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Turkish Press

Turkish Mass Media Bulletin 03/04/2008




No. 64/08

A. NEWS ITEMS
1. How the Turkish Cypriot press covered the press conference of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and the Ledra Street crossing
2. UBP sent a letter to UN Secretary-General on the form of the solution. It wants “a confederal structure with two states”
3. Pertev claims that the 21 March process is not different than the 8 July agreement
4. Talat to meet the Turkish Jewish business community in Turkey
5. Statements by Erdogan from Stockholm on the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from occupied Cyprus
6. Erdogan is holding contacts in Stockholm
7. The European Commission is following developments in Turkey

B. Commentaries, Editorials and Analysis
1. From the Turkish Press of 2 April 2008


A. NEWS ITEMS
1. How the Turkish Cypriot press covered the press conference of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and the Ledra Street crossing
All the Turkish Cypriot newspapers (03.04.08) report about the press conference held yesterday by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, during which Mr. Pascoe expressed his satisfaction as regards his contacts. He described the atmosphere in Cyprus “very positive.”

According to Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (03.04.08), the self-styled presidential spokesman Mr. Hasan Ercakica commenting on the visit of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, said that as far as the Turkish Cypriot side is concerned Mr. Pascoe’s visit was fruitful. In his written statement Mr. Ercakica said that they believe Mr. Pascoe during his contacts with the Turkish Cypriot leadership had the chance to learn how the Turkish Cypriot side looks into the problem.

All the local Turkish Cypriot papers report about the opening of the Ledra Street crossing today (at 09:00 hours). Papers give the news with the following titles:
KIBRIS: Lokmaci is opening today
HALKIN SESI: And Lokmaci is opening today
STAR KIBRIS: Historic morning at the Lokmaci
KIBRISLI: After 52 years
VATAN: Lokmaci is opening today but…
VOLKAN: Without the Turkish Troops’ withdrawal Lokmaci will not be opened
GUNES: Is there a secret agreement regarding Lokmaci?
SOZCU: Lokmaci is opening today
ORTAM: Historic day at the Lokmaci
BAKIS: We have done what was necessary
YENIDUZEN: And Lokmaci is opening
AFRIKA: First gate at the walls

Kibris also reports that the self-styled Council of Ministers convened yesterday and decided to establish a ‘Lokmaci Committee’ which will study the environmental and economic effects of the opening of the Ledra Street. The so-called Minister of Interior Ozkan Murat will chair the Committee, which will include members from the so-called Lefkosia municipality, ministries of finance, tourism, the chamber of artisans and the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce.

KIBRIS reports that the self-styled prime minister Mr. Ferdi Sabit Soyer, answering criticism launched by the opposition that concession was made for the opening of the Ledra Street crossing, said that no concession was made in order to open the crossing.

According to KIBRIS, the leader of the Social Democrat Party (TDP) Mehmet Cakici commenting on the opening of the Ledra Street crossing said that “opening of the Lokmaci is the road leading to solution”.
(MHY)

2. UBP sent a letter to UN Secretary-General on the form of the solution. It wants “a confederal structure with two states”
Turkish Cypriot daily KIBRIS newspaper (03.04.08) reports that the National Unity Party (UBP) has disclosed the content of the letter sent to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter among other things the UBP puts forward the form of the solution of the Cyprus problem which should be “a confederal structure with two states.” The UBP considers the deep lack of trust between the two communities as the major reason for not reaching a solution in Cyprus. The UBP is critical of President Christofias because he too considers, as his predecessor Tassos Papadopoulos, the Cyprus problem a problem of “invasion and occupation.”
(MHY)

3. Pertev claims that the 21 March process is not different than the 8 July agreement
According to KIBRIS, the leader of the People’s Party (HP) Rasit Pertev said that the 21 March agreement is the carbon copy of the 8 July agreement and that the Turkish Cypriot leadership is trying to cheat the people by saying otherwise. In a press conference organized yesterday Mr. Pertev said that the administration is knowingly misleading the people by saying that the 21 March process is different than the 8 July agreement.
(MHY)

4. Talat to meet the Turkish Jewish business community in Turkey
Under the front-page title, “The relations-restoring meal”, Turkish daily Hurriyet newspaper (03.04.08) reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat invited to a lunch in Istanbul today the President of the administrative board of the Profilo Holding, Mr Jak Kamhi, whose honorary “citizenship” was removed last year after a court case was opened.

In its inside pages the continues reports that Mr Talat will meet tonight with the members of the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) where he will explain the developments in Cyprus and ask for the support of the Turkish business world. The dinner will be hosted at the Ciragan Hotel by the President of TUSIAD, Mrs. Arzuhan Dogan Yalcindag and the President of the High Consultation Council of TUSIAD, Mr Mustafa Koc.

Talat, who invited Mr Kamhi to lunch, will try to restore relations and also to strengthen relations with the Turkish Jewish community. Talat and Kamhi will meet at noon at the Swiss hotel in Istanbul, the paper reports.

The paper under the subtitle, “Talat had made citizenship cleaning”, continues: “Mr Talat in 2003, while still leader of the opposition, brought an action against 223 persons to whom the citizenship was given by 15 decisions of the Council of Ministers between 2002 and 2003. Most of them were Turkish Republic citizens. The case, which began in February 5, 2003, lasted for four years and the court on November 14, 2007 decided to revoke the citizenship of 156 persons out of 223. Among them were Jak Kamhi, who was given honorary citizenship after proposal of Mr Rauf Denktas in 2003, and the Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) President, Mr Sinan Aygun.”
(EA)

5. Statements by Erdogan from Stockholm on the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from occupied Cyprus
Ankara Anatolia news agency (02.04.08) reported the following from Stockholm:
“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Turkish and Greek troops could withdraw from Cyprus once a peaceful atmosphere was achieved in the island.

Attending a meeting on "EU and Turkey" in Swedish capital of Stockholm, Erdogan replied to a question by a Cypriot diplomat asking whether Turkey would play a positive role regarding the continuation of political will for the solution of Cyprus issue and whether Turkey would be ready to withdraw its troops from the island in the light of such an understanding.

Erdogan said, "Once an island of peace is formed, both Turkish and Greek soldiers can withdraw. We can do that concurrently."

Erdogan also said what Turkey desired was a Cyprus with two states granted with equal rights.

Upon a question on whether Kurdish identity would be recognized, Erdogan said nobody in Turkey was prevented from disclosing his/her Kurdish identity.
"However, there is a demand for an official language in Turkey. There is no official language other than Turkish in Turkey," he added.

Commenting on how the terrorist organization PKK affected Turkey's relations with Iraq and surrounding countries, Erdogan said there were no serious problems between Turkey and Iraq currently.

Erdogan said Turkey requested the Iraqi administration to eliminate the PKK camps located in the north of Iraq.

He said the two countries should act together if they were going to conduct a joint fight against terrorism.

Upon a question about his statements during his visit to Germany (as assimilation is a humanity crime), Erdogan said that he supports integration, adding that 2.7 million Turks who are living in Germany should be able to speak German language and should be in harmony with the German society. Erdogan said regarding the assimilation that people cannot be asked to leave their language, religion, culture and traditions otherwise it has become a humanity crime.

Erdogan said that they are against ethnical nationalism, adding that people living in Republic of Turkey should defend that they are citizens of Republic of Turkey, but nobody should intervene in their ethnical identity. Erdogan added that they are also against regional and religious nationalism.

When asked whether there is a pollution in the straits of Turkey, Erdogan said that the government is seriously struggling against the wastes of vessels which use the straits. He added that the straits are cleaner today than they were 5-10 years ago.”

6. Erdogan is holding contacts in Stockholm
Under the title: “301 to be revised very soon, PM Erdogan says”, Today’s Zaman (03.04.08) reports the following:
Turkey will move to change an anti-free speech penal code article as soon as Parliament finishes its work on a social security reform bill that is currently under discussion, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

Turkey will take more steps toward completing its European Union accession process, Prime Minister Erdogan, who is on a visit to Sweden, said in a speech at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

He also promised more freedoms and a change to the infamous Turkish Penal Code Article 301, under which many of the country's prominent writers and journalists have been taken to court for "denigrating Turkishness," a crime under the problematic article.

"Article 301 will drop off the agenda of Turkey and of the European Union," pledged Erdogan. He also stated that soon state television stations will offer programs broadcast in Kurdish, Arabic and Persian, an important improvement in minority rights demanded by the EU.

Erdogan in his address told the audience that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has added a depth to politics in Turkey and has normalized the country's democracy. He also commented on a recent suit seeking to shut down the AK Party over alleged anti-secularist activities.

European Union officials have repeatedly warned that a closure of the AK Party would have serious implications on the country's bid to join the 27-nation club. The Constitutional Court agreed on Monday to hear a closure case against the AK Party on charges of it having become "a focal point for anti-secular activities." In an immediate reaction to the court's decision, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn repeated a strong warning that it exposed a "systemic error" in Turkey's Constitution, announcing that he would brief the EU Commission on the case on Wednesday.

Regarding the indictment filed with the Constitutional Court the prime minister merely stated: "The legal process has started. From this point on the Constitutional Court will carry out its duty."

Also yesterday, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf received Erdogan. The Turkish prime minister, who arrived late Tuesday, later visited the nearby parliament building for a meeting with the members of the parliament committee on European Union affairs and the committee on foreign affairs as well as Parliament Speaker Per Westerberg.

As Erdogan made his first official contact in Stockholm with King Carl XVI Gustaf at the royal palace, a small group held a demonstration outside of the building.

A group of Armenians and Assyrians carried banners reading "We haven't forgotten the incidents of 1915," "Turkey should recognize the Assyrian genocide of 1915" and "Don't forget the massacres." The Swedish police surrounded the group with a security line.

Both Armenians and Assyrians claim that hundreds of thousands of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying that 300,000 Armenians along with at least as many Turks died in civil strife that emerged when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia.”

7. The European Commission is following developments in Turkey
Ankara Anatolia news agency (02.04.08) reported the following from Brussels:
“The European Commission pursues the developments and continues to analyse the situation in Turkey, said EU Spokesman on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Commission, the Spokesman said EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn gave information to members about the developments in Turkey.

The Commission is expected to have a more comprehensive analysis after scheduled visit of the Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and Rehn on April 10th and 12th.

Barroso and Rehn will meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as political groups and representatives of NGOs.”


B. Commentaries, Editorials and Analysis
1. From the Turkish Press of 2 April 2008
Following are the summaries of reports and commentaries of selected items from the Turkish press on 2 April:
In a report entitled "'Back-Up Party' Meeting at the Governor's Office" in Hurriyet, Lutfu Karakas from Dogan News Agency writes that "it is being claimed that Prime Minister Erdogan started to work toward a 'back-up party' after realizing the increasing possibility of a closure of the Justice and Development Party [AKP]. It was reported that, for this reason, Erdogan met with Tuna Beklevic, leader of the Powerful Turkey Party in Edirne."

Writing in Milliyet, Taha Akyol recounts a possible scenario for those "waiting patiently" for the outcome of the closure case against AKP in his commentary. Explaining that the "AKP deputies can run in early elections by setting up PAK [translated as pure and a play of words on AK] party and Erdogan can run as an independent candidate in the event that the AKP is banned, Akyol adds that "political ban" is for those who are members of political parties only and there can be no political ban on independent candidates. Akyol continues his scenario by noting that the newly founded PAK party will probably increase its votes during elections and Erdogan elected as an independent prime minister and concludes: "What is the use of closing down the party?"

Writing in Hurriyet, Mete Demirhan gives "five reasons" for the change in the AKP with regard to the stand it will pursue against the closure case. In the commentary entitled "Why Did AKP Put on the Brakes," Demirhan explains that the AKP Central Executive Administration Board decided on "moderation strategy" in its last "critical meeting" after the announcement on indictment decision.

A report in Hurriyet notes that "observers say the AKP's recent messages signal a policy shift within the party regarding the process. The AKP is expected to take steps to reduce tensions and is considering withdrawing its plans to take its planned constitutional amendments to referendum."

In his commentary in Milliyet, Fikret Bila stresses the importance of abiding by the principle of secularism and concludes that the "real issue is the understanding of secularism in Turkey and what should be done is not negotiating for a conciliation, but abiding by the principle of secularism. Problems will continue until all the political parties will sincerely abide by the 'democratic, secular, and unitary' characteristic of the Republic of Turkey."

In his commentary entitled 'Wait and See" in Hurriyet, Oktay Eksi writes: "Is it absolutely necessary to have a beating before saying and doing the right thing. To start with the AKP leader, all the high-level officials of the AKP talked very properly yesterday. They all said that "it is up to the judiciary now even if they did not say 'We are loyal to the secular republic.' It does not matter. Is it absolutely necessary to receive a beating before saying and doing the right thing? It seems that some need to experience a shock for coming to their senses..." Hoping that they AKP cadres "will come to their senses from now on," Eksi continues: "Anyhow, later is better than never. Hope they will come to their senses from now on. It will be a gain if they stop saying, which I do not think they will, 'We will continue to implement the program we have in the back of our minds without anybody noticing.' It is being reported that Erdogan warned his deputy colleagues at the Assembly group meeting to be "very careful of their comments from now on and refrain from statements that can adversely affect the judiciary process.'" Eksi concludes by noting that "Erdogan is now urging [the deputies] to stop talking."

In his editorial in the Turkish Daily News, Yusuf Kanli describes the "three options" AKP has against the judiciary and its defence: "Reconciliation, referendum or sticking to the judicial system and preparing its defence." Explaining that "unfortunately, reconciliation appears to be rather difficult, if not impossible at this junction of the country" and "the referendum option rather risky for the AKP," Kanli concludes that the defence at court is the wisest" even if it is "the least popular option within the AKP so far."

Bekir Coskun, in turn, writes that "there would not have been any coups if the judiciary functioned on 27 May, 12 March, and 12 September" in his commentary entitled "Judiciary or Coup" in Hurriyet. Explaining that there was no "judiciary" before all the coups in Turkey, Coskun adds: "Look at history. The grounds for coups are inoperative judiciary." Calling on everybody to let the "judiciary function" now, Coskun describes a win-win situation for the AKP if "AKP is cleared; it will be saved. If it is not cleared and is sentenced, it will be still saved from the shame of setting fire to its country. There is no way of knowing what will fill the gap of an inoperative judiciary. Let the AKP be cleared."

In his commentary entitled "Can the Turkish Supreme Court Restore Confidence in the Judiciary" in The New Anatolian, Ilnur Cevik writes that "the recent performance of the judges of the Constitutional Court is dismal. They give the impression that they are determined to close down the AKP and what is going on now is a mere formality.

Tufan Turenc from Hurriyet writes in his commentary, that the Nationalist Action Party, MHP, is behind the troubles of AKP, adding that governments in Turkey should be changed during elections only. Recounting the way in which AKP used religion like a weapon, entered into partnership with sects, and turned a social state into a welfare state, Turenc still maintains that there is no other way but the ballot box to change governments even a powerful party like AKP as it is controlling all the funds and resources through the force of the state. He concludes by blaming Erdogan for his actions, which forced the judiciary to open a closure case, and adds: "Falling into the trap set by Bahceli, Erdogan's decision to put the headscarf into the Constitution was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

In his commentary in Sabah, Ergun Babahan draws attention to the "significant increase in the number of photographs of women with headscarves in the media since the onset of the closure case against AKP. This is a total war. There are no briefings to the judiciary like in the 28 February period, but those who were briefed are being hosted on televisions. The criteria they have set are being implemented. On the one hand there are efforts to justify to the public for the case on AKP and on the other, to create the atmosphere as though "reactionism is at the door. Even though we do not consider all these natural, we understand them. Those who see themselves on the losing side are using everything in their power. I do not know to what extent efforts to involve the judiciary in this issue is right, however." Explaining that "social peace" will be undermined if different standards to those used for former Presidents Demirel and Sezer will be used for Gul, Babahan adds: "Social peace may fall into difficult times and continuity and equity undermined if the same article is interpreted in one way for Presidents Demirel and Sezer and in another for Gul."

Sami Kohen, in turn, writes about his impressions on the discussions and speeches made during the Wilton Park conference on Turkey's Accession to the European Union in Istanbul. In his commentary in Milliyet, Kohen says that "the Europeans focus (and criticize) the 'closure' aspect of the issue and not dwell too much on the Turkey's sensitivity with regard to secularism (for example, the reaction to the Islamic headdress issue). In fact, this side of the coin is not seen and explained in the statements issued in Brussels and Western press. We felt the lack of this aspect during our conversations with the conference participants. It would be beneficial and more correct for this aspect of the issue to be reflected in the press releases in foreign capitals and media commentaries."

In his commentary in Cumhuriyet, Oral Calislar expresses "great concern" as "there is an uncertain process under way." Posing the question "What will happen to Turkey?" Calislar explains that it does not seem like there will be a compromise between the AKP and Republican People's Party on issues and concludes that even he has given up being optimistic as he sees no way out of the situation, which is dragging Turkey into a crisis.

In his commentary in the Turkish Daily News, Mehmet Ali Birand explains the "dilemma" faced by both "the secular sectors and the AKP adherents" with regard to the efforts at Islamization on the one hand, and "offside" efforts at stopping the AKP.

In an article entitled "Everybody Knows Quite Well What They are Doing", Yeni Safak columnist Ali Bayramoglu asserts that the indictment against the AKP upheld by the Constitutional Court has started a political rather than judicial process, adding that the closure case amounts to a "judicial coup attempt" in response to the AKP's efforts to "civilianize the state," expand basic rights and freedoms, and end the "bureaucratic tutelage" system. Bayramoglu claims that there is no doubt that the AKP will be closed down and that Erdogan and Gul will be unseated as prime minister and president. He also argues that the only way for the AKP to ward off this "coup process" would be to call a referendum on a civilian and democratic constitution entailing changes to the structure of the Constitutional Court.

In an article entitled "AKP's Great Mistakes", Milli Gazete columnist Mehmet Sevket Eygi argues that the AKP is "51 percent responsible" for the closure lawsuit it faces because it has been too "intoxicated" by its election victory to be able to realize the need to set up a committee of advisors consisting of "qualified," "principled," and "foresighted intellectuals," prevent corruption, and switch to an election system that enables voters to send competent representatives to Parliament. Eygi also catalogues "the dangers awaiting Turkey" and warns of efforts to turn this country into "another Cuba, North Korea, or Enver Hodja's Albania."
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