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Cyprus PIO: Turkish Press and Other Media, 08-05-27

Cyprus Press and Information Office: Turkish Cypriot Press Review Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office Server at <http://www.pio.gov.cy/>

TURKISH PRESS AND OTHER MEDIA No. 99/08 27.05.08

[A] NEWS ITEMS

  • [01] Talat began his contacts in Brussels
  • [02] Soyer argued that it is a condition for the Cyprus problem to be solved until 2009 so that Turkey does not face problems in the EU
  • [03] Yonluer criticizes Talat for his stance in the Cyprus problem
  • [04] Ismet Korukoglu has been appointed in the representation office of the TRNC in Israel for the period between 15 and 31 May
  • [05] Gazioglu was honoured with the ambassador of the year award. He stressed that his aim is the strengthening of the TRNC
  • [06] The 43rd issue of the Civilian Defence Organization magazine has been published
  • [07] A group of businessmen from the tourism sector from Syria arrived last night in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus
  • [08] Avci exploits politically incident in Mosque in Limassol
  • [09] The TDP protested against the arbitrary and antidemocratic developments in the occupied areas
  • [10] The Famagusta municipality Folk Dances Group will participate in a festival which will take place in July in Montreal
  • [11] Babacan to attend EU General Affairs Council in case a common position paper is approved without change
  • [12] Turkey signed cooperation protocol with Tunisia
  • [13] Erdogan attended the oath taking ceremony of Lebanons newly elected President
  • [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITORIALS AND ANALYSIS

  • [14] From the Turkish Press of 26 May 2008
  • [15] Cyprus fine tuning
  • [16] Mideast states increasingly ignore US views

  • [A] NEWS ITEMS

    [01] Talat began his contacts in Brussels

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat met yesterday in Brussels with Mr Jan Kubis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia. The relations with the European Union and the recent developments on the Cyprus problem were discussed during the meeting which lasted for approximately one hour. Later, Mr Talat met also with Mr Jean Pierre Jouyet, French Minister responsible for European Affairs.

    Today Mr Talat is expected to meet with Mr Dimitrij Rupel, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovenian term presidency of the EU, and Mr Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The meetings took place at the hotel where Mr Talat is staying.

    (I/Ts.)

    [02] Soyer argued that it is a condition for the Cyprus problem to be solved until 2009 so that Turkey does not face problems in the EU

    Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the self-styled prime minister of the breakaway regime, Ferdi Sabit Soyer has said that the Turkish side will continue its determination for reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem until 2009.

    Mr Soyer participated yesterday morning in a program of Private Genc TV television. Noting that a new process is being experienced and a new page has been opened in the Cyprus problem, Mr Soyer said that this new process must be evaluated.

    Arguing that it is a condition for the Cyprus problem to be solved until 2009, Mr Soyer said that the basic point is for the gains which the Turkish Cypriots acquired after 1974 to be confirmed with an international agreement on the basis of a partnership within the whole of Cyprus.

    Mr Soyer expressed the opinion that during a period when developments are taking place in the Cyprus problem, some people are making groundless statements trying to create chaos. He said that the sides have been given a deadline until the 2009 to solve the Cyprus problem and added that in case the problem is not solved until 2009, the way of Turkey in its accession process to the EU will be obstructed. Mr Soyer argued that the Cyprus problem should be solved until 2009 so that no such development is caused and no injustice is created for Turkey.

    Referring to the Turkish occupation army, Mr Soyer said that it will stay on the island until the solution and added: The Cyprus problem will be discussed, an agreement will be reached and the army will leave from the island on the timetable and according to the numbers determined in the agreement. And within the framework of the treaty of guarantee, a number of soldiers will continue to be present on the island. However, discussions should be carried out and an agreement should be reached.

    Touching upon the issue of the illegal workers, Mr Soyer argued that very serious steps have been made on this issue, but admitted that there are also some deficiencies. He said that some work is being carried out, but the citizens have also a duty on this issue. If we are hiring an illegal worker even for the cleaning of our garden, we are encouraging this, he noted.

    Meanwhile, referring to the same interview of Mr Soyer, Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Volkan newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the self-styled prime minister denied that during a common activity of his party with AKEL in occupied Famagusta last Friday he said that we should get rid of the laps of the motherlands.

    Noting that these allegations are completely groundless, Mr Soyer noted: The right of guarantee of the Republic of Turkey is included in the program of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), in its founding charter and in all its positions. I did not make such a statement. I said let us find a solution and let the blood of no Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot, Turkish or Greek youth be shed from now on.

    (I/Ts.)

    [03] Yonluer criticizes Talat for his stance in the Cyprus problem

    Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (27.05.08) reports that Ahmet Yonluer, chairman of the Politics for the People (HIS) Party, has accused the Turkish Cypriot leader Talat of being passive during the new process.

    Evaluating the statements made after the Talat-Christofias meeting on 23 May, Mr Yonluer alleged that Talat does not exhibit a firm stance against President Christofias and added that President Christofias is playing the cat and mouse game with Mr Talat.

    Mr Yonluer claimed that there is a silent majority which shares his views and added: This majority wants the TRNC to continue to exist. Let no one hide behind the will of the 24th of April referendum. Such a will is out of the question now.

    (I/Ts.)

    [04] Ismet Korukoglu has been appointed in the representation office of the TRNC in Israel for the period between 15 and 31 May

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (27.05.08) reports that Ismet Korukoglu, second secretary of the general directorate of the self-styled ministry of foreign affairs, has been appointed in Israel by the council of ministers for the period between 15 and 31 May until a representative is appointed in order to secure the operation of the Representation Office of the TRNC in Tel Aviv.

    (I/Ts.)

    [05] Gazioglu was honoured with the ambassador of the year award. He stressed that his aim is the strengthening of the TRNC

    Illegal Bayrak television (26.05.08) broadcast the following:

    The TRNC Ambassador to Ankara Tamer Gazioglu has been awarded the `Ambassador of the Year` award by the Great Anatolian Unity (Buyuk Anadolu Birligi) based in Ankara.

    Mr Gazioglu was presented the award by the AK Party deputy-Leader Necati Cetinkaya.

    In a short address at the award ceremony, Ambassador Gazioglu thanked the jury for awarding him the prize.

    He said all the efforts being waged are aimed at strengthening the TRNC and the Turkish Cypriot People in cooperation with the Republic of Turkey and the Anatolian people.

    Among those awarded by the Great Anatolian Unity for their services in 2007 was the Turkish Minister of State also responsible for Cyprus Affairs Cemil Cicek who was named as the `State man of the Year`.

    [06] The 43rd issue of the Civilian Defence Organization magazine has been published

    Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Volkan newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the 43rd issue of the Civilian Defence Organization magazine has been published. A CD under the title The history of Cyprus and a rosette saying that Cyprus is Turkish is being distributed with the magazine.

    (I/Ts.)

    [07] A group of businessmen from the tourism sector from Syria arrived last night in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus

    Turkish Cypriot daily Sozcu newspaper (27.05.08) reports that a group of businessmen from the tourism sector from Syria arrived last night in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus within the framework of a tour organized by the self-styled ministry of economy and tourism under the auspices of the ministry of foreign affairs.

    The Syrian businessmen will remain in the occupied areas until 29 May and will hold various contacts within the framework of the tour, which aims at increasing and reviving the relations between the two countries.

    (I/Ts.)

    [08] Avci exploits politically incident in Mosque in Limassol

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (26.05.08) reports the following:

    Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Turgay Avci condemned in a written statement Monday an attack on the Great Mosque in Limassol (Greek Cypriot Side).

    Avci said the incident created wide reaction among Turkish Cypriot community and asked the Greek Cypriot administration to punish the perpetrators and take necessary measures including shutting down the bar located right next to the mosque.

    Avci said one of the biggest reasons of the incident was the allotment of the building owned by the foundations authority as a bar. He said a group of drunken Greek Cypriots attacked around 30 Turkish Cypriots --who were at the mosque for prayer-- with stones and sticks and caused damage in the mosque. "It is obvious that the Greek Cypriot side is still uneasy about the Turkish presence in the island. The allotment of the building --right next to a mosque open to worship-- as a bar by the Greek Cypriot administration and the Greek Municipality in Limassol irresponsibly despite the complaints of mosque goers cannot be explained in a different way," said Avci.

    [09] The TDP protested against the arbitrary and antidemocratic developments in the occupied areas

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the Social Democrat Party (TDP) organized yesterday a march, which ended in front of the building of the assembly, under the slogan We are claiming our rights - We are rising up in order to protest the arbitrary and antidemocratic developments which are based on the interests that are experienced at the illegal European University of Lefka (LAU) and in the whole country in general.

    The chairman of the Democratic Party (DP) Serdar Denktas, the general Secretary of the Cyprus Socialist Party (KSP), Yusuf Alkim, the chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Trade Union (KTOEOS), Adnan Eraslan and officials from other civilian organizations marched together with the TDP and expressed their support.

    (I/Ts.)

    [10] The Famagusta municipality Folk Dances Group will participate in a festival which will take place in July in Montreal

    Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (27.05.08) reports that the Famagusta municipality Folk Dances Group will participate in a festival which will take place in July in Montreal, Canada. According to the self-styled mayor of occupied Famagusta, Oktay Kayalp, the group will participate in the Dance and Music Festival in Canada which is followed by 120 thousand persons every year. He said that this is a big event for getting to know the culture of the countries which participate in the festival.

    (I/Ts.)

    [11] Babacan to attend EU General Affairs Council in case a common position paper is approved without change

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (26.05.08) reported the following:

    Turkish FM Ali Babacan said on Monday that Turkey would attend Brussels meeting (scheduled for Tuesday), in case the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council approves a common position paper without any change.

    Responding to a question about Turkey-EU Partnership Council meeting, Babacan said he had telephone conversations with the Slovenia rotating presidency and European Commission executives at the weekend, and he was told that no change was envisaged on the document.

    Asked to comment on the EU statements on Turkish jurisdiction, Babacan said Turkey was a candidate (to the EU), and referred to negotiation framework document on which Turkey and the EU agreed in 2005.

    "When Turkey-EU relations are considered both in legal and political framework, it is natural for the EU to make comments, to prepare reports and posture statements regarding the developments in Turkey," Babacan said.

    "This is common practice for all candidate countries and will continue till Turkey becomes a full member. Moreover, there are rules and standards that member countries should abide by as a requirement of full membership," he said.

    "What we should do is to make sure that developments in Turkey are understood well, to ensure them access to accurate information, and to be in close dialogue in all studies in question," Babacan said.

    On the same issue, Ankara Anatolia news agency (26.05.08) reported the following:

    The European Union (EU) General Affairs and External Relations Council has approved a common attitude document for the Turkey-EU Partnership Council that will take place on Tuesday with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister and Chief Negotiator for EU talks Ali Babacan.

    The document to be presented to Turkey at the Partnership Council mentions that the closure cases filed against political parties are being observed closely. The document calls on all Turkish political actors to find solutions by respecting basic freedoms, the Constitution and democratic secularity and through dialogue and compromise.

    The EU document expresses concern on the slow down in reforms in Turkey. "The EU has noted the Turkish government's will to amend the Turkish Constitution. The constitutional amendments are essential in embracing EU standards", the EU document said.

    [12] Turkey signed cooperation protocol with Tunisia

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (26.05.08) reports the following:

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Monday that Turkey was resolved to boost and diversify relations with Tunisia.

    Babacan and Foreign Minister Abdelwaheb Abdallah of Tunisia signed "Turkey-Tunisia 2008-2009 Action Plan", "Cooperation Protocol between the Archives", "Memorandum of Understanding on Diplomatic Institutes" and "Cooperation Agreement on Visual, Audiovisual, and Written Communication".

    "The agreements in question will definitely help establishment of a strong legal cooperation framework between the two parties," Babacan told a joint news conference prior to signing ceremony.

    Referring to bilateral economic relations, Babacan said trade volume in 2007 exceeded 700 million USD, noting that, "we wish this figure to exceed one billion USD within a few years."

    Babacan said Turkish and Tunisian businessmen would have a forum meeting on Tuesday in Istanbul, adding that "businessmen will discuss ways to boost reciprocal trade and investments".

    Turkish Foreign Minister also said this was at the same time the first meeting of a permanent commission that was earlier decided to be established between the respective governments.

    Tunisian Foreign Minister Abdallah said Turkish President Abdullah Gul had visited Tunisia in 2006, adding that tangible steps were taken and a solid momentum could be achieved after this visit.

    Abdallah said Tunisian culture and transportation ministers and Parliament Speaker would visit Turkey next month.

    [13] Erdogan attended the oath taking ceremony of Lebanons newly elected President

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (26.05.08) reports the following:

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the oath-taking ceremony of Lebanon's newly elected President Michel Suleiman On Sunday.

    Prime Minister Erdogan also held talks with Prime Minister & Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani, Saad al-Hariri, leader of majority in Lebanon, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was also in attendance at the meetings.

    Later, Erdogan and Babacan left Lebanon for Turkey.

    Lebanon's parliament elected army Chief Michel Suleiman as head of state on Sunday.


    [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITORIALS AND ANALYSIS

    [14] From the Turkish Press of 26 May 2008

    Following are the summaries of reports and commentaries of selected items featuring prominently in the Turkish press of 26 May 2008:

    a) Closure case against AKP: Istanbul daily Sabah newspaper carries an article on an interview conducted by Ecevit Kilic with European Parliament member Vural Oger, who warns against the consequences of closing the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Mr Vural Oger, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and of the German Social Democratic Party, says that it is "unfortunate" that the judiciary is involved in the political arena. Commenting on the closure case against the AKP, Oger argues that this is an attempt by the opposition to topple a democratically elected government by using the state organs. He asserts that if the AKP is closed, "the EU train will come to a halt." At best, it would be seriously delayed, he predicts. Oger adds that if the negotiations with the EU are suspended, "Turkey would experience political and economic chaos. The Kurdish problem would become impossible to solve; and there would be an explosion of fundamentalism and nationalism."

    On the same issue Rusen Cakir of Vatan probes the policy pursued by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), vis-a-vis the AKP and the perception among some AKP members that the MHP is "setting a trap" for them. In his column, Cakir writes that the AKP is wary of what they term the "consistent" and "successful" line pursued by the MHP. Pointing out that some AKP members are developing "conspiracy" theories with regard to the MHP strategy against the AKP, Cakir cites the support given by the MHP in the election of Abdullah Gul as president and in the legislation of the constitutional amendment regarding the Islamic headdress as milestones that eventually led to the closure case filed against the AKP. Cakir concludes that even if the MHP is engaged in a conspiracy against the ruling AKP, it is the AKP that failed to detect this and "fell into the trap."

    Under the banner headline, "Let Everybody Do Their Own Job," Yeni Safak publishes a front-page report which quotes Prime Minister Erdogan as saying that he would be betraying "my 16,5 million voters" if he refrained from responding to the recent Supreme Court and Council of State declarations about the closure lawsuit against the ruling AKP.

    Also front-paged is a report entitled "Deep Friendship," which claims that it has been found out that some of the members of the "terrorist" Ergenekon network have held meetings with the justices of the Supreme Court, the Council of State, and the Constitutional Court. The report provides passages from the police-monitored phone conversations of some of the suspects in the Ergenekon probe indicating that they "knew that the judiciary rather than the military would take action against the governing AKP."

    b) Social Scientist Prof. Serif Mardin's Remarks on the position of imam and teacher in Turkey: In a column in Istanbul Hurriyet, Ahmet Hakan debates the recent observations by sociologist Serif Mardin to the effect that "the teacher was defeated by the imam." He explains the positions of the imam and the teacher respectively as the "fundamentalist and rigid" philosophy of living according to religious and moralistic tenets, and the "fundamentalist and rigid" system of living in line with modern and secular principles and defending "the Republic." Hakan argues that neither the imam nor the teacher have been defeated; the people have not heeded either one fully; they have adopted a bit of both and created their own synthesis. Moreover, Hakan says that the victory of the AKP is not tantamount to the victory of the imam, as the AKP does not really live by the rules of the imam, and its people do what suits them, especially with regard to materialistic values.

    Continuing the debate, Taha Akyol of Istanbul Milliyet rejects the interpretation that Mardin's remarks to the effect that "the teacher was defeated by the imam" mean that shari'a is around the corner. In his column, Akyol attempts to elucidate Mardin's remarks as follows: "The values of 'good, right, and beautiful' give meaning to the lives of individuals and societies; because the republican ideology failed in sufficiently developing these values both in everyday life and in a higher philosophical level, traditional institutions and values as well as religion are filling this void in various sectors of the society." According to Mardin, Akyol explains, the republican ideology of "naive positivism" suffers from a "lack of meaning." In the West, Mardin maintains, various philosophical values developed by philosophers like Kant replace this void, while this does not happen in Turkey because of "fear and pressure." Akyol also qualifies the term "neighbourhood pressure" used by Mardin as an "eye" that is intolerant to individualism and difference, both in the religious and secularist circles.

    In his editorial in Istanbul Radikal, Ismet Berkan also refers to Serif Mardin's latest observation regarding neighbourhood pressure and moral values in Turkey. Describing the "good, right, and beautiful" as a system of morals, Berkan says that this value system does not necessarily stem from religion. He asserts that it is based on universal human nature and human rights, independent of religion. Nevertheless, Berkan concurs with Mardin that our republic failed to develop a system to inculcate the concept of secular morals in the society to compete with the "eye" and the imam in the neighbourhood.

    c) Purchase of F-35 warplanes: In his article in Vatan newspaper, Necati Dogru discusses the Turkish governments decision to become a partner in the production of the new F-35 warplanes and allocate $11 billion to this project. Dogru says that even though Turkey is currently in economic dire straits because of the rising fuel prices, it might be essential to allot these funds to this defence project, but the people must know the answers to the questions posed by the Republican People's Party in this regard. Dogru, wants to know why Germany, France, and our neighbours Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania are not partners in the project, and whether the United States will give us the software codes that will allow Turkey to install its own national software in the planes. Dogru urges Turkey to insist on obtaining the software codes, adding that otherwise Turkey might be in a situation where it is left defenceless against radar-guided missiles. Moreover, he adds, missiles that are not considered an enemy by the United States can easily hit us.

    Also commenting on the purchase of the F-35 planes in his editorial in Sabah, Erdal Safak asserts that we have to be friends and enemies with the countries designated as such in the planes' basic software. For example, Safak adds, we have to remain friends with Greece regardless of any tension between our countries, and the F-35's will always regard Syria and Iran enemies no matter how our bilateral relations develop with these countries. The same is true for Russia, with which our relations are gaining strategic proportions, he notes. In other words, the United States will decide, via the basic software of the F-35 who our friends and our enemies are. Berkan adds that we might even be in the "absurd" situation where our own arsenal contains US-made F-35's and Russian-made S-300 or S-400's that will consider one another enemies.

    [15] Cyprus fine tuning

    Under the above title, Turkish Daily News newspaper (26.05.08) published the following commentary by Yusuf Kanli:

    A meeting between Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias -- which lasted about three-and-a-half hours, far longer than expected -- was an inconclusive exercise for some. Indeed, if the two leaders were expected to emerge at the door after the meeting and declare that they have agreed on everything and the Cyprus problem was buried in history, they failed in that. However, if we accept that the fundamental problem marring a Cyprus resolution is the deep distrust indeed non-confidence between the two sides, the leaders maintaining their hope for a settlement is a success itself.

    But, it appears that there is more than that. Despite the news blackout in northern Cyprus and the difficulty to relay reports from the Greek Cypriot side, the joint statement read out by the United Nations secretary general's new special envoy on Cyprus, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, indeed provides some credible hints that the two leaders have made some "fine tuning" of the process and "re-emphasized" the ultimate aim: Establishment of a new partnership state on the island by the two founding states on the basis of equality. The new state will have one international identity, the "United Federal Republic of Cyprus." The new state will be a "bi-zonal and bi-communal federation based on the principle of equality."

    This short statement encompasses some very important hints which may demonstrate that the sceptics like this writer were all wrong in refusing to believe the assertions of Talat that a Cyprus deal could be reached soon and mocking reports that there could be a new simultaneous referenda by the two peoples of the island as early as March next year on a Cyprus peace deal. Can it really be so? Can we have a settlement on Cyprus by the end of this year or by the end of the first quarter of 2009?

    Revolutionary policy changes:

    First of all, it was the first time that a Greek Cypriot leader has agreed to a joint statement, which emphasized that the exercise between the two sides on the island is to establish a new partnership state between the two states on the basis of equality. Thus, since Friday evening Greek Cypriot nationalists like the former President Tassos Papadopoulos are going mad and accusing Christofias of betraying the "national cause." If Christofias can maintain that position and make the majority of his people accept that "reality of Cyprus" -- that the Turkish Cypriot side has been trying to explain over the past many decades -- it will be a real mental revolution on the Greek Cypriot side which may indeed help a lot in the creation of a new partnership state on the island.

    If Christofias is sincere and maintains that revolutionary approach, he may find his three-way coalition with the DIKO of Papadopoulos and the equally nationalist EDEK -- though it claims to be a socialist party -- land in a serious crisis.

    In return to that revolutionary step from Christofias, Talat as well has apparently agreed to commit himself to the creation of a unitary state and a single international identity -- a bi-zonal and bi-communal United Federal Republic of Cyprus -- and dropped the Turkish Cypriot demand that the two founding states would have residual sovereignty though they would transfer some of their sovereign powers to the central government.

    On the part of Talat maintaining such a policy change will be rather difficult as well not just because of the nationalist Turkish Cypriot opposition, but perhaps more so due to a weakening Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Ankara because of the closure case against it at the Constitutional Court.

    Still, both Christofias and Talat must be commended for agreeing to a joint statement with such hints of revolutionary policy changes which might bring them and the two peoples of the island a step closer to a resolution if ever there will be one.

    As the joint statement provided a "mutually acceptable" definition of the goal of the process as well as what kind of a federation will be established between the two states on the basis of equality, it appears that Christofias will no longer complain of absence of a "common language" either.

    Comprehensive talks postponed:

    But, when the Cyprus comprehensive talks will start remains to be an elusive subject. From the joint statement, we understand that the comprehensive talks will not start in June, as was planned, but instead the two leaders will come together again to review the works of the joint committees and further confidence building measures, including opening new border gates headed by the Yesilirmak (Limnitis) gate.

    Thus, we may think that Talat -- who is still "officially" insisting that talks should start as planned on June 21 -- has tacitly accepted the demand of Christofias to postpone start of comprehensive talks to end of July.

    [16] Mideast states increasingly ignore US views

    Under the above title, Turkish daily Todays Zaman newspaper (27.05.08) publishes the following news analysis:

    The governments of the Middle East, from Iran to Israel and beyond, are increasingly ignoring the wishes of a US administration which has only eight months left in office, going their own way in regional diplomacy.

    US President George W. Bushs latest speech on Middle East policy, made in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last week, shows how the gap has grown between what Washington would like and what is happening in the region.

    It is part of a wider picture of Washingtons declining clout, accelerated by its debilitating deployment of more than 100,000 troops to Iraq for the past five years. France has had contacts with the Palestinian movement Hamas, for example, and Israel has had indirect talks with Syria, which Washington is trying to isolate.

    Bush said in Sharm el-Sheikh that all nations in the region should stand together against Hamas, a group which he said was attempting to undermine efforts at making peace. But the Egyptian government, his host and a longstanding friend of the United States, was simultaneously, and with US consent, trying to mediate a truce between Gaza and Israel.

    Israeli commentators said the Egyptian mediation amounted to indirect negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, a group with which the United States refuses to have dealings. The organization, which controls the Gaza Strip, was offering Israel a long-term truce which could make it easier for the rival Palestinian group Fatah to reach an agreement with Israel -- a goal which the United States says it is promoting.

    In his Sharm el-Sheikh speech, Bush also attacked the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group Hezbullah, calling it terrorists funded by Iran and the enemy of a free Lebanon.

    Three days later in the Gulf state of Qatar, Hezbullah and other Lebanese groups reached an agreement ending the political crisis that had paralyzed Lebanon for months. Hezbullah had defeated its rivals in Beirut in short order this month when Washingtons allies in the Lebanese government tried to challenge some of the privileges it enjoyed as the force which helped drive Israel out of south Lebanon. The new political arrangement in Lebanon, symbolized by the election of Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday, tilts the balance of power significantly in Hezbullahs favor and underscores its central role in Lebanese politics.

    Bush maintained his confrontational attitude towards Iran and Syria, saying: Every peaceful nation in the region has an interest in stopping these nations from supporting terrorism. On the same day of the Lebanese agreement, Israel and Syria disclosed they had held indirect talks mediated by Turkey -- the closest they have come to serious negotiations since talks brokered by the United States collapsed in 2000. The Bush administration walked away from high-level contacts with the Syrians after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005. The United States says it suspects Syria of the killing, a charge Syria denies. Bushs audience included Gulf Arab officials whose governments have maintained working relations with Iran, defying to some extent Washingtons attempts to isolate Tehran. Years of US policy, including sanctions and a debate about the possibility of military strikes, have not persuaded Iran to abandon its ambitions to produce its own enriched uranium.

    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that in his talk about Irans nuclear program Bush had again failed to address the nuclear activities of Israel. It is widely believed to have some 200 nuclear warheads.

    ES/


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