." He said the United States was "very sympathetic with the problems that Turkey has had" regarding the organization. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the United States could lose its credibility in combating international terrorism if it did not crack down on PKK rebels in northern Iraq. As Turkey considers Washington's request that it send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq, Ankara has made clear that U.S. assistance in removing the threat posed by the PKK would be essential to a decision to move forward with the deployment. On September 15, Gul stated that "there is no hurry" with respect to Turkey's decision on sending troops to Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that a decision could be made after September 19, when the government will consider the issue with the president and top military officials at a meeting of the National Security Council. A decision to dispatch troops will require parliamentary approval, which cannot take place until October, when lawmakers return to work following their summer recess. About two-thirds of Turks oppose sending Turkish troops to Iraq, according to recent polls. PKK guerrillas waged a 15-year separatist war against the Turkish military, ending in 1999, that killed over 35,000 people. Several thousand Turkish soldiers are currently stationed in northern Iraq near the Turkish border to monitor the activities of the guerrillas camped there. Turkish authorities hoped that the partial amnesty for PKK rebels, which went into effect in August, would result in a massive surrender of the guerrillas to Turkish police, helping to reduce the number based in Iraq. Only about 20 have turned themselves in. The amnesty offers pardons to fighters who did not take part directly in the separatist war, but it does not cover PKK leaders and requires those who surrender to become informants against those who do not. September 23, 2003 Relations with India Intensify Washington, D.C. - During a visit to Ankara by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first by an Indian head of government in 15 years, the two nations agreed to establish a joint working group on combating terrorism through an exchange of intelligence, increase bilateral trade significantly, coordinate their extradition policies, and sign cooperation accords in the fields of science, information technology, and computer software. The two sides also discussed developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither Turkey nor India has decided whether it will send troops to Iraq, as requested by the United States. Both nations have called for a U.N. mandate governing further troop deployment in Iraq. During his visit, Vajpayee stated that the fact that both India and Turkey are secular democracies was an important bond between them. India, which is about 80 percent Hindu and about 12 percent Muslim, has the second-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. Turkey is predominantly Muslim. In addition, the government of India has rapidly been improving its relations with Israel, which enjoys excellent relations with Turkey through a close political, economic, and military partnership forged since 1996, when the nations signed a military cooperation agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's September 11 visit to India was the first by an Israeli head of government since diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1992. Turkey has traditionally had close ties with Pakistan, India's archrival, since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This has included the training of Pakistani military officers in Turkey. Vajpayee, who inaugurated an India-Turkey Joint Business Summit in Istanbul during his visit, was accompanied by a 50-member business delegation. India's exports to Turkey in 2002 reached a value of $564 million, while imports from Turkey totaled only $70 million. It was agreed that the two countries would strive to increase the overall bilateral trade volume to $1 billion by 2005. In addition, direct flights have been launched from Istanbul to New Delhi, which will encourage commercial and tourist traffic between the countries. The foreign ministers of India and Turkey will meet annually to review the progress achieved in the various areas discussed. September 12, 2003 Measures Against Human Trafficking Ward Off U.S. Sanctions Washington, D.C. - By taking significant steps to combat human trafficking, Turkey has avoided potential U.S. sanctions that could have resulted in the suspension of outstanding military contracts, the loss of an $8.5 billion loan, and a U.S. veto on assistance to Ankara through the IMF and the World Bank. Turkey is a destination country for persons trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. It is also a transit country for victims of trafficking headed for European destinations, primarily from the countries of the former Soviet Union, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. In the State Department’s 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report, which assessed the compliance of 116 countries with the U.S.'s Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Turkey was placed in "Tier 3," the least-compliant category, along with 14 other countries. The June report, covering the period from April 2002 to March 2003, determined that the governments of the countries in Tier 3 did not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Act and were not making significant efforts to do so. As a result of the recent steps taken by Turkey to address problems noted in the report, President Bush on September 10 notified Congress that Turkey had been moved to Tier 2. The governments of the countries in this category do not fully comply with the Act's minimum standards, but they are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The measures taken by Turkey included developing a plan to expand the model of its anti-trafficking cooperation with Ukraine to other key countries that are sources of exploited persons; drawing up a new questionnaire for visa applicants to screen more effectively for potential trafficking victims; instituting a public awareness campaign on the dangers of trafficking that includes announcements in the electronic media, seminars, and the distribution of brochures and posters; establishing training programs for police and other security officials, judges, and prosecutors on identifying and assisting trafficking victims; performing a feasibility study on setting up a 24-hour emergency telephone hotline to be used by trafficked foreigners; and engaging in a program with the International Labor Organization to eliminate child labor. This is the first year since the Act was passed that the countries in Tier 3 faced potential sanctions, effective October 1, if insufficient steps were taken to warrant advancing them to Tier 2. They involved the withholding of certain non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance by the United States, which would be subject to a possible waiver. In addition, the countries could face U.S. opposition to certain types of assistance from the IMF and multilateral development banks such as the World Bank. September 12, 2003 U.S. Loan to Ankara Cleared by White House Washington, D.C. - The Bush administration has approved an $8.5 billion loan to Ankara intended "to support Turkey's economic reform process and to cushion the shock of the war in Iraq," according to a State Department letter sent to key committees of Congress. Congress, which has until September 20 to lodge objections to the decision, is expected to give final clearance for the disbursement of the loan. A schedule for loan installments will then have to be worked out, followed by the signing of a loan agreement between Washington and Ankara. The loan, which is conditional on Ankara's continued adherence to the terms of its $16-billion IMF-backed economic reform program, is to be used to service Turkey's domestic and external debts, with priority to be given to repaying debts to the United States and international financial institutions. The State Department letter stated that Turkey had provided valuable assistance to the United States in Iraq and that another economic crisis in Turkey would damage U.S. interests in the region. It added that Washington "attaches significant importance to a strong, economically stable, and democratic Turkey as a hopeful model for the Islamic world." A Treasury Department official stated that the aid was not linked to Ankara's pending decision on whether or not it will contribute troops to the peacekeeping force in Iraq. A decision could be made when the Turkish parliament returns from its summer recess in October. September 5, 2003 End to PKK Ceasefire to Influence Terms for Possible Iraq Deployment Washington, D.C. - The decision by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to call off its 1999 unilateral ceasefire on September 1 and the resultant prospect of renewed violence between PKK guerrillas and Turkish forces along the Turkey-Iraq border is expected to influence Ankara's consideration of Washington's request for the deployment of up to 10,000 Turkish troops in Iraq. The PKK stated that what it called Ankara's failure to grant Turkey's 12 million Kurds greater political and cultural rights and the government's decision not to announce a ceasefire of its own since the end of its 15-year conflict with the PKK were the reasons for ending the truce, which the organization declared after the arrest of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in early 1999. Although the PKK, now renamed KADEK (Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan), stated that a return to full-scale war with Turkish forces was unlikely, it said there could be a resumption of "low intensity warfare." There have been sporadic clashes between the organization's guerrillas and the Turkish military since the 1999 ceasefire was declared. The Turkish parliament recently adopted measures that will lay the foundation for Kurdish-language education and broadcasting. In addition, the government has offered PKK members a partial amnesty that excludes the group's leaders and military commanders. The PKK is demanding a full amnesty that includes the release of Ocalan, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment. The PKK suggested that it could reinstate the ceasefire by December if the government responded with its own ceasefire. In the past, Ankara has refused to negotiate with the group, which both Turkey and the United States have declared a terrorist organization. Up to 15,000 people staged a demonstration in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, in the heart of the ethnic Kurdish region of the country, to call on the Turkish government to open negotiations with the PKK for a solution to the Kurdish conflict. The Turkish General Staff confirmed in a statement that its recent discussions with Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General James Jones in Ankara covered the issue of dealing with the PKK. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also said the issue would be addressed during subsequent talks between a U.S. delegation and Turkish authorities on the terms concerning the possible dispatch of Turkish troops to Iraq. Some 5,000 PKK guerrillas are believed to be camped in the mountainous region of northern Iraq along the Turkish border, prompting the deployment of several thousand Turkish troops in the region to prevent their infiltration into Turkey. More than 35,000 people were killed in the 15-year conflict between PKK separatists and Turkish forces that ended in 1999, when the organization withdrew its fighters from Turkey. Ankara is looking to the United States to take action against the PKK bases in northern Iraq. The Turkish daily Cumhuriyet stated that Turkey was upset by the perceived reluctance of U.S. forces to crack down on the PKK fighters in the region and wants to know what methods Washington will use to rid the area of the fighters. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the United States believes "that there needs to be an end to the operation of any terrorist groups in northern Iraq. The PKK is a terrorist group." "We have taken responsibility, the coalition has, for security in that area. We have close liaison with the Turkish military and the Turkish government, and we will continue to operate in that fashion to ensure that it is not used as a base for terrorism against Turkey," Boucher added. August 28, 2003 No Parliamentary Action on Iraq Troop Deployment Before October Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan stated that there were no plans to call a special session of the Turkish parliament in September to consider whether to send troops to Iraq. If the Turkish government gives the go-ahead for the dispatch of up to 10,000 Turkish peacekeepers to Iraq, the parliament must approve the move. Therefore, a final decision on the matter cannot be made before October, when lawmakers reconvene following the summer recess. August 22, 2003 Lawyers to File Complaint Against British Officials at ICC Washington, D.C. - The Istanbul Bar Association (IBB) announced that it would file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague charging British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British officials with war crimes in conjunction with the war in Iraq. Citing news reports maintaining that 9,000 people were still missing in Iraq, the head of the IBB, Kazim Kolcuoglu, stated that British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon and former chief of the defense staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce would also be named in the lawsuit. The IBB's announcement was made several weeks after the Athens Bar Association filed a similar lawsuit with the ICC. August 22, 2003 New U.S. Ambassador Assumes Post Washington, D.C. - Eric Edelman, who served as Principal Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs from February 2001 to June 2003, arrived in Ankara in mid-August to assume his post as the new U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. He replaced Robert Pearson, who had served in Ankara since September 2000. Shortly after being appointed, Edelman stated that Turkey and the United States needed to rebuild their "strategic partnership" in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. From 1998 to 2001, Edelman, 51, was ambassador to Finland. Prior to this, he served as the Senior Policy Advisor and Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State and as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His previous assignments overseas include service from 1994 to 1996 as Deputy Chief of Mission in Prague and, from 1987 to 1989, as Political Officer in Moscow handling Afghanistan and the Middle East. Edelman began his career as a member of the West Bank/Gaza autonomy talks delegations, continued to focus on Middle East issues as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and held the Afghanistan/Middle East portfolio on the Soviet desk of the State Department. He received a B.A. in History and Government from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in U.S. Diplomatic History from Yale University. August 15, 2003 Military Endorses Sending of Troops to Iraq Washington, D.C. - Deputy Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, widely viewed as the probable successor to the current chief of the general staff, stated publicly that he was in favor of sending troops to Iraq to help provide security. He added that Turkey could not "remain indifferent"to instability in the neighboring country. It was the first time that the military had endorsed sending peacekeepers to Iraq. In an August 12 meeting in Ankara that included President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and National Intelligence Agency Undersecretary Senkal Atasagun, the government joined the military in signaling a willingness to consider deploying the peacekeepers to ensure Turkey's inclusion in the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq. Although Sezer did not express opposition to the deployment, his office released a statement after the meeting pointing out that, according to Article 92 of the Turkish constitution, Turkish troops can be sent to other countries if the deployment is carried out under international legitimacy, an apparent reference to a U.N. mandate. The statement added that it would be up to parliament, which must approve the dispatch of troops to Iraq, to determine whether international legitimacy for their deployment existed. The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) stated that it was opposed to sending the troops without "an international consensus,"while some parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said they would not vote for a motion that excluded the dispatch of Turkish troops to northern Iraq, where Turkey fears that an independent Kurdish state could emerge. It is expected that, if Turkish troops are sent to Iraq, they will be deployed in the central, Sunni-dominated part of the country. Former Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem, who now heads the New Turkey Party (YTP), not currently represented in parliament, said that dispatching the peacekeepers would cause Turkish soldiers to be targeted by separatists and terrorist organizations in Iraq. A discussion on the troop issue will continue the week of August 18 during meetings of the cabinet and the National Security Council, composed of the top military and political leaders. The parliament will reconvene in September following the summer recess. A recent poll indicated that 66 percent of the Turkish people oppose sending troops to Iraq. Analysis by Stephen R. Norton, Senior Policy Advisor, Western Policy Center: On March 1, the Turkish parliament refused to honor a U.S. request to allow American forces to open a northern front against Iraq on Turkish territory. The negative consequences for Turkey of this action, ranging from severely strained U.S.-Turkish military relations to the lack of Turkish influence on the outcome of Kurdish political aspirations in northern Iraq to lost economic opportunities for Turkish companies in the reconstruction of Iraq, have been significant. Gen. Buyukanit's public support for sending Turkish troops to help carry out the Iraq peacekeeping mission reflects the reality that a stable and peaceful Iraq is critical for neighboring Turkey. But dispatching the soldiers is also the single most important thing Turkey could do to begin mending the rift between Washington and Ankara. The big question is: Will the Turkish parliament approve the dispatch of the troops? The only reason for the Turkish General Staff (TGS) to go public on this issue before it comes up for a vote in the parliament is to help ensure that another negative, anti-U.S. vote does not occur, similar to that which took place on March 1. The TGS is keenly aware that Turkey's national security interests are better served by having access, influence, and credibility in both Washington and Baghdad. The military does not control the political process, but it is pointing out the obvious to Turkish parliamentarians concerning Turkey's national security interests. The parliament's decision regarding the troop issue will mark a turning point for U.S.-Turkish relations and for Turkish influence in Iraq, which will either get significantly better or significantly worse. The parliament would do well to vote for protecting Turkey's national interests. It is time for Turkish lawmakers to lead public opinion, rather than be led by it. August 8, 2003 Turkey Ordered to Compensate Greek Cypriots for Property in Northern Cyprus Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Turkish government to provide monetary compensation to two Greek Cypriots following judgments by the Court that found Turkey guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights by denying the individuals access to and use of their properties in northern Cyprus. Michael Tymvios, awarded $9,634 in damages, said that Turkish authorities had denied him access to 51 lots in the village of Tymvou in the northern area of Nicosia. John Demades, awarded $3,266, complained that the Turkish military had prevented him from having access to his house in the Kyrenia region since 1974 and that the house had been occupied by members of the Turkish military. In 1998, the ECHR instructed Turkey to pay $875,000 to Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot woman, as compensation for denying her access to her home in Kyrenia. In June, Turkey said it would pay the damages only if its action would not be considered a precedent and if 3,000 similar cases filed by other Greek Cypriots were withdrawn from consideration by the ECHR. (See Country Updates, Turkey, "Agreement to Pay Damages in Loizidou Case," June 27, 2003.) In the Loizidou case, the ECHR rejected Turkey’s claim that the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) should be called upon to settle the case and found Ankara responsible for the actions of the Turkish Cypriot administration since northern Cyprus is effectively controlled by the Turkish military. On June 30, 2003, the Turkish Cypriot parliament enacted a law that will allow Greek Cypriots to apply to a Turkish Cypriot board for compensation for their properties through the court system in the north. With regard to the outcome of the Tymvios and Demades cases, Turkey told the ECHR that it objected to the fact that the two men had not exhausted all domestic legal channels available to them since they had not applied for compensation under the new Turkish Cypriot law. The ECHR only handles cases in which those filing lawsuits have failed to successfully resolve their claims through the local judiciary system. The ECHR’s response to Turkey was that its objection had not been raised when the admissibility of the cases was being considered by the Court and could not be taken into account now. In the past, the ECHR has declared that both the TRNC and its laws are illegal. In addition to regarding the TRNC as an illegal entity, the Cyprus government considers the court system in northern Cyprus to be illegal since it is not part of the internationally-recognized government’s judicial system and its decisions are not binding within the framework of international law. August 8, 2003 IMF Releases Funds, Praises Reforms Washington, D.C. - Stating that it was encouraged by the Turkish government's recent economic reforms, the International Monetary Fund released a $476 million line of credit to Turkey under its $16 billion three-year loan pact with the country for 2002 to 2004. Turkey has already drawn about $15 billion under the arrangement. The latest release of funds, following the IMF's fifth review of the loan agreement, had been expected in June, but it had been delayed by the failure of the Turkish parliament to pass legislation required under the agreement, which is aimed at lowering inflation, reducing the debt, and maintaining sustained economic growth. Measures taken by parliament included initiatives to attain a primary surplus target of 6.5 percent of gross national product, a law streamlining the indebted social security system, and the designation of fiscal and structural budget targets to ensure that the government pays down a domestic debt load of about $125 billion, inflated by a bailout of crisis-hit banks. The IMF said that the loan pact's projections of 5 percent growth and 20 percent inflation in 2003 were within reach, and that there had been concrete improvements in the banking system. Inflation was about 29 percent in June. The IMF said high real interest rates were still of concern. The IMF also extended repayments of about $11 billion due to the Fund in 2004 and 2005 by one year to help Turkey manage its debt. The move will cut payments scheduled in 2004 from $9.7 billion to $5.2 billion and those in 2005 from $14.6 billion to $7.8 billion. In April, the U.S. Congress approved a financial package for Turkey that gives Ankara the option of receiving either a $1 billion grant or up to $8.5 billion in loan guarantees. Washington had tied this assistance to Turkey's adherence to the conditions of the IMF-sponsored economic recovery program. Final deliberations on this aid are expected to move forward now that the Fund has released its latest installment of Turkey's loan. Turkish officials will travel to Washington on August 18 for talks on the aid, which could be provided to Turkey in up to five installments. The next IMF review of Turkey's economic progress is expected in late October or early November. Standard & Poor's recently upgraded Turkey's credit rating from B-/C to B/B, while Fitch Ratings said it would change the country's outlook from negative to positive in August. August 8, 2003 General Continues to Head National Security Council Washington, D.C. - At a meeting of the Supreme Military Council, just two days after parliament cleared the way for a civilian to be appointed secretary general of the National Security Council (MGK) by the prime minister, the government agreed to the military’s proposal that a general serve as head of the body for another year during what could be considered a transitional period. The position, to be assumed by General Sukru Sariisik, the commander of the Fifth Army Corps, has been held by generals since the establishment of the MGK in 1980. During the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, top generals criticized the government for the parliamentary reform package that curbed the influence of the military-dominated MGK on Turkey’s political process. The package was deemed essential to enhancing the country’s chances of starting EU accession talks. The government stated that, although the secretary general of the MGK would remain a general for now, his influence would be reduced in accordance with the measures in the reform package. (See Country Updates, Turkey, “Military’s Influence on Politics Curbed Through New Reforms,” August 1, 2003.) Erdogan objected to the military’s decision to dismiss 18 officers who were accused by the army of having ties with pro-Islamist groups, noting that these officers could not appeal the rulings, but he agreed to sign off on the decision. A few days after the meeting of the Supreme Military Council, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer signed the parliamentary reform package into law. August 1, 2003 Military's Influence on Politics Curbed Through New Reforms Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament passed a package of reforms that reduce the influence of the military on the country’s political process, a key requirement of the European Union for opening accession talks with Ankara. The package involves changes concerning the National Security Council (MGK), which brings together the president, the prime minister, senior cabinet ministers, and the five highest-ranking generals. Initially established in 1980, the MGK has been the body through which the powerful military has asserted its decisive influence over the civilian leadership on all domestic and foreign matters that its deems critical to the security of the secular Turkish republic. Up to now, the body’s secretary general has been chosen by the chief of the Turkish General Staff from among senior generals. From now on, the secretary general will be nominated by the prime minister and can be either a civilian or a military figure. As in the past, the president will formally appoint the secretary general, based upon the recommendation. The secretary general will now be responsible only for administrative duties in contrast to the post’s former functions, which included monitoring and coordinating the implementation of government decisions on security matters. The MGK, whose decisions will be non-binding, will meet every two months, rather than once a month, as it does currently. The new reforms also introduce parliamentary review of the military budget, which has, up to now, been drawn up and approved solely by the military. The review of the budget will retain a certain degree of secrecy, at the request of the military. Although some generals have privately expressed concern over the passage of the reforms concerning the MGK, the Turkish General Staff has made no public statements on the issue. Prior to the parliamentary vote on the package, the military leadership made it known that it no longer objected to the idea that the Council could be run by a civilian. The reform package, which also includes measures that abolish certain provisions of the anti-terrorism laws that curtail freedom of expression, classify the hearing of torture cases as an urgent matter, stipulate that military courts will no longer be authorized to try civilians in peacetime, and ease restrictions on freedom of assembly, must be approved by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer before it becomes law. A European Union spokesman stated that the reform of the structure and functioning of the National Security Council was a significant step toward aligning civilian control of the military in Turkey with the practice in EU member states. August 1, 2003 Rail Link with Iraq, Oil Pipeline to Re-Open Washington, D.C. - Turkish and Iraqi railway officials signed an agreement in Baghdad to re-open a railway line that runs between the two countries through Syria in order to transport food and reconstruction supplies to Iraq four times a week. Financed with German money, the construction of the so-called Baghdad Railway began in the late 19th century, connecting Berlin to Baghdad through Istanbul, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The line now runs as far as the southern Iraqi city of Basra. In addition, Iraq will reopen its oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey, which is critical to the rehabilitation of Iraq's oil industry. The pipeline will handle 200,000 to 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day. August 1, 2003 Amnesty Approved for Kurdish Rebels Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament has approved a bill granting partial amnesty to an estimated 4,500 guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, along the Turkish border, in an attempt to encourage them to lay down their arms and return to Turkey. Some 5,000 Turkish troops are stationed just inside Iraq's northern border to prevent incursions by the rebels into Turkey. A positive response to the amnesty could result in a phased withdrawal of the troops from area. Under the new measure, which excludes top PKK leaders, guerrillas who have not been involved in violence will be pardoned if they surrender. Those who have not taken part in armed attacks will receive reduced prison terms if they provide information about the identities and whereabouts of fellow fighters who have not surrendered. A life sentence will be shortened to nine years in prison. The United States encouraged the granting of the amnesty, saying that it would contribute to stability in northern Iraq. Hundreds of Kurdish rebels applied for reduced sentences under a similar amnesty in 1999. August 1, 2003 Ankara Assumes Control of SEEBRIG Politico-Military Committee Washington, D.C. - Romania handed over the rotating two-year chairmanship of the Politico-Military Committee of the seven-nation Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG) to Turkey. The Committee oversees the military activities of the brigade, while also serving as a platform for diplomats and civilian defense experts from the contributing countries to coordinate and synthesize policy issues. Greece held the initial chairmanship of the Committee. Italy also assumed the rotating two-year command of SEEBRIG from Greece, as Greek Major General Andreas Kouzelis transferred the responsibility to Italian Brigadier General Giovanni Sulis. The initial command was held by Turkey. The Romanian port city of Costanza recently became the new rotating four-year headquarters of SEEBRIG, the only standing body of the force. Romania allocated about $7 million to build a headquarters in the city that meets NATO standards. Plovdiv, Bulgaria, has been the brigade’s headquarters since August 1999. Following Romania, it is scheduled to rotate to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2007, followed by Kilkis, Greece in 2011. SEEBRIG was established in September 1998, with a total strength of about 4,000 troops from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania, as well as NATO members Greece, Italy, and Turkey. In May 2001, the force was declared operational for deployment in a U.N.- or OSCE-mandated peacekeeping operation led by NATO or the EU. In October 2002, the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM), which consists of all the member nations of SEEBRIG in addition to Croatia, Slovenia, and the United States, offered a 3,000-member force drawn from the brigade for NATO peace support operations. NATO welcomed the offer and is still examining how the troops could be used. There are, as yet, no concrete plans for the deployment of SEEBRIG. Although SEEBRIG has not been actively deployed, it is proving to be a politico-military success story. Through the brigade, the general staffs of seven diverse nations are focusing on joint training and planning, as military exercises using personnel from the contributing countries are conducted regularly. In addition, as these soldiers work together, they learn to trust one another and form lasting personal relationships. The force is a catalyst for improving communications and understanding in the Balkans. August 1, 2003 Relations with Syria Broadened Washington, D.C. - In meetings in Ankara, Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to work toward strengthening bilateral political, economic, cultural, and social relations. It was the first visit of a Syrian prime minister to Turkey since 1986. Among those who met with Miro were President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler, State Minister responsible for foreign trade Kursad Tuzmen, and Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc. The Turkish-Syrian Joint Economic Commission convened in Ankara during Miro's visit, chaired by Tuzmen and Syrian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Ghassan al-Rifai. Tuzmen and al-Rifai proposed that the two countries sign a free-trade agreement in order to further develop bilateral trade, which now stands at about $1 billion, and promote regional commerce. Tuzmen also pushed for the initiation of "border trade" projects, which would increase economic activity between Turkish and Syrian towns along the two countries' mutual border. In addition, he advocated the conclusion of an agreement on the prevention of double taxation and the launching of joint investments as soon as possible. Al-Rifai suggested that Syria, Iran, and Turkey should boost the level of their trilateral cooperation. He also stated that joint projects between Ankara and Damascus concerning irrigation and the supply of electricity should be planned. The delegations agreed to resume negotiations regarding the two countries' dispute over the sharing of the waters of the Euphrates River. In addition, they discussed the possibility of promoting cooperation in the fields of health, transportation, industry, agriculture, tourism, and culture, while also addressing the issue of Iraq and the Middle East peace process. The Turkish Defense Ministry announced in mid-July that it was planning to clear the landmines near Turkey's border with Syria in order to open the area to agriculture. The mines date back to 1952, when they were laid to maintain security and prevent smuggling. Syrian-Turkish ties have improved markedly since the late 1990s, when Turkey threatened to take military action against Syria for sheltering and supporting members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), including its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. In 1998, the Syrian government expelled Ocalan, now imprisoned in Turkey. During the past several years, the two countries have signed military and security agreements. They are still at odds over Syria's claims to Turkey's Hatay province, in addition to the water-sharing issue. Miro was appointed head of government in March 2000 under the Syrian military regime headed by the Baathist dictator President Bashar al-Assad. July 28, 2003 Turkey to Consider Sending Troops to Iraq Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, during talks in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Dick Cheney, assured U.S. officials that the Turkish government was actively considering sending 12,000 to 15,000 troops to Iraq. He said the matter would have to be approved by parliament. Powell indicated that the United States wanted Turkey to act as quickly as possible on the issue, discussed by the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, in meetings with Turkish military officials in Ankara on July 18. Gul indicated that a broader role for the United Nations and NATO in Iraq would make approval of the troop request more palatable to parliament, adding that parliamentarians would also be seeking a specific role for Turkey in Iraq's reconstruction. In addition, the minister said Ankara needed assurance that there would be a “common understanding” between the U.S. and Turkish governments on the future of Iraq. Gul stated that Turkey sought business contracts in Iraq concerning the supply of goods and services to the country, such as electricity, drinking water, gasoline products, telecommunications, and health care. Powell said that he expressed his appreciation for the significant offers of help from Turkey for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The secretary stated that he had encouraged the minister to work with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in order to make progress soon toward a settlement in Cyprus. A major objective of Gul's visit was to defuse the bilateral tension stemming from the July 4 capture by American soldiers of 11 Turkish special forces in the northern Iraqi city of Suleimaniyah who were plotting to assassinate the Iraqi Kurdish interim governor of Kirkuk. The Turkish soldiers were taken to Baghdad for questioning for 60 hours before being released. The chief of the Turkish General Staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, said the incident had created an unprecedented “crisis of confidence” between Ankara and Washington. Turkey denied that there had been an assassination plot. Rumsfeld stated in a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the allegations were accurate, but he provided few details. The U.S. and Turkey both investigated the episode, and, in a joint statement, they expressed regret that the incident had occurred and pledged to take measures to enhance future coordination and cooperation. July 28, 2003 Israel to Import Water from Turkey Washington, D.C. - Turkish and Israeli officials will sign an agreement in mid-August for the export of water from Turkey's Manavgat River on the country's southern coast to Israel, ending nearly five years of negotiations on the issue. Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler will travel to Israel to sign the accord, which envisions the purchase of 50 million cubic meters of water annually for 20 years. The pricing of the water will be determined after the two sides decide which company will be awarded the tender for the project. The two governments are conducting negotiations to lower the price through the reduction of relevant taxes. Two tankers are expected to be built to transport the water to the Israeli port of Ashkelon, from which an eight-mile pipeline will carry it to the national water supply network by the end of 2004. A Turkish official stated that Libya and other countries had also expressed an interest in exporting water from Turkey. July 3, 2003 Citing Separatism Concerns, President Vetoes Key Reform Measures Washington, D.C. - Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed legislation passed by parliament as part of a package of reforms aimed at meeting EU standards for the start of accession talks with Ankara, citing concern over its impact on the integrity of the Turkish state. The EU, which will review Turkey's preparedness for talks in December 2004, had welcomed the reforms, the sixth such package passed by parliament, which included measures easing freedom of expression. The parliament could override Sezer's veto if it returned the legislation to him unchanged after further debate, which has been done frequently in the past. He would then be required to sign the legislation or he could challenge it by referring it to the Constitutional Court The president opposed changes to the anti-terrorism law that abolished a measure banning "separatist propaganda," which has long been used to jail writers and intellectuals advocating Kurdish rights. He stated that eliminating the measure would "create important dangers to the existence of the Turkish state and the indivisible unity of the state." The lifting of the measure had also been opposed by the army. Another piece of legislation in the package vetoed by Sezer opened the way for new trials of activists from the country's ethnic Kurd minority who have been jailed under the clause on separatist propaganda. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has made EU membership a top priority and wants to legislate all reforms that will meet EU criteria for accession talks by the end of 2003 in order to demonstrate to the bloc in 2004 that the measures are being implemented. June 27, 2003 Ankara Advances on Road to EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - The EU invited Turkey to attend, as an observer, the bloc's October Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) in Rome, where EU nations will begin finalizing the draft of the new European Union constitution. The IGC is expected to finish its work by July 15, 2004, when the 15 current EU members and the 10 new members that will accede to the bloc on May 1 will begin ratifying the constitution, a process that will not be completed until 2006. Turkey, along with EU candidates Bulgaria and Romania, has participated in the meetings of the European Convention, which prepared the draft of the constitution. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently serving as president of the European Council, met with the leaders of the three countries at the June summit to brief them on the proceedings of the meetings and discuss their membership processes. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan updated Simitis on Turkey's efforts to initiate reforms that will fulfill EU membership criteria. Turkey is preparing a seventh reform package that is expected to dilute the military's role in politics, including the appointment of a civilian as the secretary general of the National Security Council in place of a general, a decrease in the number of military personnel serving in the Council, the elimination of military representation in many state supervisory bodies, and the initiation of government authority in determining the military's budget, which is now drawn up solely by the armed forces. Rather than going into a scheduled summer recess on July 1, the Turkish parliament will be working in July to legislate the new package. While the EU summit was in progress, the parliament passed the sixth reform package, which abolished some laws restricting freedom of expression and permitted broadcasts in Kurdish by private radio and television stations. The European Commission stated that the sixth package was a clear sign of Turkey's determination to go ahead with the reforms necessary for EU membership, while noting that implementation of the laws would be fundamental to the EU's assessment of whether the country has met the criteria for beginning accession talks. Turkey is also expected, by the end of June, to release its revised National Program, which will outline the country's progress on meeting the requirements in the EU's Accession Partnership Document for Turkey. June 27, 2003 Bases and Ports Opened for Iraq Humanitarian and Logistical Aid Washington, D.C. - U.S. officials welcomed the Turkish government's decision to open its bases and seaports to countries providing humanitarian aid to Iraq. This would include allowing military forces involved in maintaining security in the country, including those of the United States, to use Turkish facilities while in transit. The government stated that the offer would include accommodating those who are involved in logistical matters in Iraq, as long as their activities remained within the scope of the U.N. resolution that removed the sanctions against Iraq. Turkey's move was viewed as a significant step toward repairing relations between Ankara and Washington after the Turkish parliament's March 1 decision not to provide territory for American troops to stage a northern front against Baghdad. June 27, 2003 Reduced Threats Lead to Reduction in Size of Army Washington, D.C. - The Turkish cabinet approved a proposal by the military to decrease the size of Turkey’s army by 17 percent and reduce the length of compulsory military service to better prepare its forces for non-conventional threats and save $175 million annually. The Turkish General Staff stated that these steps were possible because of the diminished threat from the separatist guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the near-completion of the military operation against Iraq, and the achievement of relative stability in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan. It stated, however, that possible threats still existed from unresolved disputes with Greece over the Aegean and Cyprus. Military service in the second-largest standing army in NATO, which now has 550,000 soldiers, will be reduced from 18 months to 15 months for non-university graduates and to 12 months for graduates. Reserve officers will serve for 12 months, rather than 16. June 27, 2003 Agreement to Pay Damages in Loizidou Case Washington, D.C. - In a reversal of previous policy, Turkey has agreed to pay $875,000 in damages to Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot woman who has been denied access to her home in northern Cyprus since 1974. Ankara has conditioned the payment on guarantees that it set no precedent for hundreds of similar cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which awarded the damages to Loizidou in 1998. Turkey has, until now, refused to comply with the decision of the court, which is attached to the Council of Europe. The damages are expected to be paid by October 2004. Turkey, as a member of the Council of Europe, is expected to comply with ECHR decisions if it wishes to accede to the European Union. Loizidou and other Greek Cypriots have sued Turkey on the grounds that Turkish military control of the northern part of the country has prevented them from having access to their properties and has resulted in a loss of income. Since the 1998 ruling was announced, Turkey has stated that its military presence in the north did not render it responsible for Loizidou’s loss of revenue and said the complaint should instead be lodged against the Turkish Cypriot authorities. The ECHR has rejected that argument and has maintained that the Turkish Army, with its large number of troops in the north, exercised effective control over that part of Cyprus and the matter, therefore, fell under Turkey’s jurisdiction. A bill creating a special board in northern Cyprus to deal with property disputes has been introduced into the Turkish Cypriot parliament and is expected to become law by the end of June. The function of the board will be to hear applications from Greek Cypriots who had to abandon their properties in the north in 1974. Compensation will be necessary for the expropriation of any property in the north since then. Turkey would like to see the ECHR refer cases that are similar to Loizidou’s to the board. More information. June 20, 2003 Critical Human Rights Reform Package Passed by Parliament Washington, D.C. - Turkey’s parliament approved a set of human rights measures that will improve the country’s chances of convincing the European Union that it is working to meet the bloc’s requirements for opening accession talks. The legislation abolished a section of Turkey’s anti-terrorism law that authorized punishment for “propaganda against the inseparability of the state,” which prosecutors have used against the ethnic Kurd minority. Kurdish rights were also expanded as the way was cleared to allow parents to give their children Kurdish names and to permit private television and radio stations to broadcast in the Kurdish language. Another measure made it easier to have retrials of citizens seeking redress before the European Court of Human Rights, to which advocates of Kurdish rights jailed under the abolished anti-terrorism provision have turned. The legislation constituted the sixth package of reforms passed by Turkey in preparation for EU membership. A seventh package is expected to be brought before the Turkish parliament this year. June 20, 2003 Turkish Official Seeks to Mend Ankara’s Ties with Washington Washington, D.C. - Turkish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ugur Ziyal met in Washington with U.S. officials, marking the first visit by a Turkish Foreign Ministry official since the March 1 decision by Turkey’s parliament to reject the deployment of U.S. troops in the country to launch a northern front against Iraq. In meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Alan Larson, Ziyal presented proposals for cooperation between Washington and Ankara in the reconstruction of Iraq and in the Middle East peace process. The proposals included contributing 1,200 to 1,800 troops to Iraq peacekeeping efforts and providing medical services, communications systems, electricity, and running water for the country. Ziyal stated that Turkish contractors and businessmen could take on work in Iraq quickly and economically, noting that they have had a strong presence in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. He suggested that Turkey use the $1 billion grant approved by the U.S. Congress earlier this year to secure $8.5 billion in loans, an alternative stipulated by Congress, and spend part of these loans in the restructuring of Iraq. The U.S. said that it was preparing to begin negotiations with the Turkish government on the details of the loans and that Turkey’s access to the funds would be tied to its ability to meet the requirements for the release of the latest installment of its $16 billion loan from the IMF. The IMF’s review of Ankara’s performance, which will precede release of the installment, has been delayed because of the country’s slow progress in implementing economic reforms. The officials also discussed Turkey’s EU candidacy, the Cyprus issue, Turkish-Armenian relations, and counter-terrorism efforts. Ziyal was accompanied by the director of the operations department of the Turkish General Staff, Bekir Kalyoncu, who participated in the deputy foreign minister’s meetings but did not have separate meetings with Pentagon officials. June 20, 2003 Closer Economic Relations with Pakistan Sought Washington, D.C. - During a visit to Islamabad by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish and Pakistani officials agreed to boost bilateral trade, which has remained between $160 million and $170 million annually for the past five years, and increase the number of commercial flights between the two countries. On the three-day trip, aimed at discussing regional security and expanding bilateral economic relations significantly, Erdogan was accompanied by Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Environment Minister Kursad Tuzmen, and Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim, as well as nine members of parliament and over 100 Turkish businessmen. It was the first trip by a Turkish prime minister to Pakistan since 1997, while Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited Turkey in November 1999. In meetings with his Pakistani counterpart, Zafarullah Khan Jamali, and Musharraf, Erdogan asked Pakistan to establish diplomatic relations with the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey, and requested Pakistan’s backing for its membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The TRNC currently has observer status in the OIC. Turkish and Pakistani representatives signed agreements strengthening cooperation in combating drug trafficking, facilitating the overland transport of goods between the two countries, and protecting the environment. The two countries also discussed proposals to establish a joint investment bank and agreed to hold meetings of their prime ministers once a year alternatively in Islamabad and Ankara, while meetings would also take place at the ministerial and secretarial levels. Erdogan stated that Turkey would welcome Pakistani peacekeepers in Iraq, including the Kurdish-dominated northern region of the country. Ankara and Islamabad have had strong ties since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 because of the close relationship between the country’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, and his Pakistani counterpart. Since then, the Turkish and Pakistani military academies have regularly exchanged students for training, even though the two countries have no direct strategic relationship. Pakistan and Turkey are among the few predominantly Islamic countries to openly endorse the U.S.-led offensive against Al Qaeda and the remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan. June 13, 2003 Naples Air Command Moves to Turkey Under Alliance Restructuring Washington, D.C. - At their meeting on June 12 in Brussels, NATO defense ministers agreed on the elements of the alliance’s new command structure, unveiling a streamlined and more flexible network of command centers to face new post-Cold War challenges, including international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The move marks the alliance’s most radical overhaul of its command structure in its 54-year history. As part of the new structure, the air command center in Naples will be moved to Izmir, Turkey, and will be called an Air Component Command. It will operate under the Joint Force Command in Naples, as will a Maritime Component Command in the Italian city and a Land Component Command in Madrid, Spain. June 13, 2003 European Parliament Urges Democratic Reforms Washington, D.C. - While welcoming recent steps by Turkey toward enacting reforms required for EU membership, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Turkish government to move forward on a number of democratic reforms if it wants to fulfill the preconditions for opening accession talks. The members of the European Parliament (MEPs) stated that the Turkish military’s excessive role in politics was slowing down the country’s development toward a democratic and pluralist system. They noted that the National Security Council, where the military has strong influence regarding the formulation of government policies, should be abolished in its current form, while the Turkish parliament should have full control over the military budget. The MEPs said the government should set up a new political and constitutional system that guarantees the principles of a secular system and civilian control over the military. They also urged greater respect for minority languages and religions, with “a more relaxed and constructive relationship” with citizens of Kurdish origin, including granting them access to radio and television broadcasting and education in their own language. Further measures to eradicate torture were also sought. The assembly also called on Turkey to withdraw its troops from the northern part of Cyprus as a step toward reunification of that country. June 13, 2003 Critical Reform Package Sent to Parliament Washington, D.C. - A reform package that is critical to fulfilling criteria for EU membership has been sent to parliament after a delay, despite reported opposition from the military to some of its proposed measures. The National Security Council, where the military has a strong presence, was reportedly scheduled to discuss the reforms on July 26, before their submission to parliament. The "Sixth Harmonization Package" abolishes Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law, which restricts freedom of expression and has been cited by many verdicts against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights as a violation of the human rights of Turkish citizens. The package also eases restrictions on broadcasting in languages other than Turkish, such as Kurdish, restrictions imposed on media organizations during election campaigns, and censorship of audio-visual products such as songs and movies. In addition, it allows international observers to monitor elections. June 13, 2003 Long-Awaited Foreign Investment Bill Passed Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament passed a law that is critical to encouraging foreign investment in Turkey and is considered key to receiving the next installment of the country’s $16 billion IMF loan. The law, one of 20 that will lift the current impediments to foreign investment, abolishes minimum capital requirements for investors and the need for a special investment permit, while abandoning restrictions on the purchase of real estate by foreign individuals and firms. In case of disputes, foreign investors will be free to seek national and international arbitration, in addition to having access to local courts. There has been a delay in the passage of a number of other laws sought by the IMF, including one reforming social security, making it likely that the mid-June review and approval of the latest $500 loan installment by the Fund will be postponed. Some of the laws were pledged by the end of April. Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan stated that the legislation called for by the IMF might not be passed until early July. June 13, 2003 Powell Thanks Gul for Call for Reform Among OIC Countries Washington, D.C. - Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul thanking him for his call for democratic reforms among Muslim nations represented at the late May meeting in Tehran of the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). In an address Gul delivered at the meeting, he urged his fellow Muslim nations to follow a “new vision” that embraces transparent democratic governance, freedom, human rights, and gender equality, while rejecting corruption, ignorance, and violence. June 13, 2003 Attack on U.S. Consulate Washington, D.C. - A Turkish man threw two grenades into the garden of the U.S. Consulate in the southern city of Adana, shattering windows and damaging a wall, but causing no injuries. One of the grenades was defused by police. The man, who was arrested, reportedly stated that he had carried out the action in retaliation for Israel’s helicopter gunship strike on a Hamas leader in Gaza. June 6, 2003 Bomb Targeting Prosecutors Injures Five Washington, D.C. - The extreme-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a banned Marxist group, claimed responsibility for a bomb that injured five people in Istanbul when it exploded next to a bus carrying security court prosecutors. The state security courts in Turkey handle political dissidents and armed underground groups. Those injured as the bus passed under a pedestrian bridge were a prosecutor, two police officers, and two passers-by. The organization was also responsible for an explosion in a café in Ankara in May that killed an apparent suicide bomber when the explosives she was carrying detonated prematurely, injuring a bystander. May 30, 2003 Government Downplays Differences with Military Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed recent media reports that friction was mounting between the military and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), while Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok stated that any "differences" the military had with the government would be resolved through the normal functioning of Turkey’s democratic constitution. Gen. Ozkok said the military had reservations about some of AKP's policies, such as the appointment of individuals it believed were Islamic-oriented to top positions in the government. Senior military leaders have also criticized draft legislation aimed at improving Turkey's chances of starting EU accession talks, expected to be submitted to parliament the week of June 2. It includes legalizing broadcasts in Kurdish by private radio and television stations, enabling ethnic Kurds to give their children Kurdish names, abolishing a law against "propagating separatism" used to jail Kurdish rights activists, and allowing international observers to monitor elections. Five previous reform packages have been passed by parliament over the last year-and-a- half in an attempt to move Turkey closer to the European Union. Gen. Ozkok stated that he remained committed to Ankara's goal of achieving EU membership. Deputy Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit reiterated the military's support for membership in the bloc, stating that geopolitically and geostrategically, entering the EU was a "must" for Turkey. In January, the general stated that the government should end its attempt to loosen restrictions on the wearing of Islamic-style headscarves in state institutions, including universities, and that it should not interfere in internal military affairs concerning the expulsion of those accused of practicing political Islam from the army. May 30, 2003 Anti-Terrorism Cooperation with Israel Washington, D.C. - Turkey and Israel agreed to cooperate in the war on terrorism during talks between Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in Ankara. The cooperation will focus on working together against international terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda. The officials also discussed joint initiatives in the security sector, including the supplying of the Turkish Army with unmanned drones by Israel. Israel's defense exports to Turkey totaled $1 billion last year. Israel is currently upgrading the Turkish Army's F-4 and F-5 fighter planes, as well as 170 U.S.-made M-60 Patton tanks. The two countries signed a military cooperation accord in 1996. Gonul proposed that Turkey host a conference with representatives of the region's countries to discuss the details of the new road map for Middle East peace. May 23, 2003 Bomb Blast Blamed on Banned Marxist Group Washington, D.C. - A woman believed to be a suicide bomber belonging to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist organization, was killed inside the bathroom of a café in Ankara when the explosives she was carrying went off prematurely, injuring a bystander. A senior police official attributed the blast to the DHKP-C, the largest of Turkey’s extremist left-wing factions, which claimed responsibility for several small bomb explosions at a McDonald’s restaurant and a state-owned hotel in Istanbul in April to protest the war in Iraq. These attacks caused no injuries. The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Istanbul in September 2001 that killed two police officers and an Australian tourist in addition to the bomber. A small bomb exploded outside the British Consulate in Istanbul in April, but no one took responsibility for it. The United States and the European Union have placed the DHKP-C on lists of groups they consider to be terrorist organizations. May 16, 2003 Berlusconi: Turkey Among Countries EU Needs to Achieve Equality with U.S. Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, which takes over the European Union presidency on July 1, stated that the EU must welcome Turkey, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine into its ranks if it wants to become a “Great Europe,” a “political and military giant” that can “face the United States on an equal footing.” During a visit to Turkey, Berlusconi said Italy’s support for Turkey’s membership in the EU would intensify during its presidency of the bloc, and Rome would do everything possible to advance Turkey’s candidacy by promoting more concrete steps toward membership. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the government has targeted December 2003 as the date for completing and implementing the reforms required for the start of EU accession talks, although the EU has said it will review Turkey’s preparedness for talks in December 2004, with the intention of beginning them without delay if the criteria have been met. The Turkish parliament has established a special commission that will work to harmonize Turkish laws with EU laws. Berlusconi said Ankara should work to resolve the Cyprus issue before December 2004, adding that he wanted to spearhead an initiative, along with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, to promote a Cyprus settlement. He noted that, under Italy’s EU presidency, he could call on Turkey to make a contribution to EU efforts in the reconstruction of Iraq and in the resolution of the Middle East conflict. Italy was Turkey’s second-largest trading partner, after Germany, in 2002, with $6.3 billion in bilateral trade. Investments by Italian companies comprise 11 percent of the total investments in Turkey. Berlusconi was the first European prime minister to visit Turkey since Erdogan became prime minister in March. May 16, 2003 European Parliament, European Commission Urge Continued Reform Washington, D.C. - The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted an annual progress report on Turkey’s EU candidacy that called on the Turkish government to set up new political and constitutional institutions that would guarantee the principles of a secular system and civilian control over the military. The committee expressed strong concern over the army’s “excessive role” in Turkey’s government, which it viewed as slowing down the country’s development toward a democratic, pluralist system. It called for the dismantling of the National Security Council, with its heavy military representation, in its present form and stated that military representatives should be withdrawn from other civilian bodies such as the Supreme Council on Education. In addition, it urged Turkey to improve its respect for human rights and the rights of individuals and minorities, its ethnic Kurds in particular, while calling for the dissolution of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK), the state’s media watchdog. The committee stated that resolution of the Cyprus problem is of essential importance for the future of EU-Turkey relations, while also calling on Turkey to lift its embargo on Armenia and promote a Turkish-Armenian dialogue to overcome bilateral problems. The report, which will be put to a vote at a plenary session of the European Parliament in June, welcomed the fact that Turkey has made important progress since October 2001 toward fulfilling the criteria for EU membership, but stated that the conditions for opening accession talks were not yet in place. The European Commission, which is responsible for evaluating Ankara’s preparedness for starting EU accession talks, stated that many of the legislative amendments enacted by the Turkish parliament to bring Turkey’s laws in line with those of the EU were not being implemented. The Commission will produce a report on Turkey’s progress in meeting EU criteria prior to the December 2004 EU summit, where the EU will decide whether Ankara should begin entry talks in early 2005. In response to the EU’s appeal to Ankara to tighten its laws in order to prevent torture, the Turkish government in mid-May submitted a legal reform package to parliament that stiffens penalties for torture, including a life sentence without the possibility of parole if a death occurs as a result of torture. The legislation also stipulates that torture is a crime that can be committed by both state officials and civilians, rather than restricting the definition of torture to actions of state employees. In addition, the legislative package mandates prison terms for those convicted of human smuggling and defines genocide and crimes against humanity for the first time. May 16, 2003 Erbakan Returns to Politics After Five-Year Ban Washington, D.C. - Veteran Islamist politician Necmettin Erbakan re-entered political life as the newly elected chairman of the pro-Islamic Happiness Party (SP), following a five-year ban on his participation in politics for violating the country's secular constitution. The 77-year-old Erbakan, who has led the country's Islamist movement for most of the last three decades, replaced Recai Kutan, seen as a caretaker leader of the party until the ban was lifted. The ban was imposed in 1998 following the Constitutional Court's closure of the Welfare Party, which Erbakan headed. Elected as prime minister in 1996, he was pressured to resign a year later by the military, viewed as the guardian of Turkey's secular principles. Although he was sentenced to prison for pro-Islamist and pro-Kurdish statements, he escaped serving a one-year term under a political amnesty. Prime Minister Erdogan was a member of the Welfare Party, which was succeeded by the Virtue Party, until it was banned in 2001. Virtue parliamentarians then split into two camps. The reformists, led by Erdogan, formed the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and sought to distance themselves from the Islamist label, while the more traditional Islamists formed SP, seeking stronger promotion of political Islam. Although Kutan became the leader of SP, Erbakan was considered the force behind the party, which received only 2 percent of the vote in the November 2002 parliamentary elections, below the 10 percent required for representation in parliament. AKP won 34 percent of the vote and was allotted two-thirds of the seats in parliament. Turkey May 9, 2003 Turkey, Greece Jointly Ban Land Mines on Border Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou announced that they would simultaneously submit accords to the United Nations marking the ratification by the Turkish and Greek parliaments of the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, storage, production, and distribution of anti-personnel landmines. The accords will go into effect following their joint submission, leading to the removal of extensive minefields along the Greek-Turkish border in Thrace. Greece ratified the Convention in March 2002, while Turkey recently completed the process. A pledge by both countries to become signatories to the Convention and jointly submit the ratification documents to the U.N. was made by Papandreou and former Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem in April 2001 as a bilateral confidence-building measure, recognizing that numerous illegal migrants and other civilians are killed by the land mines on the countries’ mutual border. The joint submission of the documents to the U.N. is unusual, reflecting a desire by both countries to signal continuing improvement in bilateral relations. The announcement by Gul and Papandreou concerning the Convention was made following talks between the two in the Turkish coastal town of Kas, where Gul hosted a reception for the foreign ministers of the 15 EU member states and the 10 nations that will join the bloc next year. The ministers had earlier attended informal EU Council of Foreign Ministers meetings on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo. Gul and the foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, the two other EU candidates, were briefed in Kas on the meetings by the ministers. During his talks with Gul, Papandreou stated that he hoped the EU would decide in December 2004 to open accession talks with Turkey, adding that it was important that Turkey “now has a very clear European perspective.” Gul emphasized that EU membership was Ankara’s first priority, noting that the first drafts of laws that must be passed to qualify Turkey for accession talks had been completed. The two ministers agreed that U.N.-sponsored negotiations should resume in Cyprus, while Gul called for the lifting of the embargo imposed on northern Cyprus. Turkey May 9, 2003 Wolfowitz: U.S.-Turkish Cooperation in Iraq Could Repair Damaged Relations Washington, D.C. - U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz characterized Turkey’s refusal to allow U.S. troops to use Turkey as a base for launching a northern front against Iraq as a "big disappointment," but he stated that the U.S.-Turkish relationship would continue to be a strong alliance. He noted that the Turkish military did not play the strong leadership role concerning the basing issue that the U.S. had expected. Wolfowitz stated that, if Turkey and the United States can cooperate in building a free, democratic Iraq, it will "more than repair whatever damage has been done" regarding U.S.-Turkish relations. Greater U.S.-Turkish cooperation during the war, he said, would have resulted more rapidly in the kind of stability in northern Iraq that is in the interests of both Turkey and the United States, adding that the two countries should work together to ensure that stability in the region is achieved. The deputy secretary stated that northern Iraq should never again be a sanctuary for terrorists carrying out attacks on Turkey, an achievement that would make a Turkish military presence in the northern part of Iraq unnecessary. He reiterated that, as long as Turkey maintains a presence in northern Iraq, its activities there must be coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition. Wolfowitz called on Turkey to support Washington’s tough messages to Syria and Iran to change their policies concerning support for terrorism, rather than promoting friendlier relations with these two countries. With respect to the possibility of Turkey’s participation in peacekeeping in Iraq, Wolfowitz said the United States would not rule out such a role for Turkey, but Washington was currently looking to the countries that were part of the war coalition to build the core of the peacekeeping operation. The official stated that it was "hard to see what the purpose" of a U.S. presence at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base would be after Ankara told Washington that "Operation Northern Watch is finished, so leave." "The experience we had in Incirlik is not one to encourage us to think of it as an important installation in the future," he stated. The United States has pulled out the 1,500 American military personnel from Incirlik who, along with British personnel, carried out Operation Northern Watch, the aerial patrol of the no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds up until March 17. About 1,400 U.S. troops remain at Incirlik for the purpose of servicing and refueling en route flights of U.S. military aircraft. Wolfowitz suggested that Turkey should say that it "made a mistake" in not cooperating with the U.S. in the war beyond granting overflight rights to coalition planes after the invasion started. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by saying that "Turkey, from the very beginning, never made any mistakes, and has taken all the necessary steps in all sincerity." April 25, 2003 U.S. Reduces Military Presence at Incirlik Air Base Washington, D.C. - Following the withdrawal from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base of 1,500 U.S. military personnel who have been carrying out Operation Northern Watch (ONW) in northern Iraq, the U.S. military presence at the base will be reduced from about 3,000 to 1,400 troops. The formal ceremony marking the closing of ONW is scheduled for May 1, although ONW’s flights over the northern Iraq no-fly zone were suspended on March 17. All of the 50 U.S. and British planes that patrolled the zone have left the base. The U.S. personnel that will remain on the base are part of the air force’s 39th Expeditionary Wing, which has been assigned to the base for more than three decades. It has no aircraft and is primarily a support and maintenance unit, which services and refuels planes en route to other destinations. The United States has maintained a presence at Incirlik since 1951, and Operation Northern Watch was launched in 1997. The no-fly zone, established in 1991 following the Gulf War, was initially enforced through Operation Provide Comfort, a broader multi-national effort that provided humanitarian relief to Iraqi Kurds, until 1996. NATO has ordered the gradual withdrawal from Turkey of alliance AWACS surveillance aircraft and Patriot missile systems, which were deployed in the country in February as part of “Operation Display Deterrence” to protect it against the potential threat from neighboring Iraq. April 25, 2003 Turkish Government Agrees to Participate in Post-War Reconstruction Efforts in Iraq Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that Turkey had agreed in principle to a U.S. request to send military and civilian experts into Iraq for post-war peacekeeping duties including reconstruction, providing humanitarian aid, and establishing security. Gul said the U.S. was seeking experts from Turkey to deal with a broad range of areas such as communications, health care, nuclear technology, and explosives. He noted that Ankara was waiting for a more detailed request from Washington clarifying how Turkey’s contribution to the post-war effort would be financed. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that the use of Turkish contractors and equipment for reconstruction activities in Iraq would be cost-effective, while the Turkish port of Iskenderun would be an ideal location for importing goods into Iraq. International organizations have already begun transporting humanitarian aid into Iraq through Turkey. April 25, 2003 Ankara Participates in Regional Post-War Forum Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul joined the foreign ministers of Iran, Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Bahrain in Riyadh to discuss the implications of the coalition victory in Iraq for the region. The ministers issued a declaration calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and the rapid formation of a government in Baghdad, noting that the coalition forces should ensure security in the country until the government is established. They also emphasized the need to protect Iraq’s territorial integrity and called for a central U.N. role in providing humanitarian assistance, dealing with economic issues, and reconstructing Iraq. In addition, they expressed disagreement with U.S. allegations against Syria, calling on Washington to engage in dialogue with Damascus and re-activate the Middle East peace process. Meeting with his Syrian counterpart on the sidelines of the meeting, Gul appealed to the Syrian government to avoid actions that would further escalate tension in the Middle East. In bilateral talks with ministers of Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, Gul discussed ways to promote investments and tourism by these countries in Turkey April 18, 2003 Revised EU "Roadmap" Advises Turkey to Help Solve Cyprus Problem, Aegean Issues Washington, D.C. - The revised Accession Partnership Accord between Turkey and the European Union, a roadmap for Turkey's EU membership preparations, calls on the Turkish government to "strongly support" efforts to find a comprehensive Cyprus settlement by building on the initiatives of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. In addition, the Accord, which outlines the political, economic, and institutional adjustments Turkey must make prior to EU entry, urges Ankara to make every effort to resolve outstanding border disputes and related issues, an apparent reference to the presidency conclusions of the 1999 EU Helsinki summit, where Turkey was invited to become an EU candidate. The conclusions called on Turkey and Greece to refer their disputes to the International Court of Justice by 2004 if their efforts to resolve them have not been successful. The document states that Turkey has accomplished reforms reducing inflation, strengthening the banking system, and helping create a more transparent economy. Among the persisting problems cited are the fact that inflation is still not at the desired level, the economy is still vulnerable to international crises, the debt burden is too high, and problems such as deficits in the budget have not been addressed. It recommends that the Turkish government accelerate privatization of state-owned entities, reform of the financial sector, implementation of the disinflation and structural reform program agreed to with the IMF and World Bank, and market liberalization. The Accord also notes that Turkey still faces significant human rights hurdles such as continued torture and poor prison conditions, continued widespread arrests in southeastern Turkey despite the lifting of emergency rule, restrictions on freedom of thought, expression, and association, obstacles to property acquisition by non-Muslim and non-Turkish foundations, and inadequate progress in education and broadcasting in languages other than Turkish. In addition, it expresses concern over the closure of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP) on charges of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Accord provides Turkey with pre-accession financial assistance of $270 million for 2004, $324 million for 2005, and $540 million for 2006. The funds are to be used for assisting institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. Following its review of the Accord, Turkey will outline its list of priorities for meeting membership requirements in the text in its revised National Program, to be released in May. The EU may begin accession talks with Turkey in early 2005, conditioned on a December 2004 summit review of its preparedness. April 18, 2003 Israel Reaffirms Ties With Turkey Under New Government Washington, D.C. - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, during an April 14 visit to Ankara, accused Syria of harboring terrorist organizations and offering refuge to Iraqi officials. Shalom's visit was the first by a senior Israeli official since the November formation of a government by the Justice and Development Party, a party with Islamist roots. He stated that Israel, which signed a military cooperation agreement with Turkey in 1996 that includes joint military maneuvers, attaches great importance to the dialogue it has with Turkey. Gul had been scheduled to meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara the day before Shalom's visit to Turkey but said he cancelled the trip to focus on events surrounding the entry of Kurdish peshmerga fighters into the northern Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. It is believed his decision stemmed from the fact that the timing of such a meeting would be poor as tension between Washington and Damascus rose amid President Bush's warnings that Syria must cooperate with the United States. Turkey has improved relations with Syria considerably since the Syrian government expelled Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1998 and renounced support for the PKK. The Israeli minister's talks with Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer focused on the situation in the region following the Iraq war, the view of both countries that no Kurdish state should be established in northern Iraq, the continued strengthening of bilateral economic ties, which have seen trade expand over the past year to a combined $1.2 billion, and several bilateral defense industry projects. These projects include a $700 million contract signed in 2002 for the modernization of 170 U.S.-made M60A1 Patton tanks in the Turkish military by Israeli Military Industries. Some 800 Turkish construction workers will go to Israel to work as part of the tank deal, with the workers' wages being deducted from the funds Israel has promised to invest in Turkey. April 11 2003 Turkish Military Observers Sent to Northern Iraq Washington, D.C. - The Turkish government, with U.S. approval, sent 24 military observers into northern Iraq, following the entry of Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who are allied with coalition forces, into the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. The United States moved quickly to send its own units to take control of the cities, while assuring Turkish officials that the Kurdish presence would be temporary. Iraqi Kurd leaders also pledged to withdraw their fighters from the cities. Turkey has repeatedly stated that it would not accept Iraqi Kurd control of Kirkuk, the site of Iraq's largest oilfield, with over 400 wells. Turkey fears that the city's oil resources could be used as the financial basis for the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that, in a telephone call to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, he had agreed that Turkey could send a small "military liaison" into northern Iraq. Four 6-man Turkish observer teams have entered the region and will be posted at Kirkuk, Mosul, a site near the Syrian border, and U.S. headquarters in the north. Powell stated that the U.S. has made clear to the various parties in Iraq that the coalition is committed to the territorial integrity of the country. April 11, 2003 Diplomatic Cooperation with Iran, Syria Over Iraqi Kurds Washington, D.C. - The concern of Turkey, Iran, and Syria, all countries with large Kurdish populations, over the intentions of the Kurds in northern Iraq have been reflected in Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's decision to schedule meetings with the foreign ministers of Iran and Syria. Despite repeated U.S. assurances to the contrary, the three countries fear that the U.S. might allow Iraqi Kurds to seize Kirkuk and form an independent state, a move that could rekindle separatist movements among their own Kurdish citizens. Just four days after Powell's April 2 visit to Turkey, Iranian Foreign Minister Khamal Kharrazi met with Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in Ankara. Kharrazi called for a meeting of Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian officials to discuss the future of Iraq. In addition, he told the Turkish officials that Iran did not want Turkey to send troops into northern Iraq. Gul is scheduled to travel to Damascus on April 13 for a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara, who has stated that his country should join forces with Iran and Turkey to prevent a possible partitioning of Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition. Gul visited Iran in January as part of Turkey's effort to gain regional support for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis. Following the Gul-Kharrazi meeting, Turkey stated that it was not forming a tripartite grouping with Iran and Syria, countries the United States has accused of sponsoring terrorism and providing arms to Baghdad. Gul said Ankara's contacts with its neighbors were driven by the fact that all three countries have borders with Iraq, adding that the bilateral contacts would promote regional stability. April 11, 2003 U.S.-British Patrol of Northern No-Fly Zone Ends Washington, D.C. - U.S. and British fighter aircraft have begun to leave Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey following the March 17 suspension of Operation Northern Watch (ONW) by Washington and London, two days before the war in Iraq started. Since 1997, the United States and Britain have provided about 50 aircraft and more than 1,400 military personnel, based at Incirlik, to carry out ONW, the aerial enforcement of the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone in northern Iraq above the 36th parallel to protect Kurds from air attacks by the Iraqi military. The U.S. contingent has been comprised of about 1,100 personnel. About half of the people deployed at Incirlik in support of ONW have returned home, while the other half are expected to return home soon or be transferred to other regions. The no-fly zone was established in 1991 following the Gulf War and was enforced through Operation Provide Comfort, a broader multinational effort, until 1996. Since 1997, more than 40,000 troops have rotated in and out of Incirlik and more than 36,000 sorties have been flown over northern Iraq in support of ONW. Iraqi surface-to-air missiles and other anti-aircraft systems have frequently targeted allied planes during their sorties. April 11, 2003 Way Opened for Release of Last IMF Loan Installment Washington, D.C. - Turkey signed a letter of intent with the IMF outlining economic reforms that will open the way for the lending organization to release the final $1.6 billion installment of a $16 billion loan package negotiated in February 2002 to pull the country out of a recession in the wake of two serious financial crises. IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler stated that Turkey's economy had a realistic chance of remaining healthy if the country implemented the measures outlined in the letter. Turkey's pledge to carry out the reforms ended a six-month delay in recommending the release of the installment, which was held up after the new government, which came to power in November, failed to meet some of the economic targets required by the IMF. The IMF is expected on April 18 to release $700 million of the installment, which will help ease the repayment of the country's huge debt. Turkey has requested that the remainder of the funds be provided in seven installments of $500 million by December 2004. The reforms, to be carried out through the end of 2004, include achieving a primary surplus for 2003 that is 6.5 percent of GNP; strengthening the independence of the banking watchdog, the Bank Regulation and Supervision Agency; imposing tight controls on government spending, including the elimination of 25,000 redundant positions in state-owned enterprises by the end of 2003; and carrying out a privatization plan for the state tobacco and alcohol monopoly Tekel. Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan stated that proposals designed to reduce the public sector debt ranged from setting up a fund to collect cash donations or jewelry from Turkish citizens, to issuing long-term war bonds, to selling large deforested areas belonging to the Turkish treasury. U.S. Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor stated that the vote by the United States, the IMF's largest shareholder, on the disbursement of Turkey's loan installment would be based strictly on how closely the country was adhering to its program of economic reforms and not on political considerations, an apparent reference to serious strains between Ankara and Washington over the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey to launch a northern front in the Iraq war. Since 1999, the IMF has approved about $30 billion in below-market funding for Turkey. Over the same period, the World Bank has lent Turkey $7 billion at subsidized rates. The Turkish government has also concluded a new $1.3 billion loan program with the World Bank. April 4, 2003 Turkish Support for U.S. Front in Northern Iraq Washington, D.C. - Following talks between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Turkish officials in Ankara, Turkey agreed to permit the use of Turkish territory for the transport of food, fuel, and medicine to American troops operating in northern Iraq alongside Iraqi Kurd militia. Some 200 U.S. military vehicles that were in Turkey in conjunction with the U.S. renovation of Turkish ports and bases were slated to carry the supplies into Iraq. In addition, Turkey agreed to allow emergency landings for coalition aircraft in Turkish territory and to permit wounded coalition soldiers to be transported to Turkey for treatment, reportedly at a military hospital at Incirlik Air Base, from which U.S. and British personnel had conducted aerial monitoring of the no-fly zone in northern Iraq until March 17. Turkey also agreed to open its border for shipments of humanitarian aid, which will help coalition forces consolidate their control of the country. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the measures agreed to would not require parliamentary approval. Following negotiations by President Bush's special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Ankara and northern Iraq, the U.S. and Turkey have also decided to establish a coordination committee that will keep track of conditions along the Turkey-Iraq border. This will help ensure that no incidents arise that would cause Ankara to send any of the 40,000 Turkish troops amassed north of the border into northern Iraq, a move that would be opposed by both Washington and the Iraqi Kurds. Potential incidents that could trigger the movement of Turkish troops toward the south include an attack on Turkish troops already in Kurdish areas to monitor Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) activity, massive refugee movement toward Turkey, terrorist activity in Iraqi territory aimed at Turkey, and a move by Iraq Kurds to seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Powell stated that negotiations would continue to determine what the composition of the coordination committee would be. Powell has made clear to Turkish officials that Kurdish troops fighting in northern Iraq are doing so under U.S. command and that their participation in the war will not lead to an independent Kurdish state. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that, if Turkey deems it necessary to send troops into northern Iraq, it will do so in full cooperation and coordination with the United States and the Kurdish groups in the region. Gul called his country a partner in the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Iraq. However, Powell voiced disappointment over the Turkish parliament's refusal in March to allow 62,000 U.S. soldiers to use Turkish territory to launch a northern front in the war. April 4, 2003 U.S. Aid Approved for Turkey At the urging of the White House, both houses of Congress overlooked Turkey's refusal to allow the deployment of U.S. troops on its territory to open a northern front against Iraq and approved $1 billion in aid to Ankara as part of a nearly $80 billion war budget. The grant could be used as collateral for up to $8.5 billion in U.S.-backed direct loans or loan guarantees. In a letter to Congress, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated that, despite recent difficulties concerning Ankara, President Bush wanted to maintain Washington's strategic partnership with Turkey. The aid, she said, "could play a significant role in bolstering" that partnership, noting that American and Turkish soldiers had stood side-by-side on battlefields from Korea to Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also stated in a letter that it would be "particularly damaging to our diplomacy" if the aid request for Turkey were eliminated from the war budget. The House voted 315-110 to defeat an amendment by Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) to drop the aid designated for Turkey as a penalty for what he termed "putting American and allied soldiers in harm's way." A second House amendment by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) to reduce the aid by $207 million was rejected by a vote of 312-113. Lawmakers intend to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills and send President Bush a final bill by April 11. March 28, 2003 Turkish Troops Will Not Deploy in Northern Iraq Washington, D.C. - The chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, announced that Turkey would not send additional troops into northern Iraq unless an extreme refugee crisis emerged in the Kurdish-administered region or Turkish troops already in the region came under attack. He also stated that any further Turkish deployment in the region would take place through coordination with the United States. With differences over northern Iraq severely straining relations between Washington and Ankara, the United States and Britain had pressured Turkey to abandon its plans to unilaterally reinforce its troop presence in northern Iraq. Turkey has had several thousand troops in northern Iraq to quell potential PKK activities along the border since 1996, with the consent of the Iraqi Kurds. The U.S. feared that Turkish soldiers operating outside of the U.S.-led coalition could undermine plans to assemble a northern front against Baghdad by clashing with some 70,000 Iraqi Kurd militia, whose support Washington has enlisted in the fight to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had warned Turkey against sending troops across the border unilaterally. The European Union had indicated that any Turkish incursion into northern Iraq could damage Turkey's EU membership prospects, while Germany and Belgium had said such a move could cause them to remove their crews from AWACS planes sent by NATO to patrol Turkish airspace. Turkey's stated reasons for its initial intention to deploy additional troops in northern Iraq, in a buffer zone extending 12 miles from the Turkish border, had been to block the potential flow of refugees into Turkey, protect its borders from the infiltration of Kurdish separatist guerrillas, ensure the territorial integrity of Iraq, and prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Since Turkey's decision on March 21 to grant airspace rights to U.S. and coalition planes, Washington and Ankara had been conducting negotiations on the possibility of achieving a degree of coordination between U.S. forces and any Turkish forces Ankara might send into northern Iraq. In the absence of Ankara's permission for the deployment of 62,000 U.S. ground troops in Turkey for the staging of a northern front, the number of American troops able to deploy in northern Iraq has been scaled back markedly. The U.S. has begun inserting its troops in the region by air. The U.S. has also established a military liaison command to serve as a communications link between the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds in order to promote stability in northern Iraq and satisfy Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Iraq border. The command will also support humanitarian assistance work in the region. The U.S. said the command, which will be based in the southeastern Turkish town of Silopi and will maintain an office in northern Iraq, will handle many of the tasks the Turkish military had planned to carry out in northern Iraq. March 28, 2003 U.S. Aid Package Despite Lack of U.S. Troop Deployment Washington, D.C. - President Bush requested a $1 billion grant for Turkey that could be used as collateral for up to $8.5 billion in U.S.-backed direct loans or loan guarantees. The request for the economic support funds is part of a $74.7 billion spending plan for the Iraq war submitted to Congress for approval, and it includes aid to other nations such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, and a number of central and eastern European countries backing the war. The U.S. government said the aid request was not linked to the Turkish government's decision to grant U.S. and coalition planes overflight rights for the Iraq war, or to the outcome of negotiations over Turkish troop deployment in northern Iraq. It said the funds, conditioned on continued economic reform in Turkey, were designed to help Turkey relieve balance-of-payments needs that might result from the war. Turkey's debt burden of about $160 billion, close to the nation's annual output, at interest rates ranging from 60 to 70 percent, has alarmed international creditors and financial institutions. An earlier U.S. aid offer would have provided Turkey with $6 billion in grants and up to $20 billion in loan guarantees. That aid package was withdrawn when it became clear that U.S. troops would not be given the go-ahead to establish a northern front from Turkey. The European Commission has proposed doubling EU financial assistance to Ankara for the years 2004 through 2006 from $532 million to $1.1 billion. March 21, 2003 Overflight Rights for U.S.Coalition Planes on Hold Washington, D.C. - A parliamentary decision to grant the U.S. and coalition countries access to Turkey's airspace for planes headed for Iraq was on hold following the failure of Ankara and the U.S. to agree on the conditions of the overflights and Washington's opposition to Ankara's insistence on sending its troops into northern Iraq unilaterally, without U.S. coordination. Turkey has demanded that detailed information be filed prior to each overflight, including the type of aircraft, its load, and its destination, while the U.S. wants to be able to use the airspace without prior notification. In addition, there were reports that Turkish military units had taken control of several roads in northern Iraq to stem a possible flow of refugees toward the Turkish border. Turkey also fears the rise of an autonomous Kurdish state in the region. Iraqi Kurds have threatened to attack Turkish troops entering northern Iraq, sparking a mini-war behind U.S. lines. The parliament's March 20 airspace resolution does not permit U.S. and coalition planes to land at Turkish bases, even for refueling. In addition, the U.S. and British planes that have been based at Turkey's Incirlik Air Base for the purpose of patrolling the no-fly zone in northern Iraq are prohibited from taking part in bombing raids in Iraq. The parliament did not reconsider its prior rejection of a motion calling for the deployment of 62,000 U.S. ground troops in the country to establish a northern front against Iraq. A resolution authorizing the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq for the creation of a buffer zone was approved by the parliament along with the airspace motion. As the vote was taking place, some 70,000 Turkish troops were being deployed to the Iraqi border. Earlier negotiations on the terms of the possible deployment of U.S. forces in Turkey had envisioned the stationing of Turkish troops in a band of northern Iraqi territory extending up to 15 miles from the Turkish border, behind advancing U.S. soldiers, for the purpose of stemming the refugee flow and providing humanitarian relief. The parliamentary action on airspace rights was taken several days after the Turkish lira fell to a record low against the dollar and the Turkish stock market dropped 11 percent, following statements by U.S. officials that a U.S. aid package of $6 billion in grants and $8.5 billion in loans had been withdrawn, in view of the parliament's rejection of the U.S. troop deployment. March 14, 2003 Bush Intervenes to Urge Decision on U.S. Troop Deployment and Airspace Use Washington, D.C. - President Bush, in a letter, urged Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister-designate, to decide whether to allow the U.S. to move ground troops through Turkey and use its air bases and airspace to launch a northern front against Iraq. The president's letter to Erdogan followed their March 10 discussion, during which the airspace matter was raised. During the discussion, Erdogan rebuffed Bush's request that he help speed up parliamentary approval of a second measure on both the troop deployment and airspace issues. The legislative body voted on March 1 to reject an initial U.S. request to allow the deployment of up to 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey. As Erdogan, who was appointed prime minister by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on March 11, was forming his government, he asked parliament to meet for a special weekend session, March 14 through March 17. He did not indicate whether a second vote would take place during the session. Although any U.S. air campaign against Iraq would rely mainly on planes now based in Kuwait and other Gulf countries, planes on three aircraft carriers in the Gulf, and those on other vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, the U.S. also seeks access to northern Iraq from southern Turkey by air. If U.S. aircraft are not given permission to use Turkish airspace, Washington will have to determine whether to fly over Jordan and Israel, a route that could strain relations with Arab countries, to airlift troops and equipment into northern Iraq. Ships have been unloading U.S. military equipment at the Turkish port of Iskenderun for weeks under a prior agreement with the Turkish government allowing the U.S. to upgrade bases and ports in Turkey for possible use in a war against Iraq. Anti-war demonstrators clashed with security forces at the port March 12 after 48 U.S. jeeps and trucks involved in the modernization activities left the port. Some Turkish parliamentarians have demanded a parliamentary investigation to ensure that the U.S. cargo being unloaded at Turkish ports does not include equipment to be used in combat. Erdogan won a seat in parliament on March 9 by running in a by-election in the southwestern province of Siirt. Abdullah Gul, who became prime minister following the November 3 parliamentary elections, resigned March 11. Erdogan assumed the post of prime minister on March 14 after Sezer approved his cabinet. After winning his parliamentary seat, Erdogan stated that Ankara needed more assurances from Washington on the future of Iraq before it could authorize the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey. Turkey has set four main conditions for allowing the deployment: (1) The Kurds in northern Iraq must not be armed with heavy weapons, particularly anti-aircraft missiles, which Ankara fears may be used against Turkish planes. (2) Immediately after the war, Kurdish fighters must be disarmed and integrated into the Iraqi army. (3) The Kurds must not be given federal status since it would establish the nucleus of a future independent state. (4) Iraqi Turkomans must be regarded as the equals of Kurds in any post-war settlement. March 14, 2003 Kurdish Political Party Closed Down Turkey's Constitutional Court outlawed the country's largest legal Kurdish political party, the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), for allegedly threatening national interests through its suspected links to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a charge HADEP denies. The court also imposed a five-year political ban on 46 HADEP members, including its former chairman, Murat Bozlak. The decision does not apply to its current chairman, Ahmet Turan Demir. The party's assets will also be confiscated. In addition, the chief prosecutor filed a case to close another pro-Kurdish group, the Democratic People's Party (DEHAP), which served as an umbrella formation for HADEP in November's parliamentary elections. Amid concerns in Brussels over human rights violations in Turkey, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in November pledging to ease restrictive legislation concerning political parties in order to enhance Turkey's chances of joining the European Union. The EU has urged Turkey to grant greater rights to its Kurdish population. March 14, 2003 European Court Rules Ocalan Trial Unfair The European Court of Human Rights ruled that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was not tried by an independent and impartial tribunal during his 1999 trial because a military judge was present for some of the hearings and he was only given restricted access to his lawyers. Although the ruling of the court, which is independent of the European Union, is not binding, Turkey will come under pressure to try Ocalan again, particularly since its human rights abuses have been cited by the European Union as a key reason for the postponement of the launching of its EU accession talks until after 2004. Turkey is planning to appeal the ruling, declaring that the court had not "thoroughly considered" aspects of the case. Ocalan, who brought the case before the court, was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment last year after Turkey's parliament abolished the death penalty, a requirement for EU membership. March 7, 2003 Parliament Defeats Government Bid to Allow U.S. Troop Deployment Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament on March 1 narrowly voted not to permit 62,000 American forces to use Turkey as a launch pad for an invasion of northern Iraq, despite the endorsement of the U.S. request by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the cabinet. Erdogan stated on March 6 that the government would wait for the U.N. Security Council to pass a second resolution on Iraq before asking the parliament to reconsider the request. The Security Council's debate on a new resolution could take place as early as the week of March 10. A second parliamentary rejection of U.S. troop deployment would endanger Ankara's hopes of influencing the structure of post-war Iraq and would put the $26 billion U.S. aid package, which is linked to the troop deployment, out of reach. The package is comprised of $6 billion in direct aid and $20 billion in loan guarantees, including $324 million in Export-Import Bank credits to purchase eight Seahawk helicopters and 6 Blackhawk helicopters. Congressional reaction to the March 1 vote was immediate. On March 5, references to Turkey were removed from a trade bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. A nearly identical bill that the House passed last year included a provision granting benefits to qualified industrial zones in Turkey. A provision regarding Turkey was also missing from similar legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee. Following Turkey's parliamentary vote, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok stated that it would be better for Turkey to join the U.S. in the Iraq war since the country would suffer consequences whether it participated or not. He noted that the aid package offered by the United States to offset Turkey's anticipated financial losses from the war would soften the conflict's impact on its economy. He added that a northern front, greatly assisted by Turkish participation, would shorten the war. His support for a second parliamentary vote on U.S. troop deployment prompted a partial recovery in Turkish financial markets, which declined 12 percent in one day immediately after the March 1 vote. The bill rejected by the Turkish parliament, which was only three votes shy of being passed, included a Turkish government proposal to send tens of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraq, behind advancing U.S. forces, in order to stem the flow of refugees toward Turkey, ensure that the Iraqi Kurds, who have administered northern Iraq since 1991, do not establish an independent state, make certain that the Kurds do not take over the oil fields in Kirkuk and Mosul, and promote representation of Iraqi ethnic Turkomans in a post-war government. Iraqi Kurds have staged protests against possible Turkish troop deployment in northern Iraq. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers confirmed that a war against Iraq would be fought on fronts in both the north and the south, with or without Turkey's assistance. In the absence of Turkey's permission to open a northern front, Myers stated that the U.S. military was considering inserting a more lightly armed force than the army's 4th Infantry Division, which would have moved overland, into northern Iraq, and protecting this force with additional airpower. The 101st Airborne Division and its more than 250 helicopters could also be dispatched from Kuwait to attack targets in northern Iraq. A U.S. troop presence in northern Iraq is critical to protecting the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields from Saddam Hussein's anticipated scorched-earth strategy. The 30 U.S. ships carrying the armor, ammunition, and equipment of the 4th Infantry Division, which continued to wait off the Turkish Mediterranean coast after the March 1 vote, would be routed elsewhere if a second parliamentary vote did not open the way for them to disembark at Turkish ports. Turkey has given the U.S. permission to offload some of the military vehicles and equipment from the U.S. ships at Turkish ports, but the bulk of the cargo remains on the ships pending parliamentary action. On March 6, some 30 trucks carrying U.S. Humvees, fuel trucks, and other support equipment left the southern Turkish port of Iskenderum reportedly heading for a waiting station outside the nearby city of Mardin. The U.S. cannot unload any combat equipment unless Turkey's parliament approves the deployment of the troops. The failure of the Turkish government to push the bill through parliament, despite the overwhelming majority held by AKP in the legislative body, was attributed to the inability of the party's leaders to secure the votes promised in support of the bill, opinion polls indicating that more than 90 percent of Turks oppose a war with Iraq, Washington's insistence that the austerity program Turkey negotiated with the IMF apply to the new loans in the U.S. aid package, a U.S. demand that Turkish forces deployed in northern Iraq be restricted to providing relief for refugees, and the widespread view that a second Security Council resolution on Iraq authorizing the use of force against Baghdad was needed to legitimize an Iraq war. On March 9, Erdogan was to run for a seat in parliament in a bi-election in the southeastern province of Siirt. If elected, as expected, he will become prime minister. February 27, 2003 Parliament Delays Vote on Allowing Deployment of U.S. Troops for Iraq Campaign Washington, D.C. - The Turkish parliament was expected to vote on February 27 whether to allow U.S. troops to use Turkey as a staging area for an attack on Iraq from the north, as negotiations on the terms of a U.S. aid package and Turkish military and political concerns related to an Iraq campaign entered the final stretch. The Turkish government notified parliament that it was prepared to permit up to 62,000 U.S. troops, 255 warplanes, and 65 helicopters to be deployed in Turkey for six months for the establishment of a northern front against Iraq and had also authorized the entry of an unspecified number of Turkish troops into Iraq in the event of war. The notification followed a February 24 agreement on these matters by the Turkish cabinet. Turkey has been pushing for $32 billion in U.S. assistance, including up to $10 billion in grants, to offset the anticipated financial losses the country will face as a result of a conflict on its southern border. It has reportedly settled on the U.S. offer to provide a $26 billion package, including $6 billion in economic and military grants and $20 billion in loan guarantees. Sticking points have included the Turkish request for textile trade concessions in the United States and the U.S. demand that the grant funds be subject to the same conditions governing the $16 billion loan package provided to Turkey by the IMF. Attempting to come to an agreement on the terms of the entry of tens of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraq during a war has also prolonged the negotiations, with Ankara seeking guarantees on the post-war structure of northern Iraq. Turkey wants to send troops into northern Iraq to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state in the region, curb the movement of refugees into Turkey, and ensure that Kurdish forces do not enter the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, which the U.S. is expected to secure. The Turkish government has stated that Turkish forces would not be involved in any combat against Iraqi forces. Washington has stipulated that any Turkish troops deployed in northern Iraq should come under the command of U.S. forces, a policy opposed by Turkey. Turkey also opposes U.S. plans to arm Kurdish militiamen in northern Iraq during a war and insists that the arms be collected when the war is over. Senior officials from the two large Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which have administered the region since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, have warned Turkey that the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq during a war, for any reason, will result in a conflict between the groups' guerrillas and the Turkish soldiers. The U.S., Turkey, and the Iraq Kurds have been carrying out discussions concerning the potential U.S. and Turkish deployment in northern Iraq. About 5,000 Turkish troops are already deployed inside Iraq, in and around the mountains separating Iraq from Turkey. They have been there since the mid-1990s to hunt Turkish Kurd separatists based mainly along Iraq's border with Iran. February 21, 2003 Washington Urges Timely Ankara Decision on U.S. Troop Deployment Washington, D.C. - The United States set a February 21 deadline for Ankara to accept its offer of a $26 billion aid package and approve the deployment of up to 40,000 U.S. troops in Turkey to launch a northern ground invasion of Iraq in the event of war with Baghdad. On February 21, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the government was nearing an answer on whether to allow the American troops to use Turkish bases and that an agreement would be reached in the coming days. The Turkish government cancelled plans to hold a February 18 parliamentary session to vote on the approval of the U.S. troop deployment, saying that it would put off the long-anticipated vote until the week of February 24 as it continued to negotiate with Washington over the size of the aid package. Ankara is seeking a package totaling $32 billion to offset expected financial losses as a result of a war. If Turkey fails to make a decision by February 21 on allowing American troops to enter the country, the Pentagon may move ahead with an alternate basing arrangement. In addition, it may divert U.S. ships carrying troops and equipment, those currently waiting off Turkey's Mediterranean coast to unload and others that are approaching the coast, to Kuwait through the Suez Canal. Such an outcome could cause a short delay in a possible start to a war. The U.S. seeks to attack Iraq both from Turkey in the north and from Kuwait in the south in order to divide and weaken Iraq's forces. Alternatives to using Turkey as a base for a northern front include sending troops and equipment overland from Kuwait to northern Iraq, a 500-mile distance, or dropping airborne forces into northern Iraq to secure airfields that could be used as forward bases. The latter option would limit the number of troops and armored vehicles that could be brought in. The loss of Turkey as a staging area would delay the U.S. military's ability to secure Iraqi oilfields close to the Turkish border to prevent Saddam Hussein from destroying them and would restrict its capacity to re-supply American forces with ammunition, food, and fuel. The Turkish parliament's vote on the basing of U.S. troops is tied to U.S.-Turkish negotiations to coordinate the dispatch of some 60,000 Turkish troops to northern Iraq behind advancing American soldiers for deployment along the Turkish border to stem an anticipated flood of refugees toward Turkey. Turkey is reportedly demanding that its troops also be given the opportunity to establish positions up to 170 miles into northern Iraq, fearing that Iraqi Kurds might declare an independent state if the Iraqi leader is ousted. About 500 U.S. military personnel arrived in Turkey on February 16 to renovate Turkish bases and ports for use in a war with Iraq. The Turkish parliament previously voted to allow the personnel to enter Turkey to upgrade the facilities. February 21, 2003 NATO Approves Defensive Equipment for Turkey Against Iraq Washington, D.C. - NATO on February 19 approved the urgent deployment of AWACS early warning surveillance aircraft, Patriot anti-missile batteries, and special units that withstand chemical and biological attacks to Turkey to defend it against a potential assault by Baghdad in the event of a war. The approval was given just days after the alliance began contingency planning to protect Turkey, a process that had been blocked for a month by France, Germany, and Belgium, arguing that it would undermine U.N. efforts to settle the Iraq crisis peacefully. To by-pass Paris and break the stalemate, NATO had moved consideration of a U.S. request to begin planning for Turkey's defense from the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's highest political decision-making body, to its Defense Planning Committee, which has excluded France since 1966 when the country left the alliance's military command structure. Germany and Belgium then dropped their vetoes in exchange for an allied commitment to support U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis non-violently. Under a bilateral agreement with Turkey, the Netherlands had already shipped Patriot systems to Turkey, expecting them to arrive the week of February 24. These systems, capable of being used against Iraqi Scud missiles, are to be deployed at air bases in Batman and Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey. Most of the 370 Dutch air force personnel trained in the use of Patriots are to fly to Turkey to operate them. Germany, which has ruled out sending any of its soldiers to Turkey in conjunction with a war in Iraq, has reportedly sent one of its Patriots to the country via the Netherlands. The forward operating base for the AWACS the alliance plans to deploy in Turkey, which are currently based in Germany, may be Konya in south-central Turkey or Aktion in northwestern Greece. February 14, 2003 NATO Planning for Defense of Turkey Blocked Washington, D.C. -France, Germany, and Belgium have blocked NATO from agreeing to a U.S. request that the alliance begin contingency planning for providing defensive systems to Turkey, the only alliance country that shares a border with Iraq, in the event of a war against Baghdad. The standoff has marked one of the most serious crises in NATO's 54-year history, deepening a split between the U.S. and some European countries. The three nations stated that such planning would be premature before U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq issued their February 14 report on the status of inspections to the Security Council, and it would indicate that the alliance had accepted the inevitability of war. Concerned that Turkey's support for a war could invite an attack by Iraq, Ankara asked NATO for consultations regarding its defense by invoking Article 4 of the alliance's founding treaty for the first time since the alliance was established. France, Germany, and Belgium all turned down Turkey's request. Article 4 states that the members of the alliance will consult jointly whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of a member is threatened. If all 19 members agree that such a situation exists, they could then invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on the entire alliance. In January, Washington asked the alliance to send Turkey Patriot anti-missile batteries, AWACS early warning surveillance aircraft, and units trained to counter attacks using chemical and biological weapons. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated that the United States and allies that support the deployment of these defensive capabilities to Turkey would work outside of NATO, if necessary, to deliver them to Ankara. The Netherlands has already promised to provide Turkey with Patriots under a bilateral arrangement. The split within the alliance was made more apparent when France, Germany, and non-NATO member Russia also issued a joint declaration saying that they favored extending and strengthening the U.N. weapons inspection program in Iraq in order to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime peacefully. China, which, along with Russia and France, holds veto power on the Security Council, expressed support for the declaration, jeopardizing U.S. hopes that the body will approve a resolution authorizing force against Iraq. February 14, 2003 Foreign, Economy Ministers Request Meetings in Washington on Iraq Crisis Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis and Economy Minister Ali Babacan held talks in Washington on the ground rules for the possible stationing of U.S. troops in Turkey to launch a northern assault against Iraq, the strategy that will define a post-war Iraq, and the multi-billion-dollar economic aid package the U.S. is negotiating with Ankara to secure Turkish support for a war. The talks included meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Alan Larson, and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Bill Young. Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul stated that Ankara's decision on whether to allow U.S. troops to use Turkish facilities in the event of a war would depend on the outcome of the discussions on the aid package. On February 18, Turkey's parliament is scheduled to vote on a U.S. request to station an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 troops in the country. The parliament has already voted to permit the U.S. to move forward with the modernization of three military bases, three airports, and several ports in Turkey. February 14, 2003 Placing Turkish Troops Under U.S. Command Rejected Washington, D.C. - Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), ruled out placing Turkish forces under U.S. command in a war against Iraq, describing such an idea as an "insult" and "humiliation" for Turks. The U.S. has stated that Turkish troops would have to be under the command of a U.S.-led coalition if they are involved in any operation in northern Iraq during the war. Washington and Ankara are negotiating the conditions of the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey to open a northern front against Iraq. In addition, they have been discussing the possibility that Turkish troops would be deployed in northern Iraq along the Turkish border to deal with humanitarian problems and stem the flow of refugees northward. Turkey has stated that its troops would not go into combat in Iraq. February 14, 2003 Afghan Peacekeeping Command Ends Turkey on February 10 turned over the command of the 22-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), responsible for maintaining order in Kabul, to Germany and the Netherlands after an eight-month stint backed up by 1,400 Turkish soldiers. Although Turkey's six-month mandate to lead the 4,800-member force ended on December 20, Ankara agreed to retain the command until its successors completed their preparations for assuming the responsibility for six months. German Lt. Gen. Norbert van Heyst will be the new commander, taking over from Turkish Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, while Dutch Brig. Gen. Robert Bertholee will be the deputy commander. The German contingent will consist of 2,500 troops, and the Netherlands will provide 700. Turkey is expected to reduce its contribution to about 160 soldiers. Zorlu stated that ISAF needed to stay in Kabul for two or three more years until a new Afghan national army and police force are well established. German Defense Minister Peter Struck has proposed that NATO, currently involved in planning, communications, and intelligence in Afghanistan, take charge of the Afghan peacekeeping operation when the joint German-Dutch administration ends. Britain held the initial command of ISAF, which was first deployed in Kabul in December 2001. Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul attended the ceremony marking the transfer of the command, along with his German and Dutch counterparts. Ankara has contributed about $430,000 toward the formation of the Afghan national army. In addition, Turkey will train Afghan officers in Turkish military schools. February 7, 2003 Go-Ahead Given for U.S. Upgrading of Bases for Iraq War Washington, D.C. - Turkey's parliament voted to allow some 4,000 U.S. engineers to begin upgrading several Turkish military bases and ports, particularly the southern harbors of Mersin and Iskenderun, for a period of three months for use in a war against Iraq. Washington is planning to spend up to several hundred million dollars to modernize and expand the facilities. The vote took place a day after Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said he would ask the parliament, on February 18, following a week-long Muslim holiday, to authorize the Turkish government to open the country to about 20,000 U.S. troops for a northern front in a war. He declared Ankara's support for Washington's plan for military action against Baghdad, but said that Turkish troops would not take part in the war. Turkey's National Security Council, an influential advisory body comprised of top military leaders as well as Turkey's president, prime minister, foreign minister, and defense minister, had endorsed the U.S. request for the deployment of troops in Turkey, as well as their use of Turkish bases and ports. The Council announced that it had recommended that parliament make a decision "directed at taking military measures seen as necessary to defend Turkey's national interests in the face of possible unwanted developments." Ankara is believed to be putting off the vote on U.S. troop deployment in order to assess the stance of the United Nations following a February 14 report by U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, hoping that the U.S. will not take military action in Iraq unless the U.N. first passes a resolution authorizing the use of force against Baghdad. In a significant shift from his past statements advocating the paramount need to maintain peace in the region, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that Turkey's long-term interests and security might be endangered if it remained outside of a potential war at the beginning of the operation, making it impossible for Ankara to influence developments after the war. Iraq, he said, was not taking the necessary steps for peace. Erdogan stated that the most important priority for Turkey in any Iraq campaign would be to play a part in the decision-making on the future of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. U.S. diplomats and senior military commanders, led by President Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, are conducting negotiations in Ankara with Turkish officials and representatives of Iraq's Kurdish groups that may result in allowing tens of thousands of Turkish troops to occupy part of northern Iraq near the Turkish border behind advancing American troops. The Turkish troops would deal primarily with humanitarian problems and would discourage refugee flows into Turkey. Turkey has begun building up supplies of weapons and equipment along its 250-mile border with Iraq to raise its troops' "level of readiness," according to an announcement by the Turkish Army's general staff. Several thousand Turkish troops have been stationed inside northern Iraq since 1996 to pursue guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and, more recently, to protect the Turkish-speaking Turkoman minority. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusuf Buluc also stated that Turkey expected the United States to support its approach to a Cyprus settlement in return for Ankara's backing in an Iraq campaign. February 7, 2003 High-Level EU Delegation Affirms Turkey's Accession Course Washington, D.C. - In the first high-level EU-Turkey meeting since the bloc's December 2002 Copenhagen summit, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairman of the EU's Council of Ministers, joined Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, which assumes the EU presidency in July, and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen for talks with officials in Ankara. The talks were aimed at affirming the EU's support for Turkey's accession process and strengthening ties between Ankara and Brussels, following the decision at the summit to review Ankara's readiness for beginning accession talks in December 2004, with talks starting in 2005 if the review is positive. Among the topics discussed in Ankara were the EU's financial assistance to Turkey, the reforms being carried out by the Turkish government in preparation for membership, the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations, developments in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and the Iraq crisis. Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said Turkey had set the end of 2003 as the target date for meeting the requirements for beginning EU accession talks. January 24, 2003 Regional Conference Aims at Averting War in Iraq Washington, D.C. - The foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iran arrived in Istanbul on January 23 to join Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis in discussing ways to achieve a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis. The meeting, called by Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, was follow up to his early January tour of these countries to enlist their support for establishing a regional initiative to avoid war against Baghdad. In a joint declaration released after the meeting, the ministers urged Iraq to increase its cooperation with United Nations weapons inspectors by providing information more actively on the country's capabilities concerning weapons of mass destruction, while also confirming its commitment to ongoing monitoring and verification with regard to weapons systems. The ministers called on the Iraqi leadership to move toward assuming its responsibilities in restoring peace and stability in the area, noting that the countries of the region did not wish to live through the devastating consequences of another war. They did not call on Saddam Hussein to step down or go into exile as a way of avoiding a war. The declaration also stated that the U.N. Security Council was entrusted with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, including the task of determining the level of Iraq's compliance with the Council's resolutions and ensuring their full implementation. In addition, it said that the six nations participating in the meeting remained committed to the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue and the implementation of all relevant U.N. resolutions to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Yakis said the aim of the meeting was to alert Saddam Hussein that he needs to fully cooperate with the United Nations or be prepared to face the consequences, while also sending a message to the rest of the world that war should be a last resort. In the declaration, the ministers stated that their next meeting would be held in Damascus. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers, in Turkey for talks with Turkish officials a few days before the foreign ministers' summit, referred to it as a "serious initiative" that could prove helpful to U.S. efforts to force Saddam Hussein to disarm. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who arrived in Ankara the day of the summit for talks with Turkish officials on Iraq, praised the declaration issued by the six foreign ministers, calling it a strong message to the Iraqi government that there must be full compliance with weapons inspections. Fischer, who said Berlin was concerned by the risks of U.S.-led military action in Iraq, was on a tour of the Middle East, which also included Egypt and Jordan, as part of Germany's effort to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully. January 24, 2003 Negotiations Continue with Washington on U.S. Deployment for Iraq War Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said the government had authorized the Turkish military, based on negotiations with U.S. military officials, to estimate the number of U.S. troops needed for deployment in Turkey to establish an effective northern front in a war with Iraq. One of the options being considered for a scaled-down northern front was a U.S. force of about 15,000 troops, he said, adding that U.S. and Turkish military planners had not yet agreed on a final plan. Washington had reportedly asked to deploy about 80,000 troops in Turkey for the war. Yakis's statements were made following a visit to Turkey by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers for talks with Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul on pinpointing the level of support Turkey is prepared to offer Washington in an Iraq campaign. Following Gen. Meyers' departure from Turkey, the Turkish government's increasingly public opposition to a war accelerated with a statement by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the United States and Britain to heed the calls of anti-war protestors in their countries. Erdogan said the Turkish government would move forward with efforts to avert a war. Polls in Turkey have indicated that from 80 to 90 percent of Turks are opposed to an Iraq war, and there have been daily anti-war demonstrations, including protests at Incirlik Air Base from which U.S. and British aircraft patrol the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. A final decision on the use of Turkish facilities by U.S. forces was expected to be made by Turkey's National Security Council the last few days in January, a week after 150 U.S. inspectors were scheduled to complete their survey of Turkish bases and ports to determine their suitability for use by U.S. troops. January 24, 2003 Erdogan Overcomes Another Legal Hurdle to Premiership Washington, D.C. - The way was once again opened for Erdogan to seek the office of prime minister when Turkey's Constitutional Court said he could be re-elected leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after initially ruling that he had technically not been the party's leader since October 2002. The party quickly moved to re-elect him. The initial ruling of the court nullified Erdogan's status as the head of AKP. It stated that he had automatically relinquished the post in the fall when he gave up the title of founding member of AKP, after government prosecutors sought to ban the party, saying that it carried on the legacy of the banned Virtue Party, an Islamist party. The court said, therefore, that Erdogan was not the party's leader, as he claimed, when the parliamentary elections took place on November 3. The Constitutional Court is still considering a move to close AKP. Erdogan plans to seek a seat in parliament in a March by-election in the southeastern province of Siirt. The Turkish parliament has amended the constitution to lift the prohibition against his candidacy for parliamentarian and eventual premiership, which stemmed from a 1998 conviction for Islamist sedition. In a separate ruling, a local court in Istanbul acquitted Erdogan of charges of favoritism in awarding contracts when he served as Istanbul's mayor in the mid 1990s. Any recommendation on U.S. deployment would have to be sent to parliament for approval, as required by the Turkish constitution. The Turkish government continues to insist that it would sanction the use of force against Iraq only if a second U.N. resolution gives the go-ahead for a war. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers, in Turkey for talks with Turkish officials a few days before the meeting, referred to it as a "serious initiative" that could prove helpful to U.S. efforts to force Saddam Hussein to disarm. Syria has offered to host another regional peace summit in Damascus, possibly with the leaders of the countries that participated in the Istanbul meeting. January 17, 2003 U.S. Military Begins Inspection of Turkish Bases for War Readiness Washington, D.C. - A group of 150 U.S. military inspectors have begun examining 10 Turkish air bases and several ports to determine their suitability for use by American forces in the event of a war against Iraq. The site survey, delayed for a month by the Turkish government after initial agreement with the U.S., was expected to last 10 days. Turkey has not yet responded to Washington's request that Ankara grant formal permission to the U.S. to use Turkish bases and ports in conjunction with a war and allow the deployment of some 80,000 American troops that would transit Turkish territory en route to northern Iraq. The office of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated that Ankara could make only a limited contribution to a war against Iraq because of its historic ties to the country and Turkey's status in the region. The government said a decision on the U.S. request to open a northern front in Turkey against Iraq would come from the Turkish parliament following the January 27 report by U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, raising concerns in Washington that further delay could hinder mounting a significant U.S. deployment in the country. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers is expected to press the government to open Turkey's bases to U.S. troops when he visits Ankara on the weekend of January 18-19. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, during a December trip to Ankara, said Washington was prepared to invest several hundred million dollars to modernize Turkish military bases for use in an Iraq campaign. The United States has formally asked for NATO's assistance if a war with Iraq occurs, including the deployment of Patriot air-defense missiles and AWACS surveillance aircraft to Turkey. January 17, 2003 Ankara to Host Summit on Diplomatic Solution to Iraq Crisis Washington, D.C. - The Turkish government plans to host a summit with the participation of five countries in the region to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal informed the ambassadors of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran of Ankara's intention to send invitations to the leaders of their countries to attend such a meeting in Turkey's capital, possibly as early as the week of January 20. In mid-January, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul completed a tour of these countries aimed at building regional consensus to avert a war against Iraq. He sought their support in persuading Baghdad to adhere to the demands of the United Nations concerning weapons inspections. In addition, Turkey and several Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular, have reportedly accelerated efforts to convince Saddam Hussein to go into exile in order to prevent a war. January 17, 2003 U.S. Navy in Mediterranean Expected to Be Part of Iraq War Effort Washington, D.C. - The U.S.S. Harry Truman aircraft carrier and a dozen other ships in its battle group have appeared in the eastern Mediterranean at a time when Washington is preparing an additional staging area in the region for a war with Iraq. U.S. Navy vessels have been largely absent from the Mediterranean since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Exercises and contacts between U.S. Navy vessels and regional navies, largely abandoned over the last 16 months, have resumed. Two of the Truman battle group's ships made port calls in Turkey, while a delegation of Turkish officials flew to the Truman to meet its commanders. In addition, ships from the group participated in the December joint search-and-rescue "Reliant Mermaid" exercise with Turkey and Israel. The battle group has also been involved in a multipurpose exercise with the Israeli military and will be part of an air defense exercise with Israel later in January. Any sustained U.S. carrier-based military operations against Iraq from the eastern Mediterranean would likely be supported by NATO ammunition and fuel storage facilities at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete. The Greek Air Force base at Souda Bay, which is also used by the U.S. Navy, and the Royal Air Force base on the British sovereign base area at Akrotiri, Cyprus, would also be potential trans-shipment sites for critical supplies and spare parts needed to support air operations. The Truman battle group has also been questioning about 50 ships a day in the Mediterranean in conjunction with the war on terrorism and has been providing escorts to ships in choke points such as the Strait of Gibraltar, where ships are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. January 10, 2003 Prime Minister Seeks Regional Support for Avoiding Iraq War Washington, D.C. - During Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's early January tour of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, he and the leaders of these countries agreed to increase and coordinate their efforts to seek a non-violent alternative to a U.S.-led war against Iraq. Gul's tour was conducted as Turkey continued to delay its answer to Washington's request to station up to 80,000 combat troops in Turkey as part of a regional buildup of forces for a possible war, move military equipment through two seaports, and base warplanes on at least two airfields besides Incirlik, from which U.S. and British planes currently enforce a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Gul said a war against Iraq would be waged at a heavy price for all countries in the region and could result in region-wide instability. He emphasized that the potential for a divided Iraq emerging from a war, with the possible emergence of a Kurdish state, was an important reason to promote a non-violent solution to the situation in Baghdad. In meetings with Jordan's King Abdullah and Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb in Amman, officials on both sides expressed concern that both economic and political instability could be a consequence of a campaign against Iraq. The king stated that a settlement to avert war must be found through the United Nations. In addition to sharing borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan are both key U.S. allies in the region that have faced pressure from Washington to provide logistical support for a war. They both receive oil from Iraq and have significant trade ties with the country, with Jordan being Iraq's largest trading partner. Both Gul and Jordanian officials expressed their hope that the U.S. would provide them with monetary compensation for the deleterious impact a war was expected to have on their economies. Jordan has repeatedly stated that it would not allow U.S. troops to use its territory as a base for an Iraq attack, while Gul has stressed that a decision to allow U.S. troops to be based in Turkey in conjunction with an Iraq war would have to be made by the Turkish parliament after January 27, when U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq are scheduled to report their findings to the U.N. Security Council. The Turkish prime minister also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Atef Obeid in Egypt, which is also being urged by the U.S. to make its air bases available to American forces in the event of a conflict. While Gul was in Damascus for talks with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro, it was announced that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara would continue bilateral discussions on preventing a war with Iraq during a trip to Ankara on January 13-14. In addition, Al-Assad was scheduled to visit Turkey in March. Gul was to visit Saudi Arabia on January 11 to meet with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, and was to travel to Iran on January 12. Gul's multi-nation tour was seen as a way of indicating to the Turkish public that it has done all it could to avoid a war. It also served as a means of assessing the view of these Muslim countries toward Turkey's potential involvement in a war, given Turkey's past isolation from other Muslim countries in the region. An early January poll showed that 87 percent of Turks oppose a war against Iraq. Turkey has upgraded its diplomatic ties with Iraq to ambassadorial level, after more than a year of chilly relations following allegations that Iraq's last ambassador to Turkey had met with one of the men who organized the September 11 terrorist attacks. The state minister responsible for foreign trade, Kursat Tuzmen, visited Iraq on January 10, along with 350 businessmen, to discuss expansion of Turkey's trade with its southern neighbor. January 10, 2003 Military Issues Anti-Islamic Warning to Government Washington, D.C. - The chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, publicly accused the new government of encouraging Islamic fundamentalism, the first public, post-election sign of tension between the military and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative party with Islamist roots. Ozkok was referring to Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's stated opposition to an order by the military expelling seven soldiers from the army for involvement in what it termed "fundamentalist activities." Every year, the Turkish military purges officers suspected of having Islamist sympathies, but these soldiers have no right of appeal. Gul said that he would try to amend the law to allow the expelled soldiers to contest their dismissal. He also pledged to lift the ban on the wearing of Islamic-style headscarves by women in schools, universities, and government offices, a move Ozkok stated would be frowned upon by the military. The military has viewed itself as the guardian of the secular principles of the Turkish state since its inception in 1923. January 10, 2003 Erdogan Revitalizes Ties with Azerbaijan Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan Washington, D.C. - The leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spent five days in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan for official meetings designed to revive flagging economic and political relations with these Turkic-speaking Central Asian states that are rich in oil and natural gas. Turkey is eager to consolidate its role as a bridge for transporting Central Asian energy resources to European and other world markets. Discussions during Erdogan's trip covered a project slated to export natural gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz reserves to Erzurum, Turkey, through Tbilisi, Georgia. The project has been delayed over concerns that Turkey's stagnating economy might make it unable to meet its commitment to purchase the gas. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, beginning in Baku, Azerbaijan, and ending in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, began in September 2002. While energy matters were the main focus of the trip, talks also covered issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, regional security, and economic and trade relations. The AKP leader was accompanied by 150 Turkish businessmen. There has been a drop in the number of bilateral meetings between Turkey and these countries in the past few years, as Ankara focused on its preparations for meeting the EU's requirements for accession talks. In addition, Turkey's annual trade volume with Central Asia declined by 30 percent in 2001 to $830 million, including $300 million with Azerbaijan, $210 million with Kazakhstan, and $180 million with Turkmenistan. In late December, Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the situation in Iraq and bilateral trade relations, including Russia's gas sales to Turkey. The new Blue Stream gas pipeline running from Russia under the Black Sea to Turkey is expected to deliver regular supplies of gas by January 15. Erdogan will also visit China from January 14-17. January 3, 2003 U.S. War planning Envisions Participation of Turkey in Northern Front Washingotn, D.C. - Washington is developing plans for establishing a northern front in a war against Baghdad that would involve transporting thousands of U.S. soldiers into northern Iraq by helicopter from Turkish bases during the early stages of an invasion. A U.S. team has already visited Turkish bases to assess their readiness to receive American forces. Once in northern Iraq, these soldiers would secure the oil fields in the region and help to stabilize the provinces controlled by ethnic Kurds in the no-fly zone, preventing these Kurds from seizing further territory. This movement of troops would occur as much larger invasions were being carried out from the west and the south. Due to the high mountains in northern Iraq, only a small number of special forces would be expected to enter the country on the ground. In late December, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor and State Department Undersecretary Marc Grossman met in Ankara with the Turkish state minister in charge of the treasury, Ali Babacan, to discuss an economic aid package for Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq. Turkey has reportedly asked the U.S. for $28 billion in assistance to offset damage that a war would cause in areas such as tourism and exports, and has reiterated its longstanding request that the U.S. forgive $4 billion in military loans to Ankara. Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said that, although Ankara is exhausting all avenues to prevent a war in Iraq, the government is building up its military strength in southeastern Turkey and will play a role in such a war, despite the strong opposition of the Turkish public and business leaders. Turkey has not yet informed the U.S. concerning the level of its participation in the war. The leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated that Turkey would make no concrete promise of support for a U.S.-led military operation against Baghdad until the January 27 release of the initial results of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq and the passage of a second resolution on Iraq by the U.N. Security Council, expected at the end of January. A vote by the Turkish parliament will be required to allow the use of bases by the U.S. and the deployment of American forces on Turkish soil for a war, and Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will have to approve that decision. Gul said that he would travel to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Iran to discuss the possibility of peacefully disarming Iraq. He is also scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on January 24. Israel's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, and the chief of the Turkish General Staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, met in Ankara on December 24 reportedly to discuss coordination of the operations of the air and missile defenses of Turkey and Israel in the event of a war in Iraq, as well as cooperation in military training and the defense industry. The navies of Turkey, Israel, and the U.S. held their joint annual search and rescue exercise on January 1 in the international waters off the Israeli coastline. The exercise, "Reliant Mermaid," is the fifth such maneuver between the United States and its two allies since 1998. January 3, 2003 Sezer Opens Way for Erdogan to Become Prime Minister President Sezer approved constitutional changes passed by Turkey's parliament that will make it possible for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), to run for a parliamentary seat in a by-election in the southeastern province of Siirt and replace Abdullah Gul as prime minister if he wins, as expected. A by-election to repeat voting for three parliamentary seats was scheduled for February 9, following the Supreme Electoral Board's decision that irregularities had taken place in Siirt during the November 3 elections. On January 2, the head of the Board stated that the by-election might be postponed until March or April since the harsh winter weather in the region might result in a low turnout. The constitutional changes, which were passed with strong support from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), were initially rejected by Sezer, who considered them tailored specifically to benefit Erdogan. The parliament then passed the legislation unchanged and sent it to Sezer a second time. When this occurs, the president is required by law to approve it or refer it to the Turkish public for approval in a referendum. Because of Erdogan's popularity, the public would likely have backed the amendments if a referendum had been called, prompting Sezer to approve the changes. Erdogan was unable to become prime minister following the November 3 elections, despite the overwhelming victory of AKP, because he was not a member of parliament. Article 76 of the Turkish constitution stipulates that anyone convicted of an ideological crime cannot become a parliamentary candidate. In 1998, Erdogan was convicted of inciting religious hatred for publicly reading a poem, an act that was interpreted as advocating an Islamist revolution. Under the new constitutional amendments, Article 76 now prevents only those convicted of terrorism from running for parliament. December 20, 2002 EU Commitment to Begin Accession Talks if Criteria Met Washington, D.C. - At the December 12-13 European Union summit in Copenhagen, the EU made a commitment to determine in December 2004 whether Turkey has fulfilled the criteria for opening accession negotiations and will launch the negotiations "without delay" if the criteria have been met. It also encouraged Turkey "to pursue energetically its reform process" and offered significantly increased pre-accession aid. The basis for determining Turkey's preparedness for talks will be an annual report by the European Commission on the progress the country has made toward legislating and implementing key reforms, as well as a recommendation by the Commission. The Copenhagen criteria to be met, laid down in 1993 in Denmark's capital city, include full respect for human rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and association, the freeing of all political prisoners, and greater rights for minorities; the abolition of torture; and the imposition of civilian control over the military. Torture has been outlawed in Turkey, but it is sometimes still practiced by local and regional security forces. Although Turkey has granted the right to teach and broadcast in Kurdish, it is expected to provide greater rights to Kurds. The leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had lobbied vigorously for a definite date in 2003 for the start of accession talks and initially criticized the EU's decision at the summit. Later, Erdogan referred to the decision as a "major success" since a roadmap that was favorable to Turkey had emerged and EU-Turkey relations were progressing. Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul added that the European Union's pledge to open membership talks immediately, if the December 2004 review is positive, had made it clear that Turkey will become a member of the EU. Public opinion was divided over the EU's decision. Some believed that the EU commitment to talks, although at a later date, was a victory, giving parliament sufficient time to complete the difficult reforms required by the bloc. Others felt that Turkey had been treated unfairly since it had passed a significant reform package in August 2002 and was in the process of moving forward toward the legislation of additional reforms. Greece, Britain, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Portugal had backed talks starting in January 2004, while France and Germany had proposed negotiations beginning by July 2005 if criteria had been met by the end of 2004. Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, and Luxembourg had argued for a much longer timetable. The U.S. had supported Turkey in seeking an earlier date for talks. On the eve of the summit, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a letter to Chris Patten, the EU's external affairs commissioner, reinforced weeks of exertion by the Bush administration, backed by Britain, for the start of accession talks even if the required human rights reforms were not yet in place. The letter arrived as President George Bush was making a second round of calls to EU leaders to promote a date for talks. December 20, 2002 Leader of Turkey's Ruling Party Invited to Washington Washington, D.C. - During Erdogan's December 9-10 visit to Washington at the invitation of President Bush, the AKP leader discussed ways that the U.S. and Turkey could cooperate in a war against Iraq in meetings with the president, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Erdogan presented the demands Ankara would make in exchange for its support for U.S. military action in Iraq, while Bush, just two days before the EU Copenhagen summit, publicly reiterated strong U.S. support for the granting of a date for Ankara's accession talks by the European Union. Erdogan asked Bush for stepped-up U.S. support for Turkey's EU aspirations. It is extremely rare for a U.S. president to meet with the leader of a country's ruling party who is not prime minister. Bush's meeting with Erdogan was part of a major diplomatic offensive on the part of the U.S. to gain political as well as military support for an Iraq campaign. In addition, it sent a clear message to Turkey's political establishment and the Turkish people that the United States wants to do business with the new government, despite its Islamist roots. The United States is considering providing a substantial military and economic aid package to Turkey, which would help offset anticipated losses to the Turkish economy if a war against Iraq goes forward. Turkey's participation in such a war would enhance its chances of receiving long-sought debt relief for the $4 billion it owes the U.S. in military loans. December 20, 2002 Erdogan's Hopes to Become Prime Minister Thwarted Washington, D.C. - Erdogan's plans to become prime minister were dashed by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's decision to veto changes parliament made to the constitution that would have allowed the AKP leader to replace Prime Minister Abdullah Gul. Parliament voted 440 to 18 to remove a constitutional clause that prevented Erdogan from seeking a seat in the legislative body in the November 3 elections, opening the possibility that he could become prime minister by running in a February 9 by-election in the southeastern province of Siirt. As a result of a decision by the Supreme Electoral Board to annul the election results in the province due to irregularities, voters will recast their ballots for three parliamentarians in the by-election. Party officials had signaled that Erdogan planned to run for one of the seats. The clause that was removed barred candidates from running for parliament if they had been convicted of engaging in illegal "ideological and anarchic activities." In 1998, Erdogan was convicted of inciting religious hatred when his public recitation of a poem was characterized by the courts as an act of Islamist sedition. Sezer objected to the constitutional changes, saying that they were based on "subjective, concrete, and personal aims." Parliament must now decide whether to vote on the changes again. If they pass a second time without changes, the president has the power to call a referendum concerning the amendments, which would likely take place too late for Erdogan to run in the Siirt by-election. December 20, 2002 Turkey Lifts Objections to Use of NATO Assets by EU Force In an agreement brokered at the Copenhagen summit, Turkey dropped its objections to the use of NATO's planning and military assets by the proposed EU military force. The move opened the way for deployment of the force in F.Y.R. Macedonia, possibly by February, to replace an alliance peacekeeping force of about 700 troops. Turkey, with the second-largest army in NATO, had long sought assurances that the EU force would not use NATO assets against Turkish interests, particularly in Cyprus. Under the terms of the agreement, Cyprus will not take part in European Union military operations conducted using NATO assets once it has become a member of the EU. In 1999, the EU agreed to establish a 60,000-member rapid reaction force, capable of deployment within 60 days, by mid-2003, as a central element of its European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The force's first police mission will begin on January 1, 2003, in Bosnia, where more than 500 officers will take over an operation led by the United Nations. The EU has said that it would also like to lead a peacekeeping operation in Bosnia to replace the 17,000-member NATO-led SFOR peacekeeping force currently there. The EU force will be used to carry out missions independently of NATO, if the alliance declines to lead the missions. December 6, 2002 Reform Package Submitted to Parliament as Ankara Awaits Decision on Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - In an effort to enhance Turkey's chances of being offered a date for starting EU accession talks at the bloc's December 12-13 Copenhagen summit, the new government presented a 32-article draft package of critical human rights reforms to parliament on December 3, just four days after it won the vote of confidence in the legislative body that officially launched it. The government wants the laws to be passed before the summit begins The package included draft bills that focus on meeting past demands of the EU, such as enhancing freedom of expression, preventing torture, revising court procedures, granting detainees immediate access to legal counsel, allowing families to give children Kurdish names, easing restrictions on the press, civic groups, and non-Muslim religious foundations, and ending political party banning. Parliament recessed on December 4 for Bayram, a four-day Islamic religious holiday, but is expected to resume discussion of the reform package several days before summit. AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to go to Copenhagen the day before the summit begins to carry out last-minute lobbying for the setting of a date for Ankara's accession talks at the summit. In November, Erdogan toured 14 European capitals in an effort to convince EU leaders to offer Turkey a date in Copenhagen. A week before the summit was to begin, France and Germany agreed to propose a conditional date in Copenhagen for Turkey to begin accession talks in 2005, subject to a European Commission report. Under the proposal, the Commission would prepare a report in the second half of 2004 on the progress made by Ankara on democratic reforms. If the report is positive, the EU would set July 1, 2005, as the date for launching talks. The proposal must be approved by all 15 member states to be adopted at the summit. Erdogan rejected the Franco-German proposal, stating that it would be unacceptable for Turkey to wait more than two years to begin talks. He said Ankara would accept nothing less from the summit than the setting of a firm date for the start of talks and would ask that the date not extend beyond 2003. Erdogan's trip to Copenhagen will be preceded by a two-day visit to Washington on December 9 and 10 to meet with President George Bush and other officials. The visit, just a few days before the summit, is seen as a demonstration of U.S. support for Turkey's accession process, as well as an opportunity to discuss preparations for a possible U.S.-led campaign against Iraq and Washington's desire to see a framework agreement for a Cyprus solution concluded before the summit. Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union since 1963 and was named an EU candidate in December 1999. December 6, 2002 U.S. Discusses Iraq Campaign Planning with Turkish Officials Washington, D.C. - During an early December visit to Ankara to discuss Turkey's level of support for a U.S.-led military operation against Iraq with the new government, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated that the discussions included the possibility that Washington will invest several hundred million dollars in the upgrading of Turkish bases if it is determined that they will be used in the campaign. Wolfowitz, accompanied by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, said U.S. and Turkish officials had agreed to proceed with the next steps of military planning in order to make decisions concerning the basing of forces in Turkey and the improvements that would be made in Turkish facilities. Wolfowitz said the projected level of U.S. forces operating out of Turkey during an Iraqi campaign had not yet been determined. A statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul stated that Turkey's parliament, not the government, would make the final decision with regard to military matters concerning a potential campaign against Iraq, as close consultations between Ankara and Washington continued. The deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff, Yasar Buyukanit, stated that no decision concerning Turkish support for a campaign had been made by the National Security Council when it met for the first time under the new government on November 29. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis stated that Turkey believed a second U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq would be necessary before any military action could be taken, in the event that Iraq does not comply with the U.N. directives on disarmament. This position is at odds with the Bush administration's view that Resolution 1441, passed by the Council in November, provides the legal authority to carry out an attack if the Iraqi government fails to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. To encourage Turkish support for an Iraq campaign, the United States has urged the EU to set a date at the Copenhagen summit for the start of Turkey's accession talks and is considering a significant aid package to compensate for economic losses that Turkey is likely to incur as a result of such a campaign. December 6, 2002 Turkey, Greece Envision Continued Cyprus Negotiations after Summit Washington, D.C. - The week before the Copenhagen summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis welcomed Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou in Ankara, and both officials stated that efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement should continue after the summit if a framework agreement is not achieved by then. Yakis's statement was a departure from the position of the government of former prime minister Bulent Ecevit, which had suggested that Turkey would take strong measures, including the possible annexation of northern Cyprus, if a divided Cyprus were asked to join the EU at the summit. Yakis stated that Turkey's position regarding the accession of a divided Cyprus was that the EU would be taking in a "very sick child." He said, however, that he was confident of the Greek Cypriot side's intention to resolve the Cyprus problem, thereby allowing Turkish Cypriots to actually participate in the European Union. Both foreign ministers pledged to promote the conclusion of a framework agreement by the time the EU leaders met in Copenhagen. A Turkish government statement issued following the November 29 meeting of Turkey's powerful National Security Council, the country's main decision-making body composed of the top military and civilian leaders, said the Council supported Denktash's position concerning the process of negotiating a settlement. December 6, 2002 State of Emergency Lifted Entirely in Southeast Washington, D.C. - Turkey has lifted a 15-year-old state of emergency in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey by ending curfews, restrictions on gatherings, and other measures in the last two provinces, Diyarbakir and Sirnak, where it remained in force. The move was welcomed by the European Union, which considered it to be a critical requirement for Turkey's EU membership eligibility. Emergency rule was imposed in 13 southeastern provinces in 1987, three years after fighting began between Turkey's military and separatist guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The government gradually began phasing out restrictive measures in these provinces as the fighting diminished to sporadic clashes in 1999 after the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. December 6, 2002 Cancelled Election Result May Open Way for Erdogan to Be Prime Minister Washington, D.C. - Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board has annulled the results of the November 3 parliamentary elections in the southeastern province of Siirt, a move that could provide an opportunity for Erdogan to run for parliament if the legislative body changes an article of the constitution that now bans him from running. Under the article, Erdogan's 1998 conviction for Islamist sedition, stemming from a public reading of a poem, prevents him from being a parliamentary candidate. A February by-election will be held in Siirt, where the electoral board found irregularities in polling that sent three deputies to parliament. Erdogan could run for the seat of one of the deputies, who was elected as an AKP candidate. AKP, with 363 seats in parliament, is four votes short of attaining the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution. The leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, has expressed support for amending the constitution to open the way for Erdogan to run for parliament. November 22, 2002 Abdullah Gul Named Prime Minister Washington, D.C. - Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer asked Abdullah Gul, the deputy leader of the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan's right-hand man, to form a new government, the first single-party government in 15 years. The choice of Gul, a strong advocate of Turkey's European Union membership aspirations and close ties with the U.S., was welcomed by market watchers for his strong background in economics, providing him with the experience to deal with the IMF, and for his reputation for moderate, pro-Western views, despite the Islamist roots of his party. Gul stated that his government would give first priority to recovery from the economic crisis and would maintain the country's focus on both its strategic partnership with the United States and its candidacy for EU membership. In a telephone call to Gul to congratulate him, President George Bush invited the new prime minister to visit Washington in 2003. Gul, a 52-year-old former economics professor who has been elected to parliament three times, has a doctorate in economics and spent eight years working at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He has been active in Turkey's Islamist movements since the late 1970s and served as a minister without portfolio in 1996 and 1997 in a coalition led by the now-banned Islamist Welfare Party and Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. Gul's pro-Western views, at odds with those of the former leader of the now-banned Islamist Virtue Party (FP), Recai Kutan, contributed to the formation of AKP in 2001 when FP was closed down by a Turkish court. Kutan and his more conservative Islamist forces, loyal to Erbakan, formed the Felicity Party (SP), while Gul joined Erdogan in siphoning off the more moderate deputies from the reformist wing of Virtue to establish AKP. SP received 2.5 percent in the November 3 parliamentary elections, while AKP received 34.3 percent. Although AKP took 363 of the 550 seats in parliament, Erdogan was unable to become prime minister because of a 1998 conviction for publicly reading a poem that was considered seditious by a Turkish court. Despite being sidelined from the post, he is expected to play a leading role, alongside Gul, in shaping the government's policies. Following his appointment as prime minister, Gul stated that AKP would work to show the international community that a Muslim country could be democratic, transparent, and compatible with the modern world, as it focuses on its primary goals of revitalizing the economy, gaining membership in the European Union, and promoting social welfare. He stated that AKP is a conservative party that seeks the religious freedoms enjoyed in the West, but it will not follow an Islamist agenda. Gul said the new government believed that the establishment of a NATO-EU strategic partnership and the development of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) were vital, adding that ESDP should include NATO countries that are not part of the European Union, such as Turkey, if the EU wished to be a credible actor in the new global security environment. Following Gul's appointment, the Turkish lira hit four-month highs against the dollar, while interest rates also fell. Shares on the Turkish stock market rose about 50 percent in the weeks immediately before and after the elections as it became clear that AKP would have a large parliamentary majority, heralding a period of political stability. November 22, 2002 New Cabinet Formed and Approved Quickly Within two days of appointing Gul, Sezer approved the new prime minister's cabinet list, with few changes, laying the groundwork for the new government to move quickly in implementing its ambitious agenda of fighting corruption, improving human rights, lowering inflation, and increasing privatization to gain the confidence of financial markets and the European Union. The cabinet, all AKP members, was reduced to 25 ministers from 37 in order to cut state expenditure and increase the government's efficiency. Gul appointed 35-year-old Ali Babacan, who is a graduate of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and worked as a private-sector financial consultant in the United States, to serve as economy minister. The finance minister will be Kemal Unakitan, an advisor of Erdogan's when he was mayor of Istanbul. Yasar Yakis, a 64-year-old career diplomat and Arab expert, was named foreign minister. He has served as Turkey's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. Vecdi Gonul, a former Interior Ministry undersecretary and a former regional governor, who is close to Sezer, was appointed defense minister. A former police official from the southeast, Abdulkadir Aksu, will be interior minister, while Ali Coskun, a businessman and former chairman of the Turkish Union of Chambers, was appointed minister of trade and industry. Erkan Mumcu, tourism minister in the outgoing government, who moved over to AKP from the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) prior to the elections, will be education minister, considered a sensitive position because of the Islamic-style headscarf issue. The three deputy prime ministers are Ertugrul Yalcinbayir, a lawyer and former member of ANAP; Abdullatif Sener, finance minister in the 1996-1997 Islamist-led government; and Mehmet Ali Sahin, one of the founding members of AKP. Bulent Arinc, AKP's former parliamentary group chairman, was elected speaker of parliament. The speaker acts as the president's proxy during the president's trips abroad. A parliamentary vote of confidence will be held in late November, officially launching the new government. There will be no problem obtaining this vote since it requires the support of 276 deputies and AKP holds 363 parliamentary seats. November 22, 2002 Economic Plan Given High Profile in Reform Agenda Washington, D.C. - As Abdullah Gul was being named prime minister by Sezer, Erdogan made clear his role as a strong force behind Gul by announcing at a press conference a program of economic and social reforms aimed at increasing Turkey's chances of becoming an EU member. Erdogan gave high visibility to planned economic reforms, stating that priority would be given to privatization, spending cuts, including downsizing the overstaffed public sector, and tax reform in order to meet the demands of the $16 billion IMF economic rescue program. The AKP leader stated that the party wanted to renegotiate certain elements of the IMF program to ease hardship caused by the financial crisis, particularly in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The government's talks with the IMF are scheduled to take place in January. In addition, Erdogan promised to enforce more effective debt collection at banks seized during the financial crisis and to promote the rapid sale of their assets. Ali Babacan, following his appointment as economy minister, stated that AKP would focus attention on regulation of the banking sector, at the heart of Turkey's economic crisis, naming it as one of the most important factors for Turkey's recovery. He pledged to ensure that the banking watchdog would be independent from political influence. To combat the pricing of the energy sector above world market prices and promote economic growth, Erdogan said lower energy prices would be achieved through a cut in subsidies to the state television company. In addition, energy sector operating licenses would be transferred to the private sector within three months to create competition, and mining companies would be privatized. Erdogan also said increased incentives for businesses and manufacturers would be launched, as well as more support for low-income farmers. A program to build 9,000 miles of roads is slated to begin within six months. Turkey's economy is showing signs of recovery due to the strict adherence of the outgoing administration to the terms of the IMF program. However, a further reduction of the budget is necessary to tackle the country's massive domestic debt load. The AKP leader stated that stiffer punishments would be given in cases involving bribery and corruption, widely regarded as one of the causes of Turkey's economic crisis, while tough penalties against the use of torture in the penal system, a key prerequisite for beginning EU accession talks, would be taken immediately. He also called for a relaxation of the secular laws that prohibit women wearing Islamic-style headscarves from attending public universities and called for reform of the education system. November 22, 2002 U.S. Encourages EU to Give Turkey Date for Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - On November 18, President George Bush telephoned Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, and urged him to advance Turkey's EU candidacy, noting the importance of the December 12-13 EU Copenhagen summit in this regard. Washington supports giving Ankara a date for starting EU accession talks at the summit. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has stated that the United States believes Turkey's future is in Europe, and it is in the strategic interests of the U.S. and the EU that Turkey and the 15-member bloc build the closest possible relationship. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated on November 19 than an "extra signal" of the EU's commitment to Turkey's candidacy would be given to Ankara at Copenhagen. November 15, 2002 New Parliament Sworn In Washington, D.C. - Turkey's new parliament was sworn in on November 14, eleven days after general elections that resulted in a landslide victory for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative party with Islamist roots led by former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The parliament consists of 363 parliamentarians from AKP, just four shy of the number of deputies required for a two-thirds majority; 178 from the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP); and nine independents. It has been 48 years since representation in parliament was limited to only two parties, and it is the first time since the Turkish republic was founded in 1923 that as many as 500 of the 550 deputies have been newly elected. The first session of parliament was chaired by CHP deputy Sukru Elekdag, the eldest member of the legislative body, with elections for parliamentary speaker expected to be held within five days of the session. The Turkish public has welcomed AKP's proposal to discontinue the government's practice of providing fully paid housing for parliamentarians in homes built especially for this purpose by the state. AKP has proposed that the homes be sold, requiring deputies to rent or buy their own homes. In addition, the party's proposal to reduce the number of cabinet ministries from 37 to 23, with plans to decrease the number of institutions operating under the prime ministry, currently 64, is considered a popular move. AKP and CHP have also agreed on a new set of rules concerning ethics in parliament, including requiring deputies to make full accounts of their incomes public. November 15, 2002 Appointment of Prime Minister Expected Soon Washington, D.C. - Erdogan met with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on November 15 and gave him three nominees for the office of prime minister, who is formally appointed by the president. Sezer was expected to announce his choice for prime minister no later than November 16. Erdogan cannot become head of government under the country's constitution because he is not a parliamentary deputy. He was barred from running for parliament due to a 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred, stemming from his reading of a poem considered anti-secular by a Turkish court. CHP leader Deniz Baykal has stated that he favors making changes in the constitution that would allow Erdogan to become prime minister. Such changes, which would require a two-thirds majority vote, or the votes of 367 parliamentarians, have been publicly opposed by Sezer. It would be necessary to amend Article 109, which stipulates that the prime minister will be appointed by Turkey's president from among the elected deputies in parliament. In addition, it would be necessary to change Article 76, which states that anyone who has been convicted of "involvement in ideological or anarchistic activities," which includes inciting religious hatred, cannot be elected to parliament or serve in any capacity in the government, even if the individual who committed the crime has been pardoned. Under changes in Turkey's penal code in the August 2002 reform package passed by parliament, the offense for which Erdogan was convicted is no longer considered a crime. There has been some resistance in CHP to the idea of amending the constitution to allow a non-parliamentarian to become prime minister. There are concerns in Turkey that such an amendment would gradually destroy the country's parliamentary system by encouraging those outside parliament to seek the premiership. Baykal has, instead, stated that he would back constitutional changes that would permit Erdogan to run for parliament through by-elections. According to Article 78 of the constitution, by-elections will be held within three months if at least 28 seats in parliament, or five percent of the total number of seats, become vacant. If fewer vacancies exist, by-elections cannot be held until 30 months have elapsed from the date of the previous general elections. The five-year ban on engagement in political activity by Erdogan, which was imposed following his conviction, will end in March 2003. If Article 76 were amended to allow Erdogan to serve in parliament, he could run for a vacant seat in by-elections. Former Turkish justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk noted that changes in election and political party laws could open the way for Erdogan to become prime minister, without any changes in the constitution. November 15, 2002 Erdogan Begins Push for EU Accession Talks Date Washington, D.C. - As AKP party leader, Erdogan began a tour of European capitals for talks with EU leaders on plans to move ahead with human rights reforms in an attempt to persuade them to grant Turkey a date for the start of EU accession talks at the December Copenhagen summit. As AKP party leader, Erdogan began a tour of European capitals for talks with EU leaders on plans to move ahead with human rights reforms in an attempt to persuade them to grant Turkey a date for the start of EU accession talks at the December Copenhagen summit. Although he was initially slated to travel first to Athens, he began his tour in Rome on November 13 to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who told Erdogan that Italy supported Turkey's bid to join the EU and said that the beginning of its accession negotiations should not be postponed beyond 2003. In Italy, where he also met with opposition leaders, Erdogan presented a nine-point list of reforms that the AKP majority in parliament will move quickly to tackle, in order to make rapid progress toward fulfilling additional EU membership criteria. CHP has said it supports AKP's reform agenda and will cooperate with the party to push the reforms through parliament. The list of reforms includes a thorough review of the constitution to comply with EU human rights standards, implementation of the outstanding rulings by the European Court of Human Rights concerning Turkey, the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression and conscience, zero tolerance of torture, and strengthening freedom of religion, including allowing non-Muslim religious foundations to own real estate. The AKP leader returned to Ankara the next day to meet with the EU's foreign policy and defense chief, Javier Solana, who was visiting Turkey at the invitation of Erdogan. Their discussions covered a variety of foreign policy issues, including Turkey-EU relations, the new U.N. plan to reunite Cyprus, and Turkey's role in the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Solana also met with Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal of the current caretaker government. On November 18, Erdogan will resume his European tour by visiting Greece to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and will then travel to Spain for talks with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. On November 20, the AKP leader is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London before traveling on to Brussels for discussions with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. While Erdogan is in Brussels, he will also hold talks with EU Commission President Romano Prodi and EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen, who has stated that he does not believe that Turkey is ready to open accession talks. Verheugen discounted, however, comments by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who stated that admitting a Muslim country of nearly 70 million inhabitants would be the "end of the European Union" since Turkey was "not a European country." A spokesman for French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin stated that the remarks of Giscard d'Estaing, who is drafting a new constitution for the EU, do not reflect the position of the French government. Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller of Denmark, which currently holds the EU presidency, stated that Turkey could start accession negotiations when it fulfilled the criteria for membership. (See Western Policy Center remarks in theWall Street JournalNovember 112002 Other stops on Erdogan's European trip will be Ireland and Denmark, as well as a visit to Strasbourg to meet with EU officials. In addition, Erdogan was scheduled to travel to northern Cyprus on November 16 to meet with Denktash, who was expected to return from a six-week stay in New York, where he underwent heart surgery. November 8, 2002 Islamist Party Gains Absolute MajorityRuling Coalition Out of Parliament Washington, D.C. - Reflecting dissatisfaction with the country's severe economic crisis, pervasive corruption, and fractious coalition rule, Turkey's electorate gave the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative party with Islamist roots, an outright majority in parliament, while excluding all other parties from the legislative body except the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP), which was not represented in the last parliament. It is the first time since the Turkish republic was established in 1923 that an Islamist party has secured a parliamentary majority. The country has had only one Islamist-led coalition government, in power from 1996 to 1997. It was forced to resign under pressure from the military and the political establishment. It is also the first time in 15 years that any party has been in a position to govern alone without having to seek a coalition partner. Winning 34.2 percent of the vote, AKP, headed by former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took 363 of the 550 parliamentary seats. Deniz Baykal's CHP, the only other party to attain the 10 percent of the national vote required to enter parliament, received 19.5 percent, taking 178 seats. CHP is Turkey's oldest party, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nine candidates were elected to parliament as independent deputies, eight of whom are from eastern and southeastern Turkey. The sixteen other parties that fielded candidates failed to reach the 10 percent threshold, including the three parties of the ruling coalition: Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP), with 1.2 percent; Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), with 5.1 percent; and Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli's far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) with 8.3 percent. Former prime minister Tansu Ciller's True Path Party (DYP) fell slightly short of the threshold with 9.5 percent. November 8, 2002 Choice of Prime Minister Remains Undecided Under Turkey's constitution, Erdogan cannot become prime minister since he was banned from running for parliament because of a 1998 conviction and four months in prison the following year for publicly reading a poem that a court considered anti-secular. AKP is expected to name a candidate for prime minister, who must be formally appointed by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the week of November 11. There is speculation that any candidate chosen from the ranks of AKP could, in effect, be controlled by Erdogan from behind the scenes. The most obvious candidate is AKP deputy leader Abdullah Gul, a former banker who is close to Erdogan. Other possibilities include AKP founding member Bulent Arinc, a lawyer and former parliamentarian in the now-banned Islamist Welfare and Virtue parties; Vecdi Gonul, who has ministerial experience and is a friend of Sezer's; Abdullatif Sener, a former finance minister; Abdulkadir Aksu, a former cabinet minister and regional security chief; and Ertugrul Yalcinbayir, general secretary of AKP and a former member of the center-right Motherland Party. Although AKP is four seats short of the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to change the constitution to allow Erdogan to serve as prime minister, the opposition CHP has suggested that it might support such a change. Turkey's chief prosecutor has petitioned the Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, to close down AKP on charges that it broke election regulations by choosing a leader who had been convicted of sedition when the party was formed last year. The prosecutor has also sought an injunction against Erdogan to prevent him from continuing to head the party in violation of the regulations. The Court has given Erdogan until November 15 to prepare his defense against the case calling for his resignation as party leader. November 8, 2002 AKP Leader Pledges Pro-Western OrientationEU Accession as Top Priority Washington, D.C. - Erdogan stated that he would make Turkey's bid to join the European Union the top priority of AKP. He said he had planned a tour of European capitals, beginning with Athens, and would pledge the party's commitment to political and economic reform in order to persuade EU member countries to set a date at the December EU summit in Copenhagen for the start of Turkey's accession talks. Erdogan and the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, who met following the elections, stated that, prior to the EU summit, their parties would cooperate on passing the reforms needed to boost Turkey's chances of beginning membership negotiations. This declaration of cooperation on legislating reforms contrasts with the situation in the previous parliament in which the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the three coalition parties, repeatedly blocked progress on major reform legislation linked to EU accession criteria. Yasar Yakis, the deputy leader of AKP who may become the next foreign minister, stated that the new government would focus particularly on eliminating torture in the detention system. With regard to a possible U.S.-led campaign against Baghdad, Erdogan stated that AKP hoped the situation in Iraq would be resolved peacefully. He said the party would be opposed to military action against Turkey's neighbor to the south unless it had the backing of the United Nations. Yakis stated that the future ruling party's perspective on Iraq was consistent with that of the previous government. The AKP leader said the party would stand by the commitments made by the previous government to the IMF under the $16 billion economic reform program, but it could seek a more balanced program to alleviate social hardship. Ali Coskun, the AKP deputy chairman responsible for economic affairs, said the party would act quickly to pass the legislation required to complete the fourth review of the progress made under the IMF program, which has been delayed due to the elections. November 8, 2002 Chief of Turkish Military in Washington for High-Level Talks The new chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, who took over the position in August, arrived in Washington the day after the November 3 Turkish elections for talks with U.S. officials on issues that included a possible U.S.-led military operation against Iraq. While in the U.S. capital for discussions with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, General Ozkok said Turkey's national policy was that the situation in Iraq should be resolved without a war. Other topics covered during the general's six-day visit were U.S.-Turkish cooperation in the defense industry and Turkey's role in overcoming the impasse in attempts to finalize an agreement on the use of NATO assets by the European Union rapid reaction force. The United States is considering providing a substantial military and economic aid package to Turkey, which would help offset anticipated losses to the Turkish economy if a war against Iraq goes forward. General Ozkok's visit included a trip to Tampa, Florida, to meet with General Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. Central Command. General Franks, who met with Turkish officials in Ankara in late October, would be the commander of any action the U.S. takes against Iraq. In reference to the absolute parliamentary majority obtained in the elections by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ozkok stated that the election results were "the wish of the nation" and that he respected the outcome. Due to its Islamist roots, AKP is being scrutinized carefully by the Turkish military, named by the constitution as the guardians of the country's secular form of government. The previous chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, did not visit the United States during the four years he held the position. October 25, 2002 U.S. Military Planners Consult with Ankara over Iraq Washington, D.C. - Chief of the U.S. Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Joseph Ralston, in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the U.S. European Command, held consultations with military leaders in Turkey to discuss how to deal with Iraq. While Gen. Franks stated that he and Gen. Ralston had not requested the use of Turkish airspace or bases with regard to a possible U.S.-led operation against Iraq during their visit, Turkey is expected to play an important military role in such an operation if a decision is made to act against Baghdad. Gen. Franks, who is head of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, emphasized that Washington had made no decision to attack Baghdad. If the campaign moves forward, the general will be in charge of the operation in coordination with Gen. Ralston in his role as Commander in Chief of the U.S. European Command. As a result of its participation in a campaign against Baghdad, Ankara would expect to be involved in setting up a post-Saddam government that protects Turkish interests, particularly as they relate to northern Iraq, where the Turkish government wants guarantees that the Iraqi Kurds will not establish an independent state or achieve a degree of autonomy that could rekindle Kurdish separatism among Turkey's 12 million ethnic Kurds. It has said that it would use military force to prevent such a state from being established. Turkey already maintains 2,000 to 5,000 troops in northern Iraq to suppress what remains of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla force. In talks with Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and other top brass, the two generals also discussed U.S.-Turkish military cooperation; the situation in Afghanistan, where Turkey is commanding the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); the U.S.-led war on terrorism; and Middle East developments. Turkey's participation in a war against Iraq would enhance its chances of receiving long-sought debt relief for the $4 billion it owes the United States in military loans. Turkish officials continue to express their opposition to a war against Iraq. October 18, 2002 Policemen Convicted of Torture in Case Watched by EU Washington, D.C. - In a case tracked closely by the European Union, 10 policemen were convicted in a Turkish court on October 16 and sentenced to prison terms for torturing 15 teenage boys. The teenagers were arrested in 1995 for putting up leftist posters on walls in the western city of Manisa near the Aegean port of Izmir. Observers from EU countries were in the court to monitor the trial. There had been three previous trials for the policemen, whose sentences ranged from 5 years to about 10 years. In the first two trials, which were struck down by the country's court of appeals, they were acquitted due to lack of evidence. In the third, a guilty verdict was thrown out after the Supreme Court ruled that procedural irregularities had taken place during the trial. The youths, ranging in age from 14 to 18, were convicted in 2001 for membership in leftist organizations, but the convictions were overturned by the appeals court, which said that their confessions had been forced under torture. The teenagers were jailed for five years awaiting trial. The European Commission's report on Turkey's preparations for EU membership, released on October 9, cited insufficient progress toward meeting human rights and democratization criteria as a reason for not recommending that a date be set at this time for the start of Ankara's EU accession talks. In the report, the European Commission cited the case of the policemen as an example of frequent prolonged court cases in Turkey that are often not concluded since they exceed the statute of limitations, which, in this instance, would have been June 2003. The report also said that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) had observed a gradual improvement in detention conditions in the Istanbul area, but confirmed that allegations of torture and ill treatment in police custody were still frequent in the area. It also cited the CTP's conclusion that allegations of torture and extra-judicial killings were especially prevalent in the southeast. Amnesty International, in September, stated that steps taken by Turkey to reform its penal code to protect against torture had been insufficient, maintaining that torture was used by police in most of the country's 13 provinces. The organization urged Turkey to end incommunicado detention. October 18, 2002 IMF Awaits Post-Election Economic Reforms Prior to Next Loan Installment Washington, D.C. - The IMF will expect the government that emerges after the November 3 parliamentary elections to carry out certain economic reforms promised by the current government before the financial organization will release the next $1.6 billion installment of a $16 billion loan. These reforms include laying off thousands of workers to reduce redundancies in state enterprises, adopting a privatization plan for state tobacco and alcohol monopoly TEKEL, preparing direct tax reform legislation, and proceeding with additional banking reform legislation. The government was supposed to eliminate about 30,000 positions in the public sector by the end of October, but it has retired or laid off only about 18,000 state workers. The IMF will also expect the new government to continue Ankara's commitment to a 6.5 percent primary surplus. Turkish officials raised the forecast for the country's growth in 2002 from 3 percent to 4 percent in consultation with the IMF, compared to a 9.4 percent contraction of the economy in 2001. Turkey is expected to meet its inflation target of 35 percent this year. Following the payment of the $1.6 billion installment, hopefully by the end of the year, $1.1 billion of the $16 billion loan remains to be paid to Turkey. The IMF is expected to release the $1.1 billion in four equal installments in 2003. October 11, 2002 No Date Set for EU Accession Talks Washington, D.C. - The European Commission, in its October 9 progress report on the 13 EU candidate countries, did not recommend that a date be set at this time for the start of Turkey's accession talks. The report stated that Turkey had made noticeable progress toward fulfilling political requirements for accession, commending it for the August legislation abolishing the death penalty in times of peace and granting Turkey's ethnic Kurds the right to carry out education and broadcast in the Kurdish language. It also noted other positive economic, financial, and political reforms, such as the decision to lift the state of emergency in the two southeastern provinces where it still exists by the end of the year, progress in the reorganization of the banking and agricultural sectors, and deregulation of key markets. However, it cited restrictions on the media, curbs on freedom of expression, religion, and peaceful assembly, the torture of prisoners, poor jail conditions, excessively long pre-arrest detention, and the need for stronger civilian control of Turkey's powerful armed forces as some of the reasons for recommending a delay in the launching of accession negotiations. The report also stated that the Supreme Electoral Board's decision to prevent the leader of a major political party from participating in the November 3 parliamentary elections did not “reflect the spirit of the reforms.” The statement was a reference to the banning of the candidacy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), an Islamist party that is leading all other parties in public opinion polls. The Commission recommended that EU governments increase the bloc's pre-accession financial aid to Turkey. The EU's aid allocation to Turkey for 2002 is about $147 million for projects that include judicial reform, the modernization of the country's civil service, and the promotion of independent media. Turkey became an associate member of the European Union in 1963. It formally applied for accession in 1987 and was declared a candidate in 1999. It has been pressing Brussels to set a date at the December EU summit for the beginning of accession negotiations. October 11, 2002 Ocalan's Death Sentence Commuted Washington, D.C. - Turkey has formally commuted jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan's death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, as a result of the Turkish parliament's decision in August to abolish the death penalty in times of peace. He is one of about 20 people whose death sentences are being commuted under the new law. Ocalan was sentenced to death in 1999 on charges of treason. Turkey blames him for more than 30,000 deaths in the 16-year Kurdish separatist campaign against the Turkish Army in the southeast. His execution was delayed by an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey's top court rejected a petition by the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the three parties in the current governing coalition, to overturn the laws passed last summer ending capital punishment and granting ethnic Kurds the right to carry out education and broadcast in the Kurdish language. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli had said that the laws were concessions to Kurdish separatists and demanded that Ocalan hang for leading the rebel insurgency. October 4, 2002 Election Postponement Effort Quashed Washington, D.C. - Speculation over a possible postponement of the November 3 parliamentary elections ended October 1 when parliament returned from its summer recess and blocked a motion by a group of deputies to delay the poll. Parliament voted to recess immediately until after the elections rather than remain in session to vote on the postponement motion, which was backed by parliamentarians who do not expect their parties to attain the 10 percent threshold required for parliamentary representation or who were not placed on the candidate lists by their parties. Support for the motion came from deputies from the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) of Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, the center-left New Turkey Party (YTP) of former foreign minister Ismail Cem, and the Saadet (Happiness) Party (SP) of Recai Kutan, an Islamist party. These parties combined make up 196 of the 550 seats in parliament. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had argued against an election delay, maintaining that it could result in political instability, and the influential military was widely reported to also have been opposed to a delay. Market watchers had warned that a postponement could cause further harm to an already struggling economy. A recent opinion poll commissioned by Deutsche Bank placed the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist party, at 30 percent and the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) of Deniz Baykal at 19 percent. If no other parties attain the 10 percent threshold, the parliamentary weighting system could accord AKP an absolute majority of parliament’s seats, allowing the party to form a government on its own without the need for coalition partners. In the poll, only three parties hovered at or just below the threshold: the center-right True Path Party (DYP) of former prime minister Tansu Ciller, aided by its alliance with the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP) of former Turkish diplomat Mehmet Ali Bayar and another small party; the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), popular in the predominantly Kurdish southeast; and the Youth Party (GP), a new populist party founded by Turkish business magnate Cem Uzan. Motorola and Nokia have filed a $3 billion lawsuit against Telsim Mobil, a Turkish mobile-phone carrier owned by the Uzan family, accusing Telsim of racketeering and fraud. September 27, 2002 AKP Lead Strong as Erdogan Excluded from Elections Washington, D.C. - Despite the Supreme Electoral Board's September 20 decision to ban Recep Tayyip Erdogan from running for parliament in the November 3 elections, the Islamist party he heads, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is expected to maintain its sizeable lead over all other parties going into the elections. According to a variety of public opinion polls, AKP, with figures ranging from 19 to 30 percent, and the Republican People's Party (CHP) led by Deniz Baykal, with 14 to 21 percent, are the only two parties that appear certain to cross the 10 percent threshold required for representation in parliament. Among the other parties, the True Path Party (DYP) of former prime minister Tansu Ciller is the only one that is believed to have a chance to reach the threshold, aided by its alliance with the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP) of former Turkish diplomat Mehmet Ali Bayar and another small party. The electoral board also banned the candidacies of former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, who led Turkey's Islamist movement for three decades; Murat Bozlak, the former leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP); and Akin Birdal, the country's most prominent human rights activist and former leader of the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP). Erbakan was banned from politics for five years in 1998 after a court closed his Welfare Party (RP) for violating Turkey's secular laws. Both Bozlak and Birdal served prison terms in the late 1990s on sedition charges. Erdogan referred his exclusion from the elections to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, maintaining that it violates an article of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing free elections. He is expected to continue leading AKP and said he would campaign for the party up to the elections. There is speculation that Abdullah Gul, who is Erdogan's deputy, and two other top AKP officials, Bulent Arinc and Vecdi Gonul, could be possible leaders of the party's parliamentary group and potential candidates for prime minister if the party attains an expected plurality. In a related development, the speaker of the Turkish parliament rejected a petition signed by 124 legislators calling for a special September 26 parliamentary session to allow the legislative body to discuss a postponement of the elections. The initiative to submit the petition was spearheaded by deputies from the Saadet (Happiness) Party (SP) of Recai Kutan, which is an Islamist party, and also included parliamentarians from the Motherland Party (ANAP) of Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, the New Turkey Party (YTP) of former foreign minister Ismail Cem, and Ciller's DYP, as well as eight independent parliamentarians. Parliament returns from summer recess on October 1, when the election postponement issue could be raised again, though the legislative body is expected to recess again almost immediately until after the elections. A postponement would require a simple majority vote of parliament. September 27, 2002 Construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Begins Washington, D.C. - The construction of a pipeline that will carry oil from Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea to Western markets through Georgia and Turkey was formally launched on September 18 after eight years of preparation and delays caused by disagreement over its commercial viability. A large portion of the Caspian region's oil reserves, thought to be the world's third largest after those of the Middle East and Venezuela, is still untapped. The presence of U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham at the groundbreaking ceremony for the project at Azerbaijan's Sangachal terminal, 25 miles south of the country's capital, Baku, reflected Washington's strong political support for the construction of the pipeline as a way to tap a more secure energy source outside the Middle East by enlarging the existing energy transport grid in the Caspian region, which currently relies largely on Russia. Abraham joined the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey in observing the laying of the first section of the 1,094-mile pipeline, which will end at Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and will be completed in 2004. The $3 billion pipeline, to be built and operated by an international consortium led by British Petroleum, with a 35 percent share, is expected to begin carrying 375,000 barrels of oil a day by early 2005 and 1 million a day by 2007. Partners in the consortium include Azerbaijan's national oil company, Socar, and the Turkish State Petroleum Company (TPAO), as well as U.S., French, Italian, Japanese, and Norwegian companies. A gas pipeline is also planned for the route, with an Iranian company as a minor partner. Oil from Azerbaijan is currently shipped through Russian and Georgian pipelines, while oil from Kazakhstan, which may comprise 70 percent of the Caspian Sea region's reserves, is transported through routes that include a new pipeline to Novorossiysk on Russia's Black Sea coast. It is believed that oil from Kazakhstan will eventually be transported through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Russia's longstanding opposition to the project, the first major pipeline from the Caspian region that does not go through Russian territory, has eased with Moscow's decision to welcome a cooperative U.S. presence in the region following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Russia's LUKoil has expressed an interest in shipping oil through the line. September 27, 2002 Turkish Officers Train Presidential Guards in Afghanistan Turkish peacekeepers in Afghanistan have begun a training program for 411 Afghan guards in charge of protecting the country's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, and the presidential palace. Fourteen Turkish soldiers serving in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul have been joined by 16 officers brought from Turkey to carry out the 10-week program for the Afghan National Guard Battalion. The Turkish military will also supply the battalion with uniforms, weaponry, and other equipment. The battalion received earlier training from officers from Britain, which commanded ISAF before Turkey took over the responsibility in June. The Turkish government has stated that it will not extend its six-month term as commander of ISAF beyond December 20, although it will continue to provide troops for the 5,000-member force. Turkey has contributed 1,400 troops to the force. Germany and the Netherlands are examining the possibility of jointly commanding the force after Turkey's mandate expires. A new national Afghan Army is being trained by U.S., British, and French troops, and is expected to be ready for deployment by summer 2004. September 27, 2002 Groundwork Laid for Kurdish Education and Broadcasting Washington, D.C. - As part of Ankara's effort to carry out key reforms required by the EU before it will launch accession negotiations with Turkey, the government has approved new regulations that will allow privately-run schools to teach classes in the Kurdish language and has begun making plans for broadcasting in Kurdish. The measures are part of the implementation of an August law that lifted the longstanding ban on education and broadcasting in the language of Turkey's 12 million ethnic Kurds. To be eligible to attend Kurdish-language classes, students must be graduates of the eighth grade and will need parental approval if they are under 18 years of age. Both teachers and students must be Turkish citizens. The state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) plans to permit two hours of broadcasting in Kurdish daily on its Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) channel. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) will oversee the programming, which is expected to include news bulletins, broadcasts targeting women and children in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region, and music programs. A few days after the regulations concerning Kurdish-language classes went into effect, some 30 people who had been imprisoned for signing petitions calling for Kurdish-language education were released. It remains illegal, however, for a Turkish citizen to give a child a Kurdish name. In addition, Turkish authorities banned the distribution of a new pro-Kurdish newspaper in two mainly Kurdish provinces under emergency rule after it published writings by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). On October 9, the European Commission will publish an annual progress report on the state of the political and economic readiness of Turkey and the other 12 EU candidates for accession to the bloc. On October 24-25, the 15 EU member states will meet in Brussels to name the countries expected to complete accession talks in December at the Copenhagen summit. The Turkish government hopes that the EU will set a date in the Danish capital for the start of Ankara's accession negotiations. September 20, 2002 Electoral Board Bans Islamist Leader from Running for Parliament Washington, D.C. - Turkey's Supreme Electoral Board banned Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), from running for a parliamentary seat in the November 3 elections, after the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that his 1998 conviction for “inciting hatred,” carrying a five-year ban from politics, would not be erased from his record. AKP is far ahead of all other parties in public opinion polls. The Supreme Court brushed aside a ruling by the Diyarbakir State Security Court No. 4, which determined that Erdogan's conviction, for which he served four months in prison in 1999, was no longer valid due to EU-inspired amendments to the law limiting freedom of expression. Under these amendments, the statements he made in a speech were no longer considered a crime since they posed no threat to public order. The Supreme Court, instead, upheld an earlier ruling by the Diyarbakir State Security Court No. 3, which had left Erdogan's criminal record intact. In addition to AKP, which currently has deputies in parliament, the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP) of Deniz Baykal, which is not one of the parties in the legislative body, is the only other party that has consistently placed above the 10 percent threshold needed for representation in parliament in public opinion polls. This factor led to a failed attempt by the center-left New Turkey Party (YTP) of former foreign minister Ismail Cem, the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) of Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, and the Islamist Saadet (Happiness) Party (SP) of Recai Kutan to persuade the other parties in parliament to call for an emergency session of the legislature so that the election law could be amended to lower the 10 percent threshold to 5 percent. The initiative was led by Cem's party, which said that, because of the splintering of mainstream parties, the current threshold requirement could leave a large percentage of the electorate with no representation in parliament and concentrate power in the hands of the few parties able to enter the legislature. More than 20 parties are contesting the elections. Tansu Ciller, a former prime minister and the leader of the center-right True Path Party (DYP), announced that her party was forming an alliance with the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP), a small center-right party led by Mehmet Ali Bayar, a former diplomat at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, in order to boost the two parties' chances of jointly surpassing the 10 percent threshold and entering parliament. Yilmaz failed to garner the necessary support for a postponement of the elections until December 15 in order to give the government more time to implement reforms that would increase Turkey's chances of being invited to open European Union accession negotiations at the December 12 EU summit in Copenhagen. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated that he was prepared to dissolve parliament rather than allow any delay that would lead to a postponement of the elections. September 20, 2002 U.S. Grant to Turkey for Support in War on Terrorism Congress has approved a $200 million grant in Economic Support Funds (ESF) to Turkey to defray some of the costs of its support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, particularly its takeover of the command of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan from Britain in June 2002. The funds will be transferred directly into the country's treasury for use on civilian projects. Earlier this year, the U.S. gave Turkey $28 million under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program for the purchase of equipment and services needed by Turkey to carry out its peacekeeping role in Afghanistan. September 13, 2002 Deputy Prime Minister Calls for Election Postponement Washington, D.C. - Deputy Prime Minister and Motherland Party (ANAP) leader Mesut Yilmaz, who is in charge of Turkey's relations with the European Union, called for a postponement of the November 3 parliamentary elections until after the December 12 EU summit in Copenhagen to encourage the current government to pass and implement the remaining reforms required by the EU before it will set a date for the start of Ankara's accession negotiations. Turkey hopes that a negotiation date will be designated at the summit. The EU has commended Turkey for passing key reforms this year, but has said that the designation of a date will be contingent on indications that all reforms have been implemented. Although elections could be moved forward to December 15, as requested by Yilmaz, through a simple majority vote in parliament, the ANAP leader may not have the support he needs to achieve this goal. Former prime minister Tansu Ciller, the leader of the center-right True Path Party (DYP), is regarded as a critical potential ally of Yilmaz in any attempt by him to postpone the elections. After Yilmaz's call for the postponement, she reiterated her support for elections on November 3. The only party to offer support for the postponement was the New Turkey Party (YTP) of former foreign minister Ismail Cem. Ciller's support is crucial in any effort by Yilmaz to topple the present government by pushing a vote of no-confidence through parliament, another possible way to postpone the elections. Ciller's DYP and Yilmaz's center-right ANAP are the second- and third-largest parties in parliament, respectively, after the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli. If a no-confidence vote were to succeed, however, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer could ask Bahceli, as the leader of the largest party in parliament, to form a new cabinet. Yilmaz's proposal for an election postponement was preceded by his denouncement of MHP for petitioning Turkey's Constitutional Court to overturn August legislation that is essential for EU accession. The new laws targeted by MHP abolished the death penalty in times of peace and gave Kurds the right to broadcast and educate in their own language. Bahceli asserted that the laws granted concessions to separatist Kurds and, in effect, provided an amnesty for former death-row inmate Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Yilmaz called on MHP to withdraw from the three-party ruling coalition, which also includes ANAP and the center-left Democratic Left Party (DSP) of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, stating that Turkey needed a government committed to European Union membership in order to prepare for the Copenhagen summit. Yilmaz hinted that he could pull ANAP out of the government if MHP, who rebuffed his appeal, did not withdraw, and he even called on Ecevit to resign. If ANAP were to leave the government, Ecevit would still be able to stay in office with a minority government consisting of DSP and MHP until the elections. The Turkish military and Sezer have made it clear that they want the November 3 polling date to stand, despite the fact that the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) of former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a party viewed warily by the military, is ahead in the polls. September 13, 2002 Court Ruling Leaves One Hurdle for Islamist Leader's Candidacy Washington, D.C. - The likelihood that AKP will retain its commanding lead in public opinion polls going into the parliamentary elections was reinforced by a court ruling that boosts the chance that Erdogan will be able to run for a parliamentary seat. A September 6 decision by the Diyarbakir State Security Court erased a criminal conviction from Erdogan's record that would have prevented him from running. However, the final decision on whether he can become a candidate lies with the Supreme Electoral Board, which will examine the list of candidates and approve them by September 16. Erdogan was convicted in 1998 on charges of “inciting hatred” along religious lines in a speech he had delivered the year before, and he served a four-month jail sentence. The court deleted the conviction from his record on the basis of changes to Turkey's penal code that require a person's action to pose “a concrete danger” in order to be considered a crime. The changes were part of a package of reforms passed by Turkey's parliament in preparation for Turkey's EU accession talks. August 30, 2002 Iraq War Planning May Hasten Helicopter Purchase Washington, D.C. - In view of U.S. military planning for action against Iraq and a delay in concluding a contract for the co-production of 50 attack helicopters, Turkey may purchase about 30 helicopters off the shelf to shorten the delivery time for the aircraft. This option would be much cheaper than co-production, and U.S.-made helicopters would be highly favored if it were chosen. A decision is expected to be made in early September after General Hilmi Ozkok replaces General Huseyin Kivrikoglu as chief of the Turkish General Staff. U.S. defense manufacturers Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Boeing Co., and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. have offered Turkey direct sales of the AH-1Z King Cobra, the AH-64D Apache Longbow, and the armed version of the S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopter, respectively. By the end of July 2002, Turkey had hoped to conclude negotiations with Bell Helicopter for the $2 billion co-manufacture of 50 King Cobra helicopter gunships. The talks, which began in September 2000, are still continuing due to a dispute over price and other issues. In late July, Turkey simultaneously took another look at the runner-up in its helicopter selection process, the KA-50/2 Black Shark/Erdogan helicopter produced by the consortium of Russia's Kamov Helicopter Co. and Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI), and began exploratory talks on possible co-production of this helicopter. However, it would be several years before the first helicopter could be delivered. August 23, 2002 Dervis's Move to CHP Poses Challenge to Islamist Party Washington, D.C. - Former economy minister Kemal Dervis's August 21 decision to join the center-left Republican People's Party (CHP) is expected to attract a significant number of votes to the party in the November 3 elections and enable it to mount a strong challenge to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), an Islamist party that has been the front-runner in public opinion polls. CHP, led by Deniz Baykal, is the only center-left party currently expected to attain the 10 percent threshold required for representation in parliament, while the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli, part of the three-party governing coalition, may be the only party other than AKP and CHP to reach the threshold. The focus on Dervis among the electorate highlights the importance of Turkey's economic crisis as the paramount election issue. The support for Dervis stems from the credit he has received for engineering Turkey's IMF-backed economic recovery program while serving as economy minister from March 2001 until August 10, 2002, when he resigned from his post. Baykal stated that Dervis would become the economy minister under a CHP-led government, ensuring the continuity of the three-year recovery program and its chances of bringing the country out of its worst recession since 1945. An August 16-18 poll indicated that support for CHP had climbed to 21.1 percent from 8.5 percent in a poll conducted earlier in the month. The surge in support for CHP was believed to be linked to speculation that Dervis would join CHP. Support for AKP, which had been about 20 percent in previous polls, was 25.1 percent, while MHP stood at 10.1 percent. The poll's margin of error was about 2.2 percent. Support for AKP, led by former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is high among both the urban and rural poor hit hardest by the economic crisis. CHP, the oldest political party in Turkey, was established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic. It has not been represented in parliament since the 1999 parliamentary elections, when it failed to reach the required 10 percent threshold. It was the first time CHP had been excluded from the legislative body since it was founded. Dervis remained a political independent after he left his position as a senior official at the World Bank to accept Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's invitation to become economy minister. He did, however, publicly lend support to a new center-left party, the New Turkey Party (YTP), when it was founded in July 2002 by former foreign minister Ismail Cem, and was expected to join it. Dervis later said that he would not join YTP after Cem rejected his proposal to unite the center-left parties in an alliance that could counter the expected strong representation of AKP in parliament after the elections. Ecevit also told Dervis that his center-left Democratic Left Party (DSP) would not enter into a pre-election alliance with any other party. Cem's YTP and Ecevit's DSP received 6.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, in the August 16-18 poll. However, CHP, the third mainstream center-left party, joined Dervis in calling for the formation of a center-left alliance. A group of trade unions, business groups, mainstream media, and non-governmental organizations have also supported Dervis's efforts to unite the center-left. As a moderate Islamist party, AKP is expected to draw votes away from the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) of Mesut Yilmaz and True Path Party (DYP) of Tansu Ciller, which received 4.6 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively, in the August 16-18 poll. Many believe that an AKP victory could slow Turkey's movement toward EU accession, as would any coalition that included MHP, which has consistently blocked the passage of reforms needed for EU membership. August16, 2002 Economy Minister Resigns in Pursuit of Center-Left Coalition Washington, D.C. - Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, the architect of Turkey's $16.3 billion IMF-backed economic rescue plan during his 17 months in office, resigned from his post in the crumbling three-party ruling coalition to attempt to unite the parties of the fragmented center-left into an alliance that could offset an expected high turnout for the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the November 3 parliamentary elections. Candidates from more than 20 parties will be seeking seats in parliament. Dervis is approaching Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP); former foreign minister Ismail Cem's recently formed New Turkey Party (YTP), made up of deputies who defected from DSP; and Deniz Baykal's Republican People's Party (CHP), not currently represented in parliament. YTP has already joined forces with the center-right Democratic Turkey Party, led by Mehmet Ali Bayar, who left his post as political counselor at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., earlier this year to assume the party's leadership. The move marks the first time a center-right and a center-left party will have presented a joint list of candidates to voters in Turkey. The alliance envisioned by Dervis would also be a challenge to the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), the only party in the current governing coalition with a realistic chance of attaining the 10 percent threshold needed for representation in parliament. MHP is campaigning aggressively to overturn the recently passed reforms permitting Kurdish education and broadcasting and abolishing the death penalty, which Turkey needs to be considered for EU membership. Two recent public opinion polls revealed that AKP, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former mayor of Istanbul, will gain about 20 percent of the vote, while six mainstream center-left and center-right parties will all fall under the 10 percent threshold. Both polls showed that about 20 percent of the voters were undecided. Dervis, a political independent and one of Turkey's most popular politicians, did not indicate which party he would join, although he had previously been linked with YTP. Ecevit appointed a little-known DSP deputy, Masum Turker, to replace Dervis, a former World Bank executive. Turker, the former deputy chairman of Turkey's Accountants Association who sat on the parliament's planning and budget commission, vowed to continue the strict implementation of the economic recovery program, devised to bring Turkey out of its worst recession since 1945. Shortly before Dervis's resignation, the IMF approved the release of another $1.1 billion loan installment, bringing the country's drawings on the $16.3 billion loan to $12.7 billion. The IMF also stated that the three-year recovery program was on track. August 16, 2002 Water Sales to Israel in Exchange for Military Contracts Washington,D.C. - After more than five years of negotiations, Israel has decided to purchase about 50 million cubic meters of water annually from Turkey over the next 20 years in exchange for the granting of Turkish military contracts to Israeli firms. The cost of the water, to be transported to Israel in tankers from the Manavgat River in southern Turkey, will be up to $1 billion over the period of the contract, and the amount of water purchased will meet 5 to 7 percent of Israel's needs. Turkey maintains that it has spent $150 million to build a facility on the river that will meet the demands of exporting water to Israel. Turkey recently signed a $700 million contract with Israeli firms for the refurbishment of its army tanks. An Israeli defense plant has also won a contract worth over $14 million for the modernization of the Turkish military's Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters. The water purchase also opens the way for Israeli companies to begin participating in the $20 billion irrigation project in southeastern Turkey known as GAP. These companies have already won tenders worth $700 million for GAP-related projects. Israel will pay about 75 cents per cubic meter for the Turkish water, compared with 54 cents per cubic meter of water to be produced by desalination plants in Israel that will not be operational until 2007. August 29, 2002 Key Reforms Passed as Election Campaign Gets Underway Washington, D.C. - In an effort to boost Turkey's chances of opening EU membership negotiations, Turkey's parliament passed the long-awaited key reforms of lifting the death penalty in times of peace and legalizing Kurdish language courses and broadcasts. The death penalty will remain in effect only in times of war. The reforms were pushed through parliament by pro-EU parties eager to make progress toward EU membership eligibility ahead of the bloc's October progress report on Turkey's preparation for membership and the uncertain outcome of early parliamentary elections, scheduled for November 3. The October report will be continuously updated until the December EU summit in Copenhagen, where Turkey hopes to be asked to begin entry talks. The reforms drew immediate condemnation from Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the far-right party of the three-party ruling coalition and the largest party in parliament, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which tried to block their passage. He said he would appeal to the Constitutional Court, the country's highest, to annul the reform laws. Such a move could be considered the opening salvo of his election campaign and could set the stage for a bitter election battle over the reforms between the MHP, seeking support among conservatives and the 30 percent of the electorate who do not support Turkey's accession to the EU, and pro-EU parties. Bahceli characterized the European Union's call for implementation of these reforms, particularly those concerning Kurdish issues, as EU interference in Turkey's affairs. Bahceli views the abolition of the death penalty as an amnesty for Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He wants Ocalan, who was sentenced to death in 1999 for treason, to hang for leading the Kurd separatist 15-year battle for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. The MHP leader also considers the lifting of the ban on the use of the Kurdish language in education and broadcasting to be a threat to the unity of the country, especially in view of the PKK's past activities. The pro-EU parties include the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has emerged in opinion polls as the front-runner and is expected to attract about 20 percent of the vote. Most of the other parties now in parliament are expected to receive 10 percent, the threshold for parliamentary representation, or less, with the level of support for the newly-formed New Turkey Party (YTP) of former foreign minister Ismail Cem remaining unknown. YTP, composed primarily of defectors from Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP), has stated that it will make EU accession a top priority. The reforms on the death penalty and linguistic rights are part of a larger reform package that includes granting Armenian, Greek, and Jewish minority foundations in Turkey expanded rights to buy and sell property for their cultural, religious, educational, social, and health needs if approved by a cabinet decision; allowing a retrial for a Turkish citizen if the case in question is approved by the European Court of Human Rights; and easing some restrictions on freedom of expression, such as permitting non-insulting criticism of the military and state institutions and imposing severe fines on journalists who violate freedom of expression laws instead of sending them to prison. The European Union welcomed the reform package and considered it to be a step forward toward better protection of human rights and the rights of minorities in Turkey. The EU stated, however, that it would now focus on whether the reforms are implemented without restrictions. Greater diplomatic efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem, more extensive economic reform, curbing the use of torture by security forces, and containing the influence of the military in government remain other key prerequisites for Turkey's EU membership. July 29, 2002 New Pro-EU Party Enters Political Mix as Early Elections Loom Washington, D.C. - As Turkey moved toward possible early elections in November, former Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem officially launched his new reformist party, the New Turkey Party (YTP), which includes 62 former deputies of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's party who resigned over the prime minister's unwillingness to step down despite his prolonged illness. Cem, who also left Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) when he resigned from his ministerial post in early July, promised that YTP, with its social democratic orientation, would work toward the renewal of every aspect of Turkish life. The party's primary focus, he said, would be ensuring that the $16 billion IMF-backed economic recovery program stays on track and pushing aggressively for Turkey's membership in the European Union by promoting the legislation of human rights reforms, especially abolishing the death penalty and allowing broadcasting and education in the Kurdish language. These reforms have been cited by the EU as key prerequisites for a decision in Brussels to begin Ankara's accession talks. Cem has not publicly discussed other foreign policy issues. YTP is entering the political mix at a time when the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) is expected to draw substantial support in early elections, according to recent opinion polls, particularly from voters in non-urban areas and from those most affected by the country's economic crisis. In addition, the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) of Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli may be the only party of the current three-party coalition that attains the 10 percent threshold required for representation in parliament. It is this party that has blocked the legislation of the reforms needed to launch EU accession talks, an impasse that eroded the unity of the coalition, which also includes the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), and helped lead to the current political crisis. The future of Ecevit's DSP remains in doubt following the resignation of 64 of the party's 128 parliamentarians. Although Cem, a former journalist, had a high profile internationally while serving as foreign minister for five years, largely because of his role in furthering rapprochement with Greece, his appeal domestically as a potential candidate for prime minister and the ability of YTP to draw voters from a number of already established centrist parties is uncertain. Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, a senior member of the party, has less appeal domestically than he does in international circles, which consider his stewardship of the economic recovery program to be critical to establishing foreign investor confidence in Turkish markets. At a July 29 extraordinary session of the parliament, which is in recess until October, legislators are expected to designate November 3 as the date for early parliamentary elections. Ecevit, who reluctantly agreed in mid-July to join coalition partners MHP and ANAP in endorsing early elections, has since reversed his earlier decision and opposed early polling, saying that he would prefer holding elections in April 2004 as scheduled. Ecevit warned that a strong showing in early elections by AKP, the party of the former Islamist mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or by the Kurdish-dominated party, HADEP, accused by the government of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), could threaten the country's political stability. In addition, he said, the continuity of the economic recovery program could be jeopardized. Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, the ANAP leader, who is in charge of overseeing Turkey's EU accession preparations, said he had failed to persuade parliamentarians to commit, when they meet on July 29, to legislating reforms this summer that would improve Turkey's chances of starting accession negotiations after the December EU summit in Copenhagen. In October, Brussels is due to publish a progress report on Turkey's candidacy. Despite the political uncertainty that has prevailed in Turkey since Ecevit fell ill in May, the IMF said that an inflation rate of 35 percent and a growth rate of 3 percent, targets set under the recovery program, were achievable this year because of the government's strong implementation of the program up to now. It said, however, that high interest rates, which have increased to more than 70 percent from 50 percent in late May, remained a serious concern, as it puts an additional burden on the treasury's borrowing costs. July 19, 2002 November Elections to End Uncertainty in Government Washington, D.C. - Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit agreed to early parliamentary elections on November 3 after the three-party coalition government lost its majority in parliament due to massive defections from the prime minister's party. His decision ended more than two months of uncertainty surrounding his ability to govern because of illness. Ecevit had vowed to continue as prime minister until his term ended in April 2004 and coalition partner Mesut Yilmaz, head of the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), had called for elections as early as September if a new coalition could not be formed under the current parliament. However, the two bowed to a call by the third coalition partner, far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli, for elections in November. In return for the unified coalition agreement on setting the early election date, MHP promised not to continue blocking the legislation of key reforms in parliament that Turkey must implement before the EU will ask it to begin accession negotiations. Although the parliament is in recess until October, the speaker has summoned the deputies for an extraordinary session, possibly as early as July 22, to vote on bringing elections forward to November. In addition, Yilmaz is seeking support from opposition parties to get parliament back in session in August to pass the EU-related reforms, particularly those abolishing the death penalty and granting the right to ethnic Kurds to carry out education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language. The pro-EU forces in Turkey, including Yilmaz's party and Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP), are hoping to legislate these reforms by December in order to increase the chances that the EU will set a date for Ankara's accession negotiations at its summit in Copenhagen. With the EU expected to ask Cyprus to join the bloc at that summit, Turkey is eager to at least set a date for its own accession talks by then and avoid having to seek one under the Greek EU presidency, which begins in January 2003. However, the possibility that attempts to form a coalition government after the Turkish elections might be protracted could further jeopardize the passage of reforms by the end of the year. About 60 of the 128 deputies belonging to Ecevit's Democratic Left Party resigned, while seven ministers left the cabinet, including prominent DSP member Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. The wild card in the elections is expected to be the new centrist party formed in early July by Cem, former Ecevit loyalist Husamettin Ozkan, who served as deputy prime minister under Ecevit until he resigned, and current Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, who initially resigned from his post but was persuaded to stay on by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer to reassure financial markets and international creditors that the IMF-backed economic recovery program would remain intact. Ozkan has close ties to the Turkish General Staff and to ANAP, having served as Ecevit's liaison with the military and ANAP. Dervis's affiliation with the new party has caused MHP to demand his resignation from the cabinet. Most of the DSP parliamentary defectors appear ready to join the new party. Cem has stated that the party will be advocating rapid legislation of the reforms necessary to ensure that EU accession talks begin. Largely due to the involvement of Dervis in the party, markets view it as a positive force for keeping the economic program on track, as the country faces a massive debt burden. However, the party's appeal to voters may be greater in major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, while rural voters in the country's heartland could be drawn more toward MHP and the Islamist parties. With the large number of defections from DSP, the future of the party and its ability to attain the 10 percent threshold required for representation in parliament is uncertain. Among the three current coalition parties, only MHP stands a good chance of attaining this threshold in early elections. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), currently holding 53 seats in the 550-seat parliament, was expected to be the front-runner in early elections with about 20 percent, according to opinion polls carried out before the Cem-Ozkan-Dervis party was formed. July 19, 2002 U.S. Seeks Turkey's Support for Iraqi Campaign Washington, D.C. - Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, during talks in Ankara with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, assured the Turkish leadership that the United States would not permit the formation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq if Washington takes military action against Baghdad to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The assurance was aimed at attempting to gain the support of the Turkish General Staff for a U.S.-led attack against Iraq, although Turkish leaders have consistently expressed their opposition to such a campaign and continued to do so during Wolfowitz's visit. The possible emergence of a Kurdish state in Iraq, which Turks fear could re-ignite the separatist sentiments of ethnic Kurds in southeastern Turkey, has long been cited by Ankara as a chief argument for opposing military action against Hussein. The uncertainty concerning the success of forming a stable coalition following November elections in Turkey could complicate Washington's ability to coordinate any military plans with the Turkish leadership. Turkey's support is considered crucial to a campaign against Iraq. During the 1991 Gulf War, Turkey's Incirlik Air Base was a staging point for U.S. air strikes on Iraq. Wolfowitz, who was accompanied by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and General Joseph Ralston, the commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, stressed that Turkey would benefit politically and financially from a change of regime in Iraq that normalized its relations with the international community, leading to the lifting of the U.N. embargo against Baghdad. Turkey has more to gain from an end to the embargo than any other country in the region. The bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Iraq was about $3 billion in 1989, the year before the embargo was imposed following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In the late 1980s, most of Iraq's oil, 80 million tons annually, was exported by pipeline to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Yumurtalik. In 2001, trade between Turkey and Iraq reached only $1 billion, still well below pre-Gulf War levels. During Wolfowitz's visit, Turkey once again raised its longstanding request that the U.S. write off about $5 billion owed by Ankara to Washington for arms purchased from the United States. Ankara will be expected to raise it again as the U.S. continues to seek Turkish support for a campaign against Iraq, along with its longstanding request that Congress approve the sale of weapons systems to Turkey more quickly and that the U.S. grant Turkey a greater degree of access to U.S. military technology. The discussions between the U.S. and Turkish officials also covered issues concerning bilateral defense and trade, as well as a range of regional matters, such as the Cyprus problem, events in the Caucasus, and Turkey's command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The visit by the U.S. officials to the region included a meeting with Turkish General Hilmi Akin Zorlu, who is the commander of the peacekeepers, in Kabul. July 12, 2002 Ecevit Government on Verge of Collapse Washington, D.C. - Early elections appeared likely as close to one-third of the parliamentary deputies of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's party, including seven cabinet ministers, resigned and the two remaining coalition parties called for elections this fall. These actions, which signaled a possible disintegration of the prime minister's Democratic Left Party (DSP), were in response to his refusal to step down despite a virtual two-month paralysis of government due to his absence from the governing process because of illness. A decisive blow to Ecevit's authority was the resignation of the high-profile foreign minister, Ismail Cem, from the cabinet, contributing to the prime minister's further isolation. Cem, a DSP member who served in the post for five years and was one of the most pro-European figures in the government, has played a key role in improving ties with Greece. Although Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, the architect of Turkey's $16 billion economic recovery program backed by the IMF, announced his resignation, he later retracted it at the request of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The president's intervention reflected the widely-held view that Dervis's continued presence in his position is crucial to the achievement of economic reforms demanded by the IMF. Ecevit, 77, filled some of the vacant cabinet posts with new appointees, including naming former State Minister Sukru Sina Gurel as foreign minister, but he resisted pressure to resign. He hinted that he might agree to early elections if the government loses its majority in parliament, after weeks of insisting that he would serve out his term, which ends in April 2004. Cem announced that he was forming a new party, still unnamed, with Dervis, a technocrat and former World Bank executive without a formal political base, and former Deputy Prime Minister Husamettin Ozkan, Ecevit's former right-hand man who resigned from his post, triggering an avalanche of DSP resignations from parliament. Cem said the party, expected to be a center-left bloc, would be committed to accelerating the pace of legislating reforms necessary for achieving Turkey's membership in the European Union, which is critical to attracting foreign investment. He stated that the Ecevit government was no longer able to carry out the policies needed for Turkey to make progress because of infighting within the coalition. As a result of the resignation of more than 40 DSP deputies, the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), the coalition party that has blocked abolition of the death penalty and the granting of the right to Kurdish-language broadcasting and education, became the largest party in parliament. Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, the leader of MHP and a major stumbling block to legislating these and other key reforms required for the opening of accession talks with the EU, called for elections by November. As the head of the now-largest party in parliament, Bahceli could be appointed as a prime minister-designate by Sezer to try to form a government before resorting to early elections. Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, the leader of the third coalition party, the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), and the coordinator of Turkey's EU accession preparations, recommended the stitching together of a new coalition that will promote the economic and political reforms stipulated by the EU by the end of the year. If such an effort were to be unsuccessful, he would push for elections in September, he stated. Some of the first DSP deputies to resign called for an extraordinary party convention to discuss the survival of the party under Ecevit's guidance, but with a new leader. According to recent opinion polls, the likely winner of elections under the spectrum of political parties that preceded Cem's announcement concerning the new party would be the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), a factor that would cause alarm among the military, which pressured an Islamist government to resign in 1997. Markets were jittery over fears that early elections could result in an unstable political environment, placing the economic recovery program at risk. Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on Turkey to “negative” from “stable.” July 3, 2002 Uncertainty over Turkish Leadership as Parliament Recesses for Summer Washington, D.C. - Nine members of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's party joined opposition parties in calling for the resignation of the ailing leader who gave his first public address in two months, appearing frail and confused. But, in a meeting of the leaders of the three-party ruling coalition, the first in 40 days, the party heads ruled out the possibility of early parliamentary elections. Elections are not due to be held until 2004. In addition, for the sake of preserving the coalition, both Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) and Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's Motherland Party (ANAP) gave in to the demand of Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), that DSP and ANAP not attempt to pass legislation easing restrictions on education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language. MHP stated that such a move would cause the party to pull out of the coalition. Through this arrangement, DSP and ANAP postponed decisive action on a key reform required by the European Union before it will set a date for Turkey to begin EU accession negotiations, rather than risk the collapse of the coalition at a time when the prime minister appears to be seriously ill. MHP did give DSP and ANAP the go-ahead to eliminate the death penalty, a second key reform sought by the EU. MHP had consistently opposed ending capital punishment, fearing that the death sentence of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan would be commuted to life imprisonment. The meeting of the coalition leaders took place as parliament was recessing for three months, though the government stated that an extraordinary session of the legislative body would be held this summer in order to achieve progress on the death penalty issue. Tansu Ciller, leader of the True Path Party (DYP), which has the third-largest representation in parliament, joined Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), and Recai Kutan, head of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), in continuing to call for Ecevit's resignation. AKP and SP have the fifth- and sixth-largest parliamentary groups, respectively. These three parties would have the most to gain if early elections were held. Recent polls have indicated that, largely due to the economic crisis, none of the current coalition parties would attain 10 percent of voter support, the threshold required for representation in parliament. Turkey's financial markets have plummeted over the last two months over fears that Ecevit might have to resign, triggering early elections and the possible failure of a $16 billion IMF-backed economic recovery program. The lira and stock market have hit lows for the year as interest rates have climbed 20 percentage points to 73 percent. Despite the political uncertainty in Turkey, the IMF released a $1.1 billion tranche of the $16 billion loan in late June as expected. The 77-year-old Ecevit, who has been recuperating from intestinal problems, a cracked rib, a vein infection, and a spinal injury, said doctors had advised him to work from home for two or three more weeks. June 28, 2002 Turkey, Greece Still at Odds over ESDP Document Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou agreed to work together to address Turkey's objections to amendments made to the "Ankara text," a document negotiated last fall by the U.S., Britain, and Turkey to assuage Ankara's concerns over the use of NATO assets by the European Union's planned rapid reaction force in regions considered by Turkey to be strategic to its national interests. On the basis of the original document, Turkey, a member of NATO, but not part of the EU, had given the go-ahead for the EU force to use NATO assets. The EU's approval of the amendments, urged by Greece, at the bloc's June 21-22 Seville summit, brought an end to the Greek government's six-month refusal to endorse the Ankara text. Athens asserted that the original document was harmful to Greece's national interests since it gave Turkey a say in whether NATO assets could be used by the EU force in the Aegean and in Cyprus. Papandreou noted that Greece would never accept the exclusion of the Aegean or Cyprus from the EU force's projected scope of responsibility. Turkey's objections to the amendments must be overcome if the way is to be opened for the conclusion of an accord between the EU and NATO on the use of alliance assets by the EU force and for the deployment of the force in a peacekeeping capacity in F.Y.R. Macedonia in October. This deployment is considered a critical part of the launching of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The EU force has no strategic assets of its own and will be solely reliant upon NATO assets. Although the Ankara text and the amendments have not been made public, one of the amendments reportedly stipulates that NATO members that are not part of the EU, such as Turkey, Norway, and Iceland, cannot use force to resolve a conflict with an EU country. Greece is believed to have had Cyprus in mind when urging that this provision be included. Cyprus is not part of NATO, but it is expected to be invited to join the EU at the December EU summit in Copenhagen. The Ankara text already states that the EU force will not be used against any NATO country. A second amendment reaffirms the right of European Union members to make decisions concerning their own security operations. It stipulates that consultation between EU countries and non-EU NATO countries on the activities of the force will not be allowed to undermine the EU's autonomy in decision-making regarding the force or to work against the sovereignty or territorial integrity of EU members. The Turkish government has hinted that its stance on both ESDP and the Cyprus issue could be more flexible if the EU were to designate a date for the start of Turkey's EU accession talks. Brussels has made clear that Turkey has not yet implemented the required political and economic reforms to be eligible for the opening of accession talks. In the Seville summit presidency conclusions, the EU stated that "new decisions could be taken" on the "next stage" of Turkey's candidacy at the Copenhagen summit, taking into consideration the progress made on these reforms between now and then. June 24, 2002 Presidency Conclusions: Seville European Council (excerpt on Turkey) 21 - 22 June 2002 Seville 25. The European Council welcomes the reforms recently adopted in Turkey. It encourages and fully supports the efforts made by Turkey to fulfill the priorities defined in its Accession Partnership. The implementation of the required political and economic reforms will bring forward Turkey's prospects of accession in accordance with the same principles and criteria as are applied to the other candidate countries. New decisions could be taken in Copenhagen on the next stage of Turkey's candidature in the light of developments in the situation between the Seville and Copenhagen European Councils, on the basis of the regular report to be submitted by the Commission in October 2002 and in accordance with the Helsinki and Laeken conclusions. June 24, 2002 Takeover of Afghan Peacekeeping Force Marks Large Troop Deployment Washington, D.C. - Turkey formally assumed command of the 18-nation peacekeeping force in Afghanistan from Britain on June 20 for a six-month period, with plans to increase its troop strength in the country to about 1,400 by the end of the month. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) continues to maintain order in Kabul as the country forms a central government and trains a national army. The Turkish contingent of the force represents about one-third of its total troop strength of 4,500 to 5,000 soldiers from countries that are primarily members of NATO. At the time of the takeover ceremony, Turkish forces had already been increased from 267 to about 1,000. Britain is planning to reduce its forces from 1,300 to 400, while Germany will maintain its present troop strength of 1,000. Greece's ISAF contingent consists of 112 troops in an engineer company and 20 staff officers and support personnel. A U.S.-contracted airlift, using no U.S. military planes, has been transporting Turkey's military equipment to Afghanistan since late May, while Ankara has been using its own C-130 aircraft to transfer Turkish military personnel to the country. Although the U.S. is not contributing troops to ISAF, it has agreed to help the force with any serious operational problems that arise if the required American forces are not engaged elsewhere. The U.S. Congress is also expected to approve Washington's $200 million Economic Support Fund (ESF) grant and $28 million Foreign Military Funding (FMF) grant to Turkey by mid-July to offset the costs of commanding ISAF. The Turkish commander of ISAF is General Hilmi Akin Zorlu, who served as commander of the Plovdiv-based Southeastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG) from 1999 to 2001. U.S. officials hope that the dominant presence of NATO-member Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the alliance, in Afghanistan will promote secular Muslim values in the country. June 14, 2002 Split in Coalition over EU Reforms, Ecevit's Health Threaten Government Collapse Washington, D.C. - Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli stated that his rightist Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the three parties in the ruling coalition, would oppose abolishing the death penalty and granting ethnic Kurds the right to education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language, potentially obstructing the launching of Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union. He also said his party would withdraw from the coalition if the reforms were passed - effectively collapsing the government and forcing new elections. The two remaining coalition parties, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP) and Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), which both support passage of these reforms, intend to seek the support of opposition parties, especially the two pro-Islamist parties, to push the legislation through parliament Bahceli's statements, which sharpened existing splits in the coalition, were made during a key summit of party leaders called by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in an attempt to reach a consensus on moving forward with critical legislation required for EU membership. The leaders of all the parliamentary parties attended the summit except Tansu Ciller, former prime minister and leader of the center-right True Path Party (DYP), the third-largest in parliament. Ciller stated that the absence of Ecevit at the meeting, because of ill health, led to her decision not to attend. The EU considers eliminating capital punishment, granting greater cultural rights for ethnic Kurds, and progress on the Cyprus problem to be key prerequisites for setting a date for the opening of Turkey's accession talks, which Ankara hopes will start by the end of the year. Bahceli has also made clear that he opposes any compromise on Cyprus. Bahceli's statements reinforced the existing uncertainty over the future of the coalition stemming from Ecevit's health problems and the absence of a clear successor to lead the DSP. The prime minister's month-long battle with ailments, including a neurological condition and vascular problems, and his absence at several critical government meetings, including the summit of parliamentary parties, has fueled speculation that the state of his health might force him to step down. This speculation has caused Turkey's financial markets to slide and the lira to reach a seven-month low. The cohesion of the coalition is considered critical to the success of the economic recovery program, backed by a $16 billion IMF stand-by loan agreement intended to pull the country out of its 16-month-long financial crisis. Early parliamentary elections are seen by many Turks as a threat to the continuity of this program. Recent polls gave the pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the DYP more public support than the three coalition parties received. Turkish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have recently stepped up pressure on the government to carry out the reforms needed for Turkey's accession to the EU. The influential Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD), bringing together 46 leading companies, has stressed the importance of Turkey's EU membership for attracting foreign investment to the country, which is essential to rapid growth. A group of 175 NGOs has also called on the government to move toward EU membership as a catalyst for increased prosperity in the country, where the per capita income is about $2,200. June 7, 2002 Support of Top Military-Civilian Advisory Council for Kurdish RightsEU-Mandated Reforms Washington, D.C. - In a strong signal to the government to break the stalemate in enacting critical reforms required for the opening of EU accession talks, Turkey's National Security Council (MGK) recommended lifting emergency rule in two of the four primarily Kurdish provinces where it is still in force and moving forward on the implementation of other key reforms. The move was welcomed by the European Union. The pro-reform push by the MGK, the senior advisory body to the prime minister, comprised of the country's top military and civilian leaders, is significant because its recommendations are usually acted upon. Emergency rule in the provinces of Hakkari and Tunceli will end on July 30, while it will be abolished in Diyarbakir and Sirnak in four months. Turkish authorities believe that Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) activity continues in Diyarbakir, where the leading ethnic Kurdish city is located, and in Sirnak, which borders Iraq, where PKK guerrillas continue to operate. Emergency rule, giving the police and judiciary broad powers, was imposed in 13 provinces of southeastern Turkey in June 1987, in response to the armed campaign launched by PKK separatists against the Turkish Army three years earlier. In 1994, it was lifted in all but four provinces, where fighting between the PKK and the Turkish Army remained intensive. The MGK suggested that it would lift its objections to Kurdish-language broadcasts and education, mentioning the possibility of launching newscasts in Kurdish on state television and after-school courses in the language. In addition, it stated that it would not obstruct the abolition of the death penalty, provided that separatists and those convicted of acts of terrorism or crimes committed during wartime served life sentences without the possibility of parole or release under an amnesty. Reform concerning these issues and the removal of emergency rule have been on the government's agenda since March 2000, when the National Program, Turkey's roadmap toward EU membership, was approved by the Turkish parliament. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and two leaders of parties in the three-party ruling coalition, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, have endorsed abolition of the death penalty. Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the rightist Nationalist Action Party, has consistently expressed his opposition to ending capital punishment, particularly if it means that imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, sentenced to death in 1999 on charges of treason, will not be executed. An amendment to the death penalty law was enacted in 2001, limiting it to cases involving treason or separatism. Turkey is waiting for the European Court of Human Rights' pending decision on Ocalan's appeal of his sentence. May 2002 Early Warning Systems to Strengthen NATO Surveillance Capability Washington D.C. - The Turkish government has signed a $1.1 billion contract with U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing Co. for the purchase of four 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, Ankara's largest single defense procurement in 10 years. Approval of the contract by the U.S. Congress is expected by the fall. The acquisition of the aircraft will provide Turkey with the ability to conduct state-of-the-art aerial surveillance and will be a major step forward for NATO's overall force capabilityparticularly with respect to possible future alliance operations in the region in conjunction with the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The contract concluded after 18 months of negotiations gives Ankara the option of increasing the number of aircraft purchased to six for an extra $500 million. Turkish Aerospace IndustriesInc. (TAI) and Turkey's Air Electronic Industries A.S. (Havelsan) will co-produce the planes with Boeing with delivery expected in two to three years. At a time when Turkey is attempting to pull itself out of its 16-month-long financial crisis with the help of a $16 billion stand-by loan agreement with the IMF Ankara will finance the purchase through the annual Defense Industry Support Fund to avoid any additional burden on the national budget or economic recovery program. Each year up to $1 billion is collected for the fund through taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, gasoline, and the national lottery and gambling. The financial crisis has led the Turkish military to suspend 32 defense procurement programs worth almost $19 billion. Analysis By Col. Stephen R. Norton Senior Policy Advisor The technologies and capabilities of early warning systems are becoming more and more essential for modern military forces. As John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists said, "Having an AEW&C and not having one is the difference between having a real air force and a bunch of planes flying aimlessly around the sky . . . . It is the ultimate force multiplier." Turkey and Greece are two NATO members that have recently decided to acquire AEW&C systems, but they are not purchasing the same ones. Greece chose Sweden's Ericsson ERIEYE radar system on the Brazilian Embraer ERJ-145 platform, while Turkey selected the U.S. team of Northrop Grumman radar and Boeing aircraft. The Northrop Grumman Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar was also recently selected by Australia. It will be fitted on a special version of the Boeing 737-700. Greece's choice seems a little risky given that the Swedish/Brazilian system is in its relative infancy, and maintaining the Brazilian platform will not be nearly as easy as maintaining the ubiquitous Boeing 737, with over 3,800 planes delivered and another 1,000 on order. Northrop Grumman and Boeing have supplied AEW&C systems to NATO, the United States, Britain, France, and some non-NATO countries, so Turkish interoperability with other alliance members will not be a problem. It remains to be seen if Greece will have problems in this regard with its new AEW&C system. May 31, 2002 President Seeks to Accelerate EU Reform Path with All-Party Summit Washington, D.C.-Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has called a summit of the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament in June in an attempt to break the impasse in the passage of critical reforms that the EU has told Turkey to undertake before it can begin accession negotiations with the bloc. It is the first time Sezer has called an all-party summit since taking office in May 2000 and reflects the urgency with which he views the need to achieve political consensus among the three parties of the ruling coalition in order to tackle key reforms and establish a timetable for achieving the reforms. These reforms include establishing greater freedom of expression, abolishing the death penalty, ending emergency rule in the primarily Kurdish southeastern part of the country, and relaxing laws that bar Kurdish-language broadcasting and education. The EU has also made it clear that it expects progress on the Cyprus issue. The far-right member of the ruling coalition, the Nationalist Action Party, has been particularly opposed to granting greater cultural rights to Turkey's ethnic Kurds and abolishing the death penalty, while Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has called for the banning of capital punishment. Sezer's call for the summit was made a few days after he referred a stringent new media law, which places the Internet under the scrutiny of government censors, to the Constitutional Court in an appeal to have certain parts of the law annulled. His attempt to block passage of the law in parliament had failed. The European Commission has repeatedly expressed concern over the restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey. Ankara is hoping that the European Union will set a date at its summit in Copenhagen in December for accession negotiations with Turkey to begin. An EU progress report on the pace of reforms in Turkey is expected in September. Turkey was named a candidate for EU membership in December 1999. May 24, 2002 President Challenges Tightening of Media, Internet Restrictions under New Law May 242002WashingtonD.C. - Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer continued to lock horns with Turkish legislators by asking the Constitutional Court to annul parts of a restrictive media law passed by parliament in mid-May. The European Commission warned Ankara that the legislation was at odds with European Union norms and called on parliamentarians to revise it immediately. Sezer's action was his last recourse in a campaign to block implementation of the law, which expands already stringent regulations concerning all forms of media and the Internet. The president had vetoed the proposed law in June 2001, stating that parts of it were undemocratic and unconstitutional. Under Turkish law, Sezer had to approve its passage by parliament, without changes, a second time. Implementation of the law would be a setback to Turkey's progress toward meeting criteria for launching accession negotiations with the European Union since it further curtails press and Internet freedoms, rather than expanding the country's civil liberties as required by the EU. The law prohibits broadcasts that might provoke violence, discrimination, or animosity, or violate "national and spiritual values or the Turkish family structure" and imposes heavy fines for violations. Expressions of "pessimism" are also banned. The legislation is considered particularly damaging to the development of the Internet, a factor that could have economic ramifications. It requires Internet websites to submit hard copies of a text to the government's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) for approval before it is posted on a site. Once the text is online, any update of it will also have to be approved by government censors. Website owners and Internet service providers will be subject to fines of up to $72,000 if the RTUK considers web content to be threatening to national security, sexually explicit, or libelous. There are about 200,000 active websites in Turkey. Under the new law, newspaper, radio, and television owners will no longer be barred from bidding on government contracts, which Sezer asserted could result in unfair competition and illegal stock exchange transactions. The law also encourages media monopolies by permitting media owners to hold larger stakes in radio and television companies. May 17, 2002 Airlift to Afghanistan to Begin for ISAF Command Takeover Washington, D.C. - An airlift will be conducted from May 24 to June 30 to carry 1,078 Turkish troops and military equipment to Afghanistan for Turkey's takeover of the command of the international peacekeeping force in Kabul from Britain. The troops will join the 267 Turkish soldiers already on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The United States and Britain are coordinating preparations for the takeover along with Turkey. June 20 has been set as the target date for the official transfer of authority to the Turkish command. Washington is handling the contracting for the procurement of aircraft that will conduct some 35 sorties from Turkey to Afghanistan during the airlift. The U.S. will also finance the airlift by diverting some of the $20 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds already earmarked for Turkey last year to assist Ankara in its participation in the anti-terrorism effort. Congress is expected to approve $28 million in military assistance and $200 million in economic assistance for Turkey in August to help the Turkish government defray some of the costs of commanding the force. Britain has agreed to keep its satellite communication system for the ISAF command in place until Turkey sets up its own system within two to four months of assuming the command. Turkey will also be handling its own logistics. At an international conference in Ankara the second week in May to discuss Turkey's takeover of the command, attended by 39 countries, all 17 nations that are now participating in ISAF agreed to continue their participation at the same level after Turkey assumes the command. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia, and Bangladesh expressed an interest in sending troops to the force, but made no firm commitment. Turkey, therefore, remains the only Muslim country contributing to the force. Jordan, whose troops are participating in "Operation Enduring Freedom," the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, said it will not contribute to ISAF. May 2002 Leadership of Afghanistan Peacekeeping Force Official A Turkish government statement the end of April formalized Turkey's plans to take over the command of the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan from Britain, as negotiations continued with NATO allies to resolve outstanding issues such as the source of the military satellite communication system for the command, currently supplied by Britain, and cargo planes to transport Turkish military vehicles and other equipment into the country. It is the first time that Turkey will have command of a multi-national force, although it has participated in various peacekeeping operations, including those in the Balkans and Somalia, as well as Afghanistan where it currently deploys 267 troops. The transfer of authority is expected to take place the end of June, following the mid-June convening of the loya jirga, or grand council, which will either decide to back the interim government of Hamid Karzai or select another transitional government that will rule for 18 months until elections are held in mid-2004. The current mandate of the International Security Force (ISAF), which expires in June, is expected to be extended by the U.N. Security Council. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was working closely with the Turkish government, the interim Afghan government, and others to ensure a successful ISAF mission under Turkey's six-month leadership. The United States military will continue to provide logistical support and intelligence to ISAF, while also maintaining a quick-reaction force to aid ISAF units if needed. The Bush administration has promised Turkey that it will ask Congress for $200 million in economic aid and $28 million in military aid to help Turkey defray the costs of the ISAF command. Turkey is the only Muslim country that has contributed to the force, which will continue to serve in and around Kabul, and will not be extended to other parts of Afghanistan. The Turkish contingent is expected to expand to at least 1,000 troops. The Greek Defense Ministry said that having the Greek ISAF contingent under the command of a Turkish general would not be a problem since Greece and Turkey have served together in other multi-national peacekeeping missions. May 2002 Legal Setbacks for Islamists As part of Turkey's ongoing campaign to eliminate Islamist political movements in its secular Muslim system, the Constitutional Court barred the nation's leading Islamist politician from being elected to parliament because of his 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred when he recited verses of a nationalist poem. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul who founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) last year, but has never been a parliamentary deputy, was widely regarded by the country's Islamists as a potential candidate for the office of prime minister. The court's decision effectively ended his ambition to become prime minister since candidates for the office must be members of parliament. The ruling forced Erdogan to also step down as chairman of his party and resign from its board of founding members within six months since parties can only be founded legally by parliamentary deputies. The Justice and Development Party was formed by moderate members of the Virtue Party, an Islamist party that was banned in June 2001 on charges of seeking to establish religious rule. In addition, the Turkish General Staff petitioned the Justice Ministry to bring charges against Erdogan for insulting the military and praising Islamic groups in Afghanistan in a speech he made in 1992. In the speech, which was aired on Turkish television in mid-April, he congratulated Afghanistan for forming an Islamic republic and accused the Turkish military of sending young, inexperienced soldiers into battle against Kurdish separatists in Turkey's southeast. A prosecutor has ordered Erdogan to stand trial on the charges, though no trial date has been set. Recent opinion polls have shown that his party is ahead of each of the three parties of the ruling coalition in popularity at a time when they have been losing ground with voters because of the year-long Turkish economic crisis. Though Erdogan denies that AKP reflects the Islamist heritage of the Virtue Party and states that it has a center-right orientation, the party is generally considered the reformist wing of Turkey's Islamist political movement. Following his 1998 conviction, Erdogan was forced to resign from his mayoral seat and was banned from politics. Though he served four months in jail, Erdogan has long maintained that his criminal record was cleared under an amnesty law passed in 2000. May 2002 EU Proposes Branding PKK as Terrorists The permanent representatives of the European Union's 15 member countries reached an agreement in early May to include the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkey's far-left group, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front/Party (DHKP/C), on an EU list of terrorist organizations in response to concerns of the United States and Turkey about the groups' effects on regional stability, particularly in view of the war on terrorism. The move freezes the groups' assets in Europe and prohibits financial dealings with them. The proposal to add these groups and 16 other individuals and groups to the list, last modified in December, to bring it more in line with U.S. terrorist blacklists drawn up after September 11, will require unanimous approval from all EU countries. Turkey had been joined by the United States and Britain, which had both placed the two organizations on their terrorist lists, in urging Brussels to include the organizations on the EU list. Turkey, which has outlawed both groups, has accused them of instigating violent acts in Turkey from their offices in some European countries. The PKK has also been outlawed in Britain, France, and Germany. Turkish Chief of General Staff General Huseyin Kivrikoglu stated that the DHKP/C has been responsible for the assassination of more than 350 people, while Ankara holds the PKK responsible for the deaths of more than 35,000 in its 15-year-long war with the Turkish Army. May 2002 Government Rejects PKK Name, Strategy Changes In April, the PKK announced that it was ceasing its activities and regrouping under a new name, the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK). The organization said that the name change signaled the group's new strategy of campaigning peacefully for greater cultural and democratic rights for Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria and a renunciation of its previous separatist goals. In Iraq, where Kurds already enjoy de facto autonomy, the group would seek to establish a Kurdish federation. The decision was made at a party congress in northern Iraq. A European spokesman for the organization stated, however, that the PKK's armed wing, renamed the People's Defense Units, would not disband unless Turkey abolished the death penalty, which has been applied to PKK fighters, and granted amnesty to the fighters. The spokesman said, however, that the People's Defense Units would act only in self-defense. In late April, a Turkish court sentenced four PKK members to death for separatism. The defendants were also accused of involvement in three bomb attacks in Istanbul that killed four people. Turkey denounced the PKK's announced intention to become a legitimate political force as an effort to gain favor with the EU and dissuade the bloc from listing it as a terrorist organization, thereby circumventing a ban on its activities in several European countries where the group has had a strong presence. Turkish government officials said the group's name change would not alter Ankara's policy and urged Brussels to designate KADEK a terrorist organization as well and suppress its activities. The United States stated that the name change would have no effect on Washington's designation of the group as a terrorist organization. The organization said that the execution of its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, would result in renewed fighting against Turkish forces. Ocalan was sentenced to death in June 1999 on charges of treason by a Turkish court, but the execution has been postponed pending consideration of his case by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). A ruling by the ECHR on Ocalan's appeal against the death sentence is expected this year. Though Osman Ocalan has, in practice, led the Kurdistan Workers Party since his brother's capture, the party congress elected Abdullah Ocalan the leader of KADEK. Osman said the European Union's blacklisting of the PKK would drive its members back to the battlefield and discourage dialogue. The Turkish Army has continued its pursuit of the PKK guerrillas into northern Iraq, where it maintains that about 5,000 of them are encamped, although its war with the guerrillas effectively ended in September 1999. May 2002 Landmark Effort to Link with Armenia The foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey are planning to meet on the sidelines of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in mid-May to discuss the possibility of opening the border between Armenia and Turkey, particularly the rail line, and increasing contacts between the two countries. In support of Azerbaijan, Turkey never established diplomatic relations with Armenia. It also closed its checkpoints at their common border a decade ago during the 1988-1994 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Although Azerbaijan and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and their common border is closed, their presidents have been meeting periodically since 1999, under the auspices of the OSCE, for talks on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. The groundwork for the May meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan, and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliyev was laid during talks between Cem and Oskanyan at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York earlier this year. That meeting marked the first time that Turkish and Armenian ministers had met for nearly two years. The private Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), established primarily by Turkish and Armenian retired military figures, diplomats, and academics, played a significant role in the discussions that led to the New York meeting. In addition, TARC commissioners, who have met several times in Europe and the United States to discuss Turkish-Armenian reconciliation since last summer, have also been influential in facilitating last year's easing of visa requirements for Armenians visiting Turkey. They are currently working to launch further contacts between members of the civil and diplomatic communities of both countries, promote the restoration of Armenian religious sites in Turkey, and open the Turkish-Armenian border to facilitate free movement from one country to the other. May 2002 Greater Greek-Turkish Economic Cooperation Encouraged During a speech at the third annual meeting of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) in Thessaloniki, Greece, Turkish Economy Minister Kemal Dervis called for closer economic cooperation between Turkey and Greece, noting that the potential for joint ventures in the tourism sector was especially promising. The BSTDB, located in Thessaloniki, is the financial arm of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation initiative (BSEC), which includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The bank, which began operating in June 1999 to boost economic cooperation among the countries of the Balkans and Black Sea region, has disbursed $290 million to finance 38 projects in the Black Sea region. Sixty percent of the projects concern infrastructure, and 40 percent deal with trade and exports. Turkey is the largest beneficiary of the bank's financing, carrying out 25 percent of the projects. Ten percent of the projects are in Greece, which is the wealthiest shareholder in the bank. The BSTDB has a share capital of $1.2 billion. May 2002 Anti-Terrorism Cooperation with Georgia, Azerbaijan Given the vulnerability of existing and planned oil and natural gas pipelines in the Caspian and Black Sea region to terrorist acts, the Turkish, Georgian, and Azerbaijani governments signed an agreement paving the way for joint action in combating terrorism in these countries, providing security for what has become known as the East-West energy corridor. The countries are particularly concerned about security for the planned oil pipeline that will run from the Azerbaijani Caspian port of Baku through the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to the Turkish Mediterranean city of Ceyhan. The agreement, which was signed at a summit held by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, and Azerbaijani President Hadar Aliyev in Trabzon, Turkey, also outlines cooperative efforts by the countries to curb regional trafficking in drugs and humans, organized crime, and arms smuggling. The next summit of the three presidents will take place in Tbilisi. The Trabzon meeting was held about two months after reports surfaced that Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters had possibly taken refuge in Georgia, prompting the United States to send special operations forces to the country to provide training for Georgia's military in anti-terrorism tactics. In February, Turkey signed a military cooperation agreement with the Georgian government that involves a series of joint training exercises in both countries. May 2002 Progress on IMF-Backed Economic Reforms The International Monetary Fund in April approved payment of a $1.1 billion loan installment for Turkey, noting that progress had been made in lowering the inflation rate, bringing interest rates down, building stronger reserves, and achieving appreciation of the lira. The loan is part of a $16.3 billion stand-by arrangement that was concluded with the IMF in February, under which Turkey received about $9 billion immediately and is expected to have drawn a total of $14 billion of the new loan by the end of 2002. Turkey has borrowed $31 billion from the Fund over the last two years to stimulate growth and tackle a domestic debt load amounting to 51.2 percent of GNP. Labor unions have organized protests against the government's plan to close regional administrations and eliminate redundancies in state-owned enterprises prior to their privatization in order to meet International Monetary Fund guidelines for achieving a primary surplus target of 6.5 percent of GDP. The government has pledged to eliminate two-thirds of an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 redundancies, primarily through voluntary retirement. In addition, the Finance Ministry is taking action to align Turkey's tax legislation with that of the European Union as part of a three-year plan under the IMF recovery program, which will include establishing fair taxation standards. A report by the European Commission cited reducing inflationary pressure and fiscal imbalances as the primary challenges facing Turkey in the near future. It said the employment rate was likely to decline to about 12 percent in 2002, due to low growth and continued restructuring. Information released by Turkey's State Statistics Institute on March 30 indicated that the country's economy contracted by 9.4 percent in 2001, a drop greater than the government forecast of 8.5 percent and a radical departure from a 6.1 percent growth in 2000. Economy Minister Kemal Dervis said that a 3 percent growth target in Turkey would be achievable for 2002 if the International Monetary Fund recovery program is adhered to. The March consumer inflation rate stood at 65.1 percent, down from 73.1 percent in February. Turkey seeks a 35 percent rate by the end of the year. The World Bank is supporting Turkey's economic reform program through a $6.2 billion three-year country assistance strategy. April 2002 Turkey to Assume Command of Afghanistan Force Turkey agreed to take over the command of the 4,500-member international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan from Britain for six months, possibly in May, following lengthy negotiations with Washington and London. A Turkish military delegation was sent to Kabul in early April to evaluate the structure of the force and its technical needs. Afghanistan’s interim leader Hamid Karzai also visited Ankara for discussions on Turkey’s plans to assume command of the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), now comprised of troops from 17 nations. Turkey’s conditions for taking charge of the force, which will provide security until a national police and army are trained and deployed, include obtaining financial aid to cover the cost of commanding the force, estimated by Ankara to be $60 million; receiving assurances that key NATO members, such as Britain and Germany, will continue to contribute substantially to the force and deploy the equipment needed; and establishing an exit strategy for the force. The Bush administration has asked the U.S. Congress to approve $228 million in financial assistance to Turkey, consisting of $28 million in direct aid toward the cost of the operation and $200 million in general economic assistance. The United States has promised to provide logistical and intelligence support for the force, but will not supply troops. In addition, the United States government has assured Turkey that the responsibilities of the peacekeeping mission under its command will not extend more than 20 miles beyond Kabul, another key demand of Ankara, despite a request by Karzai that its duties be expanded to cover the rest of the country. Turkey now deploys about 260 troops in Afghanistan for security patrols and humanitarian relief operations but is expected to boost its forces to 1,000 before taking over command of ISAF. April 2002 Continued Opposition to U.S. Plans Against Iraq The Turkish government urged the United States not to strike Iraq and to concentrate instead on promoting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in talks with Vice President Dick Cheney during his mid-March visit to Turkey and 10 other nations in the Middle East. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stated that Iraq posed no threat to its neighbors, given the constant surveillance it has been under since the Gulf War. Cheney told him that there would be no military action against Iraq in the foreseeable future. The Turkish prime minister sent a letter to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein urging him to allow United Nations weapons inspectors, who were expelled in 1998, back into the country. Hussein responded by criticizing Ankara for allowing U.S. and British planes based at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to patrol northern Iraq’s no-fly zone. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem has also said Turkey would work in consultation with Syria, Iran, and Jordan toward the lifting of 11-year-old United Nations sanctions against Iraq if Baghdad permitted the inspectors to return. Ecevit told Cheney that the threat of an attack on Iraq by the United States was having a negative effect on Turkish markets and was deterring much-needed foreign investment that would help Turkey meet economic growth targets backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Turkey is also afraid that a strike on Iraq would result in a refugee crisis similar to the one that occurred during the Gulf War, when some 500,000 Kurdish refugees fled to Turkey. In addition, Turkey fears that a possible division of Iraq would result in the emergence of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq that might rekindle the conflict between Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey and the Turkish government. Turkey’s support and permission to use its military bases would be important to an operation against Iraq by the United States. Turkey was a staging area for air raids against Iraq during the Gulf War. A poll taken recently indicated that 90 percent of the Turkish people oppose a war in Iraq. In March, a 150-member Turkish trade and industry delegation, led by Foreign Trade Undersecretary Kursad Tuzmek, traveled to Iraq to discuss boosting bilateral trade from the current $1 billion per year under the oil-for-food program, which was implemented in 1996, to the pre-1990 level of $2.5 billion annually. Turkish trade delegations have been going to Baghdad for the past two years. April 2002 Israel to Upgrade Turkish Tanksin Continued Defense Cooperation Turkey decided in March to award a tender for upgrading 170 aging U.S.-made M60 main battle tanks to Israeli Military Industries (IMI), following a round of negotiations over the last two years to conclude the $668 million deal. The option exists to improve up to 1,000 M60s. However, the recent escalation in the hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the West Bank has placed the Turkish government in the difficult position of balancing its military cooperation agreement with Israel, dating back to 1996, with its support for a Palestinian state. Although certain Turkish government officials, including Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, have argued that the tank contract with Israeli Military Industries should be postponed or cancelled because of the escalation of the conflict, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stated in early April that the contract would not be cancelled. In June, Israel is scheduled to participate in the “Anatolian Eagle” air maneuvers, which have been planned jointly with Turkey and the United States near the central Turkish city of Konya. At least 30 fighter planes from each country are scheduled to take part in the military exercises, designed to improve combat readiness. The Turkish government has asserted that its decision to award the tank contract to Israeli Military Industries stemmed from the fact that the company offered the most competitive price and could provide technology for the upgrade that Turkey had difficulty finding elsewhere. The M60 tank tender is the third Turkish military modernization program Israel has taken on. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is upgrading Turkish F-4 and F-5 fighter jets, and TAAS Israel Industries won a tender to equip Turkish helicopters with electronic warfare systems. The tank upgrade contract will be the largest ever awarded to Israeli Military Industries in the company’s 50 years in business. IMI is considered the leader in the upgrading of M60 tanks now that the United States has taken the majority of the M60s out of the army’s active-duty arsenal. Given the country’s severe economic crisis, Turkey has postponed plans to locally co-produce up to 1,000 main battle tanks worth at least $7 billion. In April 2001, the Turkish military cancelled or postponed 32 programs worth more than $19 billion. April 2002 Joint Strike Fighter Participation Sealed The United States and Turkey will sign an accord by June outlining the terms of Turkey’s participation in the production of the fourth generation U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The aircraft is being developed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation with its principal partners Northrop Grumman and Britain’s BAE Systems. Turkey will acquire an as yet unspecified number of the state-of-the-art Joint Strike Fighter planes, the most advanced warplane currently being developed globally, which will result in a significant upgrade of the country’s current fleet, consisting primarily of U.S.-made F-16s. The Joint Strike Fighter will markedly outpace the F-16 in terms of its night and all-weather operation capabilities, more advanced avionics, and weapons delivery systems. Turkey is expected to invest 1 to 2 percent of the costs of the stealth aircraft’s development and demonstration. Turkey’s contribution of about $150 million will involve the co-production of certain elements of the aircraft in Turkey, which opens the way for the possibility of profits for the Turkish government from the sale of the fighter jet. With production costs projected at $200 billion, the JSF program is the largest in the United States Defense Department’s history. Up to 3,000 of the aircraft will be manufactured for the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and the British Royal Air Force and Navy. The Pentagon envisions that another 3,000 could be sold overseas. April 2002 Increased U.S. Trade Envisioned in Formal Economic Partnership The U.S.-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission, established during Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s January visit to Washington, launched its first round of talks in Ankara to consider the Turkish government’s request for expanding trade between the two countries. The aim of the Commission, which will meet on a regular basis, is to upgrade bilateral trade relations to a level that is commensurate with the close strategic partnership between the two countries. Progress was made during the talks toward the creation of qualified industrial zones in Turkey, which will be established as part of an existing agreement on the zones between the United States and Israel. Products manufactured in the zones can enter the U.S. free of tariffs and quotas. Turkey is conducting studies to determine which sectors would be appropriate for the manufacture of goods in these zones. The Commission agreed to continue working to facilitate Turkey’s access to the textile market in the United States. Turkey seeks higher quotas for its textile exports to the United States, a demand facing opposition from companies in the American textile industry, and a write-off of some or all of its $5 billion military debt to Washington. The Commission also agreed that the United States would open offices in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir and in the city of Gazientep in southeastern Turkey to provide information on reciprocal trade and investment opportunities. Similar centers will be opened in the U.S. as well. In 2001, the United States imported $3.1 billion of Turkish goods, including textiles, precious stones and metals, iron, and steel. U.S. exports to Turkey, including aircraft and machinery, were valued at $3.9 billion. Turkey’s volume of trade with the European Union is six times higher than that between Turkey and the United States. April 2002 European Convention Participation Boosts Brussels Ties Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, in charge of Turkey’s European Union accession preparations, is representing Turkey at a series of meetings of the European Convention in Brussels, which began March 1 for the purpose of recommending institutional reforms to make the EU more effective, particularly after enlargement. The European Union’s invitation to Turkey to sit at the Convention table, a step that was strongly encouraged by Greece, is significant. Turkey is enjoying the same status at the Convention meetings as the other 12 candidate nations despite the fact that it is the only candidate that has not begun accession talks, due to the sluggish pace of implementing reforms required for EU membership. April 2002 Political-Military Debate on EU Future Deputy Prime Minister Yilmaz called for a referendum on Turkey’s European Union bid in order to resolve domestic uncertainties over the country’s aspirations to join the bloc. His action stemmed from a statement by a senior military official and foot-dragging in parliament over passage of certain critical reforms, particularly wider cultural rights for ethnic Kurds, the lifting of the death penalty, and greater freedom of expression. Yilmaz urged Turkey to accelerate the accession process, noting that opinion polls indicated that two-thirds of Turks supported Turkey’s accession to the European Union. General Tuncer Kilinc, who is the head of the National Security Council and has been tapped to take over as air force commander in August 2003, stated that the European Union would never accept Turkey as a member and called for closer ties with Russia and Iran instead. The National Security Council, consisting of both political and military leaders, is the country’s top decision-making body for security matters and other critical policy issues. The general’s statement was considered unusual since senior military officials rarely take positions publicly that are at variance with government policy. On the same day, the Chief of General Staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, stated that European Union accession was a geopolitical necessity for Turkey. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem called for an end to quarrels over Turkey’s EU bid, saying that it would cause delays in preparations and damage the country’s accession course. Progress on reforms has been slowed within the three-party ruling coalition by the tug-of-war between Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli’s far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which is resisting the legislation of crucial reforms, particularly those concerning Kurdish issues and the abolition of the death penalty, and the two more liberal parties, Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP) and Yilmaz’s center-right Motherland Party (ANAP), which want to accelerate the reform process. Authorities charged Dogu Perincek, the leader of the small Maoist Turkish Labor Party, with confiscating confidential e-mail messages from the office of Karen Fogg, the representative of the European Commission in Ankara, and having them published in the party newspaper. Perincek had accused the envoy of working against Turkish interests in messages sent to EU officials and Turkish journalists. If convicted, he faces a maximum three-year prison sentence. April 2002 EU Political Reforms Pass Legislature The Turkish parliament passed another series of democratization laws putting into effect several more of last year’s constitutional amendments aimed at improving Turkey’s chances for entry into the European Union. Although it was the second legislative package passed this year in conjunction with the amendments, the ban on broadcasting and education in the Kurdish language, the abolition of the death penalty, and the further lifting of restrictions on freedom of expression remained unaddressed. One law aimed at discouraging the torture of detainees stipulates that police and security forces will now have to pay the heavy fines imposed on Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights, through cases brought to the court by torture victims, if these authorities have been convicted of torture in conjunction with the cases. In addition, criminal suspects will now have greater access to defense lawyers. Another law makes it more difficult to ban political parties by authorizing courts to first deprive the parties of state funding if they are found to be acting against the constitution or the law on political parties before acting to ban them. April 2002 Kurdish Questions UnresolvedDespite EU Criteria An award-winning Turkish film about the life of a Kurdish orphan was banned for highlighting Kurdish nationalism and portraying a negative picture of Turkish police. Turkish prosecutors also charged a primary school teacher with spreading terrorist propaganda for putting a Kurdish-language love poem on his wedding invitation. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Though it is not illegal to publish in Kurdish, prosecutors alleged that the teacher was part of a terrorist campaign to broaden the use of the language. In addition, seven families were charged with breaking Turkish law by giving their children traditional Kurdish names. Arrests of people petitioning the government to allow education in the Kurdish language also continued. A Turkish publisher was charged with disseminating separatist propaganda after he published a Turkish edition of a book about Kurds written by an American journalist. If convicted, he faces one to three years in prison. April 2002 Islamist Chief Banned from Politics Again Islamist political veteran Necmettin Erbakan has been sentenced to 28 months in prison for embezzling funds from his Welfare Party, which was banned in January 1998 for undermining Turkey’s secular democracy. He will remain free until an appeal to the verdict is heard. If Erbakan loses his appeal, he will face a life-long ban on participation in politics under a law forbidding those convicted of fraud from joining a political party or running for parliament. He was banned from politics for five years upon the closure of his party. In 2003, when the ban was to end, he was expected to become the leader of the Happiness and Contentment Party (Saadet), which replaced the Islamist Virtue Party, closed by the Constitutional Court in June 2001. After the Court opened the closure case against the Welfare Party, its assets were transferred to the state treasury, where authorities asserted that $3.5 million in party funds were missing. Seventy-one former leaders of Welfare party branches were also sentenced to terms of up to one year on charges associated with the missing funds. Erbakan, 75, has been at the helm of Turkey’s Islamist movement for most of the past 30 years. Elected the country’s first prime minister from an Islamist party in July 1996, he was pressured by the military to step down a year later after it judged his administration to be a threat to the country’s secular constitution. March 2002 Peacekeeping Contingent Arrives in Afghanistan About 260 Turkish troops arrived in Kabul in mid-February to take part in the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Armored vehicles, high-tech infantry equipment, and an ambulance were among the equipment that accompanied the troops. The Turkish government has stated that it is seeking financial assistance from the international community to cover the costs of Turkish participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), particularly if it takes over the command of the force from Britain in April. The United States said it would help Turkey obtain this assistance, but did not pledge additional funds beyond the $20 million it gave Ankara last year to defray the costs of its contribution to the war against terrorism both at home and in Afghanistan. Britain financed the transport of the Turkish troop contingent from Turkey to Afghanistan and is currently financing its deployment in Kabul. Members of Turkey’s ISAF contingent have begun assisting Britain in training 600 Afghan soldiers, who are to make up Afghanistan’s first army unit. In addition, Turkey has offered to provide uniforms and equipment for this unit. Turkey is also expected to participate in land mine clearance in Afghanistan, for which the international community pledged $27.2 million, including $7 million from the United States. Turkey pledged to contribute a total of $5 million over five years for the reconstruction of Afghanistan at the January international donor conference in Tokyo sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. March 2002 Arrests of Al-Qaeda Operatives Targeting Israel Police in Turkey’s eastern province of Van arrested two Palestinians and a Jordanian, all trained at Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, who were believed to have been heading to Israel to carry out a suicide bombing in or around Tel Aviv at the request of a cleric with ties to the terrorist organization. The arrests marked the first capture in Turkey of suspects linked to the Al Qaeda network. The suspects, who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan, had entered Van illegally from Iran and had planned to travel to Israel via Syria and Jordan. They are members of a little-known group called Beyyiat El-Imam, or “Union of Imams,” led by Abu Musad, who approved the bombing. At least 10 Turkish nationals in Van who allegedly helped smuggle the suspects into the country were also detained. Six additional men were detained in Istanbul in connection with the case. Evidence has also emerged in Afghanistan indicating that some members of the German-based Kaplan Group, which planned a 1998 suicide assault against Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum in Ankara through the use of a private airplane, were trained at Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The attack, planned to take place during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey by Ataturk, was foiled by Turkish intelligence authorities, and 18 people were later convicted for planning the attack. The Kaplan group, a radical Islamic organization made up mostly of Turks living in Germany, is led by a Turkish cleric, Metin Kaplan. According to intelligence officials in Turkey and Germany, a delegation from the organization met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan the year before the planned attack in Ankara. Intelligence reports also indicated that members of the group were among 14 Turks detained as Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Germany has refused to extradite Kaplan, who still faces charges for the Ankara plot, to Turkey. He is serving a four-year sentence in Germany for operating a terrorist organization and inciting a murder. Since the September 11 attacks, 42 Turkish nationals have been detained in the United States in connection with the investigation into the attacks. March 2002 New IMF Funds to Restructure Financial System The IMF approved a $16 billion loan to Turkey under a new standby agreement that will be in effect over the next three years in support of the government’s new austerity measures aimed at ending the country’s worst recession since 1945. The agreement focuses on bringing inflation down, reducing the country’s heavy debt burden, and enabling sustainable growth. The IMF is making $9 billion of the package available immediately. The arrangement replaces the $19 billion in stand-by credit granted to Turkey since December 1999. The IMF is carrying $4 billion of this previous credit, which has not been disbursed, over to this loan package. The new agreement makes Turkey the world’s largest recipient of IMF funds, with a total of $31 billion, or about one-third of the fund’s total lending, topping the $22 billion the IMF committed to Argentina. In return for the new loan, Turkey has pledged to reduce public spending by cutting 50,000 public sector jobs this year and 25,000 during the first half of next year, raising taxes, and moving forward with privatization in an attempt to end a year-long crisis that has resulted in a loss of 1.5 million jobs. A key IMF condition for the new loan was the government’s implementation of a long-awaited bank recapitalization law under which Turkey’s Banking Control and Supervisory Board regulates the flow of resources to banks and injects $5 billion into the banking system. The austerity program aims to decrease inflation from more than 90 percent last year to 35 percent this year and lay the basis for economic growth of 3 percent in 2002. Ankara also hopes to attract more direct foreign investment, currently at $1 billion, following implementation of a public procurement law that eliminated widespread irregularities in state tenders and increased transparency in government. IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler stated that the new loan package reflected the international community’s recognition of Turkey’s success in developing and implementing a bold and comprehensive economic reform program, adding that progress in this regard had been impressive. March 2002 Laws Passed to Improve Human Rights Turkey’s parliament passed a package of reform legislation as follow-up to key constitutional amendments passed last October in preparation for European Union membership. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen suggested that the package fell short of European Union standards, particularly with regard to the death penalty issue and the right to Kurdish-language education. Human rights activists said the legislation did not go far enough to amend the anti-sedition and anti-terrorism laws restricting freedom of expression, which have been used to jail hundreds of journalists, writers, politicians, and academics over the years. The legislation was changed to impose jail sentences on those inciting hatred based on class, race, religion, or region only in cases where the incitement is committed in a way that endangers public order. The only part of the law making it a crime to insult the Turkish nation, parliament, military, or civil service that was changed was the length of the maximum jail sentence, which was reduced from six to three years. The reform package did not include laws to implement last fall’s constitutional amendments, required by the EU, that would permit Kurdish-language television and radio broadcasts and abolish the death penalty in cases other than terrorism and treason. In the absence of legislative changes concerning Kurdish-language broadcasts, Turkish authorities, in February, suspended for one year telecasts by a television station that played Kurdish-language music videos, which were in violation of laws barring broadcasts that incite society to “violence, terrorism, and ethnic separatism.” Through the reform package, Turkey is a step closer to implementation of Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights, regulating detention rights, in the southeastern provinces under emergency rule, where ethnic Kurds predominate. The new legislation decreased detention periods for suspects from seven to four days, while ensuring that detainees could immediately contact their families and lawyers. Husnu Ondul, the chairman of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, said this legislation was a significant improvement since reducing the detention period would also reduce torture. Previously, anyone accused of sympathizing with the PKK or of committing terror offenses could be held indefinitely without access to a lawyer. In addition, Turkish Minister for Human Rights, Necat Arseven, stated that Amnesty International would be allowed to establish a branch in Turkey again after a 22-year absence from the country. The organization was forced to close its Turkish branch following the 1980 military coup. March 2002 Controversy over Hacking of European Commission E-Mail Following the discovery that the electronic mail of its representative in Turkey was being monitored by unknown individuals, the European Commission (EC) established a new communications system to guarantee the confidentiality of messages sent by the EC representative’s office in Ankara. The EC also heightened physical security at the representative’s office. The content of Karen Fogg’s e-mails had been given to the leader of the leftist Labor Party, Dogu Perincek, who published them in a weekly magazine that serves as the mouthpiece of the party. A Turkish state security court ordered the seizure of an issue of the magazine on grounds that it had continued to print the e-mail messages, despite a ruling banning their publication. European Commission President Romano Prodi telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to express his concern over the matter, saying that a political statement at the highest level was necessary to ensure that EU-Turkey relations were not harmed by the incident. Ecevit assured Prodi that an official investigation into the e-mail theft had been launched to determine who was responsible, and Turkish authorities had enhanced security around Fogg’s office. Turkey’s National Intelligence Service, military, and police all denied any connection to the e-mail monitoring, following Perincek’s allegation that the messages had been leaked by “a state unit.” March 2002 Crackdown on Petitioners for Kurdish-Language Education The Turkish government cracked down on a nationwide petition drive by ethnic Kurdish students in public universities and their supporters to end a constitutional ban on Kurdish-language education by taking several thousand students and other petitioners into custody and expelling many of the students from their universities. Since November, about 11,000 students and their supporters have signed petitions calling on authorities to allow Kurdish to be taught as an elective subject at universities. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit ruled out the introduction of Kurdish-language classes into the country’s education system, stating that efforts to promote such a move were aimed at dividing Turkey along ethnic lines. The government insisted that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had organized the petition drive to foment separatism and persuade the country’s 12 million ethnic Kurds to assert their Kurdish identity at a time when Turkey is obligated by the EU to grant broader cultural rights to its Kurds. The constitution states that no language other than Turkish can be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institution of training or education. The only exceptions apply to the Greek and Armenian minorities living in Turkey, which are allowed to carry out education in their own languages under a 1923 international treaty. Turkey does not recognize its Kurdish population as an official minority. An Istanbul court acquitted a Turkish publisher on charges that he threatened the unity of the Turkish state by publishing a book of political writings by U.S. academic and linguist Noam Chomsky. In the book, Chomsky harshly criticizes the Turkish government’s treatment of the country’s ethnic Kurds. March 2002 Combat Readiness Exercises with U.S.Israel Turkey will join the U.S. and Israel in conducting a series of three joint air maneuvers this year near the central Turkish city of Konya in order to improve combat readiness. The exercises, to be carried out in April, June, and September, will be named “Anatolian Eagle” and will include at least 30 fighter planes from each country. Last year, Turkey hosted at least 10 Israeli air force jets in Konya for the first joint maneuver of this type carried out by the two countries. March 2002 Security Cooperation with Syria Expands Some three years after the Syrian government expelled Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan from Syria and pledged to withdraw its support from the PKK, Ankara and Damascus continue to improve their cooperation in the security sector by conducting bilateral discussions on border control and counter-terrorism operations, including those conducted during a visit to Damascus by the head of Turkey’s police force. The Syrian Interior Ministry has also provided information to Ankara on the activities of the PKK, including giving Turkish authorities records of about 1,500 interrogations of Syrian citizens who had left the PKK voluntarily. The Syrian government has required that these former PKK members sign a document recognizing that they would face legal charges if they rejoined the organization. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu stated that land mines along Turkey’s 545-mile border with Syria would be cleared within two years in order to transform the fields to agricultural use for the cultivation of cotton. The mines were laid in 1956 to prevent smuggling into Turkey from Syria. There are no mines along the Syrian side of the border. In 1998, Turkish troops massed along the Syrian border, threatening to invade if Syria did not halt support for the PKK. March 2002 Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Effort WanesVisa Restrictions Lifted The efforts of the 10-member private Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, which was launched last summer by former diplomats, military officers, and scientists from Turkey and Armenia to foster reconciliation and dialogue between the two countries, have ground to a halt. The Armenian commissioners suspended the Commission’s activities after they discovered that the Turkish representatives had secretly sent a letter to the International Center for Transitional Justice asking it to refrain from analyzing the applicability of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to the events of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey. At a meeting of the Commission in November 2001, both the Armenian and Turkish commissioners had authorized the New York-based human rights organization to carry out the analysis. (See the August/September 2001 issue of the Strategic Regional Report, p. 13.) Turkey has resumed issuing visas to Armenian nationals at entry gates into Turkey, a process that was halted in the aftermath of the adoption of an Armenian genocide resolution by the French parliament in January 2001. The move eliminates the month-long process of applying for visas through the Turkish embassies in Georgia or Russia in the absence of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Yerevan. A Turkish trade blockade on Armenia, imposed in 1992 following the Armenian occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, remains in force. French Defense Minister Alain Richard’s late January visit to Turkey was definitive in ending an unofficial year-long Turkish boycott against French defense contractors, which was launched following the adoption of the Armenian genocide bill by the French parliament. Late last year, Turkey awarded a nearly $200 million contract to France’s Paris-based company Thales for systems integration work for the Turkish navy’s maritime transport aircraft. However, in February, Turkey chose BAE Systems North America, a U.S. company, to produce electronic warfare systems for 80 Turkish F-16 fighter jets and install them. In late 2000, Ankara had reached a preliminary agreement with Thales to carry out the work, but it was scrapped following the adoption of the French genocide bill. Richard failed to salvage the Thales agreement during his visit to Turkey. January/February 2002 Prime Minister in Washington for Broad High-Level Meetings During his January 14-18 visit to Washington, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and U.S. officials discussed Turkey’s role in Afghanistan, bilateral trade, Iraq and other Middle Eastern issues, the Caucasus, EU plans to create a rapid reaction force, Greek-Turkish relations, and the Cyprus issue. Accompanied by several ministers, including Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, and 100 businessmen, Ecevit met with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and other officials. Bush told Ecevit that the U.S. supported Turkey’s proposal that it assume the leadership of the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan when Britain relinquishes command of the force this spring. Ankara is seeking further U.S. financial aid to offset the costs of Turkey’s role in the peacekeeping mission beyond the $20 million the U.S. provided last year. Ecevit stated that Turkey was committed to the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan. U.S. officials told him that Turkish companies could expect to profit from the multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort in the country. The president assured Ecevit, who has argued against a U.S. military campaign in Iraq, that Washington would consult closely with Turkey before it made or implemented any decision to extend its war on terrorism to Iraq. Turkish officials reiterated their request that Washington ease export quotas on Turkish textiles and open the U.S. market to additional sales of Turkish steel to help alleviate the country’s economic crisis. Turkey has also requested a reduction in Ankara’s $5 billion debt from purchases of U.S. military equipment. U.S. officials told the Turkish delegation that Washington would be willing to continue discussing these matters. The State Department announced the establishment of a U.S.-Turkey Economic Partnership Commission that will work toward improving trade and commercial relations between the two countries, including promoting more U.S. investment in Turkey. The U.S. also discussed the possibility of creating high-tech Quality Investment Zones, special duty-free investment zones, in Turkey, similar to those in Jordan. Output from the zones enters the U.S. free of tariffs or quotas. In 2000, Turkey exported $2.8 billion in goods to the United States, its second-largest market after Germany, with clothing and other textiles comprising 40 percent of the U.S.-bound exports. January/February 2002 Lead Role in Afghanistan Peacekeeping Force Planned Turkey will likely assume command of the 17-nation international peacekeeping force in Kabul, Afghanistan, which is enhancing security for the country’s new interim government, after Britain completes three months at the force’s helm on April 30. Turkey is expected to initially contribute about 260 troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and could increase the number to 500. An advance party of 20 Turkish armed forces personnel arrived in Afghanistan in mid-January. A small number of U.S. soldiers will have a limited role in ISAF, aiding the force with logistics, intelligence, and the transport of troops and supplies. Turkey had earlier set aside 90 special forces troops experienced in guerrilla warfare for potential deployment in Afghanistan. It was the first Muslim country to commit combat troops to the war. Rapid U.S. military success rendered them unnecessary. The Turkish military has also assigned a destroyer to deploy to the Indian Ocean if necessary. Turkey, with close historic, cultural, and linguistic ties to Central Asia, has expressed a desire to play a key role in shaping the future of Afghanistan. The U.S. special representative to the Afghan opposition, James Dobbins, said that Turkey will be part of a broader consultative process as the U.S. and other countries consider how to move forward in Afghanistan. Turkey’s ties to Afghanistan date back to the 1920s, when it offered troops to put down a radical Islamic uprising and also trained hundreds of Afghan officers within Turkey and in Afghanistan. Turkey has since built hospitals, schools, and other institutions in the country. January/February 2002 Rapid Diplomatic Relations with New Afghan Government Turkey announced, in late November, that it would open its embassy in Kabul in order to ease communication between the West and Afghan opposition groups to facilitate the process of establishing a new interim government, following the defeat of the Taliban. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem arrived in Kabul in mid-December for meetings with Afghan officials. He pledged Turkey’s support for helping the interim government establish an effective administration, for rebuilding civilian, law enforcement, and military institutions, and for assisting in training a diplomatic corps and setting up broadcasting facilities. Cem conveyed the message that Ankara could help Afghanistan model its new government after Turkey’s modern Muslim secular state and could help build its relations with Europe. Cem also delivered medical supplies to the Ataturk Children’s Hospital in Kabul, a 120-bed facility built by the Turkish government. Turkey has sent drugs, medical supplies, and health personnel to the hospital in cooperation with the International Red Cross. Cem said that a primary function of the Turkish Embassy would be to serve as a center for providing medical and agricultural aid to the Afghan people Cem also traveled to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, with its large population of Uzbeks, who have close ethnic links to Turks, to reopen the Turkish consulate there. His trip to Afghanistan included a stopover in Islamabad, where he held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar on the multinational force and the interim administration in Afghanistan. His stay in Pakistan marked the third high-level contact between the two countries since September 11. January/February 2002 Pledge to Rebuild Afghan Army and Police Provide Social Support In a letter to Hamid Karzai, the chairman of the interim government in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Ecevit stated that Turkey would like to help Afghan officials build a national army and police force to replace the warlord-led military factions in the country. He invited Karzai or Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim to Turkey to discuss the matter. Turkey is preparing to set up a police academy in Afghanistan. In late November, 13 Afghan guards providing security for Afghanistan’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, came to Istanbul for a three-week police training course under the auspices of the Turkish Directorate General for Security. Turkey considered the request for training, made by the Northern Alliance leadership, to be the first step in building a new Afghan police force. Ecevit also told Karzai that Ankara would continue to provide assistance to Afghanistan in the health and education sectors, including providing books for Afghan schools, and could send experts to the country to work with the Afghan people in these areas. January/February 2002 Growing Anxiety over U.S. Plans in Iraq Prime Minister Ecevit, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu have publicly expressed their opposition to any extension of Washington’s war on terrorism to Iraq for its refusal to permit U.N. weapons inspections while it seeks to produce weapons of mass destruction. In January, Ecevit sent a message to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urging him to permit resumption of the inspections, which were halted by Baghdad three years ago. Kivrikoglu stressed that military action against Baghdad could lead to the division of Iraq and the formation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq at Turkey’s border, as well as a flood of refugees into Turkey and a worsening of the country’s economic crisis. Turkey also fears that the overthrow of Hussein could result in a hard-line Islamist regime in Baghdad that could endanger Turkish security. Turkish leaders fear that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq would reactivate aspirations of autonomy-seeking Kurds within Turkey and incite renewed fighting between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish government forces, which has dropped off sharply since the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. A few days before Secretary of State Colin Powell’s early December visit to Turkey, Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said the emergence of new circumstances might prompt Turkey to reconsider its opposition to military action against Iraq, suggesting that evidence linking Hussein to terrorism could alter the Turkish government’s stance. To date, there has been no publicly-released evidence that Iraq played a role in the September 11 attacks. Iraq’s Ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Yahya Al-Hijazi, was recalled to Baghdad shortly before Powell’s visit to Ankara, following assertions by U.S. officials and media reports that linked him to Al-Qaeda members. U.S. officials claimed that the ambassador, a former chief of the Iraqi intelligence service, had met with Osama bin Laden in Kandahar in 1998 and with Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11 hijackers, in Prague last April. Iraqi officials, who said Al-Hijazi’s mission in Turkey had ended, rejected the claims. January/February 2002 Oil, Gas Exploration and Trade with Iraq, Syria, Iran A subsidiary of the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) announced in December that it had signed an agreement with Iraq’s Ministry of Petroleum to drill for oil on Iraqi territory. The Turkish Petroleum International Company (TPIC) stated that the agreement covered drilling for 20 wells in the Khurmala oilfield near Kirkuk in cooperation with the Iraqi state company North Oil Company. TPIC also said the agreement had been approved by the United Nations under the “oil-for-food” program. Washington has expressed concern over Ankara’s plan to open a second border gate with Iraq, which would bypass the region controlled by Iraqi Kurds and be directly controlled by Baghdad. The proposed crossing would be built parallel to the twin oil pipelines that carry Iraqi crude oil to Turkey. TPAO has held talks with Iraq on the purchase of Iraqi natural gas if sanctions against Baghdad are lifted. In September, the U.N. Compensation Commission for Iraq awarded $176.3 million to Turkey’s BOTAS Petroleum Pipeline Corporation as compensation for the shutdown of its oil pipeline from Iraq after the Gulf War. Turkey and Syria have also agreed to cooperate on oil exploration projects carried out in Syria, which will involve the participation of TPIC and TPAO. Following a two-year delay, Turkey has also begun importing Iranian natural gas under a 25-year contract in a bid to meet its escalating natural gas needs, which are expected to rise from about 15 billion cubic meters (bcms) in 2001 to 58 bcms annually by 2010. The volume will increase to 10 billion by 2007. In 2002, 4 billion bcms of Iranian gas will reach Turkey through a pipeline running from the Iranian city of Tabriz to Ankara, supplementing gas supplies already received from Algeria, Russia, and Nigeria. The United States has objected to the arrangement, asserting that it violates the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act passed by Congress in 1996. Turkey maintains that its rapidly growing energy demand justifies the procurement of natural gas through several pipelines, including the Blue Stream line running under the Black Sea from southern Russia to Turkey and a planned project to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Western markets through Turkey. January/February 2002 EU Accession Process Continues to Advance The December EU summit in Laeken, Belgium, advanced the prospect of opening EU accession negotiations with Ankara due to Turkey’s ongoing compliance with political criteria established for accession, particularly through the package of recent amendments to its constitution. In addition, the Turkish government dramatically revamped the country’s Civil Code to grant women equal rights in marriage. The EU encouraged Turkey to continue its progress toward complying with both economic and political criteria, notably with regard to human rights. Turkey’s willingness to compromise over the issue of the EU rapid reaction force’s use of NATO assets and the resumption of bicommunal talks on the Cyprus problem were considered positive factors contributing to the summit’s favorable assessment of Turkey’s candidacy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem stated that Turkey hopes to begin accession talks at the end of 2002. The country was named a European Union candidate in December 1999. The EU also moved up the status of Turkey’s candidacy by including Turkey in the bloc’s constitutional convention that will begin discussions by March 2002 on the drafting of a new constitutional treaty aimed at revamping the bloc’s institutions. Ankara considered its admission to the convention a victory since its position in the new body will be equal to that of the other 12 EU candidates currently negotiating accession, although Turkey, itself, has not yet begun negotiations. Each EU member state and each candidate country will be represented in the convention by a government representative and two parliamentarians, but only member countries will take part in the decision-making mechanism. January/February 2002 Greek Concerns Delay ESDP Agreement At the EU’s Laeken summit, Greece blocked the EU’s consideration of an unofficial compromise accord reached by the U.S., Britain, and Turkey that would have ended Ankara’s two-year refusal to allow NATO to authorize the use of its assets by the proposed EU rapid reaction force. At the summit, the EU had hoped to approve the accord, which outlines the relations between Turkey, with the second-largest army in NATO, and the force. The accord was to open the way for an agreement between NATO and the bloc on the force’s use of alliance assets, such as planning and command centers, air bases, intelligence and communications facilities, and means of transport. The 60,000-member force, first proposed at the EU’s Helsinki summit in December 1999 as part of a common European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), will be devoted to peacekeeping and crisis management operations such as humanitarian and rescue missions in situations in which NATO will not be involved. The EU and NATO have been attempting to avoid duplication of certain military equipment and facilities once the force becomes fully operational in 2003. Ankara had objected to the fact that, as a non-EU member, it would be given no role in the planning process for operations by the force involving NATO assets or in the formulation of a common ESDP. The late-November accord, which was not made public, reportedly stipulated that the European Union would consult with Turkey on a case-by-case basis concerning potential operations of the force in areas near its borders that Turkey regards as strategic to its national interests, such as the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. This effectively granted Ankara the right to veto the force’s use of NATO assets in these areas. Turkey was reportedly assured that the force would not be used in crises stemming from Greek-Turkish disputes over Cyprus or the Aegean. The accord did not meet Ankara’s demand to be involved in decision-making concerning the force’s operations where NATO resources are not used. Greece, which wants the force to be as independent from NATO as possible, considered the accord detrimental to its national interests and to the autonomy of the European Union. It asserted that the accord gave NATO members that are not part of the EU too much say in the operations of the force. Greece is seeking assurances that Turkey will not block any operation by the force in the Balkans, an area that Athens considers crucial to its security, and that the force will not be used in any way that will damage Greece’s interests in the Aegean and Cyprus. After failed attempts by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, NATO Secretary General George Robertson, and EU officials to amend the accord at the summit, the EU decided that the issue of relations between the force and NATO countries that are not EU members—Norway, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey—would be considered by the Spanish presidency of the bloc, from January 1 to June 30. Despite the impasse, European Union leaders declared the force operational, leaving its relationship to NATO undefined. This declaration will enable the EU force to carry out humanitarian missions for a limited time in low-intensity crises without the aid of NATO assets and capabilities. January/February 2002 IMF, EU Criteria Strengthen Financial Structures In anticipation of the IMF’s expected approval of a new $10 billion stand-by credit agreement from the IMF the second half of January, the Turkish parliament passed key legislation sought by the lending institution in return for the loan package. The loan will be in addition to the $19 billion already provided to Turkey by the IMF, along with the World Bank. One law seeks to reduce corruption and ensure competition in state tenders by providing a more efficient and transparent procurement system, aligning Turkey’s legislation on the matter to that of the European Union. A second law opens the way for the privatization of Tekel, the state-owned tobacco and alcohol monopoly that currently fixes prices for farmers’ tobacco sales and the sales of cigarettes. It slashes subsidies to Turkish tobacco farmers, cuts excess production, and encourages farmers to move to other crops. Efforts are also continuing to pass legislation to complete the restructuring of the banking sector, where the current economic crisis was triggered in the fall of 2000. January/February 2002 Turkey and Israel have agreed in principle to begin talks to jointly produce Arrow 2 missiles as part of a joint missile defense strategy against regional threats, primarily Iraq and Iran. Washington recently approved Turkey’s inclusion in the production of the Arrow 2, which is being jointly developed by the U.S. and Israel. Israel has also won a $110 million tender to equip the helicopters of the Turkish armed forces with electronic warfare systems. The project will be carried out by TAAS-Israel Industries, which will provide equipment to protect Turkey’s 90 Sikorsky Black Hawk, 9 Super Cobra, 27 Cobra, 17 Mi-17, and 50 Cougar helicopters from missile threats. Turkey has also resumed talks with TAAS-Israel Industries for the upgrading of 170 U.S.-made M-60 tanks, a tender that has been on the agenda for the last three years and is worth an estimated $600 million. January/February 2002 Relations with France Mending after Armenian Row The Turkish Defense Industries Undersecretariat (SSM) has decided to open contract negotiations with French Thales on a maritime patrol aircraft mission equipment project, a sign of improving relations between Ankara and Paris. These relations were strained in January 2001 when the French presidency approved the parliament’s Armenian genocide resolution. Bilateral relations gradually improved throughout 2001 as Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem hosted his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine in Turkey in July, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal held talks with his French counterpart in Paris, and Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu met with French Defense Minister Alain Richard during NATO meetings in Brussels. Cakmakoglu has extended an invitation to Richard to visit Ankara in early 2002. Last January, Turkey cancelled a $149 million military observation satellite tender with France’s Alcatel in response to the genocide bill. November/December 2001 High-Level Military Contributions for Counter-Terrorism War in Afghanistan Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with the second-largest army in NATO, has offered to send several thousand troops to Afghanistan as part of an anticipated United Nations-led stabilization force that could include troops from other Muslim countries, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Turkey may also be one of the leaders of the stabilization force and said it would be willing to provide staff for a brigade headquarters. The Turkish government has also offered to send special forces for various missions, regular army units to serve as a protective force, and humanitarian assistance units to Afghanistan. In early October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld included Turkey in a tour of countries that Washington considered key to the war against terrorism, which also included Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Uzbekistan. Turkey, Britain, Germany, and Italy are among countries sending sizeable troop contingents to Afghanistan. Other countries that have offered to send forces include Australia, Canada, France, Poland, and New Zealand. Jordan is also considering the possibility of troop deployment. Turkish forces are experienced in conducting guerrilla warfare after fighting Kurdish separatists for more than 15 years in mountainous terrain in southeastern Turkey, similar to that of Afghanistan. In addition, Turkey has long had contacts with Afghan opposition groups of the Northern Alliance, particularly the forces of Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum, which are largely Uzbek and have close ethnic links with Turks. Turkey has already provided financial and military support to Gen. Dostum’s forces. Turkey has sent a military delegation to the United States Central Command in Tampa, Florida, to be part of a group acting as liaison officers between Washington and their countries concerning each nation’s contribution to the anti-terrorism campaign. Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy are among the other countries that have sent delegations to this command center that oversees U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. In early November, officers from Turkey, Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands accompanied a U.S. delegation inspecting former Soviet bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan for possible use in the war against Afghanistan. Turkey has granted the U.S. overflight rights, and Incirlik Air Base is being used as a hub for troops and equipment being transferred to Central Asia and for refueling U.S. military humanitarian aid flights on their return trips to Germany. The Turks have also granted Washington the use of airstrips in Malatya, Konya, and Izmir, and have provided port facilities in Antalya, Mersin, and Ceyhan for NATO vessels. In addition, Turkey has been providing intelligence information to the United States on the Northern Alliance and on illicit finance linked to Osama bin Laden. In October, Turkish authorities froze bank accounts that belonged to organizations ostensibly helping Bosnian and Chechen charities but that have been linked to Al Qaeda. Nearly 90 percent of Turks oppose sending Turkish troops to Afghanistan. Roughly two-thirds oppose U.S. military operations against Afghanistan and Ankara’s willingness to open Turkish military facilities to U.S. forces. November/December 2001 Close Ties to Pakistan for Post-War Planning Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer paid an official visit to Pakistan to express support for the country’s cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition to cripple the network of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last visited Turkey in November 1999. Sezer met with Musharraf and other officials to discuss the military operation in Afghanistan, the future shape of the government in Kabul, humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, and the need to boost bilateral cooperation. Turkey and Pakistan, both members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), agreed to work closely to achieve a lasting settlement in Afghanistan, agreeing that the new government should be broad-based and should be chosen by Afghans without foreign interference. November/December 2001 Central Asia Talks to Boost Anti-Terrorism Cohesion Foreign Minister Cem visited Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan in late October to strengthen political support for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign, discuss its effects on the region with government officials, and explore ways to expand commercial, military, and security cooperation with these former Soviet republics. Turkey, which shares Turkic cultural and linguistic ties with the region, considers itself well positioned to mediate between the West and these nations. Uzbekistan has joined Tajikistan in offering the use of its bases and airspace to American military aircraft for the campaign in Afghanistan, where the opposition Northern Alliance forces are made up of ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks, and other minorities. Cem and his counterparts assessed the role that Turkish peacekeeping troops could play in Afghanistan, discussed regional efforts to contribute to the economic and social development of the country, and examined the logistics of providing joint humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Azerbaijan backed the Turkish foreign minister’s proposal for a conference in Istanbul organized by the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to promote understanding between European and Muslim countries and to reaffirm the West’s assertion that the war against terrorism is not a war against Islam. A visit to Tajikistan in early November by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer included talks with leaders of the Northern Alliance. Sezer and Tajik leaders expressed their opposition to the inclusion of Taliban representatives in the new government that emerges in Afghanistan. Sezer also stopped in Georgia to discuss improving cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in the fight against terrorism, as well as proposed projects to bring Caspian gas and oil to Turkey through Georgia. A military working group was established almost two years ago between the Turkish and U.S. militaries to help arm Georgia. Turkey has been training Georgian military pilots and a Georgian infantry battalion, and has carried out a $1.5 million modernization of a military base in southern Georgia. November/December 2001 New IMF Funds to Bolster Economic Reforms The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Horst Kohler, said he would recommend a new loan for Turkey to bridge a $10 billion financing gap for the rest of 2001 and next year, a move the United States supports. The new funds would constitute Turkey’s third international bailout since December 2000 and the fourth in three years, making it the IMF’s largest borrower. Kohler stated that Turkey’s performance under its existing $15.7 billion economic reform program, backed by the IMF, has been very strong due to its commitment to take positive steps in fiscal policy, banking, structural reforms, and privatization. With the economy of Turkey expected to shrink by about 8.5 percent this year, the country faces its worst recession since 1945. Despite an austere budget for next year that slashes government spending by 17 percent, the issuance of a new 20-million-lira bill in November, which is worth about $12.50, was the latest sign of Turkey’s uphill battle against inflation, expected to reach 80 percent this year. The Turkish lira has lost 60 percent of its value against the dollar since February. Up to 1 million Turks have lost their jobs, with the official unemployment rate standing at an estimated 12 percent. Tens of thousands of businesses have been closed, and industrial production fell 9.2 percent year-on-year in September. Parliamentarians, prominent business leaders, and members of the military have called for parliamentary elections by spring, well ahead of the scheduled date of 2004. Protest marchers in demonstrations organized by trade unions have urged the government to resign over its handling of the economic crisis. The weakened global economy has made it doubtful that Turkey will be able to count on increased exports and higher levels of tourism, key elements in its economic recovery strategy. November/December 2001 New Iran Trade Initiatives Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, during November talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Cem in Ankara, criticized Turkey’s plans to send troops to Afghanistan and conveyed the message that there should be no external interference in the future of Afghanistan. During Kharrazi’s visit, which complemented Cem’s recent visit to Tehran, the Turkish-Iranian Business Council was launched to promote trade and economic relations between the private sectors of the two countries. In October, a security pact was signed between Iran and Turkey at the end of a meeting of the Iran-Turkey Commission on Security Cooperation to boost bilateral cooperation on border and security issues. The two countries have been meeting to discuss security issues since 1992. November/December 2001 Active Interest in Next Generation Fighters Ankara is seeking to negotiate the participation of Turkish industry in the system development phase of the production of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), or F-35, a new fourth generation supersonic stealth fighter jet to be built primarily by Lockheed Martin over the next four decades. The Joint Strike Fighter, expected to cost up to $50 million per fighter jet, is the first U.S. defense project in which a foreign country, Britain, has been made a full partner. Britain has invested $1.4 billion in the project and intends to purchase 150 of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin will share the initial $19 billion development award with BAE Systems PLC of Britain and Northrop Grumman Corp. Despite its economic woes, the Turkish government is prepared to contribute up to $1.2 billion toward the fighter’s development in return for contracts that would allow Tusas Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI), of which Lockheed Martin owns 49 percent, to participate in this development. Turkey would like to replace its F-16 fleet with the JSF by the end of 2015. The Joint Strike Fighter contract is worth more than $200 billion, making it the largest program in the U.S. Defense Department’s history. The contract involves the construction of about 3,000 aircraft for the United States air force, navy, and marine corps, modified to meet each service’s needs, as well as for the British air force and navy. Another 3,000 sales are possible to overseas military forces. Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway plan to contribute to the fighter’s development, while Israel and Singapore have also expressed an interest in buying the plane. The first models are scheduled to come off the production line in 2008 and be available for military operations by 2010. November/December 2001 Security Pact Proposed for Southern Caucasus Foreign Minister Cem, at a seminar in Brussels on Caspian security, called for a southern Caucasus security pact between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, given the region’s strategic importance as a conduit for Caspian oil and gas. At a time of strained relations between Georgia and Russia over Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, Cem said that a regional security process might help to defuse tensions and ultimately eliminate problems in Abkhazia, the Georgian province of South Ossetia, and Azerbaijan, involving the mainly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. October 2001 Cooperation with U.S. in Counter-Terrorism Campaign With Turkey's leaders pledging full support for the U.S. call for an international effort against terrorism, President Bush telephoned Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer to thank Turkey for its cooperation. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit agreed to Washington's request to use Turkish airspace and air bases for U.S. air force transport aircraft in conjunction with anti-terrorist operations. Ecevit also suggested that Turkey and the U.S. share intelligence concerning the Northern Alliance, the forces in northern Afghanistan fighting against the governing Taliban Islamic militia. Ankara maintains links with a number of military leaders in the Northern Alliance and intends to increase the material aid, training, and other assistance that it has been supplying to the anti-Taliban coalition. Ecevit called for ousting the Taliban, but he cautioned that Turkey was not prepared to offer ground troops for any operation in Afghanistan. October 2001 Foreign Minister Discusses Counter-Terrorism, Ongoing Issues in U.S. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, who visited Washington in late September, said that Turkey, with the second-largest standing army in NATO, would do whatever was necessary to help the U.S. track down those behind the terrorist attacks. Cem met with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss Turkey's role in the global anti-terrorism effort. Other topics discussed were the preservation of stability in the Caucasus, the situation in Iraq, the Cyprus issue, the European Security and Defense Policy, and Turkish and Jordanian efforts to influence Islamic moderates. In addition, Cem met with Jordan's King Abdullah, who was in Washington to pledge support for the U.S. effort. October 2001 Concern Over Iraq in the Crosshairs Turkey's Incirlik Air Base in south-central Turkey, near the Iraqi border, is expected to be an important logistics staging area for Washington's military effort against bin Laden's network. Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, American and British air force planes based at Incirlik have carried out patrols to enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq, protecting Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein's military forces. There are also large military air bases near the cities of Malatya and Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey, which have been upgraded partially through NATO assistance. Turkey expects its geostrategic location, bordering on Iraq, Iran, and Syria, all branded state sponsors of terrorism by the U.S., to enhance its stature in the event of an anti-terrorist operation in the broader region. However, Turkey has improved its bilateral relations with all three neighbors to its south. Ankara especially fears that a devastating attack on Baghdad could result in the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which could refuel separatist sentiment among Turkey's 12 million Kurds. Ankara raised its diplomatic presence in Iraq to ambassadorial level earlier this year, has sent numerous trade delegations to Baghdad to expand bilateral commercial ties, and has been negotiating with the Iraqis to open a second border gate that would bypass the Kurdish-administered region of Iraq. October 2001 Constitutional Amendments to Meet EU Requirements Continuing Turkey's efforts to meet requirements for EU membership, the Turkish parliament passed a sweeping package of 34 constitutional amendments that include improvements in freedom of expression, association, and press; civic rights; individual liberties; and gender equality. The amendments require presidential approval. The prohibition on broadcasts in the Kurdish language was lifted, except for reasons of national security and public safety. The new measures do not include a proposal to allow Kurdish-language education, a right long sought by the country's 12 million Kurds. Another reform limits the death penalty to acts of terrorism or treason, allowing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan's death sentence for treason and separatism to stand. EU entry is barred to any country that allows the death penalty. One amendment makes it more difficult to shut down political parties, while another expands the number of civilian members of the National Security Council from five to nine, with the number of military members standing at five. October 2001 Security, Anti-Terrorism Cooperation with Syria Turkey and Syria signed agreements in early September that established terms for bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism, drug smuggling, and organized crime. The agreements also provided for joint efforts to prevent the illegal movement of people across the countries' shared border, while including a provision for the expulsion of illegal migrants. The pacts were signed in Damascus and signaled a further step in the normalization of relations between Turkey and Syria, long strained by the Syrian government's former support for the PKK and by disputes over sharing the water of the Euphrates River, originating in Turkey. Relations began to improve in 1998 when Damascus agreed to expel Abdullah Ocalan and cease support for the PKK. Water-sharing cooperation has been affected by Turkey's longstanding territorial dispute with Syria over the Turkish province of Hatay, to which Damascus has retained a territorial claim since it was ceded to Turkey in 1939. Each country agreed to take measures to prevent terrorist activities that might be directed against the security of the other, a measure in line with a bilateral security cooperation protocol signed by the prime ministers of both nations in 1987. The exchange of information on the trafficking of narcotics is aimed at countering smuggling activity that has made both Syria and Turkey major transit points for the transport of illegal narcotics to Europe from Asia. October 2001 Islamist Leader Faces Hurdles Court Charges Turkey's chief prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to remove Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the chairmanship of a new moderate Islamist party he founded in August, the Justice and Development Party (AK), on grounds that he remained banned from politics for life under a 1998 conviction for publicly reciting a poem considered anti-secular and, therefore, unconstitutional. The prosecutor also demanded that five female founding members of AK be barred from party membership for wearing Islamic-style headscarves. An Istanbul prosecutor launched a separate investigation against Erdogan on charges of insulting the state in the early 1990s. Erdogan's conviction, for which he served a four-month sentence in 1999, forced him to step down as Istanbul's first Islamist mayor after five years in office. Erdogan maintains that the ban on his participation in politics ended as a result of an amnesty law that went into effect in December 2000, a stance that has been challenged by the chief prosecutor. Erdogan also stressed that he had abandoned his earlier hardline Islamic views and now supported Turkey's secular order. Recent opinion polls indicated that Erdogan's party could receive up to 30 percent of the votes if national elections were held now, while none of the three parties in the ruling coalition, plagued by popular discontent over corruption in government and the country's economic crisis, would receive the 10 percent required to be represented in parliament. Parliamentary elections are not scheduled to occur until May 2004. AK holds 52 seats in the 550-member parliament. The Happiness Party, the second and more conservative Islamist party to emerge following the banning of the Islamist Virtue Party for anti-secular activities in June, holds 48. They are the fifth- and sixth-largest parties in parliament, respectively. October 2001 Corruption Brings Down Second Minister For the second time this year, a senior cabinet minister resigned amid a corruption investigation as the ruling coalition responded to the pressure it is facing at home and abroad to root out corrupt practices in government. These practices have long been viewed by international lending bodies and foreign investors as impediments to the stabilization of Turkey's economy and its EU membership aspirations. A clampdown on corruption is one of the conditions of the IMF's $15.6 billion rescue package aimed at bringing Turkey out of its current financial crisis. Housing and Public Works Minister Koray Aydin resigned as a State Security Court was investigating allegations that his ministry rigged state public works tenders. The ministry allegedly awarded contracts for the sale of construction equipment to build some 40,000 houses for victims of the devastating August and November 1999 earthquakes to a firm run by Aydin's relatives and took kickbacks on contracts to build the houses. Dozens of top ministry officials and a number of contractors were held for questioning in connection with the probe codenamed "Operation Plunder." Earlier in the year, Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer resigned during an inquiry into allegations of graft concerning tenders of his ministry, while other leading ministry officials remain under suspicion. The inquiry, "Operation White Energy," resulted in a prison sentence for the head of the State Electricity Department (TEAS), Muzaffer Selvi, for taking bribes, hampering tenders, and misuse of office. October 2001 Terrorist Bomb in Support of Protesters Against Prison Reform A suicide bombing in Istanbul killed two policemen and an Australian woman and injured 20 people. The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C), a banned Marxist group, claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was in support of prisoners protesting prison reform measures through hunger strikes. The same group claimed responsibility for a January suicide bombing inside a police station, staged for the same purpose, killing a police officer and injuring seven others. Forty prisoners or their supporters have died in hunger strikes since late last year, when some 200 prisoners and their allies started fasting in opposition to the replacement of large prison dormitories with small cells, which inmates say leave them vulnerable to abuse from wardens. The Turkish government says that the new cells are necessary to break the control over prisoners by organized criminals and political groups. August/September 2001 IMF: Turkey Tackling Economic Crisis IMF Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer said the Turkish government had met its commitments under the economic recovery program negotiated by the organization in May, which was proceeding as planned. In August, Turkey received the $1.5 billion third installment of the $15.7 billion the IMF has pledged to Ankara. The installment arrived closely on the heels of the $1.5 billion received in mid-July. That loan had been delayed for more than a week until Ankara met its commitments on restructuring the banking sector and bringing new directors with business experience onto the board of Turk Telekom. The forced resignation of Transportation Minister Enis Oksuz, a leading opponent of the recovery program who had clashed with Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, the architect of the program, was seen as a positive step in helping to restore confidence in the markets. Fischer said that Turkey's exports were growing and inflation was declining due to steps toward liberalizing the banking, agricultural, and telecommunications sectors. He stated that year-end inflation would be about 58 percent, higher than the 52-57 percent initially forecast, but he predicted that it would fall to 30-35 percent by August 2002. He cautioned that interest rates, hovering around 100 percent, were still too high. The economy would contract this year by 5.5 percent, nearly double the initial estimate of minus 3 percent, he said, while a 5 percent positive growth is expected in 2002. In response to business leaders' protests that the floating exchange rate system, imposed in February, was deterring spending, production, and investment decisions, Fischer defended the system as essential to Turkey's long-term progress and stability. He said the introduction of an aggressive use of interest rates to control inflation by December would help alleviate the volatility in the exchange rate. The May IMF rescue package was put in place to pull Turkey out of an economic crisis that began in February and has resulted in a 50 percent devaluation of the lira against the dollar and extensive layoffs. Base pay for the majority of Turkey's workers is about $85 a month. Servicing Turkey's $130 billion in domestic and foreign debt currently consumes 95 percent of tax revenues. High interest rates have raised fears that Turkey will not be able to service its mounting debt. Turkey's deficit is expected to rise to almost 15 percent of GDP this year. August/September 2001 Prominent Call for Public Debate on National Security Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who is in charge of Turkey's preparations for EU membership, stated publicly that the military's emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism and separatism as imminent security threats was impeding reforms required for Turkey to join the EU. In a speech at his Motherland Party's convention, Yilmaz said that Turkey suffered from a "national security syndrome" that was obstructing efforts toward further democratization and better human rights. He said Turkey could move closer to its goal of fulfilling EU membership requirements by modifying its national security concept through public debate. His statements followed the military's preparation of the new National Security Policy document that retains Islamic fundamentalism and separatism as the primary internal security threats, but sidesteps the threat of domestic instability posed by the country's severe economic crisis. The military issued a rare statement criticizing Yilmaz's remarks and defending the armed forces' role in protecting Turkey against Islamic extremism and separatism, which it said still threatened the country. The military is constitutionally and traditionally considered the guarantor of secularism and territorial integrity, upon which the modern Turkish state was founded. The exchange between Yilmaz and the military raised fears that the markets could react negatively to any hint of further political instability at a time when the IMF-backed economic reform package is on track. August/September 2001 European Court Backs Banning of Islamist Party to Uphold Democracy The European Court of Human Rights upheld the 1998 ruling of Turkey's Constitutional Court banning the Islamist Welfare Party, the precursor of the recently banned Virtue Party, for anti-secular activities. The European Court rejected the Welfare Party's allegation that the ruling violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights covering freedom of assembly and association. The claim was brought by the Welfare Party's founder, former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, who has led the Islamist movement for the past three decades, and two vice chairmen of the party. They have until November to appeal the verdict. The European Court determined that the dissolution of the party in 1998 was necessary to ensure the functioning of democracy in Turkey. It said the party's desire to introduce Islamic law and the fact that it had left in doubt its position on recourse to force in order to attain power were not compatible with the European Convention. It also rejected the defendants' claim that their rights concerning discrimination, freedom of expression, protection of property with regard to the Turkish government's confiscation of party assets, and free elections had been violated. The Welfare Party did not call for an Islamic state, but it sought a relaxation of secular laws such as the government's ban on the Islamic-style headscarf in public institutions and universities. The Welfare Party was the third party led by Erbakan to be banned. After its closure, he was convicted of inciting hatred in a speech and was given a one-year sentence that was never served because of a partial amnesty. He was banned from political activities for five years, until 2003. August/September 2001 Modern Islamists vs. Traditionalists in New Parties Turkish Islamists launched two new political parties after deep divisions present in the Virtue Party before it was banned in June split its former members into a hardline traditionalist group loyal to former prime minister Erbakan and a reformist group rallying around the popular former mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Recai Kutan, who had led the Virtue Party, became the leader of the traditionalist Happiness Party (SP), while Erdogan was named chairman of the reformist Justice and Development Party (AK) after a Constitutional Court ruling overturned a decision banning him from politics for life following his conviction for inciting hatred in a speech. Kutan is expected to turn over the reins of the Happiness Party to Erbakan, the behind-the-scenes mentor of the Virtue Party, in 2003, when the five-year ban on the latter's participation in politics ends. The emergence of the reformist Islamist party has the potential to radically alter the political balance in Turkey. Polls have indicated broader mainstream support for reformist, over traditionalist, Islamist politics, largely because of the popularity of Erdogan. Erdogan has pledged that his Western-oriented party will avoid confrontation with the secular establishment. The Virtue Party, the country's third-largest political force and main opposition party with 102 members in a 550-member parliament, was banned on grounds of unconstitutional, anti-secular activities. Two of Virtue's former deputies were banned from politics for five years. The remaining 100 have divided themselves fairly evenly between the two new Islamist parties, with SP holding 48 parliamentary seats and AK holding 51. Both parties support Turkey's EU membership bid. August/September 2001 Troops Participate in Disarmament Force in F.Y.R. Macedonia Turkey has contributed 150 soldiers to the NATO force that is collecting weapons surrendered to the alliance by the National Liberation Army (NLA) in F.Y.R. Macedonia. (See F.Y.R. Macedonia section.) The soldiers were transferred from Bosnia, where they served in the SFOR peacekeeping force. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva paid an official visit to Turkey during an August tour that included stops in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania to solicit support for implementation of Skopje's peace plan and economic assistance for the country. Ankara stated that it was satisfied with the terms of the peace plan, which it hoped would bring stability to the country and promote the security of all communities, including the Turkish minority, making up 4 percent of the population. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem visited Skopje in July to discuss efforts toward a peace plan. August/September 2001 Expanding Commercial and Security Relations with Israel Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited Turkey in August to discuss Turkish-Israeli defense projects, the possible sale of Turkish water to Israel, a proposed natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Turkey, and irrigation projects in Turkey's southeast. Bulent Ecevit, the prime minister of Turkey, a predominately Muslim country, hosted Sharon at a time of intensified violence between Israelis and Palestinians, sending a regional message of Ankara's commitment to its expanding political, economic, and military relationship with Israel, which has become increasingly isolated in the region. In response to Sharon's urging that Ankara, which also has close ties with the Palestinians, help defuse tensions in Israel, Ecevit offered to host future dialogues between Israelis and Palestinians in Turkey. Sharon's visit followed closely behind the July visits of Israeli Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz and Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to Ankara. During these three visits, officials discussed possible development of an Israeli-Turkish joint missile defense program to counter the danger posed by ballistic missiles held by Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The two countries are especially concerned about Iran's expected completion of the development of the Shahab-3 missile, with a range of about 750 miles, by 2005. Turkey and Israel have asked Washington to approve Ankara's purchase and possible co-production of the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile interceptor. The U.S. jointly developed the Arrow with Israel, where it is deployed. Israel hopes to be awarded the contract for the modernization of Turkey's outdated M-60 main battle tanks. The two countries are continuing talks concerning the sale of Popeye 2 air-to-ground missiles to Turkey, while Israel is currently refurbishing Turkish F-4 fighter jets. August/September 2001 Civilian Commission Opens Door for Reconciliation with Armenia A group of 10 prominent individuals from Turkey and Armenia founded a commission to foster reconciliation and dialogue between the two countries, after four months of meetings in which the six Turks and four Armenians fleshed out the objectives of the initiative. Although the private Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission is operating independently of the two governments, officials in both Ankara and Yerevan indicated that they have been briefed on its activities. Neither government has stated opposition to the initiative nor taken steps to obstruct the commission's work. The U.S. State Department backs the commission's activities. Future meetings of the group will be held in Istanbul and Yerevan. The commission hopes that the cooperation it achieves through cultural exchanges, efforts to improve business and tourism opportunities, and educational and research programs will lead to direct talks between the two governments. Members of the commission include former Turkish foreign minister Ilter Turkmen; Sadi Erguvenc, a retired Turkish air force general; former Armenian foreign minister Alexander Arzoumanian; and Van Krikorian, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Assembly of America. Turkey broke diplomatic relations and closed its border with Armenia almost a decade ago after a war started between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The war ended in 1994, but the freeze in relations has been prolonged by the failure to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and by Yerevan's support for Armenian genocide legislative campaigns in the United States and across Europe. August/September 2001 Arms Deal with South Korea Enhances Offensive Mobility Ankara signed a $1 billion contract with Seoul for the acquisition of 155 mm K9 Thunder howitzer components for Turkey's new self-propelled howitzer program over the next 10 years. The agreement includes a transfer of technology for the assembly of the components, developed by South Korea between 1989 and 1998. The contract for the components, produced by Samsung Techwin, is Korea's single largest arms export contract ever and marks the first time that South Korea has agreed to export defense industry technology to a foreign country. Ankara decided to purchase the K9 components after Germany refused to allow the export of its modern 155 mm PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers to Turkey, citing Ankara's poor human rights record. Samsung will supply components for 20 howitzers, valued at about $60 million, over the next two years. Some of the parts are expected to be produced in Turkey. The new howitzers will replace aging World War II-Korean War era M44 and M52 self-propelled artillery systems made in the United States. Ankara has a historic link to South Korea since Turkey's participation in the Korean War represented the first time Turkey sent troops to fight a war in another country. July 2001 Stalled Reforms Delay IMF Loan Installment In mid-July, the IMF agreed to approve a $1.5 billion installment of a $15.7 billion economic rescue package after Ankara, bowing to the lending organization's pressure, seized five more troubled banks, bringing the total number under receivership to 18, and agreed to change the composition of the Turk Telekom board to include more appointees with private-sector experience. The government also replaced the chairman of the Turk Telekom board, who had been backed by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the coalition parties, with one of the new private-sector appointees. The IMF had earlier postponed sending Ankara the installment, saying that the government had not met critical benchmarks concerning the overhaul of the banking sector and reform of the state telecommunications company, Turk Telekom. The need to meet these requirements was outlined in Ankara's agreement with the lending organization to repair damage from a banking crisis that resulted in a rapid 44 percent devaluation of the lira. The IMF had been particularly concerned that adherence to cronyism and patronage among government officials, which had been cited as a primary cause of Turkey's economic woes, had resulted in the appointment of a new Turk Telekom board that included inexperienced political appointees. The board's make-up failed to meet the organization's demand that industry professionals with private-sector business experience be tapped to improve the company's profits as it moves toward privatization. The appointment of the board had followed weeks of political wrangling in Turkey's three-party coalition government pitting Economic Minister Kemal Dervis, the economic reform czar, against Communications Minister Enis Oksuz, a member of the MHP, over the make-up of the board. In the end, Oksuz, whose party controls the telecom monopoly, placed MHP party members without market experience on the board rather than accepting the professional team with market experience urged by Dervis and the IMF. Following the IMF's lead, the World Bank also initially delayed the release of a separate $1.7 billion loan to Turkey, but the government's actions to meet IMF demands cleared the way for that loan to be granted. July 2001 Anti-Corruption Drive Under Fire with Leader Sacked Turkey's commitment to waging a serious war against corruption, which is being closely watched by the European Union and is a key requirement of the IMF-backed economic rescue plan, was set back by the sacking of Interior Minister Saadettin Tantan, widely viewed as successfully spearheading an aggressive and popular anti-corruption drive. Widespread corruption is viewed internationally as a major factor behind the country's economic crisis. Tantan, a former police commander, resigned from the cabinet and the Motherland Party, the junior member of the three-party coalition, after being demoted to the relatively junior post of State Minister in charge of customs. His popularity rating among the Turkish public was exceeded only by that of Economy Minister Kemal Dervis and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Tantan had long been at odds with deputy prime minister and Motherland head Mesut Yilmaz over aspects of the anti-corruption campaign, which had probed high levels of the bureaucracy and the administrations of failed banks. It had resulted in scores of arrests, including prominent politicians, businessmen, and organized crime leaders. Tantan had accused elements of his party of trying to slow his investigations. As a result of Tantan's inquiry into the Motherland-controlled Energy Ministry, which resulted in graft charges being filed against senior ministry officials, Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer was forced to resign, though Ersumer denied wrongdoing. July 2001 U.S. Defense Secretary in Ankara to Review Iraq, NATO, Missile Defense Issues The United States is reassessing its participation in Operation Northern Watch, patrols over northern Iraq by U.S. and British planes based at Incirlik Air Force Base in south central Turkey, in view of a growing threat to the allied aircraft from improved Iraqi air defenses. The aircraft have been conducting patrols in the northern no-fly zone since the end of the 1991 Gulf War in order to protect minority Kurds from attack by the Iraqi military. The issue, part of the Bush administration's overall review of Washington's Iraq policy, was a focus of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's trip to Turkey in early June, which included a visit to Incirlik. Although Iraq's air defenses have not shot down any allied planes, the volume of its anti-aircraft artillery fire has increased significantly over the past five months, reportedly prompting U.S. military commanders to consider reducing the number of patrols. Turkey, which provides support planes for the patrols, has been criticized by Iraq for hosting the U.S. and British planes on its territory. Rumsfeld also discussed the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), missile defense, and relations between the armed forces and defense ministries of the two countries with Turkish officials. July 2001 Again, New Concerns About Governing Coalition The European Union urged Ankara, as an EU candidate country, to amend its constitution to bring the nation's treatment of political parties in line with that of the bloc following the banning of the Islamist Virtue Party by Turkey's Constitutional Court. An EU statement said the ban underscored the need for Turkey to push through democratic reforms if it wants to make progress toward joining the bloc. It said the decision had "implications for democratic pluralism and freedom of expression in Turkey." The court said that the Virtue Party, the main opposition party, which held 102 of the 550 seats in parliament, had violated a law prohibiting religious activities that could undermine Turkey's secular government. However, it did not expel all the party members from parliament, a move that would have led to new parliamentary elections at a time when Turkey needs political stability to implement key structural reforms as part of the IMF recovery plan. Only two Virtue deputies were expelled from parliament, and five other party members were banned from politics for five years. The new main opposition party is the True Path Party of former prime minister Tansu Ciller, with 83 seats. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit opposed the court's decision, which included seizing Virtue's assets, asserting that dissolution of Virtue could contribute to political instability and jeopardize the success of the economic recovery plan. An all-party commission has agreed to a draft package of constitutional amendments, including a measure that would make it harder for Turkish courts to close down parties. Ecevit had urged the Constitutional Court to delay its verdict on Virtue until the amendments were passed. The Virtue Party, led by Recai Kutan, denied that it aimed to establish religious law in Turkey, characterizing itself as a center-right party with a religious orientation comparable to that of the European Christian Democrats. It is legal to ban political parties in Europe, though the European parties that are banned are usually advocating or participating in violence. Germany is in the process of closing a neo-fascist organization. Virtue, formed after the Islamist Welfare Party was banned in 1998, is expected to split into two parties, one comprised of the reformists, who are followers of former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, banned from participating in politics until January 2003, and one made up of the traditionalists, who are loyal to former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, banned from politics for life. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP), led by Devlet Bahceli, has courted the Virtue deputies in an effort to entice them into becoming part of the MHP bloc in parliament. If they switched to the MHP, its representation would be larger than that of Ecevit's Democratic Socialist Party and could provide Bahceli with a platform from which to eventually become prime minister. July 2001 Freedom of Expression Debate Pits President Against Parliament Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed a law passed by parliament that imposed restrictions on the Internet and established large fines against broadcasters for material considered slanderous or indecent, saying that the law was undemocratic and would have broken Turkey's pledge to the European Union to carry out democratic reforms. He said the measures in the law were incompatible with basic rights and freedoms. The law, which attempted to subject the Internet to the same restrictions imposed on print media, was seen by the EU as a major step backward in freedom of expression in Turkey, which should be expanding as part of the government's efforts to meet EU accession requirements. It provides for fines of up to $85,000 for web sites that publish "untrue news, insults, and similar material." Sezer said that the fines for "broadcasts inspiring fear and enhancing tendencies toward pessimism and despair" would inhibit freedom of expression and could cause local broadcasters to close down. He also said the law, which revokes a ban on media owners entering state tenders, made it especially easy for big capital groups to monopolize radio and television broadcasting. The coordinator of an interactive bulletin board operated by the country's largest Internet service provider was found guilty of insulting the state and sentenced in March to 40 months in prison because of a message that appeared on the web site concerning human rights abuses in Turkey. The International Press Institute in Vienna stated that the reported removal of another web site from the Internet in February, for allegedly insulting the Turkish army, was in violation of an article of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is bound. The article guarantees the "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority." If the law is passed by parliament, without changes, a second time, Sezer will be required to sign it. However, he can ask the Constitutional Court to annul the law. July 2001 Steadfast Opposition to Cyprus's EU Accession Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who is in charge of Turkey-EU relations, told a meeting of the European Parliament's Foreign Relations Commission in Brussels that Turkey would make no concessions concerning the Cyprus issue and stated that there are two separate states on the island. Ankara reportedly sent a letter to all EU member states except Greece warning them against admitting Cyprus to the bloc before a political solution is reached in the country and urging that a freeze be placed on Cyprus's accession course. The EU has reiterated to Ankara that Turkey remains isolated in its recognition of the breakaway entity in northern Cyprus as a state and that Cyprus is expected to be among the first group of countries granted accession by 2004. Yilmaz said Turkey would not accept the EU membership of Cyprus based on a policy that aimed at making the Turkish Cypriots a minority. This membership, he said, would pave the way for "extremely negative developments," echoing Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem's statement that the accession would lead to a "radical reaction" by Turkey affecting economic relations between the EU and Ankara. Yilmaz repeated Turkey's claim that, as a guarantor power of Cyprus along with Britain and Greece, it has a veto over Cyprus's entry into international organizations that do not include all the powers, an interpretation that the EU has rejected. July 2001 Three-Way Air Exercises with United StatesIsrael American warplanes in June joined Israeli and Turkish fighter jets for the first time to conduct mock air battles over Turkey as part of a training exercise carried out within the framework of an Israeli-Turkish military cooperation agreement signed in 1996. Under the agreement, Israeli fighter jets have used Turkish airspace for training flights. The 11-day maneuver, "Anatolian Eagle," focused on the interoperability of the three air forces. A series of joint naval search-and-rescue operations, with the participation of the United States, have also been held off the Israeli coast. Turkish and Israeli officers also observed a 10-day military exercise in the United States, to which Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands had contributed troops. During a visit to Ankara in July, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer asked Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu to signal to Syria's leaders that Israel would like to resume peace talks with Damascus and urges the Syrian government to cease support for the Hizbullah terrorist group. May / June 2001 Bush Administration Conditions Bailout on Economic Reforms The IMF reluctantly approved an $8 billion stand-by emergency loan to Turkey, which is coping with a financial crisis, after the Turkish parliament passed radical laws to reform the corruption-plagued banking sector, seen as the main cause of the crisis, and to privatize debt-ridden state companies, starting with telecommunications giant Turk Telekom. Both the IMF and the Bush administration had stipulated that these laws, which provide a legal framework for the bulk of some 15 required reforms, would have to be passed before the bailout would be approved to ward off hyperinflation and default on a public sector debt that may reach 80 percent of GNP at the end of the year. The new loan will be added to about $6 billion in IMF funds available from a previous year-old anti-inflation program, which collapsed in February with the onset of the present crisis, the second in six months. The World Bank is expected to provide a further $2 billion in loans. Last fall, the IMF arranged a $7.5 billion rescue package for Turkey during a previous crisis in the banking sector. The IMF's phased disbursement of the funds will be linked to Turkey's performance in implementing the new reforms aimed at revamping the political system, breaking the political establishment's hold on the economy, and eliminating patronage and corruption. Under the reform package, which was engineered by Minister of Economy Kemal Dervis, the floating exchange rate system will continue throughout the rest of the year. Since the system replaced a pegged exchange rate regime in February, after the crisis began, the lira has lost about 40 percent of its value against the dollar. Inflation, standing at about 50 percent, could soar to 80 percent by the end of 2001, according to the OECD, although the government projects that it will be about 50 percent in December. The government is projecting a negative growth of 3 percent this year, compared to 6 percent in 2000. May / June 2001 Banking Sector Changes to Reduce Cronyism The new legislation to reform the banking sector will bring it in line with EU standards. The law makes the Central Bank independent of the government and strengthens the independent banking regulatory body, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency, by replacing political appointees with professionals. The law also imposes stringent regulations on bankers and makes it easier for the state to regain losses from private banks by seizing the assets of their owners and their relatives. The cost of restoring the banking sector is estimated at up to $40 billion, or 20 percent of Turkey's gross domestic product. Of the 80 banks in operation, 20 could disappear by the end of the year, including 13 that have been seized by the regulatory agency. May / June 2001 Telecommunications Privatization Seen as Critical Test Parliament's adoption of a law allowing the privatization of Turk Telekom transferred control over the fixed-line monopoly from appointees of the National Action Party (MHP), the far-right party of the three-party ruling coalition, to an independent supervisory board. The passage of the law was preceded by a protracted clash between Kemal Dervis and the MHP-controlled Communications Ministry, headed by Enis Oksuz, over the matter. Oksuz warned that half of the company's 73,000 employees could lose their jobs. The new law does not permit foreigners to control more than 45 percent of Turk Telekom, estimated to be worth $10 billion, allowing the government to retain a privileged share for national security purposes. Turkey's military, which relies on the company for communications, had warned against selling a majority share to foreigners. Analysts have cautioned that it will be difficult to attract foreign investors with an offering of less than 50 percent. Previous attempts to sell a minority share have been unsuccessful, including an offering for a 33.5 percent stake that expired in mid-May. May / June 2001 Greek Investment and Joint Ventures Strongly Encouraged The efforts of businessmen in Greece and Turkey to promote reciprocal investment in the two countries continued at a Greek-Turkish Business Council meeting in Istanbul, the third meeting of the organization. Turkish Foreign Trade Undersecretary Kursad Tuzmen said the trade volume between Greece and Turkey could reach $5 billion by 2005 by exploiting their geographic proximity. He noted, however, that only 58 of the 5,334 foreign firms currently operating in Turkey are Greek, although cross-border trade jumped last year to an estimated $1 billion from $700 million in 1999. Turkey accounts for less than 5 percent of Greece's trade balance. Tuzmen urged Greek entrepreneurs to take advantage of the extensive privatization activity planned for Turkey and emphasized the potential for joint cooperation in telecommunications, energy production, natural gas, small- and medium-sized enterprises, construction, tourism, agriculture, forestry, and the environment. The establishment of a joint investment bank, he said, would help provide funds for firms considering investments in the Balkans and the Black Sea region. In addition, he called on the governments in Ankara and Athens to take steps to create a more suitable environment for investment. Greek Deputy National Economy Minister Yannis Zafiropoulos proposed that investment by Greek and Turkish businessmen focus on the infrastructure and finance sectors. He noted the need for Greece to improve economic ties with Turkey at a time when it is striving to overcome an economic crisis. May / June 2001 European Court Condemns Rights Violations in Northern Cyprus In a case brought by the Cyprus government against Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ankara has committed widespread human rights violations in Cyprus since its 1974 invasion. The court found Turkey guilty of 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights with respect to the right to life, the right to liberty and security, the right to freedom of thought, and the right to freedom of expression. They included failing to investigate the disappearance of over 1,500 Greek Cypriots after the invasion, inhuman treatment of families of missing Greek Cypriots, denying Greek Cypriots the right to return to their homes, failing to compensate for loss of property, interfering with freedom of religion, and discriminating against and restricting the education of enclaved Greek Cypriots, now numbering about 500. A full verdict concerning whether or not Turkey will be fined will be issued in a few months. The court also said that Turkey, not the Turkish Cypriot administration, was responsible for the violations since it exercises effective overall control over northern Cyprus through its military presence in the region. The Turkish government has long maintained that it does not have jurisdiction over the occupied region, viewing it as an independent entity. Since the ruling is binding on Turkey as a signatory of the human rights convention, the Turkish government is obligated to present proposals to the Council of Europe on its plans for correcting the violations. A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement following the ruling stated that the decision was not legal and, therefore, not applicable to Turkey. Since 1998, Ankara has refused to comply with another binding ruling of the court, which ordered the payment of over $600,000 in damages to a Greek Cypriot woman who has been denied the right to return to her home in the occupied region. May / June 2001 Military, Economic Ties with Syria Expand Reciprocal visits of military personnel between Ankara and Damascus have led to preparations for the signing of a bilateral military cooperation agreement, about two and a half years after Turkey threatened military action against Syria over its support of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its sheltering of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, who is now imprisoned in Turkey. Following Syria's expulsion of Ocalan in October 1998 and its pledge to cease its support for the PKK, the two countries moved toward improved bilateral relations with the signing of an agreement that opened the way for the formation of a bilateral security commission that meets twice a year. The Turkish-Syrian military agreement is expected to include the training of Syrian military personnel in Turkish military academies, the mutual exchange of military personnel, cooperation in the defense industry, and mutual invitations to monitor military exercises. Turkish Chief of the General Staff General Huseyin Kivrikoglu also stated that Turkey will clear its land mines along the Turkish-Syrian border. The reciprocal visits of military officers have included the visit of General Resat Turgut, the head of the policy-planning department of the Turkish General Staff, to Damascus, and the visit of General Mahmoud Ammar, director of the political department of the Syrian army, to Ankara. In June, Syrian Commander Adnan Bedr al-Hassan will visit Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart, Commander of the Gendarmerie Forces Aytac Yalman. Reflecting the improvement in bilateral economic relations, Syria has proposed that a free-trade zone be established along the Turkish-Syrian border. In June, the Turkish-Syrian Joint Economic Commission and the Turkish-Syrian Business Council will meet in Turkey. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to visit Turkey. May / June 2001 New Agreement with Iran Against Terrorism Crime Turkey and Iran have concluded an agreement to improve security between the two countries. The agreement, signed during a visit of Interior Minister Saadettin Tantan to Tehran, includes pledges by each country to work with the other against terrorist groups that use either country's territory to launch cross-border attacks. This cooperation will involve exchanging information on these groups and conducting joint and simultaneous operations against them in the presence of observers. The two sides have decided to form three working groups to address border security, traffic in illegal immigrants, and drug trafficking. Tensions between the two countries have decreased since regular bilateral security talks began three years ago. In March, passenger train service between Istanbul and Tehran, halted since 1993, resumed. May / June 2001 Surrendered Kurdish Separatists Receive Lengthy Sentences Five members of an eight-member delegation representing the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which had surrendered to authorities in 1999 upon declaring that the PKK wanted to negotiate peacefully with the Turkish government, were sentenced to prison terms in May. The delegation had arrived from Vienna in 1999 carrying letters from the PKK that proposed finding a peaceful resolution to the 15-year war for self-determination in southeastern Turkey, in which over 35,000 people died. The court sentenced one member to more than 18 years in prison for being an official of the political wing of the PKK and four others to over 12 years for PKK membership. Three others, including a member of the defunct Kurdish parliament-in-exile, are still on trial on charges related to their political activities in Europe. Fighting between PKK guerrillas and government forces has been limited to sporadic clashes since 1999 when imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan ordered the guerrillas to observe a unilateral cease-fire, recognizing that the Turkish army had already begun to prevail over a severely weakened PKK. April 2001 U.S., IMF Crisis Support Conditioned on Reforms Economy Minister Kemal Dervis is attempting to pull Turkey out of its latest crippling financial crisis by seeking $10 billion to $12 billion in foreign loans to underpin a new framework economic reform agreement concluded with the IMF. He has urged the government to push 15 laws through parliament aimed primarily at the sweeping restructuring of the ailing banking sector, which is at the heart of the crisis. Thirteen failed banks remain under state administration. The government balked at meeting Dervis's April 15 deadline for passing key legislation, the date on which Ankara was to send a letter of intent to the IMF outlining its new reform program. The IMF's finalization of the new economic reform agreement is expected by May. Dervis traveled to the United States, France, and Germany in a bid to raise the emergency funding but returned to Turkey empty-handed. President George Bush has urged Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to cooperate with the IMF and continue with economic reforms. U.S. officials have indicated that prospects for Washington's economic support to help Turkey overcome the crisis are dependent on the introduction of genuine political reforms to achieve greater transparency in government and eliminate poor administration and corruption. Any new funding would be in addition to the $6.25 billion the IMF has agreed to release to the government on the condition that it implements drastic structural reforms. These IMF funds were what remained to be collected in an $11.5 billion, three-year disinflation program launched in January 2000, which was backed by the organization but derailed by this financial crisis. The effects of last fall's financial crisis were temporarily stemmed by a $7.5 billion bailout from the IMF in November 2000. Although the IMF is working with Ankara to revise its economic program, it is unwilling to commit more financing unless the Turkish government outlines a clear program to reform the banking industry and accelerate the sale of state enterprises, particularly Turk Telekom and Turkish Airlines. Dervis said he was accelerating plans to facilitate the privatization of Turk Telekom, worth an estimated $10 billion, by promoting legal changes necessary to sell 51 percent of the company in a block sale and the remainder through a share offer. The previous 33.5 percent offer drew no bidders. The stake available to foreign participation will remain below 50 percent. The privatization of Turk Telekom will be the largest ever undertaken in Turkey and will supply revenues that are essential to an anti-inflation plan. The offer for a 51 percent privatization of Turkish Airlines was cancelled because no bids were submitted by the March 29 deadline. Dervis, a former World Bank executive, was appointed economy minister on March 2 to oversee Turkey's recovery from its latest financial crisis, sparked by a political row over the pace of efforts to fight corruption, and to restore international lenders' confidence in Turkey. Turkey was forced to float the lira on February 22, abandoning a crawling currency peg that had been the backbone of the three-year disinflation program. April 2001 Economic Shock Foments Public Unrest Tens of thousands of Turkish small-business owners and tradesmen have taken part in protests throughout the country to express their anger over the plummeting value of the lira, slashed by about 45 percent against the dollar, and what the public views as a lack of decisive government action to reverse this and other effects of the economic crisis. The survival of Ecevit's governing coalition is in question, with increased calls for its resignation amid the public outcry. Turkey's largest business group, the Turkish Union of Chambers, representing chambers of trade and industry across the country, urged the government to resign over its handling of the crisis and open the way for sweeping changes in the political system. Ecevit continues to insist that there is no alternative to the current coalition government, with little sign that protestors are advocating a government led by either of the two other parties in the coalition. In addition, the National Security Council, made up of senior military and political officials, has announced support for the new economic program being prepared by Dervis and has dismissed talk of an "intermediate regime," a term often used to refer to an above-party or technocratic government installed by the military. The average salaries of civil servants have plunged in value by about 35 percent because of inflation and the currency depreciation. Unemployment was more than 18 percent before the crisis, but an estimated half-million additional citizens have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis. The country's stock market and private banks have experienced heavy losses, interest rates have soared, and there have been steep price hikes. Inflation, which stood at 26 percent before the economic crisis, compared to triple figures in the 1990s, could climb to 50 percent by the end of the year. The targeted rate under the previous IMF-backed agreement had been 10 to 12 percent. In the past 54 years, the IMF has participated in 17 failed financial rescue programs in Turkey. April 2001 Arms Procurement Downsized to Ease Fiscal Burden As a result of the 45 percent devaluation of the lira, Turkey announced that it would make a $19.5 billion cut in military spending by postponing 32 defense projects over the next 5 to 10 years. Before the crisis, the government had planned to spend almost $2.9 billion for 2001 procurement. The $1.5 billion program to purchase up to six airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&Cs) from Boeing will be renegotiated. The military has postponed indefinitely the country's largest ever single defense contract, a $7 billion to $9 billion program for the coproduction of 1,000 main battle tanks and is considering cutting almost two-thirds of a $4 billion program for the coproduction of 145 attack helicopters, a deal currently under negotiation with Bell Textron in Texas. Last year, the defense budget rose slightly from 3 percent to 3.3 percent of GNP. Expenditures for the armed forces now account for 10.6 percent of the country's budget, down from 18 percent in 1984. Turkey spent $3 billion annually for defense procurement throughout the 1990s. April 2001 EU Cites Reform Gaps in Accession Plan Turkey's National Program for the political, social, and economic reforms that the government must implement before the European Union will open accession negotiations with Ankara fell short of EU expectations by failing to meet several key human rights demands outlined in the bloc's Accession Partnership Agreement with the Turkish government. The Program defines the abolition of the death penalty, which was supposed to go into effect this year, as a medium-term goal, to be settled within five years. It does not respond to the EU's urging that Turkey allow its 12 million Kurds to broadcast and teach in their own language. It also skirts the issue of the military's critical role in political decision-making. The Turkish plan states that legislation regarding freedom of expression will be reviewed, rather than guaranteed, as required by the EU. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the three parties in the governing coalition, is firmly opposed to abolishing the death penalty and granting cultural rights to Kurds. Still, the European Union welcomed the Program as a landmark in Ankara's drive toward accession. The Program, which also promises to crack down on torture and offer greater freedom of organization for trade unions, provides for some 200 new laws and amendments that will be debated by parliament over the next five years to bring Turkey closer in line with EU norms. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem called the plan the "most assertive democratization program" in Turkey's modern history. Turkey's Secretary General of European Affairs Volkan Vural stated that Turkey urgently needed to accelerate its reforms in order to be included in either of the next two waves of the bloc's enlargement in 2004 and 2006 or 2007. He emphasized that the EU had not asked Ankara to do anything that was not asked of other candidate countries or applied to EU members. With regard to international disputes, the Program says that Ankara will undertake initiatives toward the settlement of bilateral problems with Greece through dialogue and will continue to support the efforts of the U.N. secretary general aiming at a mutually acceptable Cyprus settlement, with a view toward establishing a new partnership "based on the equal sovereignty of the two parties and the realities on the island," a reference to Turkey's advocacy of a confederal solution in Cyprus. April 2001 New National Agency, Intelligence Satellites in Bold Space Plan The Turkish government is planning to establish a national space agency to coordinate its commercial and military space programs, as it aims at broader military involvement in space programs. The agency is expected to become operational within one year. Officials hope the establishment of the facility will pave the way for Turkish membership in the European Space Agency (ESA). Turkey's space-related defense programs include a project to launch the nation's first intelligence satellite in the next few years. The second half of this year, the government plans to re-open bidding for this project after canceling a $250 million preliminary agreement with Alcatel Space in Paris as a result of the French parliament's adoption of a resolution recognizing an Armenian genocide. Three civilian communications satellites have been launched for Turkey in recent years under a program with Alcatel. April 2001 Azeri Gas Purchase Powers Regional Energy Projects Turkey has signed a 15-year agreement with Azerbaijan to buy natural gas from the newly discovered Shah Deniz field off the country's Caspian Sea coast. The move is a boost to backers of the proposed oil pipeline from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean city of Ceyhan, the backbone of a planned east-west energy corridor, since an agreement between the two countries stipulates that the gas pipeline would run parallel to the Baku-Ceyhan project for part of the latter's route, cutting construction costs for both pipelines. The cost of building new stretches of gas pipeline and upgrading an existing line from Baku through Georgia to Turkey's eastern city of Erzurum is estimated to be from $700 million to $800 million. Under the agreement for the natural gas purchase, signed during a visit of Azeri President Haidar Aliyev to Ankara, Azerbaijan will sell Turkey 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year, beginning in 2004, an amount that will increase to 231 billion cubic feet in 2006. Turkey is the first customer for the Shah Deniz field, discovered in 1998 and thought to hold 35 trillion cubic feet of gas. Turkey wants to diversify its gas resources to lessen its dependence on Russia, currently its sole gas supplier via an existing pipeline through Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. A new link that will transport Russian gas under the Black Sea is currently under construction. Turkey has already agreed to buy gas from Iran, and a pipeline linking the two countries is being built. A project to buy Turkmen gas is awaiting Turkmenistan's approval. March 2001 Financial Crisis Derails Economic Reforms Generate New Political Anxiety A public dispute between President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit over the pace and scope of anti-corruption investigations plunged Turkey into a serious financial crisis, just three months after a crisis in the banking sector that was defused by a $7.5 billion IMF emergency bail-out loan. Sezer, viewed as Turkey's most popular politician, accused Ecevit's government of not acting firmly enough to root out corruption during a meeting of the National Security Council, causing Ecevit to storm out of the meeting. The anxiety over possible political instability and disintegration of the governing coalition triggered a collapse of Turkey's financial markets. In Turkey, political infighting has been considered a cause of the failure of previous governments to implement successful economic reform packages that would tackle chronically high inflation and interest rates over the last three decades. Nervous investors, many of them foreigners, immediately withdrew over $7 billion of the central bank's $20 billion in foreign reserves. Interest rates soared and the stock market plummeted, leading to a decision to allow the lira's exchange rate to float freely against other currencies according to market forces, which resulted in a rapid 36 percent devaluation of the currency against the U.S. dollar. This decision, which triggered a rapid jump in inflation, was considered the death knell of the economic reform program launched a year ago with the backing of a $4 billion standby loan from the IMF. A key goal of the program, which had maintained a gradual devaluation of the lira by pegging it to the U.S. dollar and the euro, was to reduce inflation, a basic requirement of EU membership. Under the program, inflation had already fallen from over 80 percent, the average throughout much of the 1990s, to 36 percent. The IMF endorsed the decision to float the lira to minimize the damage to the economy and is working with the government, along with the World Bank, to formulate a new disinflation strategy, as economists predict that the Turkish economy will fall into a recession this year. The government's slow progress on reforming the banking system and privatizing Turk Telekom and Turkish Airlines has also been cited as fueling the crisis. With the two main opposition parties demanding that Ecevit resign and call early elections, there was speculation that the crisis could signal a period of political turmoil, which could lead to the collapse of the shaky ruling coalition, the country's eleventh in 10 years. March 2001 Policy Disputes With U.S. Over Iraq Containment Prime Minister Ecevit rebuked Washington for not notifying Turkey and other allies before U.S. and British warplanes conducted February 16 air strikes against radar stations and air defense command centers near Baghdad, which were outside the northern and southern no-fly zones set up in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War. He said Turkey regretted the civilian casualties resulting from the strikes, which Iraq placed at three, with 30 wounded, and the fact that he first learned about the strikes from television news. Since 1991, U.S. and British planes based at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey have been patrolling the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. During their patrols, these planes have fired regularly on command centers, anti-aircraft batteries, and other military targets in an attempt to degrade Iraq's air defenses within this zone, as they did during a separate February 22 attack. The February 16 sorties were launched from airfields in Kuwait and an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, not Incirlik Air Base. Ecevit made it clear that he would not allow planes based at Incirlik to conduct operations similar to those carried out during the February 16 attack. The February 16 attack came at a time when Turkey has been developing closer economic and political relations with Iraq. Ankara's contracts with Baghdad since 1996 under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program have totaled $975 million. Turkey has upgraded its diplomatic relations with Iraq by sending an ambassador to Baghdad for the first time since the Gulf War, a move that drew criticism from Washington. In mid-February, a 12-member delegation of Turkish parliamentarians visited Baghdad to discuss ways to improve bilateral trade relations, currently governed by the oil-for-food program. The delegation also assessed the accuracy of reports on the health of Iraq's population by Iraqi authorities. In addition, Ankara has authorized medical flights into the city, will open a second border gate with Iraq, and will resume rail links to the country. A delegation of Turkish businessmen will visit Iraq in mid-March. Turkey has voiced concern over the continuing U.N. embargo on Iraq, claiming to have sustained economic losses of over $30 billion as a result of the sanctions. Numerous countries, including other U.S. allies, have resumed direct flights to Iraq, as sanctions appear to be crumbling. The European Union is divided over how to handle Iraq, with France calling for an end to sanctions. Every Arab nation except Kuwait is conducting business with Iraq. March 2001 Expanding Economic Military Cooperation with Iran Turkey will begin importing 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Iran by July through a pipeline between the two countries, despite U.S. opposition to the venture. The volume is expected to increase to 10 billion cubic meters in 2007. The Iranian section of the pipeline is nearing completion, while considerable work still needs to be done to finish the Turkish section. Turkey's gas supplies will be significantly increased by use of this pipeline and the Blue Stream pipeline, which will run from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea and is also expected to be operational the second half of this year. The country continues to suffer from a critical energy shortage. The pipeline issue was discussed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in meetings with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi in Tehran on Turkey's desire to boost economic relations with Iran and increase the volume of trade between the countries, which now stands at about $800 million a year. Turkey has a $400 million deficit in its trade with Iran, but the deficit will reach $1.4 billion after Ankara begins to purchase natural gas. Cem and Iranian officials also discussed revamping customs procedures on the Turkish-Iranian border to promote more efficient handling of vehicles involved in bilateral trade and facilitate the movement of Turkish commercial vehicles heading for Central Asian countries through Iran and Iranian trucks heading for Europe through Turkey. Turkey and Iran agreed to establish direct contact between the Turkish General Staff and its Iranian counterpart with the aim of beginning talks on bilateral military and intelligence cooperation. Tensions between the two countries have decreased over the past three years with the launching of regular security talks between the two sides through the formation of a High Security Committee. Ankara has accused Tehran of harboring Kurdish guerrillas on Iranian soil and supporting Islamic radical groups in Turkey, charges that the Iranian government has denied. Tehran objects to Turkey's military cooperation with Israel, viewing it as a threat to Iran's security. Cem's visit was in reciprocation for Kharrazi's trip to Ankara in January 2000. March 2001 Major Anti-Corruption Trial Ends in Sweeping Convictions A high-profile case that exposed corruption at top levels of the Turkish government over four years ago has ended with the conviction of 14 people. The case was opened in November 1996 following a collision near the town of Susurluk between a truck and a car that carried a mafia boss wanted by police for multiple murders and drug trafficking, a senior police official who was an assistant to the Istanbul chief of police, a parliamentary deputy, and a beauty queen. The deputy was the only one to survive the crash. Revelations that government officials and a wanted criminal were in the car together sparked widespread protests in which Turkish citizens demanded that the government launch an anti-corruption campaign. A lengthy investigation of the case exposed ties between government and organized crime, and resulted in the conviction and six-year imprisonment of a former Turkish intelligence officer and a former chief of a special police unit for organizing and running a crime ring. The probe revealed that the two were part of a broad conspiracy between state officials and gangs trafficking drugs and weapons. The court also sentenced 12 other defendants, many of them former policemen, to four years in prison. The court stated that it could not try the deputy riding in the car, who is still a member of parliament, or another deputy who was minister of the interior at the time of the auto accident for involvement in the case, due to their parliamentary immunity. Several politicians have urged parliament to lift their immunity in order to open the way for their trials. Fighting corruption has become a top priority of the Turkish government as it prepares for negotiations with the European Union for membership in the bloc. With President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan spearheading the anti-corruption campaign, more than 20 investigations have been launched, which will help Turkey to meet EU membership criteria and to fulfill economic reform requirements. About 400 people have been detained as a result of the investigations, which involve a wide range of activities including banking, energy contracts, the marketing of agricultural products, and falsifying export records. March 2001 Armenian Ties Sought in Low-Level Talks Mid-level foreign ministry officials from Turkey and Armenia have been quietly meeting in both Ankara and Yerevan in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of reopening the border between the two countries and to test the waters for initial bilateral cooperation. Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations. Turkey's official position is that the border will not be reopened until Armenia withdraws its troops from the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which ethnic Armenians claim as their homeland. Ankara also views Yerevan as the source of efforts by the Armenian diaspora to promote the passage of resolutions by legislative bodies in Western countries recognizing the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 1900s as a genocide. Other steps have been taken in the private sector to promote rapprochement between the two countries. A Turkish-Armenian business group is accelerating efforts to promote bilateral trade, and Turkish and Armenian universities are offering exchange programs. In June, hundreds of Armenian pilgrims are planning to visit ancient Armenian sites in Turkey as part of a trip organized by the Armenian Church of America. A delegation from Armenia, including a diplomat, a professor, and a journalist, were also invited to attend a conference on regional stability in Istanbul, organized by the Turkish Economic and Social Foundation. March 2001 French Recognition of Armenian Genocide Triggers Series of Sanctions The unpublicized talks between Ankara and Yerevan have provided a low-key backdrop to Ankara's highly public rebuke of France following the January passage of a bill in the lower house of the French parliament recognizing the Ottoman Empire's killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide. The move occurred just two months after the upper house of the French legislature passed a similar bill. Turkey responded to the bill by canceling a tender for a $249 million deal with France's Alcatel to build and launch Turkey's first military satellite by 2003. The French firm had signed an agreement in principle with Ankara for the project, but it had not yet signed the final contract. Ankara's decision will make it likely that two U.S. companies, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., will now be front-runners for the contract. Turkey may also exclude France's Giat Industries, which builds the Leclerc tank, from a $7 billion tender for the coproduction of 1,000 main battle tanks. A $600 million project to jointly produce Eryx anti-tank missiles and a $500 million deal to purchase six Aviso submarines could also be casualties of the French parliament's action. In addition, Ankara cancelled a major highway project in Turkey because two groups of firms bidding for the contract included French companies. The contract was worth from $620 million to $1.4 billion. France is Turkey's fifth-largest trading partner, with imports from France reaching $2.8 billion in the first 10 months of 2000, and exports to France amounting to $1.3 billion. The French parliament has passed similar resolutions in the past. This resolution has come at a time when Turkey is under particular scrutiny by the European Union, as Ankara prepares its National Program of steps it will take over the next few years to qualify for EU membership negotiations. The dispute with France could further impede Turkey's integration into the European Union by harming its political and economic ties with the bloc. In addition, the French parliament's move could deepen the standoff between Turkey and NATO over Ankara's veto of an agreement authorizing the proposed EU rapid reaction force to use NATO facilities, equipment, and intelligence, unless Turkey is given a direct say in how the force is deployed. The Turkish parliament will consider a draft bill accusing France of carrying out genocide in Algeria during the country's war of independence from French colonial rule in the early 1960s. Turkey's Nationalist Action Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, is also proposing a bill providing for swift sanctions against countries whose parliaments accuse Ottoman Turks of genocide against Armenians and call on the Turkish government to acknowledge that genocide. January / February 2001 IMF Loans Shore Up Financial System The IMF temporarily ended Turkey's latest financial crisis by providing a $7.5 billion emergency loan to replenish central bank coffers and restore confidence in the banking system, battered since November 2000. The funding ended speculation that the country's $4 billion, three-year stand-by disinflation program with the organization, initiated in January 2000, might be in jeopardy as a result of the crisis. About $3 billion in loans are still available under this program. Foreign investors rushed to take $7 billion of Turkey's $24 billion in foreign exchange reserves out of the country following allegations that corruption had led to the collapse of several of the 11 troubled banks taken under state administration. The Central Bank was forced to sell $7 billion to cover the shortfall, plunging the $200 billion economy into a tight liquidity squeeze. Murat Demirel, the nephew of former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel and owner of one of the failing banks seized, was arrested as part of the criminal investigation of more than 100 bankers and businessmen for suspected corruption in conjunction with the failed banks and organized crime. The anti-corruption campaign has been applauded by global financial circles. January / February 2001 Privatization Fiscal Discipline Lead Economic Agenda In return for its rescue package, the IMF demanded that Turkey speed up privatization of its telephone, airline, and power services, and take stronger measures to reform its 80-member banking system. The government launched tenders for the long-delayed sell-off of Turk Telekom and Turkish Airlines (THY). It will collect bids for a 33.5 percent stake in Turk Telekom up to mid-May. Until the end of February, it will take bids for a 51 percent share of THY, of which 24 percent will be sold to foreign investors. THY's management will remain Turkish, a proposition that is expected to dampen international investor interest. The strategic buyer of Turk Telekom will now have the right to choose its general manager, even if the candidate is a foreign national. Privatization receipts for 2000 were projected to be $3.5 billion, below the target of $7.5 billion, because of delays in selling Turk Telekom and concluding a key telecommunications license sale. Turkey promised the IMF that it would reduce the country's military budget and would adhere to strict fiscal discipline and an exchange rate policy aimed at reducing inflation that averaged 80 percent annually over the previous decade. At the end of 2000, inflation was 39 percent, overshooting the target of 25 percent, but it was the lowest level since 1985. It is targeted for reduction to single digits by the end of 2002. Before the November banking crisis erupted, the World Bank approved more than $5 billion in new loans under a Country Assistance Strategy for Turkey from July 2000 to June 2003, while a group of 10 international banks will provide a separate $1 billion loan to Ankara. January / February 2001 Consultative Role in EU Force Rejected After being denied a voice, as a non-EU member, in the process of deciding how a planned 60,000-member EU rapid reaction force would be deployed in times of crisis, Turkey blocked NATO's attempt to conclude an agreement on the alliance's future cooperation with the force. The force, to be ready for deployment by 2003, is planned for use in peacekeeping and humanitarian crises in which NATO does not intervene. At the December meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Turkey cast the lone dissenting vote against allowing the EU force to have guaranteed access to NATO planners, intelligence, and military assets when conducting operations. NATO sought to ensure that the EU force would not duplicate the activities of the alliance and to promote the EU's ability to handle its own security. Other NATO countries believe close linkage between the EU force and NATO is essential to sustain the cohesion of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Washington's appeal to Ankara to reconsider its position was rebuffed by Turkey. As the country with the largest army in NATO and the second largest in the alliance after the U.S., Ankara insists on full participation in the EU decision-making process to deploy the force, particularly in areas affecting Turkey's security. The EU maintains that only EU members can make decisions on the force's deployment. Instead, the EU has offered Ankara a consultative role concerning use of the force, especially during crises in the region near Turkey. Turkey's continued resistance to a NATO-EU agreement could force the EU to set up a separate planning staff for the force, an option that is opposed by the U.S. and NATO, which believe that a rival military structure in Europe would erode NATO cohesion. Turkey has offered to contribute up to 5,000 troops to the EU force, provided it is given an important role in planning the force's military operations. It is one of six non-EU alliance states that have pledged troops to the force. Greece, an EU member and NATO ally, plans to contribute 4,000 troops to the force. Cyprus, a non-NATO country in line for EU accession, has also volunteered to contribute a contingent. January / February 2001 Integration of Northern Cyprus as Serious Option Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said that Turkey would integrate the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus more tightly into Turkey economically and politically if Cyprus joined the European Union before a solution to the Cyprus problem were found. Since 1997, when an Association Council was established between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot administration, northern Cyprus has been partially integrated economically into Turkey. The EU's commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said he hoped that Greece would not try to force Cyprus's entry into the EU with the first wave of new countries, expected in 2004. The government of Greece, which is a member of the EU, has previously stated that it would veto the accession of all other countries aspiring to be members of the bloc, including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, if Cyprus were excluded from the first round of enlargement. European Commission President Romano Prodi said the EU, not wanting to introduce tension into the bloc, would find itself in a difficult situation if the Cyprus problem were not resolved prior to Nicosia's accession. He said that a solution to the problem prior to accession is desirable, although the conclusions of the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki stipulate that the lack of a Cyprus settlement would not itself prevent accession of the country to the bloc. Under Turkey's Accession Partnership Document, approved at the EU's summit in Nice in December 2000, Turkey is called upon to support the efforts of the U.N. secretary general to settle the Cyprus question, as part of Ankara's preparations for membership negotiations with the bloc. January / February 2001 Ocalan Case Headed for European Court The European Court of Human Rights in December agreed to hear Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan's case against Turkey. The case alleges violations by the Turkish government with regard to his arrest, trial, and sentence under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory. Ocalan has been in solitary confinement on Turkey's Imrali Island since he was captured in a February 1999 undercover operation in Kenya, where he had been sheltered at the Greek Embassy. In June 1999, he was convicted of treason and separatism, and was sentenced to death for his role in the conflict waged by his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against the Turkish Army for 16 years. In November 1999, the sentence was upheld by the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals. Ankara suspended the execution of the sentence until the European Court of Human Rights could rule on the case. A ruling could take several months and either side may appeal the outcome. Turkey has never ratified the part of the European Convention on Human Rights that outlaws capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty is one of the requirements Turkey must fulfill before it can begin negotiations for EU accession. January / February 2001 Protests Bring Human Rights Arrests Ankara closed offices of Turkey's Human Rights Association and arrested activists for staging demonstrations against the alleged torture of prison inmates and raids by 5,000 paramilitary troops on prisons across the country to end prisoners' protests and hunger strikes. At least 30 inmates and 2 soldiers died in the raids. Over 1,000 prisoners were protesting plans to move inmates from facilities with large dormitories to small-cell prisons without communal areas. Human rights groups have warned that the new prison layout could lead to increased inmate abuse and increased isolation. Guards say the inmates will be easier to control in smaller cells and will be discouraged from forming powerful organized gangs within the prisons. The European Commission expressed concern over the tactics used to restore order in the prisons, especially as Turkey prepares for EU membership. The Turkish government defended its actions as necessary to break the hold of radical leftist groups on prison wards, where the groups were training new recruits with smuggled arms. The government said correctional authorities had not had access to some of the wards for almost 10 years. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for an independent investigation into allegations that authorities tortured prisoners during the raids and during and after their transfer to the new small-cell jails. Turkey denied the charges but said inspectors had been appointed to investigate the allegations. Both human rights groups urged the Council of Europe to look into the matter. January / February 2001 Military Aircraft Purchase in the Works The Turkish government is opening negotiations with Boeing early this year for the purchase of at least six airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&Cs). It hopes to conclude the $1.5 billion deal, involving Northrop Grumman Corp.'s electronic sensors and systems, by the end of June. The planned delivery date would be 2005. The purchase will help Turkey overcome a gap in its radar surveillance capability. Turkey's mountainous terrain prevents the military from monitoring the entire country effectively with ground-based radar alone. The aircraft will also allow Turkey to assist other members of NATO in a war in neighboring states, in tracking enemy aircraft, and in coordinating sea-based air-defense missile systems. For its early warning defense, Greece has purchased four Swedish Erieye radar systems mounted on EMB-145 Brazilian aircraft. Delivery of the aircraft to Athens is expected in 2003. January / February 2001 Military Cooperation into Central Asian Region Turkey is sending arms to Uzbekistan to beef up its counter-terrorism capability and has offered to train its army in counter-terrorism procedures. It is the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that Turkey has provided arms to a Turkic-speaking country east of the Caspian Sea, a region where Moscow has tended to retain its influence, despite the breakup of the Soviet Union. Turkey's ambitious strategy of developing a pan-Turkic sphere of influence in Central Asia sputtered in the early 1990s. The assistance to Uzbekistan is the result of a military cooperation agreement signed by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, during a trip last October by Sezer through Central Asia, which also included Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Sezer also signed an agreement on bilateral military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, which involves a joint commitment to fight terrorism, the dispatch of anti-terrorist weapons to the country, and the provision of training for Kyrgyz security forces. November / December 2000 EU Submits Roadmap to Negotiate Membership In a European Union Accession Partnership Accord, a roadmap for benchmarks Turkey must achieve to open negotiations for EU membership, the European Commission stresses that Turkey must take steps toward achieving a functioning market economy and macroeconomic stability. The accord, released on November 8, mandates human rights reforms such as constitutional guarantees for freedom of opinion, assembly, and religion; the abolition of the death penalty; the prevention of torture; and curbs on the influence of the military in the political process. The Commission also calls on Turkey to rapidly lift the state of emergency in its four southeastern provinces and allow the use by Turkish citizens of their mother tongue in television and radio broadcasting, a right long sought by the country's 12 million ethnic Kurds. The accord does not mention Kurds by name but says that all individuals should be guaranteed fundamental freedoms without discrimination, citing the implementation of mother-tongue education within about four years. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit responded by saying that Turkey will eventually consider allowing broadcasts in the Kurdish language, while Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, in charge of Turkey's relations with the European Union and head of another coalition party, spoke out in favor of broadcasting in Kurdish. Coalition partner Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), reacted negatively to the suggestion. Human Rights Watch, the international human rights monitor, criticized the partnership accord for its lack of detail in key areas such as protecting freedom of expression and safeguarding against torture. In the accord, the European Commission requires that Turkey give strong support to the ongoing political dialogue toward a Cyprus settlement under the auspices of the United Nations and work toward settling Aegean disputes with Greece in 2001 as preconditions for accession negotiations. Ankara had asked the Commission not to refer to the Cyprus or Aegean issues in the accord. Turkey maintains that Aegean issues should be resolved bilaterally with Greece and the Cyprus issue between the two communities in Cyprus. Greece had pushed strongly for the issues to be included in the roadmap. Turkish officials said that resolution of the Cyprus issue could not be a condition for Turkey's European Union accession. In a letter to all European Union prime ministers, Ecevit asked the bloc to remove the reference to the Cyprus issue from the partnership accord before it is endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers at their summit in Nice in December. Turkey's National Program indicating how it plans to meet the European Union requirements should be completed by the end of 2000. The European Union's annual report on Turkey's progress toward fulfilling membership requirements said the economic, social, and cultural rights situation had not improved this year in comparison to last year. The report said the situation in the southeast, where the population is predominantly of Kurdish origin, had not changed substantially. November / December 2000 European Parliament Urges Turkish Gestures on PoliticalLegal Issues Turkey reacted sharply to a European Parliament resolution calling on Ankara to publicly recognize the deaths of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as a genocide, withdraw its occupation forces from Cyprus, and "end the political, social, and cultural discrimination which Kurds suffer." Turkey, named a candidate for European Union membership in December 1999, said the mid-November resolution would harm relations with the bloc. The resolution was passed only a week after the European Commission issued an Accession Partnership Accord outlining political, human rights, and economic changes Ankara must implement for accession negotiations to begin. The European Parliament's action capped a month of activity by Western nations calling attention to the Armenian issue. A congressional resolution urging the United States to recognize the killing of Armenians as a genocide was shelved in late October after President Clinton and high-level administration officials warned that its passage could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States, such as risking the lives of Americans. House Speaker Dennis Hastert canceled the advancement of the resolution, approved earlier by the House International Relations Committee, to the House floor after the president warned that the measure could undermine interests of the United States, such as containing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, working for peace and stability in the Middle East and Central Asia, stabilizing the Balkans, and developing new sources of energy. Clinton also said the move could undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Turkey and Armenia. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer telephoned Clinton to present his case concerning the resolution. Ankara threatened to withdraw permission for U.S. warplanes to use Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey for patrolling the no-fly zone in northern Iraq and to cancel an estimated $15 billion of energy and defense deals with companies in the United States. These include negotiations for the $4.5 billion purchase of 145 attack helicopters from the defense contractor Bell-Textron in the United States. Hastert confirmed that House Republicans had worked toward bringing the measure to a floor vote largely to help Representative James Rogan's re-election campaign in a California district with the nation's largest concentration of Armenian Americans. Rogan, who led the campaign to pass the resolution, served as a House manager in the impeachment proceedings against Clinton. The measure was non-binding and had no Senate counterpart. The State Department is encouraging Turkey and Armenia to start a dialogue on the genocide issue to help promote the normalization of relations between the two countries. After the French Senate passed a bill in November recognizing an Armenian genocide, French President Jacques Chirac immediately reassured the Turkish government of France's desire to maintain its close cooperation with Ankara, which includes $20 billion in investments and participation in projects and tenders in Turkey's energy, transportation, and defense sectors. Chirac also said France would continue to work to bring Turkey closer to the European Union. France's lower house, the National Assembly, passed a similar measure two years ago. A parallel bill in the Senate was shelved at that time after Turkey suspended the signing of a $145 million deal to buy Eryx missiles from a French firm. The Senate will now return the bill to the National Assembly, where it must be approved again by the chamber before it can become law. The Vatican and the lower house of the Italian parliament have also called on Turkey to recognize an Armenian genocide. November / December 2000 Expanded Ties to Baghdad Within U.N. Guidelines Turkey is taking significant steps to promote greater economic and political cooperation with Iraq. They include expanding the volume of oil sent by Iraq to Turkey by pipeline; carrying out U.N.-approved humanitarian flights to Baghdad for the first time since the 1990-1991 Gulf War; upgrading Ankara's diplomatic mission in Baghdad to embassy status by sending an ambassador by next January; plans to open a second border crossing between the two countries; and a visit by State Minister Tunca Toskay and a business delegation to the Iraqi capital to discuss possibilities for expanding economic cooperation. None of these steps violate U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Toskay attended an international trade fair, where he told Iraqi trade, transportation, and agriculture ministers that Turkey seeks to lay infrastructural groundwork for future investments in Iraq once the economic embargo against Baghdad is loosened or lifted. Turkey has backed the U.N.-sanctioned embargo since it was imposed in 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, but it is exploring all possible future options. Toksay told government officials that Turkey would expand economic ties with Baghdad to the extent currently allowed by the U.N.-supervised oil-for-food program, introduced in 1996, including a significant increase in the volume of bilateral trade. Turkey ranks seventh on Iraq's list of trading partners, sending 7 percent of overall international exports reaching Baghdad. Trade with Iraq increased by 58 percent during the first eight months of 2000, compared to the same period last year. Turkey expects to export $347 million worth of goods to Iraq in 2000 and $500 million in 2001. Turkey says it has lost $35 billion since sanctions were imposed on Iraq 10 years ago, mostly in transit fees for Iraqi oil. To facilitate a future increase in bilateral trade, Turkey has launched efforts to open a second gate along the Turkey-Iraq border by April 2001 and wants to hold talks with Baghdad and Damascus to re-open a railway, inactive since 1982, running from Turkey to Iraq through Syria. November / December 2000 Mideast Crisis Felt in Israeli Ties The U.S. and Israel expressed regret over Turkey's decision to vote for the October 20 U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Israel for using excessive force against Palestinians. In addition, Turkish President Sezer publicly criticized Israel and supported Palestinian statehood. Israeli Foreign Ministry Secretary Alon Leil, who visited Ankara the week after the United Nations vote to brief Turkish officials on Israeli-Palestinian developments, said Israel had expected Turkey, a European Union candidate, to cast its vote in conformity with European voting, rather than with Arab states. Turkey, the only Muslim state with military agreements with Israel, maintains close ties with both Israelis and Palestinians. However, Turkey joined Egypt and Jordan in quashing attempts by Muslim leaders at the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Doha, Qatar, to demand a unilateral severing of relations with Israel, maintaining that such a move would not serve the Palestinian cause. At the request of President Clinton, former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel has agreed to serve as one of five members of a fact-finding committee, chaired by former U.S. senator George Mitchell, which will work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to examine the current crisis. The committee was agreed to in talks between Israeli President Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the October summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Israel has decided to open formal negotiations with Turkish officials to import 15-25 million cubic meters of Turkish water annually for the next 5 to 10 years. November / December 2000 New Opportunities for Russian Cooperation Sought Turkey and Russia agreed to increase military and security cooperation, particularly with regard to anti-terrorism efforts, during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to Ankara. Moscow is especially interested in weapons coproduction contracts stemming from Turkey's proposed $150 billion, 25-year defense modernization program. It would like to be considered for a $4.5 billion contract to sell Turkey attack helicopters through a joint venture with Israel if current negotiations for a contract with the American defense contractor Bell-Textron are unsuccessful. Bilateral relations have recently improved following a period of tension, during which Ankara accused Russia of supporting Kurdish separatists and Moscow accused Turkey of backing Chechen rebels. Both countries are also vying for influence in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Russia is Turkey's main supplier of natural gas, providing nearly four-fifths of last year's needs. It has agreed to increase Turkey's supply this winter, through the existing Balkan pipeline, to alleviate the country's unprecedented energy shortage, aggravated by delayed power projects and a severe drought that has hampered the production of hydroelectric power. During the winter, Turkey could possibly see power cuts of up to five hours a day. Kasyanov visited the Black Sea port of Samsun to inspect the site where the 758-mile Blue Stream pipeline, being built by Russia's Gazprom and the Italian company Eni under the sea, will provide increased Russian gas deliveries to Turkey. The first output from Blue Stream is expected at the end of 2001, with deliveries reaching 16 billion cubic meters (bcms) by 2007. Turkey's gas consumption is expected to soar from about 14 bcms this year to 53 bcms by 2010. Turkish-Russian trade rose about 70 percent to $2 billion during the first six months of 2000, compared to the same period in 1999. November / December 2000 Balkan, International Business Leaders Plan Stability Pact Future Business leaders from the Balkans and central Europe, European Union officials, and representatives of international financial institutions met in Ankara in mid-October to discuss further implementation of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, a process that has taken on new dimensions with the restoration of democracy in Yugoslavia and Belgrade's admission to the Balkan development program. The participants, including a representative from Yugoslavia, were attending a meeting of the pact's Economic Committee consisting of delegates from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, and Turkey. The committee, which will be co-chaired by Turkey and Italy from July to December, is one of three working desks created under the pact, which was established in June 1999 to promote economic restructuring and democratization in the Balkans following the Kosovo crisis. The meeting, which was hosted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and included the participation of representatives of the European Investment Bank and the World Bank, focused on reviewing progress on 34 "quick start" infrastructure projects to be undertaken in the Balkans at a cost of $900 million. Bodo Hombach, coordinator of the Stability Pact, allayed participants' fears that Yugoslavia's entry into the pact would siphon off funds that have already been committed to projects in other countries. A business forum, addressed by Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, in charge of Turkey's European Union affairs, was held in conjunction with the meeting to allow entrepreneurs and financial institution representatives to explore further possibilities for investment in the region. October 2000 Tangle with EU Over Aegean, Cyprus Language The Turkish government is attempting to persuade the European Union to exclude references to the resolution of Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean and the Cyprus problem from the EU’s accession partnership document for Turkey. Greece is asking the EU to include these issues in the document, using the language of the Presidency Conclusions of the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, which linked Turkey’s course toward accession with resolution of these issues. In the Helsinki Conclusions, the European Council said that Turkey should seek peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes and refer them to the International Court of Justice by 2004 if they have not been resolved. The Conclusions also said that a Cyprus settlement would not necessarily be a precondition for Nicosia’s accession to the EU. In a letter to all 15 EU nations, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said that the Helsinki Conclusions did not mention any specific relationship between Turkey’s progress toward EU accession and the Cyprus problem. He also reiterated that Greek-Turkish disputes should be resolved through bilateral dialogue, a longstanding Turkish position. The accession partnership document, expected to be released on November 8, will outline what the European Commission views as Turkey’s short- and medium-term priorities for fulfilling requirements, through a national action program, to open the way for membership talks with the EU. By the end of the year, Ankara must provide assurances to the EU that the proposals in the document will be implemented. Ankara has also asked the European Commission to refer to the process of dealing with problems in the southeast, where the majority of the country’s Kurdish population lives and a 16-year war was fought between Kurdish guerrillas and government troops, as “reducing regional imbalances,” rather than referring to a “Kurdish problem” or a question of “minority rights.” The government does not regard the country’s Kurds as an official minority. October 2000 Military Exerts Public Muscle Against Islamists Chief of the General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu, who rarely issues public statements, said that, throughout the Turkish government, there were thousands of civil servants seeking to destroy the Turkish state. He issued the statement in the wake of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer’s refusal to sign a government decree authorizing a purge of civil servants suspected of links to Islamist activism. The president insisted, as a matter of due process, that parliament pass legislation authorizing the dismissals. The decree, repackaged as a law, will be submitted to parliament after it reconvenes in October. Kivrikoglu said the government’s prestige would rest on making certain that the law is passed, and he advised coalition leaders to enforce party discipline in a vote on the matter. He reminded the nation that the army considers its first priority to be the protection of secularism. The military is continuing its crackdown on political Islam, which took off in 1997 when the first Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was pressured to resign. The Turkish General Staff said that it supports Turkey’s EU candidacy but will not make any concessions concerning either the unity of the state or its secular character. In a recent opinion poll, only 3.5 percent of Turks considered religious extremism to be the country’s top problem. The statements by the military continue to raise questions over its ability to keep a lower profile as the country takes steps to fully democratize and conform to European Union standards. The European Commission has stated that the role of the military-dominated National Security Council in Turkish politics must be restructured to allow the military to function under the control of civilians and without interference in domestic politics. The National Security Council, established to advise senior leadership on national security matters, made it clear in September that it would not allow broadcasting or teaching in Kurdish, citing economic reforms as the most immediate priority for the country’s 12 million ethnic Kurds. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who is responsible for the coordination of Ankara’s relations with the EU, said the Turkish military was afraid that the adoption of needed reforms, including granting education and broadcasting rights to Kurds, could aid subversive elements and lead to the breakup of the country. He called on the nongovernmental organizations and the media who believe in Turkey’s European orientation to help convince the military that it had misperceived the situation. October 2000 Political, Military Leaders in Dispute Over Religious Leader Strains between the military and the government emerged over the Turkish judiciary’s indictment against a prominent Islamic cleric on charges of plotting to overthrow the country’s secular state. A state security court indicted Fethullah Gulen, the leader of one of Turkey’s most influential Muslim orders, for allegedly establishing an unarmed terrorist organization with the purpose of setting up an Islamic state. The Court demanded a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the 62-year-old cleric. Gulen said excerpts of his statements on videocassettes broadcast on Turkish television, which formed the basis for the indictment, had been altered. Gulen has been in the United States for more than a year undergoing medical treatment and will be tried in absentia by a Turkish court. The cleric’s Nur (Light) brotherhood, generally considered a moderate Islamic group with 6 million followers, runs several hundred schools in Turkey, the Balkans, and Central Asia. In addition, it owns a television channel, radio station, advertising agency, daily newspaper, and bank in Istanbul. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has praised the schools as a contribution to the promotion of Turkey abroad. The schools teach religious instruction approved by the Turkish government. Ecevit said that he was saddened by the decision against Gulen and hoped that he would be cleared. Chief of the General Staff Gen. Kivrikoglu said it was unacceptable to treat the cleric with respect, charging Gulen’s followers with infiltrating every layer of the state bureaucracy for the purpose of an eventual Islamist takeover. Kivrikoglu criticized a state security court in Istanbul for overturning an Ankara court’s desicion to arrest Gulen by citing insufficient evidence for the arrest. Kivrikoglu said 11 of the 46 officers purged from the military in September were Gulen’s followers. In addition, former Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan is required to turn himself in to authorities next January to serve a one-year prison sentence for a 1994 speech calling for Turkish schools to have students recite Koranic verses rather than nationalist slogans. He also described pro-secular government officials as infidels. The former head of the now-banned Welfare Party is banned from politics for life. A separate verdict on the banning of the Islamist Virtue Party, Welfare’s successor, for anti-secular activities is expected in October. October 2000 Human Rights Concerns Stymie EU Relations Ankara criticized the European Parliament’s decision to link a $117 million aid package, for EU accession preparations, to Turkey’s efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue, including recognizing and protecting their cultural rights, and encouraging cooperation for a solution to 16 years of armed conflict between Turkish troops and Kurdish guerrillas. The aid package, if approved by the EU’s Council of Ministers, would be issued over a three-year period. Other conditions for receiving the aid include a ban on nuclear power stations in earthquake regions, the abolition of the death penalty, and working to eliminate vast income distribution inequalities between different provinces. Prime Minister Ecevit said Turkey would speed up its process of implementing human rights reforms, including broadening freedom of expression, cracking down on officials responsible for torture, and accelerating the end of emergency rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast. He proposed the establishment of a human rights board, attached to the cabinet, to monitor human rights violations. Turkey’s state minister in charge of human rights abuses, Rustu Kazim Yucelen, told an unprecedented meeting of prosecutors, governors, police, rights activists, and trade unionists in the town of Tunceli in the war-torn southeast that the country’s human rights abuses would be eradicated by the end of 2001. He said an internet website would be opened by this December for people to report abuses. Akin Birdal, Turkey’s leading human rights activist, was freed from jail in September after serving more than nine months for speeches in which he called for a negotiated end to the Kurdish conflict. October 2000 IMF Angst Over Booming Economy Citing an overheating Turkish economy, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Turkey desk chief Carlo Cottarelli recommended that Ankara take fiscal steps to achieve inflation targets and restrain the current account deficit. He issued his recommendation on the basis of the country’s strong GNP growth of 4.3 percent in the first half of this year, suggesting that the government’s year-end projection of 5.5 percent growth could be exceeded and reach at least 6 to 7 percent. He also projected a 10 percent real growth in domestic demand this year and said that salary increases should be seriously curbed in 2001 and indexed to inflation. Prime Minister Ecevit rejected Cottarelli’s recommendation, stating that growth was a sign of dynamism and that only Turkey’s government would determine its economic, financial, and social policies. The prime minister said that international institutions did not have a right to assume the role of the state and should not attempt to dictate wage and income policies to Ankara. Cottarelli said he was confident that the disinflation program would succeed and noted that growth could be compromised by a few percentage points for the sake of lowering inflation. Despite a shortfall in Turkey’s privatization revenues, he said, the country should meet overall economic performance criteria for 2000. He cautioned that the privatization of telephone monopoly Turk Telekom, the largest source of privatization revenues and a linchpin of the IMF accord, must be accelerated. Under a package of austerity measures to reduce chronic inflation, which is backed by the IMF with $4 billion in stand by loans over three years, the government had hoped to meet its inflation target of 20 to 25 percent by the end of the year. High oil prices will likely push the meeting of that target to February 2001 at the earliest. The IMF program has brought inflation down to about 53 percent in August, compared to about 62 percent at the end of 1999, and is expected to bring it down to 5 percent in 2002. Turkey has rebounded from a 6.4 percent contraction in growth in 1999, which was largely a result of two massive earthquakes. October 2000 Actions in Cyprus on Trial in European Court In September, the European Court of Human Rights began hearing a case brought against Turkey by the Cyprus government over alleged violations of human rights in the Turkish Cypriot breakaway entity. The government says that the abuses cited in the case are violations of the rights to life, liberty, security, property, education, fair trial, and family life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Cyprus argues that about 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees living in the south have been prevented from returning to their homes in the north and Turkish Cypriots in the north have not been allowed to return to their properties in the south, depriving them of their rights to property and compensation. It says that the enclaved in the north, currently 453 Greek Cypriots and 159 Maronite Cypriots, suffer discrimination and degrading treatment, are not allowed to have fair trials to claim their rights, and do not have the right to elect representatives in the Cyprus legislature. Cyprus also accuses Ankara of failing to investigate or provide information on the disappearance of over 1,600 people as a result of the 1974 invasion. The Court is expected to issue a verdict on the case, filed in 1994, in a few months. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Ankara is obligated to comply with the verdict. Turkey has refused to comply with a 1996 ruling of the Court ordering it to pay compensation to a Greek Cypriot refugee who charged that the Turkish invasion and occupation deprived her of property rights in the north. Turkey did not attend the public hearing, marking the first time since the founding of the Court in 1959 that a member country of the Council of Europe has refused to appear before it. The Turkish government claims that Nicosia cannot sue Ankara with regard to matters dealing with Cyprus but should take up related issues with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” September 2000 President: Rule of Law Above Secularism A constitutional battle emerged between President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit over the ruling coalition's attempt to push through a government decree to dismiss some 3,000 civil servants for their alleged links to Islamist political activists and Kurdish separatist activities. A former Constitutional Court chief justice, Sezer vetoed the decree, sent directly to him twice by the government for approval, stating that measures taken against civil servants should be authorized by a law first approved by parliament. Ecevit harshly criticized Sezer, describing the veto as a breach of presidential powers and maintaining that the constitution does not permit the president to veto a decree. By drawing up the decree, the Ecevit administration, apparently pressured by the influential military to carry out the dismissals, tried to bypass parliament and avoid likely defeat by lawmakers. The last three attempts to pass legislation in parliament authorizing the dismissals have failed. Following the veto, a government statement said Sezer's decision had aided "enemies of the regime" but conceded that the dismissal issue would ultimately be dealt with by parliament. Public support for Sezer's attempts to promote political and legal reform led the government to back down, especially after extensive media speculation that the president might be pressured to resign. The army, however, sent a powerful message regarding the degree to which the Turkish establishment would tolerate Islamist political movements. The newly appointed chief of Turkey's Army, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, warned that any concessions to radical Islam would pull the country back into "the darkness of the Middle Ages." When Sezer took office earlier this year, it was believed that his political inexperience would make him a weak president. His insistence on upholding the rule of law indicates that he intends to be a force to be reckoned with, particularly in moving ahead with reforms required for Turkey's accession to the EU. The drafting of the decree was part of an ongoing crackdown on Islamist activism that accelerated in 1997, when the military-led secularist establishment forced the collapse of the country's Islamist-led government. Ecevit maintains that more than 400 civil servants are linked to at least 60 murders carried out by the armed Islamic group Turkish Hezbollah, which seeks to replace Turkey's secular constitution with Islamic Sharia law. In September, the Constitutional Court is expected to consider a request to ban the Islamist Virtue Party, which placed third in Turkey's national elections in April 1999, on charges of attempting to subvert the constitution. September 2000 Gradual Progress in Meeting EU Accession Criteria Turkey has taken an important step toward fulfilling EU accession criteria by signing two international agreements that may pave the way for granting cultural rights to the Kurds. Sections of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which Turkey had been unwilling to sign since 1964, will obligate Ankara to ease its limitations on the use of the Kurdish language in education and broadcasting. Covenant signatories commit to protecting freedom of speech, adhering to restrictions on torture and forced migration, and promoting the economic and social rights of minorities. Chief of General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu also stated that the military would not object to a proposal to add more civilian members to the National Security Council, a step toward subordinating the army to civilian political authority, as EU membership requires. The 10-member Council currently has equal civilian and military representation, while the proposed composition would consist of 10 civilians and 5 officers. September 2000 Europe Demands Compliance on Cyprus Rights Ruling The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers accused Turkey of disregarding its international obligations by failing to comply with a July 1998 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling called on Ankara to compensate a Greek Cypriot woman for being prevented from using her property in the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus. The Committee said it "deeply deplored" Ankara's inaction and insisted that Turkey, a Council of Europe member and a partner in the European Convention of Human Rights, pay Titina Loizidou damages of about $640,000 ordered by the Court. It stated that the failure of a member state to comply with a judgment of the Court was unprecedented, as Council of Europe members had a legal obligation to fully implement the Court's decisions. Ankara said that the case is not within Turkey's jurisdiction but is the responsibility of the Turkish Cypriot authorities. Turkey also maintained that the issue of property owned by Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus should be part of discussions in the U.N.-sponsored negotiations focusing on property exchange and compensation. The Court's response was that the Turkish Cypriot regime is subordinate to Turkey and does not legally exist, rendering Ankara fully responsible for policies and actions in the occupied region. September 2000 Mixed Signals to Greece on Framework for Aegean Issues Turkey has sent mixed signals to Greece concerning its willingness to refer Aegean disputes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). After Foreign Minister Cem publicly stated that all disputes between Greece and Turkey concerning the Aegean should be referred to the ICJ, a ministry spokesman stated that Turkey held to the view that disputes between the two countries should be resolved through a bilateral process. Greece maintains that the only outstanding issue between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean is the legal matter of the Court's delimitation of the continental shelf, an issue not subject to bilateral dialogue. Athens has said that it would not oppose Turkey if it also wanted to refer its challenges concerning the sovereignty of the Imia/Kardak islets to the Court. Greece says that issues such as the extent of territorial waters and airspace around the Greek islands are not issues for bilateral dialogue. However, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou indicated that he was prepared to discuss issues other than the continental shelf matter if Turkey were to respect a framework of international legality. September 2000 Modernized Helicopter Sought to Enhance Anti-Tank Capability Turkey has informed the U.S. firm Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, that it wishes to purchase 145 AH-1Z King Cobra attack helicopters. Negotiations with the company are not likely to conclude before the end of the year, leaving it to the next administration and Congress to approve the deal. The purchase of the King Cobras, one of the world's most advanced gunships, will significantly expand Turkey's anti-armor and armed reconnaissance capabilities. It indicates that Ankara is focusing on its ground combat capability, primarily as a deterrent to potential armored threats from Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The acquisition will also enhance the Turkish Army's ability to conduct armed reconnaissance missions in mountainous terrain and could be used at the short land border with Greece along the Evros River. Although they are of limited use in naval deployment, King Cobras can be operational in amphibious assaults near the mainland coast. The Turkish attack helicopter fleet currently consists of 28 Cobra and 10 Super Cobra gunships, earlier versions of the new state-of-the-art King Cobra. Turkey will pay about $4 billion for the helicopters, to be co-produced largely in Ankara by Tusas Aerospace Industries Inc., which also builds F-16 fighter planes under co-production contracts with the U.S. company Lockheed Martin Corp. Turkey plans to take delivery of the helicopters in three stages between 2002 and 2011. Despite anticipated resistance from Congress and human rights and arms monitoring groups, the U.S. is expected to approve the sale on grounds that Turkey's human rights record and relations with Greece have improved in the last year. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, requires the U.S. to take a country's human rights record into account when considering arms sales to foreign customers. If contract talks with Bell Textron fail or if Washington denies an export license for the King Cobras, Prime Minister Ecevit said that Turkey would open talks with the Russian-Israeli consortium of Kamov Helicopter Co. in Moscow and Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. to purchase its Ka-50-2 Erdogan helicopter. Greece's fleet of attack helicopters consists of 24 AH-64A Apaches, which are considered superior for operations in inclement weather and for their weapons systems. September 2000 Economic Goals Dash Nuclear Energy Plans Ankara has abandoned a controversial plan to build its first nuclear power plant over fears that its $4.5 billion cost could derail the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) three-year anti-inflation program. The IMF indicated to Turkey that the economic program would be threatened if Ankara went ahead with the project. The decision ended three years of uncertainty since bids for the project were first tendered. The move was welcomed by international environmental groups, which had argued that the planned site of Akkuyu, near Turkey's southeastern Mediterranean coast, was near a major fault line. The location rendered the proposed plant vulnerable to an accident that could threaten most of Turkey, as well as Greece, Cyprus, and areas of the Middle East such as Israel. In view of the country's rapidly growing power needs, Ecevit said Ankara might reconsider its decision in 15 years, after the economic stability program has achieved its aims. September 2000 U.S. Rebuffed as Iran Energy Deal Proceeds Despite U.S. pressure on Turkey to discontinue its plans to import natural gas from Iran, Ankara and Tehran signed an addendum to their 1996 agreement on the matter, stating that deliveries would begin on July 30, 2001. The deal is worth $23 billion over a 25-year period. A pipeline from Tabriz, Iran, to Ankara will initially pump 3 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually, an amount that will reach 10 bcm after 2007. Another branch of the pipeline will serve the southwestern Turkish industrial town of Seydisehir. Turkey is in the process of completing the section of the pipeline within its territory. Washington's attempts to dissuade Ankara from impor-ting Iranian gas stem from the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which threatens to punish foreign firms investing more than $20 million a year in Iranian energy. Turkey, which buys crude oil from Iran, maintains that its growing energy deficit necessitates gas purchases from its neighbor. Turkey currently receives gas from Bulgaria and Georgia. September 2000 Palestinians, Israelis Court Ankara's Support in Peace Process Several high-level Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. delegations traveled to Ankara in August, capped by the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to discuss the Middle East peace process with the Turkish leadership. Barak explained Israel's position on the peace negotiations to Turkish officials, who had been briefed earlier in the month by the chief Israeli negotiator at the failed Camp David talks. Barak also stated that Israel's defense industry was seeking more contracts in Turkey, with which Israel has close economic and military ties. It was agreed that an Israeli delegation would soon visit Turkey to further explore the possibility of buying water supplied by Turkey's Manavgat River. Israel will also help the Turks set up their first earthquake rescue unit. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with Turkish leaders in Ankara seeking support if he proceeds to unilaterally establish an independent Palestinian state. Arafat urged the Turkish government to play a more active role in the peace process, especially in helping to break the deadlock with Israel concerning the future of Jerusalem. Turkish leaders told Arafat that Ankara recognized the Palestinians' right to a state, giving no clear support for a unilateral declaration of statehood. Turkey allows the Palestinians to maintain a presence in Ankara. Foreign Minister Cem later met with Arafat in the Gaza Strip to present Ankara's suggestions on the peace process and make it clear that Turkey has no intention of becoming a mediator. Turkish officials have urged the two sides to work out their disputes through U.S. mediation and refrain from unilateral moves. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Edward Walker also went to the Turkish capital to brief the government on the Middle East talks. July / August 2000 High-Level Float of Aegean Trial Balloon A retired commander of Turkish naval forces, who also served as a chief advisor to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit until his death in June, recommended that Turkey disband its Aegean Army, headquartered in Izmir, to reduce tension with Greece and prepare Ankara for EU membership. The Aegean Army, consisting of light forces supported by a large-scale amphibious capability, was created in 1975 in response to the militarization of Greek islands near the Turkish coast that year, a reaction to Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus. The Izmir headquarters serves as a command center that can shift army units to the Aegean from other areas of Turkey if hostilities with Greece break out in the region. Although few Turkish combat forces are permanently assigned to the Aegean Army, the Turkish Navy maintains the world’s largest non-oceangoing amphibious force in Foca, near Izmir, for use by the Army. Adm. Guven Erkaya presented an “Aegean Plan” for reducing tension in the Aegean to Chief of General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu and to Ecevit, who emphasized that it represented the admiral’s own personal thoughts and forwarded it to the foreign ministry and to State Minister Sukru Gurel for further study. Although both Kivrikoglu and Ecevit said the question of dissolving the force was not on the agenda, regional analysts believed the prominent reporting of the views of Erkaya, a high-ranking figure known for his conservative views, suggested that Turkey might be attempting to open a debate concerning possible compromise by both Greece and Turkey on Aegean issues. Erkaya was commander of the navy in 1996, when Turkey and Greece nearly went to war over the sovereignty of the Imia/Kardak rocky islets in the Aegean. Under Erkaya’s plan, Turkey would first rescind parliament’s casus belli authorization to use force to prevent Greece from implementing its right, according to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, to extend the territorial waters around its Aegean islands and islets from 6 nautical miles to 12. Greece would then renounce its right to extend the waters. Second, as a response to the proposed disbanding of Turkey’s Aegean Army, Greece would demilitarize its Aegean islands and reduce the extent of its claimed airspace from the current 10 nautical miles to 6, to coincide with the extent of the territorial waters. Third, an international arbiter would be found to help resolve the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf and the sovereignty of certain unpopulated islands and islets, rather than referring the issues to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which Greece has long sought. July / August 2000 Proposals to Greece for Confidence-Building Measures Senior representatives of the Turkish and Greek foreign ministries met in Ankara in June for preliminary talks on the possible expansion of confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey. The Greek Foreign Ministry is studying proposals for enhanced Greek-Turkish confidence-building measures, which have reportedly been submitted by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Although there has been no public response to the proposals to date, the Greek government is exploring mechanisms for putting forth reciprocal political and military gestures on a broad range of issues. Turkey’s proposals are said to include unarmed military flights in the airspace over the Aegean Sea; mutual invitations to participate in or observe military exercises and the planning of joint exercises; mutual coordination of the scope, size, and duration of military exercises; an increase in the number of port visits by each country’s fleet; the elimination of a “friend” or “foe” identity of Greek and Turkish aircraft; early notification on both sides of each country’s flight plans; direct communication between coast guard vessels from both countries, rather than through national headquarters, concerning search and rescue operations; and bilateral discussions between chiefs of staff to discuss multinational issues, such as Balkan security and the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). July / August 2000 U.S. Urges Turkey’s Role in EU Defense Policy Secretary of Defense William Cohen endorsed Ankara’s position that Turkey and other NATO countries outside the European Union should be involved in the decision-making mechanisms of the EU’s new defense structure, the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). Under the ESDI, a 60,000-member rapid reaction military force is slated for operation independently of NATO by 2003. Turkey wants to fully participate in the ESDI’s decision-making process and protested strongly to the EU over the bloc’s decision at its June summit in Portugal to exclude non-EU members of NATO from this process. Turkey, with the second-largest military in NATO after the U.S., stressed the heavy burden it has shouldered during the Cold War and post-Cold War periods in contributing to European security. Ankara also told the EU that it should not assume that Turkey will automatically accept the requests of the EU to use NATO facilities in Turkey. Since NATO will be the dominant military force in Europe for the foreseeable future, the issue is viewed as politically symbolic, reflecting Ankara’s fear that its influence in Europe will be marginalized as long as it remains outside the EU. July / August 2000 Regional Agreement on Black Sea Cooperation Turkey, Russia, and four other countries along the Black Sea coast signed a letter of intent to form the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR), an initiative proposed by Ankara in 1997 to enhance regional security and cooperation. Representatives of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine met in Ankara in June to outline the activities of the force, including joint search and rescue operations, humanitarian assistance, mine-clearing, fishery and environmental protection, and goodwill visits. The force is expected to contribute to strengthening relations and mutual understanding among Black Sea countries. The force will operate on an on-call basis as a rapid reaction group and could be available for possible deployment in operations mandated by the U.N. or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The position of force commander will rotate among participating countries in alphabetical order for a period of one year beginning with Turkey. Over the last three years, the navy commanders of the six participant countries have held annual conferences to discuss topics such as establishing a regional naval information system to ensure safe navigation in the Black Sea. In May, the commanders of the countries’ coast guards met in Istanbul for their first meeting. During the meeting, they discussed joint efforts toward regional security, including the prevention of terrorism, crime, and illegal migration; the preservation of natural resources; the prevention of sea pollution; and exchange programs for the training of coast guard personnel. July / August 2000 New President Continues Push for Constitutional Reforms President Ahmet Necdet Sezer urged parliament to consider rapid reforms to democratize Turkey’s constitution as a first step toward meeting criteria for EU membership. He criticized the constitution, drawn up in 1982 under military rule, for limiting judicial authority, restricting individual rights and freedoms, and strengthening the executive. Addressing parliament, he said that reforms should promote adherence of the state to laws, the monitoring of the legislative and executive powers by an independent judiciary, and the protection of basic rights and freedoms. He stressed that the president’s power should be curbed to prevent usurpation of the legitimate powers of the prime minister. The state exists for the people rather than the people for the state, he said. July / August 2000 Push for Abolishing Death Penalty Ahead of EU Directive The debate on the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey, a requirement for joining the European Union, is being rekindled in anticipation of an EU document that will be presented this fall for approval by member states. The document will identify the short- and medium-term priorities that Turkey must tackle in preparing to join the bloc. By the end of the year, Ankara is expected to finalize a program for meeting these priorities. European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said Turkey has been lagging behind in taking the necessary steps toward EU membership since it was named a candidate in December, particularly in political reforms to improve human rights. President Sezer and Prime Minister Ecevit called for lifting the death penalty, which they perceive to be the greatest obstacle to joining the EU. In addition, Chief of General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu said that the army does not oppose the abolition of the death penalty. The government’s main coalition partner, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), said that it might agree to the elimination of capital punishment if Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan is executed first. Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk stated that the retention of the death penalty in Turkey is blocking the government’s efforts to bring fugitive criminals back to the country. Although Ankara has not executed anyone since 1984, EU countries have been rejecting Turkey’s extradition requests on grounds that the death penalty is still in effect. Turkey began debating the possible abolition of capital punishment after Italy refused to extradite Ocalan to Turkey in late 1998 because of the possibility that he would face the death penalty after being tried. A Turkish court did sentence him to death, but the case has been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. A decision on the execution, which must be made by the Turkish parliament and approved by the president, has been postponed pending a ruling on the appeal by the Court, expected to take at least a year. July / August 2000 Corruption Charges Mask Coalition Power Play The fragility of the government coalition, hailed as the most stable government in the last five years, was demonstrated in June as it faced the possibility of collapse less than a year and a half after it was formed over having to deal with corruption charges against Mesut Yilmaz. Yilmaz, the leader of the junior member of the coalition, the Motherland Party (ANAP), was prime minister from 1997 to 1998, when he was forced to resign over the charges. A rift between coalition members ANAP and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) threatened to undermine the unity of the government, led by Prime Minister Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP), after MHP deputies in a parliamentary investigative commission voted in favor of sending Yilmaz to the Supreme Court to face the charges. The full parliament later voted against the commission’s recommendations, clearing Yilmaz of the charges. Ecevit then named Yilmaz deputy prime minister and appointed him to a cabinet post that puts him in charge of EU-Turkey relations. The parliamentary process raised the issue of the coalition’s willingness to root out corruption, which has plagued Turkish politics for years and is a major concern of voters. The MHP appeared to be sending a message to the public that it was committed to restoring integrity to government, a platform it had campaigned on. Critics of the MHP said the party’s goal was to prevent Yilmaz from becoming part of the cabinet and to weaken ANAP by discrediting its leader. The signal given by the Ecevit forces and ANAP was that political stability is more important at this time than weeding out corruption. The financial markets breathed a sigh of relief, having feared that a break-up of the coalition could compromise an IMF-backed, anti-inflation program that is now showing the first signs of success. The situation highlighted the sense of ongoing political frailty in Turkey, with decisiveness being an elusive goal for coalitions under the perennial threat of collapse. July / August 2000 Prison Sentence Upheld for Islamist Leader Turkey’s appeals court in June upheld an earlier ruling by a State Security Court, sentencing former pro-Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to one year in prison for a speech he made in 1994 criticizing the country’s secular establishment. The sentence brings with it a lifelong political ban, ending his political career. Erbakan will go to prison by November unless Turkey’s chief prosecutor rules in favor of a correction of the sentence, which is considered unlikely. He is expected to serve about five months of the sentence. The Council of Europe declared in a written statement that the decision of the appeals court would harm Turkey’s EU membership process. Erbakan took office as Turkey’s first pro-Islamist prime minister in 1996 and was forced to resign under pressure from the military a year later on grounds that his government was attempting to impose Islamic rule. In early 1998, he was banned from politics for five years after the Welfare Party, which he chaired, was closed down by the Constitutional Court. July / August 2000 Emergency Rule Eased in Kurdish-Dominated Southeast Ankara will lift emergency rule in the southeastern province of Van on July 30 but will extend it in the province of Diyarbakir and other key regional provinces for four more months. Emergency rule has been in place in various southeastern provinces for about 16 years in an effort to crush PKK guerrilla activity. It was first declared in Van in 1987 for a period of four months but has been extended every four months since then. With the lifting of emergency rule in Van, where Turkey’s largest lake is located, the province is expected to benefit from an influx of tourists into the region prompted by a virtual end to the PKK war and a relaxation of conditions. The average per capita income in southeastern Turkey, where unemployment is higher than elsewhere in the country, is $1,633 in contrast to $3,176 for the rest of Turkey. July / August 2000 Pope’s Assailant Extradited to Complete Murder Sentence Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish national who was convicted of shooting and seriously wounding Pope John Paul II in 1981, has been extradited to Turkey from Italy where he served 19 years of a life sentence for the assassination attempt. Agca will now serve nine and a half years in prison for the 1979 murder of Turkish left-wing journalist Abdi Ipekci, editor of the daily newspaper Milliyet, and also faces robbery charges dating back to 1979. He was arrested by Turkish authorities following the murder but escaped from a high-security prison and fled Turkey while awaiting trial. He was convicted of the murder by a Turkish court in absentia and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to 10 years in prison, which will be reduced by 5 months, the time he was jailed before escaping. It has never been determined why he shot the pope or who helped plan the attack. Prosecutors failed to prove Agca’s claim that the Bulgarian secret service had hired him on behalf of the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, Agca was associated with the Grey Wolves, a neo-fascist group that fought street battles against leftists. At that time, it was linked to the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which has since renounced violence and is part of the governing coalition. Acga’s return to Turkey has raised hopes that he might disclose information on the killing of Ipekci, who was investigating the actions of Turkish criminal gangs when he was murdered. A second gunman remains unknown. May / June 2000 Jurist President Signals Bold Reforms Ahead Ahmet Necdet Sezer, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, was sworn in as president of Turkey for a seven-year term in May, replacing Suleyman Demirel, who was not permitted to run for a second term under the Turkish constitution. In his inaugural address, Sezer said that protecting human rights and the rule of law would be his first duty as president. Sezer previously called for a repeal of freedom of speech restrictions that have resulted in the imprisonment of hundreds of Turkish citizens. He urged lawmakers to carry out extensive revision of Turkey's constitution, drawn up during the 1980-1983 military rule, in support of democratic reforms. In addition, he criticized restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language, which is banned in schools and broadcasts, and called for allowing appeals of military court rulings. His election was expected to send a positive signal to the European Union at a time when Turkey is required to carry out broad political, social, and civic reforms in preparation for EU membership. The Turkish president has considerable influence and can play a crucial role as a power broker in times of political crisis. He can veto legislation and can dissolve parliament and call new elections. He is also the head of the National Security Council, a half-civilian and half-military body that deals with internal security, intelligence, and foreign policy, and is considered a major vehicle of military authority. Demirel, who had led seven governments, played an influential role in Turkey's foreign policy as president. Sezer, a political novice, is not expected to initially wield the same influence over foreign policy. Sezer pledged not to allow political Islam to erode the secularist state and not to yield any ground to Kurdish separatists. In 1998, he ruled in favor of banning the Islamist Welfare Party for attempting to overthrow the secularist order. As a jurist, Sezer is the first Turkish president who is neither a politician nor a member of the military. He was elected by parliament as the nominee of both the three-party coalition government and the two opposition parties, an unprecedented situation in Turkey. May / June 2000 High-Level EU-Turkey Talks Resume During the first EU-Turkey Association Council meeting in three years, the Council created eight committees to screen Turkey's legislation in order to identify laws that are not in conformity with the bloc's standards. The meeting represented the first concrete step toward a substantive dialogue between the Turkish government and the bloc over Turkey's future EU membership. The EU expressed disappointment over the slow pace of human rights reform in Turkey since it was named a candidate for membership in December. The EU is expecting improvements in human rights, particularly for Kurds, the abolition of the death penalty, enhanced independence of the judiciary, and revised penal and civil codes. The bloc will give Turkey a three-year, $14 million grant to fund reforms in sectors such as consumer protection, technology development, and the judicial system. Athens continued to assist Ankara in its preparations for EU membership, drawing from the Greek government's experience in complying with EU requirements, by initiating new rounds of bilateral talks in Greece and Turkey between foreign ministry officials. The talks included Turkey's adjustment to the European justice system and involved a visit by the Turkish delegation to the Center of International European Economic Law in Thessaloniki. Turkey hopes to open formal membership negotiations with the EU within four years. May / June 2000 Major Privatization Efforts Raise International Profile The May launching of the privatization of Turk Telekom, the national telecommunications giant, was considered a significant benchmark in the process of economic reform that is being closely watched by the IMF under a three-year program to cut inflation from 65 percent at the end of 1999 to single digits by the end of 2002. As part of the IMF arrangement, 20 percent of the $20 billion enterprise is slated for block sale to a strategic partner by the end of August. A further 14 percent stake will be sold next year in an Initial Public Offering. Privatization has reached $5 billion since the beginning of the year, prompting Economy Minister Recep Onal to predict that Turkey will exceed its privatization target of $7.6 billion, about 3.5 percent of GNP, by December. In late April, the IMF said economic reforms were off to a good start and released the $293 million second installment of a $4 billion stand-by loan endorsed in December 1999 to service the foreign debt and help balance payments. Standard & Poor's raised Turkey's credit rating from B to B plus, citing the government's achievements in implementing fiscal adjustment and measures to bring down inflation in accordance with the IMF agreement. The government expects annual inflation to fall to 20 to 25 percent by the end of the year. Onal said the government would take six zeroes off Turkish lira when inflation is brought down to single digits in 2002. As of May 22, one U.S. dollar purchased 623,320 lira. Turkey experienced a 6.4 percent negative growth last year, attributed to the 65 percent annual inflation rate and the $4 billion economic loss caused by the August earthquake. It is hoping for a 5 percent growth rate this year. May / June 2000 Greek Elections Encourage Rapprochement Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit welcomed the re-election of Greece's ruling party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), and said that Ankara was ready to work with Athens to further improve bilateral ties. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem expressed satisfaction that Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou would retain his post and said bilateral relations would continue to improve as a result. Prime Minister Costas Simitis is to make the first official visit to Ankara by a Greek prime minister in half a century. Turkish officials noted the appointment of Theodore Pangalos as the new Greek minister of culture. Pangalos was foreign minister in February 1999, when it was learned that he had been involved in arranging refuge for Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Greek Embassy compound in Kenya prior to the guerrilla leader's capture by Turkish security agents. Pangalos and two other ministers were forced to resign as a result of the political fallout that ensued. These other officials, the former public order and interior ministers, have also been assigned new posts in the cabinet. May / June 2000 New Calls for Aegean Negotiations In a statement following the Greek parliamentary elections, Foreign Minister Cem said that Ankara was ready for talks with Athens on Aegean issues and that he believed discussions would begin soon between representatives of the two countries' foreign ministries on these issues. Prime Minister Ecevit said that bilateral issues should be resolved through dialogue and not through law courts. As Turkey reiterated its position that the entire range of Aegean differences should be discussed bilaterally, Greece maintained that the only difference in the Aegean is the question of the delimitation of the continental shelf, which should be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for adjudication. Athens has also said that Ankara could refer the status of the Imia/Kardak islets to the Court if it questions their sovereignty. Turkey's position is that the sovereignty of hundreds of uninhabited rocks and islets in the Aegean, including Imia/Kardak, is undetermined and should be a topic for bilateral discussion. The Greek government maintains that the provisions of international treaties and agreements nullify demands Ankara has raised concerning airspace, territorial waters, and the status of uninhabited rocks and islets. Turkey also considers Greece's militarization of the eastern Aegean islands and the degree of minority rights accorded to ethnic Turks in Greece's western Thrace region to be bilateral points of contention. The EU expects a Greek-Turkish dialogue on Aegean issues to occur before they are referred to the ICJ. This opens up the possibility that the two countries will be discussing the framework under which the issues to be arbitrated by the ICJ and those to be resolved bilaterally will be determined. Turkey regards the Cyprus problem as an issue that is separate from bilateral issues between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, and it does not believe that progress toward a Cyprus settlement is necessary before Aegean issues can be resolved. Ankara maintains that the Cyprus problem should be solved through a dialogue between the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities. Greece's position is that there can be no substantive improvement in Greek-Turkish relations or progress on the Aegean issues without significant movement toward a Cyprus settlement. Greek public opinion is expected to react negatively to a lack of progress on a Cyprus settlement. May / June 2000 Military Seeks Direct Dialogue with Greek Counterparts Turkish Chief of the General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu urged Athens to open a bilateral military dialogue with Ankara to reduce tension in the Aegean and repeated Ankara's call for the holding of joint Turkish-Greek military exercises and a reduction in the size of each nation's maneuvers. Greece regards NATO as the appropriate framework for developing better relations between the militaries of both countries. Athens proposes the implementation, within a NATO framework, of confidence-building measures based on bilateral agreements concluded in 1988. However, bilateral talks between the two countries' Coast Guards have been launched to discuss cooperation in preventing drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Senior military officials from both countries have had contacts, such as the visit by the Greek Navy commander to Turkey for a farewell ceremony for the former Turkish Navy commander. A Greek general is the chief of staff of the NATO Joint Sub-Regional Command Center in Izmir, Turkey, while a Turkish general is the chief of staff of the parallel command in Larissa, Greece. In addition, meetings between Greek and Turkish military officials have taken place frequently within the context of preparations for the participation of both countries in the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG). May / June 2000 Large-Scale Projects with China Charted A central aim of the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Turkey in late April, the first by a Chinese head of state in 14 years, was to secure an expanded role for Chinese firms in the country's growing energy market. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel visited China in 1995. Chinese firms have been building two hydroelectric plants in Turkey with Turkish partners at a cost of $460 million. Companies in China have also expressed an interest in building two coal-fired power stations in the northern Black Sea region with Turkish partners and in operating coal mines in the region in exchange for providing Chinese mining technology. Ziang called on Turkish businessmen to participate in the industrial development of China's western region, while Turkey encouraged China to invest in transport and irrigation ventures in the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP). At a meeting of the Turkey-China Joint Economic and Trade Commission, the Turkish side urged China to increase its imports from Turkey to close the huge trade gap between the two countries, which favors China. The volume of bilateral trade was $931.5 million in 1999, but Turkey's exports to China constituted only about $40 million. Prior to Ziang's visit to Turkey, the Turkish energy and natural resources minister went to China to encourage investors to take part in Turkish energy projects. Other Turkish visitors to China this year were the speaker of parliament to discuss increased contact between the two parliaments and the interior minister to sign an agreement on joint efforts to confront cross-border crime. Turkey and China signed a military training and cooperation protocol in May 1999 stating that soldiers from both countries would train at each other's military academies. May / June 2000 U.S. Commends Tough Anti-Terrorism Policies The State Department's annual report on terrorism worldwide for 1999, released in April 2000, said Turkish authorities had struck a significant blow against PKK terrorism with the arrest of Ocalan, his trial, and his death sentence for treason. The report said that about 500 PKK guerrillas remained in Turkey despite Ocalan's call for an end to the armed struggle, the withdrawal of all guerrillas from the country, and a dialogue with Ankara. It also cited the fact that two eight-member groups of PKK guerrillas had turned themselves in to Turkish authorities as new gestures in support of a political solution to the Kurdish issue. The report stated that Turkish counter-terrorism operations had dealt harshly with the left-wing Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front with the killing of two of the group's members as they prepared to fire an anti-tank weapon at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, the arrest of about 160 members and supporters, and the confiscation of weapons, bombs, and bomb-making materials. Turkish authorities continued to arrest and try Islamist terrorists vigorously, it said, though members of Turkish Hezbollah and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders-Front managed to conduct attacks. It also cited at least two attempted bombings against Russian interests in Turkey, believed to have been staged by Chechen sympathizers. May / June 2000 Outreach to Armenia Explores Possible Cooperation Yerevan State University (YSE) in Armenia's capital and Ankara Technical University have established the first academic links between Armenian and Turkish institutions of higher learning. Cooperation will begin with a visit of Armenian professors and students to the newly opened sub-faculty of Armenian Language and Literature at Ankara Technical University. YSE already has a Turkish Studies program. The heads of both universities signed a cooperation agreement at YSE, where dozens of Armenian students demonstrated against academic contacts with Turkey unless it recognizes the 1915 mass killings and deportations of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian minority as a genocide. Other reconciliation efforts between Turks and Armenians include a conference of Turkish, Armenian, and American scholars at the University of Chicago to discuss carrying out a joint inquiry into the massacres and a fundraising drive by Turkish and Armenian women to raise money for the restoration of an Armenian church near the eastern Turkish city of Van. Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations. The border between the countries was closed six years ago in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey says relations will not be normalized until the conflict is settled. The Turkish cabinet refused to participate in Israel's national day reception in Ankara after two Israeli ministers issued statements referring to an Armenian genocide. March / April 2000 New President, Succeeding Demirel, to Be Elected in May Turkey’s parliament rejected a bill that would have allowed President Suleyman Demirel to stand for re-election, opening the way for possible discord among the ruling coalition’s parties over the election of his successor. The vote was a setback for Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. He initiated the bill, arguing that Demirel’s re-election was crucial for the stability of the country. Ecevit feared that dissent over choosing a successor could disrupt his government’s economic reform package, including IMF backing of Ankara’s program to reduce this year’s inflation rate to 25 percent from 69 percent last year. He also expressed concern that a rigorous presidential campaign could derail political reform efforts as Turkey begins working toward EU membership. If the bill had passed, a constitutional amendment would have permitted Demirel to remain in office for a second, renewable five-year term. The constitution now restricts a president to one seven-year term. A replacement for Demirel, who became president in 1993, is scheduled to be elected by parliament on May 16. One of the chief reasons behind the bill’s defeat was Ecevit’s failure to win the backing of the Islamist Virtue Party, which holds 103 seats in the 550-member parliament, making it the third most powerful political party. However, members of Ecevit’s government coalition, including deputies in his own party, are believed to have voted against the bill. In an attempt to win Virtue’s support, Ecevit included an article in the amendment package that would have made it more difficult to ban political parties. But Virtue, which faces a possible ban by a constitutional court on charges that it is seeking to impose Islamic rule, sought full guarantees that it would not be shut down. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and former prime minister Mesut Yilmaz have been mentioned as possible presidential favorites. Ecevit is not eligible to run for the presidency because he does not have a university degree, as required by the Turkish constitution. March / April 2000 Kurdish Crackdown Alarms European Union The ongoing government crackdown on Kurdish politicians has European capitals questioning Turkey’s commitment to democratic reform in preparation for joining the EU. In March, prosecutors demanded seven-year jail terms for the Kurdish mayors of three cities on charges of aiding guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and donating money to them. The mayors, members of the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), the country’s largest legal pro-Kurdish party, were arrested in mid-February, prompting the European Union to lodge a diplomatic protest with Ankara. Police said the mayors had visited a PKK commander in the Netherlands and had taken orders from him. The mayors, reinstated in office pending trial, have been banned from traveling abroad. HADEP, which supports increased political and cultural rights for Kurds, faces the possibility of a court-ordered closure on charges of pro-PKK political activity. A fourth HADEP mayor has been stripped of his post after being sentenced to nearly four years in jail on charges of supporting the PKK. In the latest in a series of trials against HADEP members, a state security court in Ankara sentenced 18 top officials of HADEP to 45 months in prison on similar charges. Among the convicted were the current party chairman and his predecessor. The party’s deputy head has also been arrested on charges of making criminal statements, which security forces recorded inside HADEP’s offices. Authorities also imposed a one-day broadcasting ban on CNN-Turk, a joint venture with the U.S.-based television network, for comparing jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to South African leader Nelson Mandela. As a result of his participation earlier this year in a conference focusing on new trends in Kurdish literature and the Kurdish language, police removed the books of Kurdish writer Mehmed Uzun from bookstores in many Turkish cities. A ban on the Kurdish language was lifted in 1991, but it is illegal to use it in political or official settings. A March ruling by the European Court of Human Rights stated that Turkey had failed to protect the Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, which closed in 1994, in the exercise of its freedom of expression. A total of $15,550 was awarded to four owners and executives of the newspaper. The Court also awarded $7,862 for non-pecuniary damage to each of the plaintiffs and a reimbursement of legal expenses. In March, the Court also found that Turkey had failed to prevent and seriously investigate the 1993 killings of two Kurds, a journalist and a doctor, in violation of Ankara’s commitment under the European Convention of Human Rights. It ordered Ankara to pay legal costs to the relatives of each victim and $27,750 in damages. In April, Ankara granted a European parliamentarian permission to visit imprisoned Kurdish parliamentarian Leyla Zana, one of three Kurdish deputies convicted of membership in the PKK six years ago and serving 15-year sentences. The visit is expected to allow the resumption of meetings between EU candidate Turkey and the European Parliament, which had stopped after Ankara refused to permit the visit in February. The Turkish government announced that Zana could be released for health reasons. She refused the offer, asserting that she was imprisoned for political reasons and does not want privileged treatment, such as release ahead of others jailed on similar grounds. March / April 2000 Human Rights Move Sets Back EU Accession Goals Despite a medical report stating that his health status made him unfit for incarceration, human rights activist Akin Birdal has been returned to jail to serve the six remaining months of a nine-and-a-half-month sentence. The European Union responded to the move by lodging an official protest with the Turkish government. The former president of the Human Rights Association was convicted last summer of “inciting hatred” by calling for a negotiated end to Turkey’s war with the PKK in speeches he made in 1995 and 1996. Birdal was released from jail last November for treatment of injuries sustained during a 1998 assassination attempt. His re-admittance followed unsuccessful efforts by the EU to gain his permanent release to receive regular care for conditions resulting from the injuries. European governments view the Birdal case as a benchmark of Turkey’s sincerity with regard to ending human rights abuses and lifting restrictions on freedom of expression, both basic prerequisites for EU-Turkey accession talks. March / April 2000 Speech Lands Prison Sentence for Former Prime Minister A state security court sentenced former prime minister and Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan to a year in prison for a campaign speech he made in 1994 in the largely Kurdish province of Bingol. Erbakan, the former head of the now-banned Welfare Party and Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister from 1996 to 1997, had criticized the fact that students begin their day in school by reciting nationalist slogans rather than Koranic verses, suggested that Kurdish schoolchildren had the right to call themselves Kurds, and said secular politicians had driven a wedge between ethnic Kurds and other citizens. If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict, Erbakan will only serve some five months in jail but will be banned from politics for life. Military pressure brought about Erbakan’s resignation as prime minister amid accusations that he was challenging the secular order. The Constitutional Court is currently considering charges by Turkey’s chief prosecutor, Vural Savas, that the Islamist Virtue Party, considered the successor of the Welfare Party that was shut down in 1998, should be banned as a threat to the secular constitution. Erbakan is thought to be running Virtue from behind the scenes, although it is nominally headed by Recai Kutan. Savas is also seeking a five-year ban on political activity by the leadership of Virtue, including Kutan. March / April 2000 Jordanian Ties Flourish on Trade, Water, Military Interests Turkey’s potential for transporting some of its abundant water supply to the parched countries of the Middle East is emerging as a strategic issue in the region, as Jordan continues talks with the Turkish leadership on the matter. The possibility that Jordan could import water from Turkey’s Manavgat River, which enters the Mediterranean Sea near the town of Antalya, was an important element of March talks between Jordan’s King Abdullah and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in Ankara. The success of such a project is dependent on Amman’s securing a transit agreement with Israel since the proposed method of transporting the water would be by tanker, and Jordan has no direct outlet to the Mediterranean. Israel is also in need of water and is considering the purchase of Turkish river water. Turkey has built facilities capable of exporting up to 183 million cubic meters of water a year. King Abdullah’s visit to Turkey, his first, was in reciprocation for Demirel’s July 1999 visit to Jordan. Amman sought to assure Ankara that the friendly political ties established under the late King Hussein remain in place. The two heads of state stressed their desire to boost commercial and economic relations, which had been affected negatively by the Gulf War and were still lagging. Both sides are expected to sign a free-trade agreement this year to increase bilateral trade levels. The Jordanian monarch offered Turkey the use of Jordan’s quota for exporting textiles to the U.S., if Turkish textile manufacturers exhaust their own quota, and said Turkish goods could be exported tax-free from free zones in Jordan. The leaders also agreed to increase bilateral military cooperation, which has grown in the last three years. It has included joint land training exercises and joint maneuvers of fighter aircraft in each other’s airspace. March / April 2000 Turkey Joins U.S.-British Project on Next-Generation Fighter Jet Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced that Turkey has agreed to become a partner with the U.S. Defense Department in developing a new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a $200 billion program to build fighter jets that will replace F-16s. Cohen did not specify what role Turkey would play in the program. Lockheed-Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are competing for the contract to build the aircraft. Some 3,000 planes will be built for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, and for the British Royal Navy. An additional 3,000 to 5,000 will be built for export to other countries. Britain is a financial partner in the program. The project, to begin next year, is considered the largest weapons program underway in the world, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2008. Turkey will seek to replace its oldest group of 160 F-16s, which will come to the end of their service lives in 2015, with the JSF. U.S.-designed F-16 jets have been built in Turkey under a co-production agreement dating back to the mid-1980s. Early last year, Greece announced that it had chosen the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft as the potential replacement for its F-16 aircraft. The Eurofighter is still under development by a consortium of German, Italian, Spanish, and British aerospace industries, and is expected to enter service in 2002. Although the Eurofighter is equipped with advanced twentieth-century technology, it reportedly lacks the stealth capabilities and other features currently being developed for the JSF. Greece’s Hellenic Aerospace Industry may become a partner in the Eurofighter consortium. Up until now, Greece has not expressed interest in co-producing or purchasing the JSF, although any NATO country can do so. March / April 2000 Travel Blacklist Provokes EU Rebuke The EU has lodged a protest with the Turkish Foreign Ministry over a government blacklist of 56 Europeans who were to be denied entry to Turkey for actions Ankara considers harmful to the Turkish state. The EU called for clarifications concerning the list, which includes journalists and lawmakers. It noted that the list was a breach of European policy on the free movement of individuals and free expression, and called for its nullification in keeping with Turkey’s status as a candidate for EU membership. The Turkish government stated that the list, which appeared in a Turkish daily newspaper, was out-of-date and inaccurate. It said the list reflected the government’s practice of identifying individuals who had criticized Turkey’s policy on the Kurdish issue or expressed support for the PKK. Turkish officials said that nine Greeks had been put on the list because of what Ankara deemed to be their declared or apparent support for the PKK. They are Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, seven Greek parliamentarians, and a retired naval commander, Antonios Naxakis, who in January 1999 flew PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, then on the run from Turkish law enforcement authorities, to Greece in his private jet. Ocalan spent the night at Naxakis’s home several days before Greek Foreign Ministry officials flew him to Nairobi, where he was given refuge in the Greek Embassy compound before being apprehended by Turkish officials. Ankara noted that Archbishop Christodoulos’s name had been removed from the list in mid-1999, and he was free to travel to Turkey, but the ban on the remaining Greeks remained in place. February 2000 Greek Foreign Minister on Groundbreaking Visit With his four-day visit to Turkey in January to join Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in signing five Greek-Turkish cooperation agreements, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou became the highest-ranking Greek official to pay a state visit to Turkey in 38 years. The visit, which included meetings with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Suleyman Demirel, was viewed as a groundbreaking step in normalizing bilateral relations, crowning six months of intensive contacts between the foreign ministries of the two countries aimed at easing longstanding tensions. Papandreou’s flight to Ankara was the first direct flight between Athens and the Turkish capital in a quarter of a century due to a bilateral dispute over Aegean airspace. Greek and Turkish civil aviation authorities worked together to open a flight corridor for the minister’s aircraft. The agreements signed in Ankara dealt with tourism, foreign investment, money laundering, protecting the Aegean environment, law enforcement, and regional terrorism. Five more agreements were signed by the two foreign ministers during Cem’s visit to Athens in February (see Greece section). The total package of agreements was prepared during a dialogue between the two countries that began last June and continued until the end of the year. Papandreou referred to his visit as a "breakthrough in relations," while Cem said the accords marked "a successful beginning toward a new era in relations." The working relationship between them has been the driving force behind the rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, which began last spring during the NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia. The Greek minister began his visit by laying a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, revered in Turkey as the founder of the republic, who expelled the Greek Army from the Turkish mainland in 1923. Seven years later, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos nominated Ataturk for the Nobel Peace Prize. Papandreou’s gesture was reciprocated when Cem laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. Papandreou pledged that Greece would help Turkey take the legal and administrative steps needed for European Union membership since Greece’s problems in adapting to the requirements of membership had been similar to those faced by Turkey. He proposed that European Union task forces be created in the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries for this purpose. Papandreou and Cem attended a luncheon in Istanbul hosted by the Turkish-Greek Business Council in an effort to encourage joint ventures and mutual investment. The business delegation accompanying Papandreou included the president of the National Bank of Greece, which is considering opening a branch in Turkey. Papandreou proposed that Turkey participate in cultural events planned during the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens. The two countries also discussed jointly volunteering to host the 2008 European Cup soccer championship. February 2000 Proposal to Reduce Aegean Tension During Papandreou’s visit, Cem proposed the formation of a bilateral working group of defense ministry representatives and diplomats to discuss the possible adoption of confidence-building measures to reduce military tensions in the Aegean Sea. The measures included staging joint military maneuvers in the Aegean, decreasing the number and size of separate Greek and Turkish military exercises, ensuring that military aircraft flying over the Aegean are unarmed, and scheduling an exchange of port visits in the Aegean for Greek and Turkish naval vessels. Papandreou responded by referring the proposal to the Greek Ministry of National Defense for review. Two weeks later, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos turned down Cem’s suggestion and proposed that Greece and Turkey first build on the 1988 bilateral memorandum signed by then foreign ministers Karolos Papoulias and Mesut Yilmaz as a basis for establishing confidence-building measures. The memorandum outlines a framework of rules of behavior regarding national military activities in international waters and airspace, aimed at reducing tensions and avoiding incidents between the two countries. Its measures are similar to those that Javier Solana, the former NATO secretary general, tried to promote after Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1996 over the Imia/Kardak crisis. Turkey’s position is that the new diplomatic situation warrants a fresh initiative rather than the 1988 memorandum. In Ankara, Papandreou suggested reactivating the Greek-Turkish "committee of wise men" set up at the request of the EU to examine a legal framework for settling bilateral differences. The four-member committee functioned for several months in 1997 until Ankara suspended its activities at the end of the year after the EU decided to keep Turkey off a list of applicants for membership candidacy at its December summit. February 2000 Crackdown on Radical Islamists Follows Discovery of Corpses The discovery of nearly 60 bodies of people believed to have been murdered by the radical underground Islamic group Turkish Hezbollah has led to a nationwide sweep of nearly 1,000 citizens and a process to dismiss 73 Islamic clerics suspected of links to the terrorist organization. Clerics throughout Turkey were instructed to read sermons prepared by the state directorate of religious affairs denouncing violence. A shootout in Istanbul between authorities and Hezbollah members resulted in the death of the group’s leader, Huseyin Velioglu, and the capture of two senior commanders who, along with those detained in the crackdown, have led investigators to the burial sites of the group’s victims. Turkish authorities say Hezbollah, or Party of God, is dedicated to overthrowing the secular Turkish state and establishing strict Islamic Sharia law in its place. Most of its victims have been Kurdish men, and many were businessmen linked to rival Islamic foundations or sects. The body of kidnapped Islamist feminist Konca Kuris, an advocate of a flexible approach toward the role of women in Islam, was among those found. The group is not believed to be connected to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia based in Lebanon. Turkish Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s in the southeast to counter the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which adhered to a Marxist-Leninist ideology at odds with the establishment of an Islamic state. The present crackdown on Hezbollah is unprecedented, following sporadic arrests of the group’s members in the late 1990s, and it coincides with the winding-down of the war between the PKK and the government. These factors have led to charges by politicians, particularly the Islamist Virtue Party, and the press that Hezbollah’s earlier activities, believed to include hundreds of unsolved killings, were overlooked or supported by the state to eliminate PKK supporters. The government and the military have denied the charges. Turkish officials allege that Hezbollah is being armed and financed by Iran to undermine Turkey’s secular government. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who was in Turkey on a state visit during the Istanbul shootout, denied that his government had any connection to the Turkish radicals. February 2000 Ties with Iran Broaden During the mid-January visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Turkey, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem asserted that Ankara would not allow Israel to attack any of Turkey’s neighbors, such as Iran, from Turkish soil. Cem’s statement was in response to Iran’s concern over growing military and strategic ties between Turkey and Israel, including the training of Israeli fighter pilots in Turkish airspace. Turkey is concerned that PKK guerrillas are operating in Iran, though the Iranian government has said it will not permit PKK activity on its soil and will provide information to Ankara on border infringements by the group’s members. Despite these concerns, cooperation with Iran is broadening, with visits by President Suleyman Demirel and Interior Minister Saadettin Tantan to Tehran scheduled for the spring. During his visit, Kharazzi joined Cem in signing a memorandum of understanding that set up a working group to study opportunities for enhanced cooperation in the political, economic, education, transportation, communications, customs, and security sectors. Later in the month, the co-chairmen of the Turkish-Iranian Joint Economic Commission signed an agreement to triple bilateral trade to at least $2 billion annually. An unused railway connection between Turkey and Iran will be repaired to facilitate an increase in bilateral trade. Turkey will sell machinery, computer items, and telecommunications expertise to Iran. Iran will begin delivering 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey annually in July 2001, when the 656-mile Turkish section of a pipeline linking Ankara to Tabriz in Iran will be completed. Turkmenistan will also use part of the Iranian section of the pipeline to deliver gas to Turkey. February 2000 Caucasus Stability Pact Proposed As Russia reasserts itself in the Caucasus with the destruction of Grozny, Georgia and Azerbaijan are increasingly looking toward Turkey as a counterbalance to Moscow’s resurgent influence in the region. Promoting stability in the Caucasus has become one of the main foreign policy priorities in Ankara, which wants to become the main Western link to oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian basin. Wary of challenging Russia directly, Washington is relying on Turkey to help extend U.S. military and political interests into the region. During a visit to Ankara, Azeri President Haidar Aliyev urged Turkey to increase its military presence in the Caucasus to provide protection against Russia. After Aliyev’s visit, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel went to Georgia which, with its Russian bases and large influx of Chechen refugees, is being increasingly affected by Russia’s campaign in neighboring Chechnya. Ankara has military agreements with Azerbaijan and Georgia, and is expected to train Georgian military pilots in Turkey. Demirel proposed that a Caucasus Stability Pact be launched, and he called on Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for support. He said that the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe could serve as a model for the proposal, which would provide a framework to finance and implement reconstruction efforts in a region marked by war since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He did not name the countries to be included in the pact, but Turkish officials said Ankara would soon take the initiative to obtain regional support for the concept. Moscow considers the Caucasus to be its sphere of influence and opposes the participation of Turkey in regional initiatives. Moscow also opposes the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline plan and insists that Caspian oil should be sent to a Russian Black Sea terminal and transported by tanker through the Bosporus. Russia is believed to be pressuring Georgia to slow down any progress on the pipeline’s construction. Russia is also constructing a bypass pipeline through Dagestan, which it hopes will be the alternative to Baku-Ceyhan for Azeri oil when it is completed in March. February 2000 PKK Lays Down Arms to Pursue Politics The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced an end to its 16-year war with the Turkish government and its intent to work peacefully within the country’s democratic framework to pursue its goal of greater cultural rights for Turkish Kurds. The announcement formalized PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s declaration of a unilateral cease-fire and order to the group’s guerrillas to withdraw from Turkey last August. It was also the first official declaration that the fighters would lay down their weapons. Although most of an estimated 4,500 PKK fighters are expected to follow Ocalan’s lead, a few have promised to continue fighting. Skirmishes with the PKK have generally subsided in the southeastern provinces. In the announcement, the PKK said it would end all usage of the word "Kurdistan," an illegal word in Turkey due to its separatist connotations. The PKK also re-elected Ocalan as its leader. Ankara has said that it will delay carrying out the death sentence against Ocalan until the European Court of Human Rights has reviewed it, a process that is expected to take at least a year. February 2000 Growing Reliance on Domestic, Israeli Arms Supplies Turkey has successfully tested its first short-range, surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, the Toros 230-A, with a range of 40 miles, and the Toros 260-A, with a range of 62 miles. The Toros systems, designed to be fired from multiple launchers, are scheduled to be ready for use within two years. Ninety-five percent of the parts for the missiles were produced in Turkey, reducing dependence on foreign arms suppliers. The Toros missiles, the first locally produced weapons systems of their kind, will be placed on the market for sale to foreign countries. Israel also delivered two rebuilt F-4 fighter planes to Turkey, the first of a total of 26 that will be upgraded by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) by February 2003. Turkish personnel trained by IAI carried out work on the planes in Israel under the direction of Israeli experts. An additional 28 F-4s will be upgraded at the Eskisehir base in Turkey as part of a technology transfer agreement, with Israeli-trained Turkish personnel doing the work. The $670 million modernization project, financed by an Israeli state credit, is the first cooperative venture between the defense industry sectors of Turkey and Israel. February 2000 New Initiatives in Syria Relations Turkey is seeking ways to strengthen ties with Syria more than a year after Damascus signed an agreement with Ankara to stop offering support and shelter to the PKK. Ankara says that Syria has continued to honor the agreement, signed in October 1998 after pressure from Turkey forced the expulsion of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from Syrian soil. The January visit of Turkish State Minister for Maritime Affairs Ramazan Mirzaoglu to Damascus marked the first visit of a Turkish minister to Syria in five years. He proposed accelerated bilateral cooperation on economic and commercial matters, construction projects in Syria, maritime transport, and investments. The first meeting of a bilateral working group established by the foreign ministries of both countries will take place in Damascus in early March, and intensified reciprocal visits by trade associations from both countries are expected to help boost economic ties. Mirzaoglu’s visit occurred at a critical time for Damascus, as peace talks between Syria and Israel were underway in Washington. There has been speculation that the issue of Turkey’s water supplies to Syria could be raised at the Syrian-Israeli negotiating table. Last March, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Salim Yassin visited Turkey for talks on boosting bilateral economic cooperation. It was the first time in 12 years that the two countries had met to discuss ways of expanding economic ties. In 1998, the volume of bilateral trade was $617 million, while the figure for the first 10 months of 1999 was $385 million, with Syria exporting oil and Turkey exporting primarily food products. Relations between Turkey and Syria have been tense for almost 20 years. In addition to the PKK issue, Damascus has accused Turkey of not allocating sufficient water to Syria from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and it claims sovereignty over Turkey’s Hatay region. February 2000 Ambitious Privatization Efforts Continue The Turkish government is launching a $50 billion privatization program over the next five years and expects investments to total $100 billion over the next 20 years, particularly in the communications, defense, and energy sectors. Since 1984, revenue from the sale of state assets has totaled only $4.1 billion. An initial public offering (IPO) in 2000 of 15 to 20 percent of Tupras, the state-owned oil refiner, will be one of 10 large IPOs this year totaling at least $50 million, including seven from the private sector. The last international IPO occurred in July 1998. In March, a 49 percent block sale of Turk Petrol Ofisi, the country’s biggest petroleum retailer, will be auctioned. By the end of the year, privatization of Turk Telecom, worth at least $10 billion, will begin. The implementation of the privatization program is crucial to the success of three-year disinflation measures launched in January with the support of a $4 billion standby loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The measures are aimed at reducing the annual inflation rate from about 63 percent at the end of last year to 25 percent by the end of 2000. Investor confidence has been increased by Turkey’s EU candidacy, a relatively stable coalition government that has achieved large-scale economic reform and imposed a tight new monetary policy, and a drop in interest rates from 150 percent to 40 percent over the last year, which helped the Istanbul Stock Exchange become one of the world’s best-performing bourses in 1999. In addition, the passage of a retroactive law allowing international arbitration of business disputes involving foreign firms has opened the way for 46 energy contracts worth $7 billion to move forward in the fastest-growing energy market in Europe. January 2000 EU Candidacy Opens Door for Massive Reform The European Union named Turkey a candidate for membership at its Helsinki summit in December, making it clear that sweeping political, economic, and human rights reforms, the resolution of Greek-Turkish disputes, and progress on overcoming the division of Cyprus would be necessary before the country became the first Muslim nation to join the bloc. The move was made possible by Greece’s lifting of its veto over Turkey’s candidacy in exchange for wording in the European Council conclusions that met three demands of the Greek government: a political settlement to reunite Cyprus will not be a precondition for the accession of Nicosia to the EU; outstanding border disputes, such as Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean, will be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if a negotiated settlement is not reached; and Turkey’s candidacy will be handled on the same basis as the candidacies of other nations. (See page 14.) Steps taken by Turkey that encouraged the EU to grant it candidacy status included modest steps to improve its human rights record, economic reforms, a scaling-back of its war against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since the capture of its leader Abdullah Ocalan last February, and an improvement in relations with Greece. A key element of fulfilling criteria for membership will be curbing the strong influence of the staunchly secular military, considered the country’s most powerful political institution. The Copenhagen political and economic criteria for membership require that the armed forces be placed under the control of the civilian defense ministry. To do so, Turkey will have to amend its 1982 constitution, which is currently out of compliance with EU standards. After accepting the EU’s offer, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called it a “great success” for Turkey, despite the government’s initial impulse to reject the invitation over the provisions concerning the arbitration of Greek-Turkish disputes by the ICJ and the accession of Cyprus to the EU in the absence of a political settlement. The EU’s move reversed its 1997 decision not to invite Ankara to become a candidate, citing a poor human rights record and its disputes with EU member Greece as primary reasons. That decision caused Turkey to suspend political dialogue with the bloc over the last two years. Turkey has been applying for membership in the bloc since 1987. It could take 10 years or more for Turkey to be admitted into the European Union, requiring the amendment of more than 20,000 Turkish laws and regulations, as well as democratic solutions to the Kurdish and Islamist problems. Twelve other countries are slated for membership ahead of Turkey. Actual membership negotiations will begin when the EU judges that Ankara has fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria, particularly concerning democratic freedoms and human rights, required for entry into the bloc. January 2000 Kurdish Political, Cultural Rights Become Priority Turkey’s Kurdish problem will have to be resolved peacefully before the country can accede to the European Union. Within days of the EU candidacy offer, statements by Turkish officials indicated that the government remains divided on how to approach the issue. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem publicly supported the right to broadcast in Kurdish and other languages. This right is currently forbidden to Kurds as is the right to educate children in the Kurdish language. Cem’s statement was a radical departure from the government’s longstanding view that lifting the ban on broadcasting in languages other than Turkish will encourage ethnic separatism and undermine national unity. President Suleyman Demirel countered Cem’s statement by saying that Turkish was the only language that can be used for education and broadcasting, noting that ethnic Kurds in Turkey were able to speak Kurdish, publish newspapers and other documents in Kurdish, and listen to Kurdish music on the radio. The Nationalist Action Party, one of the government’s three coalition partners, strongly opposes granting additional language rights other than those already guaranteed by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty to the officially recognized Greek, Armenian, and Jewish minorities, which are allowed to conduct schooling in their own languages. The final decision on whether to allow Kurdish broadcasting and education rests with parliament if the cabinet draws up a draft law to lift the ban. January 2000 Waning PKK Struggle Hints at End of Emergency Rule Shortly after the EU decision on Turkey’s candidacy, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said he hoped the 12-year-old emergency rule still imposed on the five largely Kurdish provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Van, Hakkari, and Sirnak in the southeast could soon be lifted. In November, the government lifted the state of emergency in the southeastern province of Siirt. Emergency rule was imposed on 13 provinces in 1987 to allow provincial governors to counter the activities of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas, who had begun fighting the Turkish government three years earlier. It replaced martial law, which had been in effect since March 1980. Despite these positive signs, the Turkish government continues to reject repeated calls from the PKK for a negotiated solution to the fighting, which has been scaled down to sporadic clashes since the PKK unilaterally announced a ceasefire in August and withdrew most of its fighters from the country. A total of 145 PKK guerrillas have surrendered to security forces to benefit from a repentance law, which grants lenient punishment for rebels who turn themselves in or provide information on the PKK. PKK guerrillas have warned Turkey, which sees the PKK as a threat to its territorial integrity, that they might resume full-scale fighting if authorities continue to dismiss their calls for peace. The PKK has continued its recruitment drive and the mechanisms for resuming the war remain intact, but there are divisions in the organization’s senior ranks over the policy of abandoning the armed struggle in favor of political legitimacy. PKK guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan’s death sentence for treason and separatism has been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. President Demirel said Turkey should wait for the decision from the Court before bringing the case to the Turkish parliament, a process expected to take two years. Ankara, as an EU candidate, is under pressure to comply with the EU’s abolition of capital punishment. In a significant move, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Huseyin Kivrikoglu said the military would not resist any steps to abolish the death penalty, a goal that Prime Minister Bulent Evecit has pledged to work toward, but which is opposed by the far-right Nationalist Action Partywhich wants Ocalan to be executed. January 2000 Second Naval Exercise with U.S., Israel in Mediterranean Turkey, Israel, and the United States conducted a second round of naval search-and-rescue exercises in mid-December off Turkey’s southern shore in the Mediterranean Sea on the day Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations resumed in Washington nearly four years after they broke off. The timing of the maneuvers, “Reliant Mermaid ‘99,” was viewed as a signal from Israel that it remains committed to its military relationship with Turkey, despite Israel’s attempts at rapprochement with Syria, which had tense relations with Ankara before Damascus expelled Ocalan in October 1998. Turkey continues to worry that Syrian forces deployed along Israel’s border could be relocated to Turkey’s border if an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement is concluded. Regional analysts say that the Turkish-Israeli relationship has helped convince Syria that it is isolated militarily and has influenced the Syrian government’s return to the negotiating table. The first round of Reliant Mermaid exercises was held in January 1998, provoking severe criticism among Arab nations and Iran. The Arab response to the second round has been more muted. Jordan has sent observers to the exercises in both 1998 and 1999. Egypt was invited to send observers to both rounds, but it declined to do so. Israel and Turkey plan to hold exercises regularly and would like to broaden participation in the maneuvers. The exercises were followed by talks in Israel between the Turkish Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Edip Baser, heading a 30-member delegation, and Israeli Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron. Although the Turkish and Israeli militaries hold regular consultations twice a year, the timing of these talks was significant since an opportunity was presented for Israeli officials to brief Baser on negotiations with Syria. Israel has pledged to update Turkey regularly on the progress of the Israeli-Syrian peace talks and has assured the Turkish side that any agreement between Israel and Syria will not harm Turkish interests in the region. A Jordanian monitor was present at the talks in Israel. The possible sale of Israeli attack helicopters to Turkey and proposals for the upgrading of Turkey’s fleet of M60-A3 battle talks by the Israeli defense industry were on the agenda. January 2000 High-Level Iranian Visit on TradeRegional Security Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Harrazi will be in Turkey in January to discuss bilateral and regional issues concerning trade and security. Harrazi is scheduled to meet with President Suleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. Harrazi and Cem are expected to finalize an agreement on Turkish-Iranian cooperation concerning the exchange of information on the activities of the PKK and joint efforts to crack down on suspected Kurdish guerrilla activity in the border region between the two countries. A preliminary agreement on the matter was signed in Tehran in October. In December, Turkish Interior Ministry Undersecretary Saim Cotur held talks in Tehran on security issues affecting both countries. The Association of Turkish Traders and Independent Industries has called for an expansion of trade between the two countries from the current volume of $600 million annually to $5 billion. Turkey imports oil from Iran, while Iran buys consumer goods from Turkey. In 1996, Ankara signed a $23 billion agreement with Tehran to receive Iranian natural gas for 23 years beginning in January 1999. There have been delays in the construction of the 656-mile Turkish section of the pipeline, which Turkey expects to be ready at the end of 2000. The pipeline begins in Tabriz in northwestern Iran and will end in Ankara. December 1999 Clinton Urges Turkey to Improve Human Rights, Democratic System During his five-day November visit to Turkey to meet with the Turkish leadership and attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul, President Bill Clinton urged the Turkish government to work toward greater respect for human rights and democracy, especially lifting restrictions on freedom of expression. Clinton was the first foreign leader to speak before the Turkish parliament and only the third U.S. president to visit Turkey. He met with prominent human rights activists and praised Ankara's current efforts to improve its human rights record, citing new laws imposing tougher penalties against the use of torture and making it more difficult to close political parties. He also called for improved treatment of Turkey's 12 million ethnic Kurds. The president renewed the U.S. commitment to helping Turkey become a candidate for membership in the EU, an issue to be discussed at the bloc's December summit in Helsinki. He urged Ankara to offer gestures to further improve relations between Greece and Turkey, which have warmed as a result of their mutual earthquake assistance. Clinton's failure to persuade Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to offer a gesture during his visit was a disappointment to the U.S. administration since normalization of Greek-Turkish relations is one of Washington's top three foreign policy priorities in Europe. Clinton told the Turkish leadership that the U.S.-Turkey partnership had become even more important than it was during the Cold War, as the two nations worked together toward peace in the Middle East and the Balkans, stability in the Caucasus, the containment of Iraq, and the effort to build an east-west energy corridor through Turkey. He commended Turkey's passage of landmark legislation on social security reform, international arbitration, and banking that had strengthened prospects of concluding a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, strongly supported by the United States. The president said Washington would launch new projects worth billions of dollars, mostly in the energy sector, to bring jobs to Turkey, building on a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement announced during Ecevit's September visit to the United States. Bilateral trade was over $6 billion in 1998, up 50 percent in the last five years. December 1999 OSCE Summit Signals Western Support for Reform The fact that Turkey was chosen as the site of the mid-November 54-nation OSCE summit was seen as a vote of confidence by the organization for steps taken by Ankara to improve its human rights record. The OSCE, whose 55th member, Yugoslavia, was suspended from the organization in 1992, was established in 1975 to further stability and democracy in Europe. It promotes human rights as a critical element in maintaining security among its members, which include the U.S. and Canada. Key agreements signed by leaders of the member nations at the summit included a revision of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which places limits on the armed forces of the 30 countries that belong to NATO or once belonged to the Warsaw Pact, and the European Security Charter, which states that local conflicts are the legitimate concern of all European states and strengthens the OSCE's conflict prevention and mediation, postwar reconstruction, and monitoring of human rights. December 1999 Security Stringent During Clinton Visit, OSCE Summit As headlines praised Clinton for his efforts to strengthen U.S.-Turkish ties and push for Turkey's admission to the EU, police mounted a huge security operation in both Ankara and Istanbul for the president's visit and the OSCE summit that followed, and were quick to suppress small demonstrations that occurred sporadically. Some 33,000 police were assigned to guard the 6,500 diplomats, journalists, and other participants attending the OSCE meeting. As Clinton began his visit to Ankara, police detained about 100 demonstrators gathered in the city's main square to chant anti-U.S. slogans. At least one protestor and two policemen were slightly injured. Most of the demonstrators were believed to be members of small leftist parties and trade unions that oppose Turkey's strong U.S. ties. They face possible jail terms for allegedly violating laws regulating public meetings. As the summit began in Istanbul, police broke up a group of 50 leftist students in the city center, who were condemning the U.S., and detained about 10 of the protestors. December 1999 EU Candidacy in the Balance The European Commission recommended that Turkey be declared an official candidate at the December European Union summit in Helsinki but stated that formal membership negotiations would not be possible until certain criteria are met by Ankara. The unbinding recommendation, which must be voted on at the summit by all European Union members, was made in a report on Turkey's progress toward accession issued along with reports on the 12 countries that are on the official European Union candidacy list. The Commission also recommended that the EU open accession talks with Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Malta. The Commission is believed to have recommended Turkey's candidacy to encourage Ankara's reforms and avoid its further isolation at a time when the EU plans to double the number of countries negotiating membership from 6 to 12. If Turkey is named a candidate in December, the EU is expected to demand that Ankara fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, including improvements in human rights, further democratization, recognition of minority rights, and good relations with neighbors, before accession talks can begin. Greek officials have been increasingly vocal in public forums concerning Greece's support for Turkey's EU candidacy if it meets certain conditions concerning Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, and human rights. Before it votes in favor of Turkey's candidacy, however, Greece is expected to demand assurances from fellow EU members that Nicosia's accession process will proceed independently of developments in the resolution of the Cyprus problem and that a Cyprus settlement will not be a precondition for Nicosia's accession. December 1999 New Accords Signed for Caspian Oil, Gas Pipelines Washington's goal of establishing an east-west energy corridor from the Caspian Sea region, bypassing Russia and Iran, appeared one step closer to realization with the signing of agreements on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting to lay the legal frameworks for proposed oil and gas pipelines from the region through Turkey. As President Clinton looked on, the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia signed accords expressing their intent to build a 1,080-mile oil pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, through Georgia, to Ceyhan, a Mediterranean port in Turkey. The president of Kazakhstan attended the ceremony as an observer. The accords do not specify a financing source for the project, estimated to cost from $2.4 billion to $4 billion, and the question of whether the pipeline can be economically viable still remains. The countries did, however, commit themselves to seeking financing for the pipeline, which would have to be paid for by oil companies. The pipeline must carry 1 million barrels per day (bpd) to break even. Of the 17 international oil consortia exploring in Azerbaijan, only the BP-Amoco-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company is currently producing, at a low volume of 115,000 bpd. Although BP-Amoco in October tempered its previous opposition to the project, saying it would cooperate with attempts to make the pipeline a reality, it has not offered financial backing and has said early estimates of oil reserves in the area may have been inflated. Many experts are looking at the Kazakhstan oil reserves as justification for building the pipeline since new seismic studies show that the Tengiz oilfield may have 50 percent more proven reserves than previously thought. A relatively small pipeline from Baku to Georgia's Black Sea port of Supsa went into service in February 1999. A framework agreement to build a second major pipeline was also signed by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. The 1,250-mile, $2.5 billion pipeline would carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey by running under the Caspian Sea to Baku and then following a route parallel to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to the Turkish city of Erzurum. December 1999 Second Large Quake Brings Rapid Government Response The Turkish government responded rapidly to a second major earthquake in three months in Turkey's northwest in mid-November, overcoming the image of a sluggish state apparatus that was slow to respond to the August 17 quake in the same region, which killed over 17,000 and injured 50,000. Government ministers and police officers went quickly to the earthquake zone, and the armed forces promptly dispatched 6,000 troops to the region, along with ambulances, mobile medical units, and military helicopters to carry the wounded to hospitals. The November 12 quake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, was centered near the town of Duzce in Bolu province115miles east of Istanbul, killing more than 700 people and injuring 5,000. Striking just six days before the OSCE summit in Istanbul, it occurred 45 miles east of the Izmit region where the August quake, measuring 7.4was centered. Tens of thousands were made homeless by the November quake, adding to the nearly half a million people already living in tents because of the August temblor and giving rise to health concerns with the onset of winter. Delays were expected in the government's goal of moving all of the homeless into prefabricated houses by the end of November. Transport Minister Enis Oksuz said the November quake could cost Turkey $10 billion on top of the estimated $12 billion cost of the August temblor. The United States donated 500 tents to provide winterized shelter for 10,000 of those left homeless by the November quake, a donation that was in addition to the $14.5 million provided by Washington in the immediate aftermath of the August quake. President Clinton, who arrived in Turkey three days after the November temblor, said Washington would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to businesses financing projects related to earthquake reconstruction. The World Bank has approved two loans for Turkey totaling $757.3 million. A $252.5 million loan will finance emergency help for victims of the August disaster, and the second will provide $504.8 million to build a national emergency management response system, establish a disaster insurance plan, and enforce building codes. More than $3 billion in international aid has been pledged to Turkey for post-earthquake rehabilitation. December 1999 Prominent Murder Spurs New Crackdown on Islamists Fears of a resurgence of radical Islam emerged following the death of a prominent secularist academic in an October car bombing in Ankara believed to have been staged by the outlawed Great Islamic Eastern Raiders-Front (IBDA-C). Many feel that Ahmet Taner Kislalia political science professor at Ankara University and former culture ministerwas targeted by Islamist militants for his defense of Turkey's secular system and challenges to radical Islam. The ongoing official crackdown on political Islam was revitalized by Kislali's assassination. The chief of the Turkish General Staff and 3,000 uniformed military officers attended Kislali's funeral, along with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Suleyman Demirel. The strong presence of the military was seen as a warning to radical Islamists that the Turkish General Staff is determined to uphold its role as defender of the country's secular constitution and expects the government to eradicate Islamist extremism. The day before the funeral, the military also ordered 5,000 officers to appear at the Ankara mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic in 1923, to mark the 76th anniversary of the modern state. The participation of the military in the annual event was unusually high and was regarded as a further show of support by the armed forces for the secular system a week after Kislali's death. Police detained dozens of people for questioning concerning the murder, including 50 members of an Islamist foundation in Istanbul, and confiscated documents of a hard-line Islamist newspaper. They also detained IBDA-C members suspected of carrying out several terrorist attacks in Istanbul. December 1999 Israeli Political, Economic Relations Heighten Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's October visit to Ankara marked a significant acceleration in political and economic relations between Israel and Turkey, amid greater public support for the bilateral relationship following Israel's rapid dispatch of medical and search teams to Turkey to aid the August 17 earthquake victims. The trip was the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Turkey, 41years after Israel's first prime minister and defense minister, David Ben Gurion, made a secret visit to the country to meet with its leadership and hold an unpublicized meeting with Iranian officials. In Barak's meetings with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Suleyman Demirel, officials from both countries stressed their desire to strengthen cooperation in security matters, agricultural development, water resource technology, infrastructure projects, and tourism. As part of Israel's ongoing post-earthquake aid to Turkey, Barak inaugurated a $4.5 million complex of Israeli-donated prefabricated homes that will shelter some 2,500 of the 600,000 people left homeless by the August earthquake. It included a clinic and school set up by Israel. The frequency of bilateral contacts is expected to increase over the next six months, including a visit by Israeli President Ezer Weizmann to Ankara in April, a trip to Turkey by the speaker of the Israeli parliament, and a visit to Israel by the Turkish housing and public works minister. In February, a joint economic committee will meet in Jerusalem to discuss steps to strengthen economic ties. Under a free-trade agreement that went into effect in 1997, Turkish exports to Israel reached $408 million in 1998. A joint committee is also studying the feasibility of constructing an undersea water pipeline between the two countries to carry water from Turkey's Manavgat River to Israel to alleviate Israel's water shortage. The possibility of such a transfer of water is still at the exploratory stage. Barak, who also holds Israel's defense portfolio, met with Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu. The officials made it clear that the purpose of their talks was to review existing military ties and not to expand relations in the defense sector. Current defense cooperation includes the training of Turkish and Israeli air force pilots in each other's air space, the upgrading of Turkish fighter jets by Israeli firms, and plans for the production in Turkey of Popeye 2 air-to-surface missiles. Israeli companies are bidding for contracts to supply airborne early warning aircraft and attack helicopters to Turkey. December 1999 Appeals Court Upholds PKK Chief's Death Sentence A Turkish appeals court upheld the death sentence handed down in June against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on charges of treason, prompting a warning by the European Union and the Council of Europe that Ankara's relations with Europe would deteriorate if Ocalan were executed. The late November decision was issued just two weeks before the EU summit in Helsinki, where Turkey is hoping to be named a candidate for membership in the bloc, which forbids its members to practice capital punishment. In order for the death sentence to be carried out, the Turkish parliament must approve the execution, and President Suleyman Demirel must then endorse the sentence. But Ocalan's lawyers have continued the appeals process by referring the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, part of the Council of Europe. The Court has asked the government to delay sending the sentence to parliament until it rules on the appeal, probably in 2001. The Court's decisions are in principle binding on all Council of Europe members, including Turkey, and Ankara has accepted its jurisdiction in the past. Although Turkey has not abolished capital punishment as other members of the Council of Europe have, it has not carried out any of the 53 death sentences handed down since 1984. With Ocalan's demands for Kurdish autonomy reduced to appeals for cultural freedom, the Kurdish leader has ordered his guerrillas to leave Turkey and observe a ceasefire announced by the PKK. Although clashes between the PKK and the Turkish Army continue in southeastern Turkey, the number has declined markedly. Sixteen PKK officials have given themselves up to Turkish authorities to demonstrate the PKK's desire to end the conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 35,000 peopleand to transform itself into a peaceful political movement. Although the 12-year-old emergency rule was routinely extended for four months in five mainly Kurdish provinces in southeastern Turkey, the government lifted the state of emergency in Siirtone of the region's provinces. In addition, in an unprecedented move, Demirel met with the mayors and other elected officials of Turkey's legal Kurdish political party, the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), from the eastern and southeastern provinces. HADEP's political speeches, posters, and flags had been banned by the government in the campaign for the April elections. In a less conciliatory move, Turkey's Higher Board for Radio and Television imposed a ban on Radio FOREKS for rebroadcasting a BBC program in Turkish about a meeting of the Kurdish National Congress in Amsterdam. October 1999 - November 1999 White House Visit Frustrates Economic Goals During Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's September visit to Washington, the United States and Turkey reached an agreement expanding bilateral trade and investment, which will help the Turkish economy recover from damage caused by the massive August 17 earthquake. Under the agreement, the countries will set up a bilateral council that will work to ease trade barriers, negotiate new trade pacts as the need arises, and promote investment. Although trade between the two countries has doubled since 1993, the $6.3 billion bilateral trade volume in 1998 dropped by about 29 percent the first half of 1999. Ecevit said he hoped the agreement would lead to the establishment of a special industrial zone in southeastern Turkey, where the Turkish Army has been battling guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since 1984. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris is expected to take 150 U.S. businesspeople to the region to assess the possibility of establishing a free-trade area. Turkey is also pushing for an increase in U.S. import quotas of Turkish textiles, which made up 45 percent of the $2.2 billion in Turkish exports to the U.S. last year. Fearing congressional opposition in Washington, Turkey withdrew a request that the U.S. guarantee $5 billion in new loans to help finance housing reconstruction in quake-damaged areas. It also turned down the White House's offer for a $1 billion loan guarantee for reconstruction costs, saying that World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance would be adequate. In talks with U.S. officials, Ecevit called for the cancellation of Turkey's military debts and the restoration of U.S. military assistance to Turkey, which was discontinued by the Clinton administration in 1998 for both Athens and Ankara. Ecevit also said that Turkey would like to be compensated for the $35 billion to $40 billion in lost tariff fees stemming from its compliance with sanctions against Iraq. He did not receive favorable responses on any of these issues. October 1999 - November 1999 Cyprus Issue High on U.S.-Turkey Agenda Ecevit was reportedly surprised by the emphasis on the Cyprus issue encountered during the official White House meeting, his private talks with President Clinton, and his public appearances. During his three-day visit, he was peppered with questions regarding Cyprus, the Kurdish problem, and Turkey's human rights record. Ecevit reiterated Turkey's policy on Cyprus, backing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's demand that the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity be recognized as a sovereign state along with the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. The White House hoped that Ecevit would return to Ankara convinced that progress on Cyprus needs to take place in the final months of 1999. October 1999 - November 1999 Officials' Slow Earthquake Response Shakes Public Confidence The Turkish government and military came under unprecedented criticism by the Turkish public and media for their delayed and disorganized entry into the international search-and-rescue effort following the earthquake. Forty-six countries rapidly dispatched teams to deal with the country's worst modern disaster that authorities said killed over 15,800 people, injured 44,000 and left 600,000 homeless. The epicenter of the quake, measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale, was near the industrial city of Izmit, 55 miles east of Istanbul. The 800,000 Turkish Army did not participate in rescue and relief efforts until four days after the quake, leaving ad hoc groups of volunteers, the business sector, and non-governmental organizations to lead the search for survivors and meet the needs of the injured and homeless. Turkish Chief of the General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu countered strong domestic criticism by asserting that 53,000 soldiers saved some 20,000 people who had been buried by rubble. The military also said that dealing with survivors at a major Turkish naval base adjacent to Izmit, which was heavily damaged, occupied the military's rescue teams in the immediate aftermath of the quake. The government does not have any civil earthquake response teams in place, despite periodic earthquakes, and has in the past relied on the army to deal with the aftermath of quakes. Many felt that Ankara's inadequate emergency response increased the number of casualties, a factor that has led the public to call for greater political accountability from the state and may be a catalyst for long-sought bureaucratic reform in the country. The government, responding to extensive media criticism of its actions, ordered a television station covering the relief effort aggressively to shut down for seven days. Ankara has pledged to step up civil defense training and form rescue teams to deal with natural disasters. Public anger also ran high against contractors whose use of sub-standard building materials caused more than 200buildings to collapse. Although building codes are strict in Turkey, widespread corruption has resulted in extremely lax enforcement of regulations. After the quake, the government moved quickly to issue arrest warrants for people believed responsible for negligent construction, and it assumed the authority to approve permits for new buildings, a responsibility that had been under local control. Ankara is importing winterized tents and some 50,000 pre-fabricated homes by the end of November to house the homeless, many of whom have been sheltered in 159 tent cities. In addition60new buildings under construction before the quake will be completed by mid-November. The government is subsidizing rents for those unable to return to their homes and is paying toward the cost of repairing and building new homes. October 1999 - November 1999 Short-Term Economic Blows Expected Estimates of the cost of rebuilding quake-affected areas range from $5 billion to $20 billion. The World Bank offered Turkey more than $1 billion$750 million in new loans and $300 million in reallocations from existing loans, to help it rebuild. It is insisting that Ankara develop an adequate emergency response systemen, force building regulations stringently, and make housing insurance compulsory to ensure private-sector monitoring of the building process. The EU provided a $1 billion emergency aid package. The total figure raised by countries and international organizations for reconstruction aid is $3.5 billion. Although the epicenter of the quake was in a highly industrialized region of Turkey, the damage to industry was relatively light, and production losses are not expected to have a significant effect on the economy. But the expenditures for rebuilding homes, businesses, and infrastructure will be extensive. The government forecasts a 1 to 1.5 percent contraction in the economy this year, as opposed to the zero growth projected for 1999 before the quake. It believes there will be a 5 percent growth in the economy next year as a result of reconstruction activity. Western banks place this year's contraction as high as 2.5 percent. The IMF is giving Ankara a $500 million emergency loan and hopes to conclude a standby loan agreement with the government after talks in October. Before the quake, Ankara was instituting economic reforms to meet IMF requirements for the loan, which will help the country decrease interest rates and encourage inflows of private capital to help reduce the 60 percent inflation rate and narrow the public deficit, which is over 10 percent of GNP. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the Turkish parliament passed a law reforming the social security system, a key prerequisite to receiving the standby loan. October 1999 - November 1999 Hopes for EU Candidacy Arise Once More The accelerated warming of relations between Athens and Ankara has contributed to the reversal of a nearly two-year period of chilly relations between the European Union and Ankara, and has increased Turkey's chances of being named a second-tier candidate for EU membership at the bloc's December summit in Helsinki. Since Athens now believes its national interests would be furthered if Ankara were closer to Europe, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that Greece is ready to accept Turkey as an EU candidate if it meets certain obligations. He added that major issues must be resolved before it can enter the bloc. In the past, Greece has opposed Turkey's candidacy because of Ankara's human rights recordits questioning of Greek sovereignty over islands in the Aegean Sea, its 25-year occupation of Cyprus, and its objection to Nicosia's EU candidacy. In an unexpected move, Greece initiated a push to provide European Union funds to Turkey for post-earthquake reconstruction by reversing its veto over the release of $181 million in economic aid, which had been allocated to help Ankara prepare for closer relations with Brussels, and agreeing to lift its four-year block on $636 million in European Investment Bank loans. A separate European Union grant of $31.8 million dollars was also approved. Athens' breakthrough prompted the EU to invite Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to meet with all 15 of the bloc's foreign ministers at a September EU Council meeting in Brussels to discuss humanitarian aid to Ankara. Cem's acceptance of the invitation signaled a possible end to stalled relations between Ankara and the European Union that began after the December 1997 Luxembourg summit. Ankara imposed a freeze on political dialogue with the EU after the bloc decided at that summit not to invite Turkey to be a candidate for membership. Cem invited the foreign ministers to a lunch on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting in Istanbul in mid-November, three weeks before the EU summit in Helsinki. Cem has made it clear that he expects Turkey to become a candidate for EU membership at the summit. He has implied that Turkey will end its quest for membership if it is not given the nod in December. Greece stressed that its vote to provide European Union funds to Turkey for post-earthquake rebuilding was a humanitarian gesture and was not linked to its stance on a $400 million aid package under the 1995 Turkey-EU customs union agreement, which it has blocked since 1996. Greece said it would continue to block these funds, which compensate Ankara for the costs of the customs union, until there is improvement in Turkey's human rights record, significant progress on the Cyprus issue, and resolution of sovereignty differences in the Aegean Sea. October 1999 - November 1999 Top Judge Declares Constitution Illegitimate In the strongest public call for reform from a senior state official to date, Appeals Court Chief Justice Sami Selcuk told Turkey's government and military that the country's 1982 constitution obstructs democratic freedoms and must be redrafted. He said that it was the state's responsibility to protect the free expression of all ideas and criticized the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and writers for expressing their views on topics such as the conflict with guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party or political Islam. Selcuk noted that Turkey could not enter the next century with a constitution that had almost no legitimacy. Selcuk's comments have sparked public debate on the constitution, fueled by disappointment over the ineffectiveness of the state apparatus in the aftermath of the earthquake. The constitution, the third since the establishment of modern Turkey in 1923, has been criticized by human rights groups and Islamist political activists. It was drafted during a period of military rule between 1980 and 1983 after a decade of anarchy, left-wing terrorism, and widespread street violence. It took effect after 93 percent public approval in a national referendum. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who heads the Democratic Left Party, thanked Selcuk for his speech, saying that it evaluated issues that must be examined by the public and society. Ecevit also pledged to work toward amending the constitution, adding that it would require compromise in parliament. Observers noted that the ultra-right Nationalist Action Party, one of two other coalition partners, was unlikely to sanction radical revision of the document. Turkey's restrictions on freedom of expression have been cited by the European Union as an important roadblock to the country's candidacy for membership in the bloc. Turkish officials have said that curbs on democratic freedoms were necessary in the face of continued dangers posed by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgency. October 1999 - November 1999 Military Spurns PKK Peace Effort as Sham A group of eight Kurdish guerrillas surrendered to Turkish troops in the southeastern province of Hakkari as a symbol of the PKK's stated commitment to a peaceful solution to their 15-year-old conflict with the Turkish Army, which has killed over 35,000 people. The guerrillas, who had crossed into Turkey from Iraq, were jailed in the city of Mus after a court ordered their arrest on charges of membership in an illegal organization. They carried letters from the PKK command to Turkey's president, prime minister, parliament, and general staff calling for peaceful resolution of the conflict. The PKK says the group wants to become a political movement to achieve greater Kurdish cultural and political rights through peaceful means, renouncing its earlier goal of separatism and self-rule. It claims that one-fourth of an estimated 100guerrillas have pulled out of Turkey in response to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's August call for an end to the fighting and a complete withdrawal of the guerrillas from the country, which did not include asking them to surrender their weapons. The PKK says a full pullout could take until the new year as the Turkish Army continues its aggressive campaign against rebel footholds in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The guerrillas say they are not initiating fighting but are engaged in self-defense against Turkish forces, who believe the PKK is only carrying out its annual winter retreat. A repentance law has been passed by parliament granting pardons to surrendering rebels that have not taken part in armed operations. It also grants reduced sentences to any of the 50imprisoned guerrillas that provide information on the PKK. Ocalan and high-ranking members of the PKK will not benefit from the law. The government continues its refusal to negotiate with the PKK rebels, whom it condemns as terrorists. However, a statement by Chief of the General Staff Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu acknowledging that Kurds were seeking cultural rights was a significant departure from the military's opposition to recognizing a separate ethnic identity. In addition, his discussion of the PKK's desire for a political solution to the Kurdish conflict was seen as a sign that the armed forces might be prepared to take the rebel disarmament seriously. His statements were regarded positively by the PKK, despite the Turkish Army's vow to continue fighting. Ocalan, sentenced to death for treason in a June trial for orchestrating the PKK's separatist fight, is awaiting an appeals court verdict on the sentence. In December, a Turkish court will try Ocalan and 100 of his followers for forming an armed ganga charge that also carries the death penalty. In a gesture that came 10 months late for the imprisoned Ocalan, Italy announced it was granting him political asylum. Ocalan applied for asylum during a two-month stay in Rome at the end of last year. He left Italy in January before his case was heard, when the Italian government made it clear that his continued stay in the country was not welcome. A September visit to Turkey by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini represented a normalization of Turkish-Italian relations, which had been severely strained by Italy's refusal to extradite Ocalan to Turkey following his arrival in Rome in November 1998. October 1999 - November 1999 New Amnesty Law Freeing Journalists, Writers is Half-Measure Recognized as the country that has more journalists in prison than any other nation in the world, Turkey passed a law pardoning jailed journalists and other writers convicted for their written material, and has begun to release them. Many of the 50 to 60 imprisoned journalists and writers had been sentenced for articles regarded as favoring the activities of the Kurdistan Workers Party or supporting political Islam. The government said 32 would probably be freed by the end of October. All pardoned individuals will be on parole for three years and could return to prison to serve their old sentences as well as new ones if they are convicted of similar crimes within that period. Although the amnesty was welcomed by many, it was criticized for excluding people thought to have committed crimes through speeches, who will not qualify for release. Legal analysts said this exclusion could lead the Constitutional Court to nullify the new law. In addition, expressing a view deemed harmful by the state, either in an article or verbally, remains a crime in Turkey, where journalists and writers continue to operate under a threat of persecution and imprisonment. The day before Ecevit departed for the U.S., the former head of the Turkish Human Rights Association, Akin Birdal, was temporarily released to treat a medical condition caused by last year's assassination attempt on him by right-wing terrorists. He is still expected to serve out the remaining 20 months of his two-year sentence for speeches calling for a negotiated end to the Kurdish conflict. October 1999 - November 1999 Vetoed Law Nearly Freed Criminals, Retained Jailed Dissidents In response to an outcry by legal experts, the judiciary, police authorities, and the public, President Suleyman Demirel vetoed another amnesty law passed by the Ecevit coalition government, which would have kept 11,000 political prisoners behind bars, while freeing or reducing the sentences of 57,000 mostly violent criminals. Those slated for release, to ease pressure on the country's overcrowded prisons, included murderers, mobsters, members of the police and civil services convicted of torture or misuse of power, and corrupt politicians and businessmen. Benefiting from the amnesty would have been former prime minister Mesut Yilmaza senior figure in the current ruling coalition who was forced to step down as prime minister last November amid corruption allegations. The law will be debated again by parliament. October 1999 - November 1999 Authorities Restrict Islamic Relief to Quake Victims Ankara maintained steady pressure on Islamist activities, including rapid earthquake relief efforts by Islamists that often filled the gap left by the slow government response. As the Islamist Virtue Party and Islamist-run municipalities, including Ankara and Istanbul, funneled millions of dollars in aid to the homeless, the government froze the bank accounts of two Islamist organizations active in these efforts, saying that they failed to get permission to collect aid money. There were also allegations that aid trucks sent by Islamist companies were sometimes turned back. August 1999 - September 1999 Greece, Israel Lead Regional Earthquake Response Within a week of the mid-August earthquake in northwestern Turkey, registering 7.4 on the Richter scale, the U.N. said it feared the death toll would eventually reach 40,000. At least 200,000 were left homeless, and 34,000 were injured. The epicenter of the quake, considered one of the most powerful of the twentieth century, was near the industrial city of Izmit, about 55 miles east of Istanbul. Among the countries of the region, Greece and Israel dispatched the largest relief assistance teams within three days of the quake. The Greek Air Force sent seven C-130 cargo planes carrying humanitarian aid, three mobile medical units with 11 doctors and other medical personnel, and a 25-member Emergency Task Force with search dogs to locate survivors. Greek seismologists also went to Turkey to consult with their Turkish counterparts on dealing with the consequences of the quake. Israel, which considers Turkey its strongest ally in the region, sent 350 relief workers, some from specialized military units, and teams of search dogs. Both countries sent firefighting aircraft to Izmit to combat a fire, triggered by the quake, at the city's oil refinery. In addition, a group of Cypriot doctors flew to Turkey via Athens to lend assistance. Turkey and Cyprus do not have diplomatic relations because of Turkey's 25-year-long occupation of 37 percent of Cyprus. Complete recovery from the effects of the quake will take from three to five years, and the cost of repairing the damage may reach $40 billion. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given Ankara a $325 million loan to handle the crisis. August 1999 - September 1999 Ocalan Orders PKK To End Separatist Campaign Separatist guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have said they will obey a call by PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to end their 15-year-old armed struggle against the Turkish Army in southeastern Turkey and will withdraw to bases outside the country's borders. Ocalan has also said the 8,000 PKK guerrillas will give up their arms if the government passes an amnesty law that allows the separatists to turn themselves in without fear of lengthy jail terms. The government has submitted a limited "repentance law" to a parliamentary commission. It grants immunity from prosecution for surrendering guerrillas if they have never killed or wounded a Turkish soldier. The PKK leadership is excluded from the amnesty. A proposal for a wider amnesty, put forth by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit after Ocalan's February capture in Kenya, was made more restrictive at the demand of the far-right Nationalist Action Party, the second most dominant party in the ruling coalition. Although outbreaks of violence between Turkish soldiers and the PKK continued, the guerrillas said they would fight only in self-defense until their withdrawal, scheduled for September. Analysts said the fighters would probably enter the Iraqi Kurdish-held enclave or Iran. The PKK has used bases in northern Iraq to strike into southeastern Turkey, and Turkish troops carry out occasional offensives into Iraq and Iran in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas. Ocalan was sentenced to death in a June trial in Turkey on charges of separatism and treason linked to his founding of the PKK in 1978 and spearheading its armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule under the banner of separatism, then autonomy. Ocalan is currently seeking to open a dialogue with the Turkish government to solve the Kurdish question peacefully. Turkish officials have consistently refused to negotiate with him or the PKK, which they consider to be a terrorist organization. Ocalan has renounced the goal of a separate state or autonomous Kurdish area, and would settle for increased rights for Kurds. Turkey's 12 million Kurds are not recognized as an official minority, and education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language are prohibited. Ocalan's case is now before a Turkish court of appeals and is expected to be heard in September. If the death sentence is upheld, it must be endorsed by parliament and the president before it can be carried out. Ocalan is then expected to appeal his case to the European Court of Human Rights, which may take years to schedule a hearing. Terrorist attacks against civilians to avenge the death sentence against Ocalan continued into early August despite a PKK declaration ordering supporters to stop the attacks. Six people in a minibus were killed as they returned home from fields in southeastern Turkey. PKK supporters also killed one person and wounded seven in an assault on an outdoor cafe in the Tunceli province of eastern Turkey. Up to the time of the declaration, terrorist attacks had killed six and injured over 60 people since Ocalan was sentenced to death in June. August 1999 - September 1999 More PKK/Kurdish Leaders Arrested, Pursued Turkey's intelligence agency captured leading PKK member Cevat Soysal, the second-highest-ranking representative of the European wing of the movement, in Moldova. His capture was seen as another major blow to the movement. A Turkish prosecutor has demanded the death penalty for Soysal on charges of treason, carrying out an arson attack in March on an Istanbul department store, which killed 13 civilians, and training PKK militants. A Turkish court has also issued an arrest warrant for the chairman and 32 other members of a Brussels-basedself-appointed,165-member Kurdish parliament-in-exile for forming an illegal armed gang against the state. Turkey regards the group, which seeks to achieve a negotiated settlement to the Kurdish conflict, as a political front for the separatist Kurdish guerrillas. Chairman Yasar Kaya appealed to the U.N. for protection following the issuing of the warrant. August 1999 - September 1999 Iran to Cooperate in Anti-Kurdish Campaign Iran has agreed to join Turkey in conducting simultaneous military operations against PKK guerrillas along the border that separates the two countries. The two nations will set up a hotline between their military commanders to coordinate the attacks. Ankara fears that the PKK guerrillas, who have said they are withdrawing from Turkey, will retreat to havens in Iran, in addition to northern Iraq, and has asked Tehran to deny them shelter. The two neighbors also agreed to work toward resolving a dispute over Iranian allegations of Turkish border incursions. In July, Tehran accused Ankara of launching an airstrike on Iranian soil in an area where the borders of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran meet, killing five Iranians. Ankara denied hitting Iranian soil and said its air raid had been on PKK bases in northern Iraq. Following the incident, Iran detained two Turkish soldiers, who had crossed into Iran, for three weeks, despite Ankara's assurances that the men had gone into Iranian territory in error. August 1999 - September 1999 Israel, Mideast Relations Flourish Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak reassured visiting Turkish President Suleyman Demirel that the strong relations between Turkey and Israel will not be affected if there is a breakthrough in Israel's relations with Syria. Barak's talks in Jerusalem with Demirel sought to dispel concerns that Israel might distance itself from Turkey to better achieve peace with Syria. Demirel said the launching of Israeli-Syrian negotiations that would lead to a peace agreement could enhance regional stability, which would benefit Turkey. Demirel cautioned that Israeli-Syrian rapprochement should not sidetrack the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which is central to the establishment of Middle East peace. He also visited areas of the Palestinian Authority and met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Turkey is worried that an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement could allow Damascus to transfer forces now deployed on the border with Israel to the Turkish border. Damascus buckled under Turkish pressure and agreed to cease its support for the PKK and expel Abdullah Ocalan in October 1998. Significant territorial and water sharing disputes remain outstanding between the two countries. During the visit to Israel, Demirel's second in three years, Israel and Turkey also agreed to expand economic cooperation. Israel is becoming one of Turkey's major trading partners because of a free-trade agreement ratified in 1997, which enables Turkish businesses to export goods to the U.S. through Israel duty-free. Trade between the countries has more than quadrupled over the past five years, reaching $800 million last year, and it is expected to jump to $2 billion by next year. Military ties, based on a 1996 military pact, are flourishing. The two countries are moving closer to finalizing, possibly later this year, a deal for the licensed production in Turkey of Israeli Popeye 2 air-to-surface missiles, with Ankara putting up over $300 million for the program. Israeli pilots are training in Turkish airspace, and Israeli companies are upgrading Turkish F-4 fighters. The countries continue to share intelligence on Syria, Iraq, and Iran. In addition, the two sides have agreed to form a joint committee to study the possibility that part of the waters of the Manavgat River, which pours into the Mediterranean in southwestern Turkey, could be sold to Israel to ease its chronic water shortage. After visiting Israel, Demirel also visited Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab countries that have peace accords with Israel. Demirel and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak affirmed their determination to set up a free-trade zone and increase bilateral trade from $865 million last year to $2 billion by 2002. August 1999 - September 1999 U.S. Secretary Cohen Praises “Regional Engagement” On a visit to Turkey in July, Defense Secretary William Cohen thanked Ankara for the participation of its F-16 aircraft in the NATO bombardment against Yugoslavia and for authorizing the use of Turkish bases by allied aircraft taking part in the campaign. About 1,000 Turkish soldiers have been deployed in the German sector of Kosovo as part of the peacekeeping mission. Cohen's visit focused on Turkey's "broadening regional engagement," including promoting the Middle East peace process, advancing stability in the Caucasus area, helping to contain the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and playing a constructive role in the development of Central Asia's newly independent states. The defense secretary visited Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey, where some 45 U.S. and British fighter planes are stationed to carry out patrols over the no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein's reach. The mandate allowing allied use of the base for the patrols is voted on every six months by the Turkish parliament. Discussing the Cyprus issue, Cohen said the U.S. did not intend to bring pressure on either Greece or Turkey to promote a settlement. He said a solution must be reached through direct dialogue between the parties concerned, without preconditions. Regarding U.S. arms sales to Ankara, Cohen mentioned concerns in the past among some members of Congress regarding human rights in Turkey, but he said the Clinton administration believed that human rights legislation pursued by Turkish President Bulent Ecevit would reduce impediments to these arms sales in the future. Turkey is considering purchasing up to $4 billion worth of attack helicopters, possibly from a U.S. manufacturer. Ecevit is expected to visit Washington in September, and Clinton is scheduled to make his first visit to Turkey in November. August 1999 - September 1999 U.S. Encourages Human Rights Progress in Post-PKK Era U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Harold Hongju Koh announced during his visit to Turkey that, following the trial of Ocalan and the announcement of a PKK withdrawal from Turkey, a new phase was beginning in the country. Noting that the region's problems should be solved through dialogue, he urged Turkey to allow its Kurds to express their language and culture within Turkish society. Although Kurdish can be spoken, there are still restrictions on schooling and broadcasting in the language. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had curtailed freedom of speech rights in 11 cases involving Turkish nationals of Kurdish origin and had denied the individuals a fair trial. Murat Bozlak, the chairman of the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), a legal political party that advocates peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question, has been released from jail after being detained eight months for allegedly supporting PKK separatists. He must resign from his chairmanship after being banned by authorities from political activities for a minimum of three years. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has pledged to introduce legal reform to improve the country's human rights record, cited by the EU in December 1997 as a major reason for putting Turkey's application for membership in the bloc on hold. Turkey has sought to enact similar legislation in the past but has not adequately enforced it in conformity with international standards. The government is also reportedly considering a three-year suspension of jail sentences imposed on journalists, writers, and intellectuals for what they wrote or said. As of last December, 27 Turkish journalists were in prison. August 1999 - September 1999 Key Reforms Pave Way for Needed IMF Assistance The Turkish parliament has enacted constitutional amendments that will accelerate privatization of state assets and allow foreign investors to seek international arbitration in major global investment deals in the public sector, boosting investor confidence in the inflation-ridden economy. The IMF has made it clear that this landmark legislation will be required if Turkey expects to negotiate an agreement for a new loan package worth up to $10 billion later this year. The amendments are expected to trigger an inflow of billions of dollars in badly needed foreign investment. Analysts said they reflected a government commitment, not seen since the early 1980s, to instituting major economic reforms. In addition, parliament is in the process of pushing through sweeping social security reform, another crucial element in the IMF's recommendations to fight the country's chronic inflation, now about 50 percent. Under a separate IMF program, the government aims to reduce inflation to 25 percent by the end of 2000 and 10 percent by the end of 2001. The international arbitration amendment is particularly important for attracting foreign funds to finance infrastructure projects and for the energy sector, which requires $5 billion in private capital every year. It will open the way for long-delayed contracts in the energy sector to be signed. At roughly $1 billion a year over the last decade, foreign investment has remained low for a country with a $200 billion economy, the world's seventh-largest emerging market. August 1999 - September 1999 Government Courts Islamists to Pass Key Legislation The significance of the national arbitration amendment to Turkey's economic reform is reflected in the deal the ruling coalition made with the Islamist Virtue Party to gain its parliamentary support for the legislation. Without the votes of Virtue, which the powerful military opposes, the coalition would not have had the two-thirds majority support needed to pass it. In exchange for Virtue's support, the government changed the Political Parties Law to help ward off a public prosecutor's threat to close down the party, accused of anti-secular activities. Other changes in the law would allow former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to run for office as an independent candidate, ending a five-year ban on political activity imposed on him when his Islamist Welfare Party was closed in January 1998 on charges of subverting Turkey's secularist constitution. Analysts said the government's willingness to negotiate with Virtue may also stem from its belief that the Islamist movement is no longer perceived as the threat to the secularist order that it once was. This may be reflected in the release of Istanbul's Islamist former mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from prison after serving only four months of a ten-month sentence on sedition charges. August 1999 - September 1999 Protests Over Social Security Reform Weeks of nationwide demonstrations have pitted labor unions against the government over its proposed social security reform. The unions also staged a one-day general strike, bringing state-run offices and transportation to a halt, in opposition to legislation that raises the retirement age from 38 to 58 for women and from 43 to 60 for men, in a country where average life expectancy is about 65 years. Unions say workers, particularly in the private sector, will be harmed by higher retirement ages because of the country's lack of job security and are calling for retirement ages of 50 for women and 55 for men. The government says the measure is necessary to prevent the collapse of a social security system that is virtually bankrupt. The system is running at an annual deficit equivalent to three percent of gross national product and is expected to amount to $6 billion of this year's $22 billion deficit. June 1999 - July 1999 Kurdish Guerilla Leader Sentenced to Death A Turkish state security court sentenced Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan to death for treason, separatism, and responsibility for the deaths of over 35,000 people in a 15-year war between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish Army for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey. The verdict at the end of June resulted in protests by Kurds in Bonn, Athens, Moscow, The Hague, Paris, and other European cities. Scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome and Nicosia. Turkish businesses across Germany were firebombed. The United States stepped up security measures at a number of embassies and consulates in anticipation of the demonstrations. The PKK reacted by threatening a new wave of violence in Turkey and throughout Europe. Within a week of the verdict, two bomb attacks in Turkey killed one person and injured more than 30. PKK Commander Cemil Bayik has threatened to escalate the war for autonomy and inflict a death toll of over 100,000 if Ocalan is hanged. European governments urged that the death sentence not be carried out and warned that reviving capital punishment in Turkey could hurt Ankara’s aspirations for European Union membership. Although the death penalty is still on the books in Turkey, no one has been executed since 1984. The U.S. declined comment on the sentence but said that Ocalan was an international terrorist who should be brought to justice. During Ocalan’s trial, which began May 31, the guerrilla leader accepted responsibility for the deaths resulting from the separatist war. In a startling turn of events, he urged the court to spare his life so that he might help end the fighting and transform the PKK into a peaceful movement. A Council of Europe report in late June said the trial was being carried out fairly, but the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International disagreed. In mid-June, authorities removed a military judge from the three-judge panel of the court trying Ocalan and replaced him with a civilian judge who had attended all the sessions of the trial. The move was believed to have resulted from mounting pressure from western governments and human rights organizations for a fair trial. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in previous cases that the presence of the military judge threw the impartiality of the state security courts into question. Ocalan’s lawyers said they would appeal to Turkey’s Supreme Court and then to the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings Turkey is bound by as a member of the Council of Europe. June 1999 - July 1999 Unlikely Coalition Partners Push Economic Reforms Hopes for the return of stable government emerged in June with the formation of a three-party coalition. But ideological divides between the two principal coalition parties, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s left-wing Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) of Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, traditionally bitter rivals, could cause tension in the government. The center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) of former prime minister Mesut Yilmaz became the third party in the coalition, despite the fact that the Islamist Virtue Party received the third-largest number of votes in the April parliamentary elections. Virtue’s exclusion resulted from the strong opposition of the secular establishment and the military to including an Islamist party in the government. As Ecevit becomes prime minister for the fifth time since 1974, Bahceli’s methods of governance remain untested. His party is trying to dispel images of the reputation it gained in the 1970s, when its neo-fascist Gray Wolves played a central role in political violence that killed 5,000 and triggered the 1980 military coup. With its majority of 351 of the 550 seats in parliament, the coalition has expressed its resolve to carry out economic reforms placed on the back burner during the past four years of political instability under five weak coalition governments. These include reforms concerning social security, banking, agriculture, and privatization sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. By the end of June, Ankara had enacted legislation to strengthen banking supervision. The IMF has promised financial aid to Ankara if progress is made toward such reforms, which would boost Turkey’s standing in international borrowing markets and enhance investor confidence. The nationalist MHP considers relations between Ankara and Turkic states a top priority. Little change is expected in Ankara’s policy toward Greece over Aegean issues or toward Cyprus, as the coalition continues to back Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s call for a confederal solution to the division of Cyprus. Both Ecevit and Bahceli have agreed that political dialogue with the EU will remain frozen until the bloc offers membership to Turkey. Both oppose any compromise with Kurdish rebels. The MHP is seen as less likely than the DSP to work toward improved human rights. June 1999 - July 1999 Austerity Measures, Global Crises Humble Once-Booming Economy The Turkish economy is in a recession, with gross national product growth declining from 8.8 percent in the first quarter of 1998 to zero in the first quarter of 1999. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) attributed the slowdown, resulting in a 3.8 percent overall growth in 1998, to the government’s economic stabilization program and the global emerging markets crisis. During the three previous years, annual growth had been about 7 percent. The government is forecasting a growth rate of 2.3 percent in 1999, while the OECD has placed it at 1.4 percent. Inflation stood at 50 percent in May 1999, down from 100 percent at the beginning of 1998. Ecevit has promised a return to single digit inflation by the end of 2001, as the government pledges to follow anti-inflationist policies in effect since 1997 under an IMF monitoring program. Social security reform, including raising retirement ages, is considered crucial since the low retirement ages of 38 for women and 43 for men have resulted in an annual social security system deficit of $6 billion. June 1999 - July 1999 Further Territorial Claims on Greek Islets Within a week of the formation of the new government, Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said that islets not specifically designated as Greek in international treaties concerning the Aegean should be awarded to Turkey as the successor to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled many of the Aegean islands when World War I broke out. The statement was a response to the raising of an oversized Greek flag on the small island of Agathonisi, southeast of Samos, by a group of Greeks from a sailing club. Turkey maintains that the status of this island and a number of islets near its coast is unclear. Athens called on Ankara to stop disputing the sovereignty of Greek islands in the Aegean, pointing out that Agathonisi has Greek inhabitants, a Greek school, and a Greek administration. Prime Minister Ecevit and Cakmakoglu urged Athens to start a dialogue on ownership of islets in the Aegean. Greece does not consider the issue to be a subject for bilateral dialogue and has repeatedly invited Turkey to refer the issue to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Turkey has declined to do so. The exchange of words between Athens and Ankara over Agathonisi took place two weeks after a Greek patrol boat stopped two vessels loaded with Turkish reporters from landing at one of the Imia islets. A 1996 dispute between Greece and Turkey over these islets brought the countries to the brink of war. The media interest in Imia apparently stemmed from Turkish reports that a Greek official had plans to allow housing construction on an islet close to Imia. The reports were denied by the Greek government. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that the positive momentum generated between Greece and Turkey as a result of bilateral cooperation in providing humanitarian aid to Kosovar Albanians had helped contain recent incidents concerning the Aegean islets. June 1999 - July 1999 Troops to Participate in Kosovo Force A Turkish military unit of 10troops will become part of the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo by mid-July. The troops are to be deployed near the town of Prizren in the German-controlled sector in southern Kosovo, where most of the province’s 60,000 ethnic Turkish inhabitants live. The troops will reach Kosovo through Bulgaria, as a result of a transit agreement between NATO and the Bulgarian parliament, and through F.Y.R. Macedonia. NATO member Turkey participated in the airstrikes against Yugoslavia and opened two air bases to alliance aircraft taking part in the strikes. It also hosted some 170Kosovar Albanian refugees. April 1999 - May 1999 Consistent Support for Bombing in Yugoslavia NATO member Turkey supports the alliance’s airstrikes in Yugoslavia and has contributed 18 F-16 fighter jets to the campaign. During the first month of the conflict, Ankara considered it inappropriate to engage in direct hostilities with Yugoslavia, a Balkan neighbor. The activity of its warplanes was, therefore, limited to a defensive role, such as combat air patrols to protect planes conducting the bombing. However, by the sixth week of the conflict in early May, with the launching of a major escalation of the bombing campaign, Turkish planes joined the aircraft of other allied nations in bombing targets in Yugoslavia. A Turkish warship has also been serving in the NATO Standing Naval Force Mediterranean in the Adriatic Sea. The Turkish government announced in mid-May that it would permit NATO planes conducting airstrikes to use bases in western Turkey, as part of an alliance strategy to expand the entry points for fighter planes bound for Yugoslavia. Hungary, one of three new alliance members, also granted NATO permission to use its bases for the same purpose, breaking NATO’s pattern of launching attacks from bases in western Europe and the U.S., and from aircraft carriers in the Adriatic Sea. Turkey, the only Muslim nation in NATO, has made no statement on whether it would approve the use of ground combat troops in Kosovo. Ankara has said it is willing to contribute troops to a peacekeeping force in the Serbian province once the war ends and has trained a battalion of 1,100 soldiers for this purpose. At a time of tension between Turkey and the European Union over the EU’s refusal to admit it into the bloc, Turkey is hoping to gain the West’s recognition for its consistent support for the NATO campaign. Turkey also continues to back the West’s assertion that Kosovo should be granted autonomy, not independence, and that the current borders of Yugoslavia should be preserved. The issue of independence for the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo is especially sensitive since the Turkish Army has been fighting against Kurdish separatists seeking self-rule in southeastern Turkey, where the Kurdish population constitutes a majority, since 1984. Turkey has economic interests in the Balkans and the Turkish Army, the second-largest in NATO after the United States, has training and cooperation agreements with several of the countries in the region. In April, the Turkish General Staff said Turkish soldiers were training a battalion of Albanian troops and had begun to train and equip a special guard unit for Albanian President Rexhep Meidani. Turkey is also helping to bring the Bosnian army up to NATO standards and is cooperating with Bulgaria in military matters. April 1999 - May 1999 Effort to Unite Ethnic Albanians Turkey has sent $32 million in assistance to Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia to assist the ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo, including the establishment of camps by the Turkish Red Crescent. It has also taken in 17,000 Kosovar Albanians and said it would admit up to a total of 20,000. About 7,000 of them are staying with relatives among Turkey’s ethnic Albanian population, estimated to be 2.5 million, or 4 percent of the country’s population of 62 million. Some 10,000 have been sheltered at a camp close to Turkey’s northwestern border with Bulgaria. The Turkish people have cultural, religious, and historical ties to the ethnic Albanian majority and the Turkish-speaking minority of 60,000 people in Kosovo as a result of 500 years of Ottoman rule in the region, which ended in 1913. April 1999 - May 1999 National Elections Bring Nationalist Gains, Islamist Losses The results of the April parliamentary elections reflected the volatility of the Turkish electorate as the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) made stunning gains against the Islamist Virtue Party, which had been expected to capture between 25 and 30 percent of the votes. The MHP, led by Devlet Bahceli, with 18 percent, and Virtue, with 15 percent, came in second and third behind the 22 percent received by the Democratic Left Party of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, which is considered a leftist nationalist party. The now-banned Islamist Welfare Party was supported by 21 percent of the electorate in the 1995 parliamentary elections. Increased support for the Virtue Party, Welfare’s successor, and the resultant tension between the party and the pro-secular military, which forced Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Welfare Party, to resign in 1997, was considered likely going into the elections. But turmoil within Virtue’s leadership and the polarization of the electorate between secularists and Islamists, which contributed to the country’s political uncertainty, are believed to have deflected votes away from the party in the national elections. Virtue was rewarded for its effective administrative performance on the municipal level, retaining control of Istanbul, Ankara, and other key cities. The MHP appears to have replaced the Islamist party as the recipient of votes cast in protest of the political divisiveness and corruption allegations associated with the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) and True Path Party (DYP) of former prime ministers Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller, respectively. The MHP dominated polls in central Anatolian districts outside the urban centers of Ankara and Istanbul, where Welfare had prevailed in 1995. The MHP had not been represented in parliament for 22 years, receiving only 8 percent in 1995, below the 10 percent threshold needed. Many voters viewed it as a party that could begin with a clean slate. In 1995, both Motherland and True Path received 19 percent, but their support fell to 13 and 12 percent, respectively, in these elections, revealing an erosion of the political center. Analysts also attributed the move toward the MHP to the country’s disillusionment with Europe, which has been building since its EU membership bid was rejected in December 1997 in favor of newer eastern European applicants and was unleashed with the refusal of European nations to aid in the extradition of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey after he arrived in Italy last year. In the past, the MHP has called for a pan-Turkish union with the Turkic Central Asian states, rather than entry into the EU. The arrest of Ocalan in February in Kenya by Turkish agents, while Ecevit headed a caretaker government, was believed to have bolstered support for Ecevit’s party, the Democratic Left, which received only 14.6 percent in 1995. Support for the 73-year-old Ecevit also stemmed from the fact that his long political career has been free of scandal. Ecevit, who has been asked by President Suleyman Demirel to form a new government, is expected to form a coalition consisting of his party, the Nationalist Action Party, and Motherland. The resurgence of the MHP is alarming to many Turks, who identify the movement with the activities of the party’s neo-fascist youth branch, the Gray Wolves, in the late 1970s. Clashes at that time between Gray Wolf members and leftists killed 5,000 people and triggered the 1980 military takeover. The party is now cultivating a new image of moderation, portraying itself as a centrist party with nationalist credentials. April 1999 - May 1999 After Ocalan Capture, Kurdish Political Successes Turkey’s legal pro-Kurdish party, the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), secured seven key mayoral posts throughout the country’s mainly Kurdish southeastern provinces in April’s local elections, including the regional capital of Diyarbakir. It was the first time a Kurdish party had achieved office in the region. HADEP had boycotted previous local polls. HADEP’s success in the region, where Kurdish separatists have been fighting for autonomy since 1984, was at the expense of the Islamist Virtue Party, which had run the Diyarbakir city council and municipalities across the region since 1994. Nationwide, support for HADEP in the parliamentary elections fell from 4.2 percent to 4 percent, far below the 10 percent minimum required to obtain representation in parliament. The week before the elections, several thousand HADEP supporters were detained by police in Diyarbakir as authorities banned an election rally organized by the party. Following the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in February, authorities took hundreds of party members into custody and closed some 10 party offices on charges of possessing illegal publications. HADEP’s leader Murat Bozlak is in jail awaiting trial for alleged links to PKK guerrillas. HADEP seeks a negotiated settlement to the Kurdish conflict. It is facing legal efforts to ban it on charges that it is a branch of the outlawed PKK, recruiting guerrillas and providing financing. HADEP denies the charges. Two other Kurdish parties have been banned on similar charges in recent years. April 1999 - May 1999 Trial Preparations for Guerilla Leader The Ankara State Security Court has set May 31 as the trial date for Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara. Hearings in preparation for the trial began in late April. Ocalan has been charged with treason, murder, and separatism for founding and leading the PKK in an armed campaign for automony in the southeastwhich has resulted in the deaths of more than 35,000 people since it began in 1984. Authorities are seeking the death penalty, which is legal in Turkey. Parliament has not given permission for an execution since 1984. The 18 Turkish lawyers representing Ocalan said in early May that they would also refer Ocalan’s case to the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights. They have accused Turkish authorities of obstructing the preparation of their defense against him and have threatened to withdraw from the case if the government does not meet their demands. These demands include being allowed to confer privately at length with Ocalan about his case, instead of being supervised by soldiers and secret service agents in brief meetings with their client and being restricted to conversations about his health and global events. In addition, the defense team wants better guarantees for its security. Police allegedly beat six of the lawyers, injuring several, following a preliminary hearing for Ocalan. The lawyers have received death threats and have been assaulted by anti-Ocalan demonstrators. Although Turkish authorities have stated that they have come close to defeating the PKK since Ocalan was captured in February, fighting between separatist guerrillas and the Turkish Army continues in the southeast, and the Kurdish rebels have vowed to intensify the conflict. Turkey has invaded northern Iraq three times since February, with the latest incursion involving 15,000 Turkish troops seeking the decisive defeat of PKK forces. April 1999 - May 1999 Controversy Drives New Ban Effort Chief prosecutor Vural Savas in May asked Turkey’s Constitutional Court to disband the Islamist Virtue Party after one of its deputies, Merve Kavakci, entered parliament’s opening session, following the elections, wearing an Islamist-style headscarf. The row that erupted among parliamentarians in response to the headscarf forced her to leave the chamber without being sworn in. Although Turkey is 99 percent Muslim, the country’s secularist establishment views the head covering as a symbol of aspirations to replace the secular constitution with a strict Islamic code. Turkish law prohibits the wearing of headscarves in state offices, schools, and universities, but not specifically in parliament. Savas accused Virtue of violating the country’s constitution and being a continuation, under another name, of the Islamist Welfare Party, which was banned in January 1998. Formed a month before the ban, Virtue’s membership consists primarily of ex-Welfare Party members. Savas said that, by law, a new party cannot be based on the same principles as a banned party. He asked the court to remove Virtue’s 110 deputies from the 550-member parliament and exclude them from politics for five years, citing the Kavakci incident as an example of the party’s unconstitutional activity. Virtue’s deputy chairman, Aydin Menderes, resigned from the party over the incident, stating that the party, led by the moderate Recai Kutan, would destroy itself by letting its militant faction promote a policy of confronting the ruling secularist establishment. During the election campaign, Virtue tried to distance itself from the more radical Islamist elements of Welfare’s platform. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said that action was being taken to strip Kavakci of her Turkish citizenship, since she had become a U.S. citizen after declaring her candidacy as a deputy, and that she would lose her parliamentary seat. February 1999 - March 1999 Ocalan Capture Dominates Kurdish Debate The capture of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya in mid-February was met in Turkey with widespread jubilation. Ocalan has been blamed by Turkish officials for the deaths of more than 35,000 people, mostly PKK fighters and ethnic Kurdsin a separatist campaign waged by the PKK against the Turkish Army since 1984 to achieve a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey. An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers of the Turkish Army have been killed in the war. An estimated 12 to 15 million of Turkey’s 65 million people are of Kurdish origin. There are from 10,000 to 20,000 recruits in the PKK guerrilla army, which Turkey, the United States, and others have charged with employing terrorist tactics to achieve its objectives. Turkish special forces captured Ocalan in Nairobi on February 15 after he left the Greek Embassy where he had been hidden for 12 days. Conflicting reports about what transpired as he was heading for the Nairobi airport make the exact circumstances of his capture unclear. Both the Greek and Kenyan governments denied any role in the capture. Following reports that U.S. intelligence helped Ankara capture Ocalan, Washington denied involvement in his apprehension or his transfer to Turkey. The U.S. had been urging Ocalan’s extradition to Turkey since he was expelled from Syria last October and sought political asylum in Italy over a two-month period. Ocalan left Italy on January 16 after his request for asylum was rejected and Western European governments failed to address or resolve the matter. His whereabouts until he entered Greece illegally for the first time on January 29 remain uncertain. In early February, when he entered Greece secretly for the second time, unable to find a European country that would take him in, then Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos sent him to the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, while Greek authorities searched for an African country that would grant him political asylum. Athens said it provided temporary refuge to Ocalan for humanitarian reasons. Immediately after the announcement of Ocalan’s arrest, Kurdish demonstrators seized and occupied more than 20 Greek and Kenyan diplomatic missions in major cities across Europe to protest what they saw as Greek and Kenyan complicity in his capture. Some Greek diplomats were temporarily taken hostage. Three Kurdish protesters were killed at the Israeli Consulate in Berlin when they stormed the building after a press report linked the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to Ocalan’s capture. Israel, which has strong military and intelligence links with Turkey, denied any involvement in Ocalan’s arrest. In addition, Mossad, which rarely issues public statements on any of its actions, categorically denied involvement in the capture. February 1999 - March 1999 Tension Builds with Greece Over Ocalan Sheltering Following Greece’s sheltering of Ocalan, diplomatic tensions between Greece and Turkey reached their worst level since the 1996 crisis over the Imia islets. The Greek government put its military forces on heightened alert after Turkish President Suleyman Demirel made a thinly veiled threat of military force against Greece, saying that Ankara had a right to self-defense against what he termed Greek support for the PKK. Demirel called on Washington to add Greece to the U.S. list of countries supporting terrorism, after Turkish reports were issued stating that Ocalan told interrogators that Greece had supported the PKK with weapons and military training for years. The reports also said Ocalan had stated that Greek churches had helped fund his guerrilla movement. Greek government authorities immediately and categorically denied any of Ocalan’s charges. Greek leaders have in the past denied Turkey’s allegations that Athens aided PKK separatists. Many Kurds live in Greece as refugees and engage in political activity. But the government has maintained that the PKK remains illegal in Greece, and it forbids the opening of PKK offices in the country, a policy shared by Germany, France, and other leading European countries. Despite the banning of PKK activity within its borders, Greece does not refer to the group as a terrorist organization. The State Department said it disagreed with Greece’s handling of the Ocalan matter but rejected Turkey’s suggestion that Greece, a NATO ally, should be included in a list of countries supporting terrorism. The United States asked both Greece and Turkey to tone down their verbal exchanges over the Ocalan matter to avoid further exacerbating existing tensions between the two countries. The president of the Turkish-Greek Business Council, Rahmi Koc, announced in late February that he was cancelling all activities of the council for six months due to the tensions in relations between Athens and Ankara. February 1999 - March 1999 Ocalan Charged with Treason, Europe Calls for Fair Trial A Turkish magistrate in February charged Ocalan with treason for attempting to establish a separate Kurdish state through warfare against the Turkish Army. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which has not been used in Turkey since 1984 although it remains in force. No date has been set for the trial. The European Union has called on Ankara to give Ocalan a fair and open trial, conducted according to the principles of international law, with access to the legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial. Ankara has pledged to conduct a fair trial but has denied requests by the European Union and the Council of Europe to send observers to the proceeding, citing the requests as attempts to question the independence of Turkey’s justice system. Ankara has, however, invited representatives from Norway to attend the trial as spectators. Turkish officials have said Ocalan will likely be tried by a State Security Court, composed of two civilian judges and a military judge. The fairness and independence of such courts have been questioned by the European Court of Human Rights. One of the reasons Turkey was not named a candidate for EU membership at the Luxembourg summit in December 1997 was its policy toward its ethnic Kurd population. Giving Ocalan a fair trial is seen as a chance for Turkey to demonstrate its commitment to conforming to Western human rights standards. His possible execution is expected to provoke a human rights outcry throughout Europe at a time when Ankara is trying to improve its EU ties with the long-term goal of achieving membership in the bloc. Ankara can improve its chances for EU candidacy by working on a non-violent settlement to the Kurdish question through the enhanced development of the social and economic infrastructure underway in Turkey’s southeast region, where most of the country’s Kurds are concentrated. The fact that the Kurds have not been permitted a moderate political voice has helped radicalize certain factions of this region. In addition, it has led to the strengthening of the Islamist Virtue Party through Kurdish electoral support as a protest against the Turkish Army’s military campaign resulting in the evacuation of an estimated 3,000 villages and the removal of 2 million ethnic Kurds from their homes. February 1999 - March 1999 PKK Warns Tourists of Terrorism Campaign PKK separatists in mid-March warned foreign tourists against visiting Turkey, vowing to step up a wave of terrorist attacks already underway to pressure Ankara to release Ocalan. When the announcement was made, some 20 Turks had been killed over the previous month in a spate of bombings, which Turkish authorities blamed on the PKK. In the deadliest of more than 300 violent incidents during this period, 13 people were killed in Istanbul after unidentified assailants threw gasoline bombs at a department store. Security has been increased at tourist attractions and other crowded places in Turkey. The U.S., France, Britain, and Germany are among countries that have issued statements urging their citizens to exercise caution when traveling in Turkey. About 9 million tourists visited Turkey last year, bringing in nearly $10 billion in revenue. The PKK threat was the first against foreigners since the mid-1990s, when a bombing campaign targeting resort towns on Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, as well as Istanbul, killed six people and injured more than 60 over a two-year period. Analysts fear that Ocalan’s execution would unleash tremendous civil unrest by ethnic Kurds throughout the country, especially in the southeast. If Ocalan, 50years of age, were convicted to life imprisonment, his incarceration could result in a sustained terrorist campaign as sympathizers tried to gain his release for decades to come. In late March, Britain imposed a 21-day broadcast ban on Med-TV, a British-based Kurdish television station accused by Ankara of inciting the recent series of bomb attacks, after the Turkish government pressured British regulators to take action against the station. The station broadcasts in the Kurdish language to 35 million Kurds in Turkey, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. February 1999 - March 1999 U.S. Utility Helicopters for Anti-PKK Operations Ankara signed a contract in February with a U.S. manufacturer for the direct purchase of 50 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters at an estimated cost of $561 million. Five helicopters will be delivered each month between May and August. This direct purchase was a departure from Turkey’s past practice of pushing for local coproduction and was apparently made in order to speed up delivery of the equipment. The Turkish Land Forces Command said it had an urgent need for the helicopters to support operations against PKK separatists in southeastern Turkey. If jointly produced, the order could have taken about five years to manufacture. By 1995, the Turkish Army had received 45 Black Hawks worth $450 million under a 1992 contract that also covered the coproduction of the 50 helicopters now being purchased directly. The coproduction phase of the contract was suspended in 1993 because of the U.S. government’s criticism of Ankara’s human rights record. Instead of pursuing Black Hawk coproduction at that time, Ankara decided to place an order for the direct purchase of 20 Cougar utility helicopters from a French-German consortium for $253 million, with delivery of the aircraft completed in 1995. February 1999 - March 1999 Government Offers Partial Amnesty, Regional Development Following Ocalan’s capture, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said the government would offer reduced prison sentences to an estimated 6,000 PKK separatists still fighting the Turkish Army in southeastern Turkey if they would lay down their arms. He said the nearly 3,000 PKK guerrillas who have surrendered in recent years would also benefit from the partial amnesty. The separatists rejected Ecevit’s offer and vowed to intensify their fighting, as Turkish forces launched fresh offensives into northern Iraq to seek out PKK fighters. Currently, the guerrillas face the death penalty or long prison terms if captured and convicted. Ecevit has ruled out talks with the PKK or their civilian supporters and has said that any type of autonomy or self-rule for ethnic Kurds is out of the question. He has, however, pledged to launch a renewed effort to accelerate economic and social development in the southeastern Kurdish-dominated region, Turkey’s poorest area, through a $110 million aid package. The package, which will provide employment for some 120,000 people, will include improved healthcare, expanded educational facilities, road construction, additional sources of energy, and housing opportunities for people displaced by the fighting and seeking to return to the area. Turkey has rejected granting Kurds broader cultural and political freedoms, such as broadcasting in the Kurdish language and teaching it in schools, fearing that these freedoms would encourage separatism. Since 1991, however, the government has permitted Kurdish to be spoken in Turkey. February 1999 - March 1999 Kurdish Party in Elections Despite Ban Attempts Turkey’s Constitutional Court in March rejected a request by Turkey’s chief prosecutor, Vural Savasto bar the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) from participation in the April elections. HADEP is a legal party that advocates a non-violent solution to the country’s Kurdish question. Savas, responsible for the successful banning of the Islamist Welfare Party, argued that a judicial process that began in January to ban HADEP for allegedly acting as a political front for the PKK and recruiting its guerrillas was still pending, and a ruling would likely be issued after the elections. HADEP has denied any formal link to the PKK, despite the alleged claims of captured PKK guerrilla leader Ocalan in pre-trial interrogation that the party had worked closely with his organization. Up to 500 members of HADEP were arrested after Ocalan was captured, and HADEP leader Murat Bozlak is in jail awaiting a trial on charges of links to the PKK. In municipal elections in the southeast, where ethnic Kurds form a majority, the party is expected to receive more votes than any other party. Three of HADEP’s predecessors have been banned. A smaller Kurdish party, the Democratic Mass Party founded in 1997, was also banned recently. February 1999 - March 1999 Islamists Join Secularists in Quelled Parliamentary Rebellion Some 120 disgruntled members of the 550-member parliament who had been struck off their parties’ lists of candidates for the April 18 elections called an extraordinary session of parliament in mid-March in an attempt to postpone the voting. The parliament had been closed for a month to allow members to conduct their campaigns. During the session, the deputies signed a censure motion against Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s minority government, hoping to bring it down, and received the backing of the 144 members of the Islamist Virtue Party. Virtue is the largest grouping in parliament with about 20 to 25 percent of popular support and is a target of Turkish prosecutors seeking to ban it for anti-secular activities. Virtue apparently agreed to support the censure motion in exchange for the backing of the disgruntled deputies in the party’s efforts to repeal the sedition laws used to prosecute Istanbul’s ex-mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, jailed under a 20-month sentence for inciting religious hatred, and ban former prime minister and Islamist Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan from any political activity until 2002. The ban against Erbakan, forced from power by the Turkish military in 1997, was imposed in 1998 when the Welfare Party, Virtue’s predecessor, was outlawed. Ecevit, whose electoral prospects have been boosted by the capture and jailing of Abdullah Ocalan, survived the censure motion amid a warning from the armed forces that postponing the elections would cause chaos in the country and that the sedition laws should not be tampered with. February 1999 - March 1999 Government Continues Anti-Islamist Campaign As the campaign got underway for the April local and general elections, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit announced in February that the government was launching a nationwide crackdown on Islamist political activism. President Suleyman Demirel has also urged secularist political parties to put aside their rivalries and back proposed electoral reform that would undermine support for political Islam in the elections. Turkey’s military commanders have been pressing for the reform to give secularists a better chance to take control of the municipal governments of Istanbul, Ankara, and other major cities, now led by Virtue Party officials. The reform would involve two rounds of voting instead of the one round currently in effect. A divided secularist vote in the first round could be united in the second round to defeat candidates of Virtue, who might otherwise win by a plurality of votes due to the fragmentation among the secularist electorate. Demirel envisions reform at the local level initially, with the measures to be eventually extended to the national level. February 1999 - March 1999 Syrian Ties Encouraged on Trade, Tourism After years of bilateral tension over Syria’s PKK support, Turkey’s control over Syria’s water resources, and several territorial disputes, Turkey and Syria took important steps in March to improve diplomatic ties. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hikmet Ulugbay and Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Salim Yassin met in Ankara to discuss ways of increasing the volume of bilateral trade and accelerating cooperation in the tourist industry. It was the first time in 12 years that officials from the two countries talked about improving economic relations. The annual volume of trade between the countries was $615 million in 1998. Yassin also expressed Syria’s willingness to provide Turkey with natural gas. Bilateral ties declined sharply last fall when Ankara threatened military action against Damascus if it did not prohibit PKK activity on its soil. After the crisis was defused with the expulsion of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from Syria in October, the two countries signed an agreement in which the Syrian side said the PKK would receive no support from Damascus. Yassin was the highest-ranking Syrian official to visit Ankara since the agreement was signed. February 1999 - March 1999 Iraq Threatens Air Base Used to Protect Kurds Iraq in February threatened to launch missile attacks against Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey after Ankara rebuffed a request by Baghdad to terminate the U.S.-British mandate to use the base for enforcement of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. The request was made by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz during a visit to Ankara at the invitation of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. Since December, U.S. and British aircraft have carried out strikes against Iraqi air defense facilities in the northern no-fly zone in response to being targeted by radar and fired upon by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles while patrolling the zone. The zone was established by the U.S. at the end of the 1991 Gulf war to protect Iraq’s ethnic Kurd minority. Baghdad has also threatened Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with missile attacks for granting permission to U.S. and British warplanes to patrol the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, established after the war to protect Muslim Shiite communities. Ecevit refused to accede to Aziz’s suggestion that Turkey break a world trade embargo against Iraq. He presented Aziz with demands that Baghdad comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions on disarmament that were approved at the end of the war, if it expected Turkey to help in the removal of sanctions. In addition, Ecevit demanded that Iraq stop aiding Iraq-based Kurdish separatists that have been fighting against the Turkish Army since 1984 to establish a homeland in southeastern Turkey. Turkey was an important trading partner of Iraq before the Gulf war and claims to have lost $30 billion in revenue as a result of the embargo. Although Iraqi trade began to resume through the country’s oil-for-food program under the auspices of the U.N., Baghdad is trading primarily with Syria and Jordan. February 1999 - March 1999 U.S. Policy on Iraq in Question Worried about being pulled into a regional conflict, the Turkish government has questioned the mission of the 45 U.S. and British planes at Incirlik since they began carrying out frequent strikes against Iraq’s air defense facilities in the country’s northern no-fly zone in December. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit indicated that Turkey would not allow its territory to be used for broader allied military operations against Iraq. Every six months since the end of the Gulf war, the Turkish parliament has renewed permission for the allied operation, which prevents the Baghdad government from attacking the Kurds in northern Iraq. In addition, Ecevit has stated that the policy of the United States in the region, including the brokering of an agreement between rival Iraqi Kurdish groups, is opening the way for the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. President Suleyman Demirel has warned that the plans of the United States to support Iraqi opposition groups with the goal of toppling Saddam Hussein could have serious consequences. Turkey fears that the ousting of Saddam could lead to a power vacuum that would give Iraqi Kurds the opportunity to set up their own state. Such a state could cause Turkish Kurd rebels who are fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey to intensify their efforts. February 1999 - March 1999 Growing Demand Fuels East-West Energy Corridor A U.S. consortium will construct a 1,250-mile pipeline beginning in Turkmenistan, running under the Caspian Sea and across Azerbaijan and Georgia, and ending in the eastern Turkish town of Erzurum. Such a route is favored by Washington, which aims to strengthen an east-west energy-transport corridor that sidesteps Iran and Russia. The $2.5 billion pipeline will provide Turkey with 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas annually and will take from two to three years to complete. In addition, four consortia composed of Turkish and foreign companies will build a 757-mile pipeline from Erzurum to Ankara at a cost of $470 million. Turkmenistan currently relies heavily on a pipeline owned by Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom to transport its gas to the West. Another gas pipeline, Blue Stream, will run under the Black Sea. Gazprom and Italy’s Eni will team up to build the world’s deepest underwater pipeline to transport gas from the area near Russia’s southern town of Krasnodar to Samsun in northern Turkey. The companies announced in February that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to build the 750-mile pipeline at depths of up to 6,600 feet by mid-2000. Each company will hold a 50 percent interest in the nearly $3 billion project, which will have the capacity to transport 16 bcm of gas a year. Advocates of Blue Stream deflect criticism of the project’s high cost, due to its depth, by pointing out that the distance it covers is shorter than land-based alternatives and its inaccessibility under water does not allow any interruptions in the supply of gas. Gas exports from Russia, Turkey’s main supplier since 1987, are currently transported through a lengthy, circuitous pipeline running through Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. In 1997, Gazprom signed a 25-year gas supply contract with Turkey, related to the Blue Stream project, which was estimated to be worth about $30 billion at the time. It is anticipated that Turkey will need from 21.5 to 26.5 bcm of natural gas a year by 2005, in comparison to 11 bcm this year. December 1998-January 1999 Interim Government Heads Country Until April Elections The formation of a minority government by former prime minister Bulent Ecevit in mid-January ended six weeks of divisive political wrangling among secularist parties determined to prevent the Islamist Virtue Party, the largest party in parliament, from taking power. With the collapse of the conservative-led minority coalition of Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in late November over corruption allegations, the Turkish military made it clear that it opposed the rise of Virtue as the ruling party. Ecevit, who was prime minister three times in the 1970s, will govern Turkey until scheduled elections are held in April. His center-left Democratic Left Party, the fourth-largest grouping in parliament, managed to gain the support of two rival center-right parties, the Motherland Party led by Yilmaz and the True Path Party headed by former prime minister Tansu Ciller, after the military stepped up its demands for an end to the prolonged period of political instability. In early December, Ciller had refused to join arch-rival Yilmaz in backing Ecevit's first attempt to form a government at the request of President Suleyman Demirel. A subsequent late December attempt by independent lawmaker Yalim Erez, the outgoing industry and trade minister, also failed. By turning to Ecevit and Erez to form governments rather than to Virtue Party leader Recai Kutan, Demirel was breaking from the tradition of tapping the leader of the largest party in parliament to take on the task. Five governments have fallen in the three years since the collapse of the Ciller-led coalition in 1995, a period marked by a deeply split parliament and personal and political bickering among secularist leaders. December 1998-January 1999 Military Concerned over Political Instability Worried that the prolonged period of political paralysis among the secularist forces in parliament could benefit the Islamist Virtue Party as the April elections drew near, the Turkish General Staff in early January issued a warning implying that Virtue, the largest grouping in parliament, could be outlawed as a threat to democracy. In 1997, a government led by the Islamist Welfare Party was forced out of power by the military, and the party was banned for allegedly trying to subvert the secularist constitution and raise the profile of Islam in the country. Opinion polls show that the Virtue Party, which claims to be more moderate and pro-Western than the Welfare Party and backs Turkey's membership in the European Union, could win between one-third and one-quarter of the national vote in April. In a pamphlet distributed to Turkish daily newspapers, the generals said Turkey's democratic system would be strengthened if political formations that would destroy democracy by abolishing secularism were banned. In addition, the pamphlet called for a purge of Islamists from the state bureaucracy. The military also issued a text for cadets stating that a new offensive must be launched against Islamist activism. The Turkish military has staged three coups since 1960 in response to internal disorder and prolonged political instability. December 1998-January 1999 Sweeping Crackdown on Kurdish Activism After a joint statement by several unions called for a ceasefire in the country's 14-year-old Kurdish conflict, three trade union branch offices were closed and 48 union members were detained in southeastern Turkey in December. These actions were part of a crackdown on Kurdish activism in Turkey following the November arrest of Ocalan in Italy. Another 34 members of one of the unions were detained in Istanbul. Turkish authorities also took action against the legal party most identified with Kurdish nationalism, the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), which favors a negotiated solution to the Kurdish conflict. By early December, some 3,000 party members had been detained. Most of those arrested were later released, but about 300 were charged with involvement in separatist activities and face prosecution. HADEP leader Murat Bozlak was arrested and jailed on charges of being a PKK member and faces up to 22 years in prison. In an unrelated development, a court sentenced Bozlak to a year in jail for speeches allegedly advocating separatism in 1993. Party officials deny Ankara's charge that HADEP is the political wing of the PKK. In 1994, HADEPs predecessor was banned and several party deputies were jailed. December 1998-January 1999 Italy Frees Kurdish Guerrilla Leader The departure of Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan from Italy in mid-January as a free man, following Rome's refusal to extradite him to Turkey, heightened the diplomatic rift between the two governments that has been building since Ocalan arrived from Moscow in mid-November. Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), left Italy when it became clear that Rome would not grant him political asylum and want- ed him to leave. Unable to find another European country that would accept him, he is believed to have returned briefly to Russia before leaving for an undisclosed location near Turkey. In October, Ocalan left Syria for Russia after Ankara threatened Damascus with military force if it did not prevent PKK activity on its soil. Ocalan was arrested at the Rome airport in November on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Germany for terrorist crimes committed within its borders. But Bonn withdrew the warrant, fearing that his extradition to Germany would cause an outbreak of violence among Germany's sizable Turkish and Kurdish populations, and therefore eliminated the grounds for his detention. Rome's refusal to send him to Turkey was based on Italian laws prohibiting extradition to countries where a suspect could face the death penalty. Ankara wants to try Ocalan on terrorism charges linked to the PKICs separatist campaign in southeastern Turkey, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 35,000 people. In late November, Italy and Germany agreed that the Kurdish leader should be tried by an international tribunal supported by the HU. Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel of Austria, which held the EU rotating presidency the last half of 1998, said the EU had no powers to set up a special criminal tribunal, although it might seek a solution through the Council of Europe or the U.N. that could lead to Ocalan standing trial in Europe. Turkey was opposed to the idea of Ocalan being tried by an international tribunal, an option no longer available after Italy released the Kurdish guerrilla leader from house arrest in mid-December. December 1998-January 1999 U.S. Sends Patriot Missiles Against Iraqi Threat The U.S. said in mid-January that it would send a Patriot missile battery to Turkey at Ankara's request as a pre- cautionary measure against a potential Iraqi missile attack. The decision followed heightened tension over the previous two weeks in the northern no-fly zone in Iraq, when US. fighter planes based at Ineirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey struck Iraqi n-Assile batteries in the zone on several occasions after being targeted and fired on by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles. The deployment of at least three Patriot launchers and about 150 U.S. soldiers to operate them is expected to occur near Incirlik, which hosts about 45 U.S. and British warplanes enforcing the no-fly zone to protect Iraqi Kurds from attacks by Baghdad. Turkey opposes the use of Incirlik to strike at Iraq, although it helps US. and British planes patrol the no-fly zone. December 1998-January 1999 U.S. HOLDS BACK MILITARY FINANCING The State Department in January cited human rights abuses in Turkey to deny part of a loan guarantee requested by a U.S. firm for a $45 million sale of armored personnel vehicles to the country's national police. It was decided that the loan guarantee could be used to finance 101 vehicles going to police in 32 provinces, but financing for the remaining 39 vehicles to be sent to 11 provinces where there have been reports of abuse by police was left to the manufacturer. The U.S. government's policy is the result of a 1996 law, expanded in 1998, that prohibits US. funds from being used to aid units of foreign security forces that have been involved in humanrights violations. December 1998-January 1999 Economy Slows Down Amid Political Uncertainty As corruption charges triggered the collapse of Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's government in late November, signs began to emerge that the country's economy was experiencing a significant slowdown. In the midst of the six-week stalemate in forming a government that followed, economists warned that Turkey's political instability and the economic uncertainty that would prevail until the April elections could exacerbate the slowdown. Tightened public spending to fight inflation and the economic crises in Russia and Asia have contributed to the economic downturn and to a fall in exports. The annual wholesale price inflation rate fell to about 54 per- cent in December, the lowest level in eight years, from 91 percent in December 1997. The government of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, formed in mid-January, is essentially a caretaker administration that will carry the country to April elections and will have little power to implement fiscal reforms to protect Turkey's financial system in the midst of the global markets crisis. The growth of the economy plunged from 9 percent in the first quarter of 1998 to 1.9 percent in the third quarter of the year. Overall growth for 1998 is expected to be only 4.5 percent compared to 8.3 percent in 1997 and is expected to slow to 3 percent in 1999. Economists stressed the need for a stable political environment to reassure foreign lenders and investors at a time when the country faces $24 billion in debt servicing in the first quarter of 1999. The political instability could make it harder for Turkey to borrow in international markets. October 1998 - November 1998 Kurdish Leader’s Arrest Threatens European Ties A diplomatic crisis erupted between Rome and Ankara over Italy’s refusal to extradite Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey following his capture in mid-November at the Rome airport. As the controversy escalated, the Turkish parliament voted in late November to dissolve the coalition led by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz over allegations that he facilitated a corrupt bank privatization. As Ocalan arrived on a flight from Russia carrying a false passport, he was seized on the basis of an international warrant for his arrest issued by Germany. He had been denied political asylum in Russia following his expulsion from Syria in October under pressure from Turkey. Ankara seeks Ocalan’s extradition on charges of heading a terrorist organization and threatening the country’s territorial integrity by leading a 14-year struggle for secession in southeastern Turkey, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives. Bonn has charged him with inciting his followers in Germany’s sizeable Kurdish community to commit murder. Italian law does not permit extradition of suspects to countries where the death penalty could be applied, which is the case in Turkey. Italy has urged Germany to seek Ocalan’s extradition to stand trial, but Bonn has said it would not do so, fearing an outbreak of violence among the 2 million Turks and half million Kurds living in the country. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema has called for an international tribunal to try the Kurdish leader, who has asked Italy for political asylum. The U.S., which considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization, has pressured Italy to extradite Ocalan to Turkey. The Turks have expressed anger over Rome’s refusal to extradite Ocalan, who remains under house arrest, by unofficially boycotting Italian products, blacking out Italian state-run cable television channels, and threatening to suspend defense industry contracts with Italy. The European Union warned Turkey that any official boycott of Italian products would be a violation of Ankara’s customs and association agreements with the EU and could result in retaliatory measures by the bloc. Italy is the second-largest exporter to Turkey after Germany and has been one of the few European nations strongly favoring Turkey’s inclusion in the EU. October 1998 - November 1998 Military Pressure Ends Syrian Support for PKK An outbreak of hostilities between Turkey and Syria over Ankara’s allegations that Damascus was providing safe haven for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and the group’s separatist guerrillas was averted in late October when Syria signed an agreement pledging not to allow PKK activity on its soil. Damascus denied the allegations, but Western officials had long asserted that Ocalan was living in Damascus and that the PKK was maintaining bases in both Syria and the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Mediation by Egypt and Iran was instrumental in promoting Turkish-Syrian talks in southeastern Turkey, which led to the agreement. The agreement defused a tense standoff between Ankara and Damascus that began in mid-September, when a Turkish military buildup of some 100troops took place along the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey threatened military action against Syria if it would not expel Ocalan and close the PKK bases. Iran’s mediation was carried out as current head of the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which includes Turkey and Syria. The crisis raised fears of a broader conflict between NATO member Turkey and its Arab neighbors, which view Ankara’s growing military ties with Israel as a security threat to the Middle East peace process and Arab interests in the region. As Turkish-Syrian tension mounted, Syria, Iran, and Arab League officials blamed the standoff on Turkey’s close relations with Israel. A 22-member Arab group at the U.N., currently chaired by Egypt, expressed solidarity with Syria and denounced Turkey’s actions. Ankara, which has never enjoyed any special relationship with its Arab neighbors, largely ignored the denunciation. October 1998 - November 1998 Iraqi Relations, Commercial Ties Renewed In an apparent protest against a U.S.-backed agreement between Iraq’s Kurdish factions, Turkey restored full diplomatic ties with Iraq in September and held talks with Baghdad the following month to bolster bilateral trade and economic relations. To the chagrin of the United States, Ankara announced that it would send an ambassador to Baghdad for the first time since 1992 and would help expedite the appointment of an Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, a post vacant since last year. Talks in Baghdad between Iraq’s Oil Minister Amir Muhammad Rasheed and Turkish State Minister Mehmet Batalli focused on negotiating joint oil and gas projects and increasing Turkish trade with Baghdad under Iraq’s oil-for-food arrangement. The arrangement allows Iraq to export limited amounts of oil and use the revenue to buy food and medicine, despite U.N. sanctions imposed on the country in 1990 over Baghdad’s invasion of Kuwait. Turkey was irritated over its exclusion from talks leading to a U.S.-brokered accord in Washington in early October ending the rivalry between the Kurdish factions controlling northern Iraq, Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The KDP has been backed by Ankara to prevent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists, fighting for autonomy in Turkey, from setting up bases in northern Iraq. The accord united the PUK and KDP with the goal of re-establishing an assembly in the region by the summer of 1999. Ankara, whose troops frequently launch raids into northern Iraq to eliminate PKK camps, opposes an independent Kurdish entity in the region because of fears that it would encourage the aspirations of Turkey’s Kurdish separatists. October 1998 - November 1998 Greece Challenges EU Assistance Loophole The European Commission in October adopted a $180 million aid package for Ankara that would effectively classify Turkey as a developing country in order to eliminate the need for unanimous approval by the 15 EU member nations to release a large share of the funds. The move was believed to be aimed at bypassing Greece’s veto on the release of EU money to Turkey through a customs union agreement. Under the new three-year package, which must be approved by EU ministers$162 million of the funds would be granted under an article in the Maastricht Treaty stipulating that the distribution of funds to developing countries requires the approval of only a qualified majority of the EU countries. The remaining $18 million would be provided within the framework of the customs union agreement, calling for a unanimous vote before the money could be released. Greece has termed the use of the article concerning developing countries illegal and has threatened to take the issue to the European Court. The aid has been proposed as a means of financing a new European strategy to prepare Turkey to be a candidate for EU membership, announced at the June EU summit in Cardiff, Wales. The strategy was designed to restore EU-Turkish relations, which became strained after the December EU summit in Luxembourg when the member nations decided not to include Turkey among the 11 countries being considered for EU membership. Ankara’s bitterness over the decision has been compounded by Greece’s blockage of about $410 million in aid that the EU pledged to provide Turkey under a 1996 customs union agreement. Greece has cited Turkey’s unwillingness to address territorial claims in the Aegean Sea before the International Court of Justice as the reason for its veto, but other member states and the U.S. want to release the blocked aid as a way of keeping Ankara close to the West. October 1998 - November 1998 Oil Industry: Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Not Commercially Viable The prospects for the construction of an oil pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, through Georgia to Ceyhan, Turkey, in the near future seem increasingly unlikely. Despite intense U.S. and Turkish lobbying for construction of the pipeline, the international consortium of oil companies developing offshore Azeri fields in the Caspian Sea is leaning toward shorter, less expensive routes from Baku to the Black Sea ports of Supsa in Georgia and Novorossisk in Russia. The Azerbaijani International Operating Company (AIOC), which is financing the means of exporting Azeri oil, cites plummeting oil prices and uncertainty over the amount of oil that will be produced in the Caspian region as reasons for making the $4 billion Baku-Ceyhan option less attractive at this time. The Azerbaijani government, which has close ties with Ankara, favors the pipeline through Turkey and has the final say in the choice of a route. But it is expected to follow the advice of the AIOC, which includes American companies, because of its own inability to provide money for the pipeline and the lack of funding from the United States for the project. A Baku-Supsa pipeline, half the length of the Baku-Ceyhan route, is already under construction at an estimated final cost of $1.8 billion. It is due to begin operating next year and can be enlarged if necessary. This pipeline and an old pipeline running from Baku to Novorossisk should be able to meet the expected capacity for shipping oil through 2003. Rebuilding the existing pipeline to Novorossisk would cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Washington favors the Baku-Ceyhan route because it would enhance the geostrategic stature of Turkey in central Asia, would lessen Russia’s control over oil exports from the Caspian area, and would undercut efforts to build a major pipeline through Iran. The U.S. will give Turkey $823,000 in technical assistance to plan its leg of a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. October 1998 - November 1998 Ankara Tightens Oil Tanker Passage Through Bosporus Ankara in November imposed stricter environmental and safety regulations on the shipment of oil in tankers from Black Sea ports through the narrow Bosporus strait to limit an increase in traffic and reduce the risk of accidents. The regulations were expected to cause delays and result in a marked increase in the cost oil companies will pay to transport Caspian oil by sea to the Mediterranean. They were seen as a strategy to make the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route appear more economically competitive as oil companies entered the final stage of making a decision on the main export route for the oil. Under the 1936 Montreux Convention that guaranteed free passage through the Bosporus, Turkey’s power to regulate traffic is limited, and the legality of tighter regulations could be challenged. Regulations adopted by Ankara in 1994 have been criticized by Russia as violations of the Convention. Regional analysts are concerned that any restriction of free passage that hurts Russia’s maritime rights might lead Moscow to dispatch its naval fleet to the area, a move likely to provoke a Turkish naval response. October 1998 - November 1998 Israel, Britain Increase Arms Transfers Concluding the final portion of its F-4E fighter plane upgrade, Turkey signed a $90 million agreement with Israel in October for the direct purchase of more than 50 Popeye 1 air-to-ground missiles to be installed on the aircraft. The Turkish defense industry was not involved in the coproduction of the missiles as it had hoped to be. Ankara will continue to negotiate for the purchase of the Popeye 2 missile, an advanced version of the Popeye 1 being jointly manufactured by Israeli and U.S. companies, and is hoping to be a participating partner in its coproduction. The Popeye 1 will be the first smart ammunition in the Turkish Air Force’s arsenal, with a range of about 60 miles. Turkey plans to deploy the Popeye 2 missile on its F-16 aircraft. Turkey and Britain have signed an agreement to boost cooperation between their defense industries in joint arms production. The agreement is believed to lay the groundwork for the coproduction of 800 Rapier Mk2 missiles over 10 years. October 1998 - November 1998 Second Balkan Summit Furthers Regional Cooperation Leaders of seven Balkan countries backed the establishment of autonomy in the Serbian province of Kosovo in a joint statement during an October summit in the coastal Turkish city of Antalya. Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who attended the meeting, endorsed the statement. The leaders also agreed not to raise trade barriers in response to global economic uncertainty and pledged to continue working to create a regional free-trade zone. In addition, they signed an accord creating a regional trade promotion center in Ankara, which will house a database for economic and trade statistics concerning Balkan nations. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz met on the sidelines of the summit but made little progress toward resolving bilateral differences that divide Greece and Turkey. The prime ministers reiterated their longstanding positions on sovereignty and territorial disputes concerning the Aegean Sea. Yilmaz called for a dialogue between the two countries on all issues, and Simitis urged Turkey to refer its claims to the International Court of Justice. Analysts noted that substantive movement on resolving differences had not been expected during the meeting, with Turkey’s April parliamentary elections only a few months away. The fact that Simitis traveled to Turkey for the summit was considered positive, however. The last Greek prime minister to visit the country was Constantine Mitsotakis, who flew to Turkey in 1993 to attend the funeral of Turkish President Turgut Ozal. The summit brought representatives of Balkan nations together for the second year in a row as a reflection of the increasing political and economic cooperation among the region’s states. The first Balkan summit was held on the Greek island of Crete last year. In addition to Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Greece, the countries sending delegates to Antalya were Bulgaria, Romania, F.Y.R.O.M., and Albania. Bosnia and Croatia sent observers to the summit. October 1998 - November 1998 Threats Mark Anniversary, Highlight Kurdish Question Police said they prevented an October terrorist attack on the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish secular state in 1923, by detaining 23 Islamists who had allegedly planned to crash an airplane loaded with explosives onto the tomb. The attack was planned to coincide with activities marking the republic’s 75th anniversary. In another anti-government action timed to occur during these activities, a Turkish man in late October hijacked a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 shortly after it left the Turkish town of Adana on a domestic flight to protest Ankara’s 14-year military campaign against Kurdish separatists fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey. Although the hijacker demanded that the plane be flown to Lausanne, Switzerland, the aircraft landed in Ankara, where police boarded it and killed the gunman, freeing all 40 passengers and crew. October 1998 - November 1998 Curbs on Free Speech by Islamists, Rights Activists A Turkish court of appeals has upheld a ten-month jail sentence imposed in April against Istanbul’s pro-Islamist mayor, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, for reciting a religious poem at a political rally last year. Erdogan will be the first senior member of the Islamist movement to be jailed since prosecutors began to take legal action against its prominent figures following the banning of the Islamist Welfare Party in January. As a result of his conviction, Erdogan, a leading member of the Virtue Party, the successor to Welfare, will lose his mayoral seat of four years and will be barred by law from holding public office in the future, ending the political career of a man widely regarded as the future leader of the Islamist movement. An appeals court has also upheld a one-year prison sentence for Akin Birdal, the head of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD), who was convicted in July by a lower court for two speeches in 1996 in which he called for a negotiated end to the Kurdish conflict. Birdal is still recovering from bullet wounds sustained in an attack in May by gunmen who accused him of supporting the PKKa charge he denies. August 1998 - September 1998 Israeli Military, Economic Ties Intensify Turkey, Israel, and the U.S. are planning to stage a second humanitarian, naval search-and-rescue exercise, Reliant Mermaid II, in the eastern Mediterranean within the next year. Egypt and Jordan will be invited to participate, as they were when the three countries conducted the first drill of this type off the Israeli coast in January. Jordan was the only country to send an observer to the drill, which was overwhelmingly condemned by Arab states and Iran. Egypt declined the invitation to participate. In mid-September, Turkish warplanes carried out a six-day air exercise in Israeli airspace. The two countries’ air force pilots periodically train separately in each other’s airspace under a bilateral military cooperation pact signed in 1996. Both Turkey and Israel denied reports that a joint air exercise was planned for September. During talks in Israel in September, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set a target of doubling next year’s level of trade between their countries, which now stands at $1 billion. Israel and Turkey signed a bilateral free-trade agreement in 1997 and will hold a joint economic conference in Israel in December. Netanyahu will reportedly visit Ankara before the end of the year. August 1998 - September 1998 Military Ties with Jordan Enhanced Jordan and Turkey have agreed to step up military cooperation that has become more intensive over the last three years, building on ties established through a 1984 bilateral military accord. During September talks with Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in Amman, Jordanian officials said they would like Ankara to upgrade and maintain Jordan’s weaponry. The officials also announced that Turkish troops would train Jordanian soldiers in Jordan in 1999 and the two countries would engage in joint ground maneuvers in the country next spring. In addition, plans are underway for cooperative air force exercises in each other’s airspace. Turkey expressed a desire to establish joint military industries and upgrade the military capability of the Jordanian armed forces. August 1998 - September 1998 Palestinian Links Expanded, Land Transfer Urged Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has voiced concern over the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. During his September visit to Israel, he urged Netanyahu to accept a U.S. initiative calling on Israel to cede a further 13 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian self-rule in exchange for Palestinian security guarantees. The plan has already been accepted by the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Yasser Arafat. In meetings with Arafat, Yilmaz discussed the deadlock in the negotiations and signed agreements with the PNA for cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and the environment. In July, Arafat met with Yilmaz in Ankara to ask Turkey to use its good relationship with Israel to promote progress in the peace process. Turkey has granted $1 million to the PNA within the framework of U.N. efforts to promote infrastructure projects in the Palestinian territories. August 1998 - September 1998 Ankara Shows Willingess to Resume Dialogue with EU Turkey informed the European Union in July that it was ready to enter into a dialogue with the organization on non-political issues to improve relations that have been strained since December, when the EU decided not to include Ankara among new candidates for membership at its Luxembourg summit. The Turkish government submitted a document to the EU entitled “Strategy to Improve Turkish-EU Relations” calling for stronger financial ties between Ankara and the EU, including implementing measures to improve Turkey’s economic infrastructure and private sector competitiveness. Improved EU-Turkish cooperation in trade, agriculture, judicial issues, labor problems, and the services sector were also proposed. Turkey reiterated its intention to continue its freeze on discussing political matters with the EU, enacted after the December summit. The submission of the document was Ankara’s response to the EU’s presentation of a European Strategy at the Cardiff summit in June to prepare Turkey to be a candidate for membership, a gesture that Ankara considered positive. Turkey had refused to attend a meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council in May. The Austrian EU presidency has declared its readiness to schedule another meeting of the Council and said it would work toward the normalization of relations with Turkey. Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has stated that Ankara has been shifting its foreign relations focus away from the EU toward closer ties with Russia, Israel, the U.S., and Japan since Turkey’s bid for EU membership was blocked last year. August 1998 - September 1998 Southeast War Resumes After Brief Ceasefire Kurdish separatists resumed their 14-year-old war with government forces in mid-September, two weeks after Ankara rejected their unilateral ceasefire, urged them to surrender, and dismissed their call for a political solution to achieve self-rule. When Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan announced the ceasefire on September 1he acknowledged that PKK troops had suffered heavy losses and were in a difficult position in their fight against the overwhelming Turkish armed forces. The leader of one of the three parties in Turkey’s ruling coalition suggested that the Northern Ireland peace process serve as a model for solving the Kurdish issue, reflecting a possible break in the consensus among political and military officials that military force is the only way to deal with the issue. The PKK declared unilateral ceasefires in 1993 and 1995, and has made other calls for a halt to hostilities, which have been largely ignored by Ankara. Established in 1979, the PKK was declared illegal following the 1980 military coup. More than 20,000 PKK members have been killed since the armed separatist movement began in 1984, and the overall death toll from the war exceeds 35,000. The conflict, which has resulted in the massive uprooting of ethnic Kurds from their homes, has cost the Turkish government up to $8 billion annually in recent years. August 1998 - September 1998 Kurdish Terrorism Targets Civilians Four members of the PKK have been arrested for planting a bomb in Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar, or Spice Market, in July. The blast killed seven people and injured 118, including 11 foreign tourists. Since December, the PKK has been blamed for three other bomb attacks in Istanbul, which have killed nine people. Also in July, the deputy director of Unye prison near the Black Sea coast was killed in his car by armed members of the United Revolutionary Forces, a coalition of the PKK and Turkish far-left groups that had staged attacks in the eastern province of Tunceli in June. The Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party-Front, a group believed to have cooperated with the PKK in the past, also held a leftist party politician from Tunceli hostage for four days before releasing him unharmed. Marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the Kurdish conflict, which began on August 15, 1984, Kurdish separatists bombed an oil well run by the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Company in the mainly Kurdish province of Batman, causing damage but no injuries. A mid-August attack by PKK members in the Black Sea city of Trabzon resulted in the burning of a hotel and the killing of its owner. Also in Augusta bomb exploded at the Istanbul University literature building, a center of Islamist activism, injuring four people, including a policeman. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. August 1998 - September 1998 Arms Build-Up with German, International Support A German firm has agreed to coproduce four German-designed submarines with Turkey at a Turkish Navy dockyard. The construction of the Preveze-class submarines, to be completed between 2003 and 2006, is worth $557.8 million. Two additional submarines are currently being built for the Turkish Navy by the firm. Nearly 70 percent of Turkish Navy vessels are either German-made or German-designed. Turkey has launched its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program by issuing a request for proposals in late July to 17 companies in Belgium, Britain, China, France, Israel, Spain, and the U.S. for the coproduction of the UAVs. The projected cost of the program, which will supply the army, navy, and air force with the vehicles, is $350 million for 15 long-range and 8 medium-range systems. August 1998 - September 1998 Anti-Islamist Measures Step Up Religious Repression Turkey’s chief prosecutor in September called for the imprisonment of 79 former members of the pro-Islamist Welfare Party for up to seven and a half years on charges of misappropriating $3.6 million in funds of the party before it was banned early this year. The Islamists include Recai Kutan, head of the Virtue Party, the largest grouping in parliament and successor to Welfare, and former prime minister and Welfare Party leader.