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Cyprus PIO: Turkish Press and Other Media, 09-03-20

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. 54/09 20.03.09

[A] NEWS ITEMS

  • [01] The Turkish Cypriot press on Mr Talats visit to the USA. How a western diplomat sees the visit
  • [02] Peter Millet on the negotiation process: The negotiations for reaching a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem are moving on the right track
  • [03] Bagis and Unakitan held talks with the head of the EC Directorate General for Enlargement, Michael Leigh. Opening new chapters in Turkeys membership talks on the agenda
  • [04] Soyer said 813.217 persons were treated in 2008 in all the health services in the occupied areas of Cyprus
  • [05] A new protocol for bringing tourists from Romania to the occupied areas has been approved yesterday by the self-styled Council of Minister
  • [06] Erdogan confirms President Obamas visit to Turkey. Cyprus problem on the agenda of his talks
  • [07] The Swedish Minister for E.U. Affairs dismisses the idea that 2009 is a deadline for Cyprus
  • [08] Babacan said world leaders privately expressed support for Erdogans angry exchange with Simon Peres at Davos
  • [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITORIALS AND ANALYSIS

  • [09] From the Turkish Press of 19 March 2009

  • [A] NEWS ITEMS

    [01] The Turkish Cypriot press on Mr Talats visit to the USA. How a western diplomat sees the visit

    Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (20.03.09) reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will visit the United States of America and meet with the Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton. Mr Talat will ask for the lifting of the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, reports the paper adding that Mr Talat will also meet with James Jones, Advisor for National Security at the White House. The paper notes that the information fell like a bomb yesterday on the agenda in the Greek Cypriot press. The self-styled presidency of the breakaway regime was forced yesterday to make a statement on the issue noting that the visit will take place this month.

    Hasan Ercakica, spokesman of Mr Talat, said that the date of the visit will be finalized today. Mr Ercakica noted that the initiatives were launched 15 days ago for Mr Talats visit to the USA and resulted positively. He added that the work for determining the program of Mr Talat continues. He said that the date of the visit is expected to be finalized today, the latest. Mr Talats visit is expected to start on Sunday or within the next week, notes the paper.

    Meanwhile, referring to the same issue Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (20.03.09) reports that Mr Ercakica responded to questions of the paper and said that their demand for meeting with Mrs Clinton was submitted some time ago and there was no official answer until yesterday. Asked whether they believe that the demand will not be rejected or at least they will receive an answer, Mr Ercakica noted: We submitted our demand and we are expecting a positive response. What we do not know is only the date and the time of the visit.

    Asked about the issues which Mr Talat will discuss with Mrs Clinton, Mr Ercakica said: He will discuss the Cyprus problem of course. He will take up the issue of how the USA could support the ongoing process. He will say: Support the negotiating process and be fair.

    Moreover, writing in Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (20.03.09) Hasan Hasturer refers to the same issue under the title Both balance and message from the USA and reports that Mr Talat will most probably depart for the USA on Sunday 29 March and meet Mrs Clinton on 30 March. He notes that the meeting of Mr Talat with the UN Secretary-General, which has been planned for 25 March, is postponed for another date as Mr Ban Ki-moon will depart from New York on 25 March.

    Mr Hasturer writes that yesterday he discussed the issue of the invitation to Mr Talat by Mrs Clinton with a western diplomat. He notes that the diplomat told him that while the non-solution of the Cyprus problem continues the contacts of President Christofias abroad are not balanced with the contacts of Mr Talat. The diplomat said, inter alia, the following:

    These contacts are an opportunity for the sides to express themselves directly. All the countries which hold contacts with the Turkish Cypriot side, and mainly the USA, observe carefully how Mr Talat uses these contacts. Mehmet Ali Talat exhibits a stance which is not exploiting such contacts. The US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, by inviting Mr Talat, preserved her balanced stance, on the one hand, and gave the message that she attaches importance to the solution of the Cyprus problem, on the other.

    (I/Ts.)

    [02] Peter Millet on the negotiation process: The negotiations for reaching a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem are moving on the right track

    Illegal Bayrak television (19.03.09) broadcast the following:

    The British High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millet has underlined the importance of maintaining the current momentum in the Cyprus Peace talks.He said that intensifying efforts were just as important as maintaining them.Mr. Millet also said that the current process was an opportunity which should not be missed.

    Speaking yesterday on the weekly program-Ara Bolge, the British High Commissioner Peter Millet said that the current negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus Problem was moving on the right track.Explaining that the two leaders had achieved good progress in the process, Millet said that difficulties and challenges faced by the leaders in the talks were not unexpected, as the Cyprus Dispute had been going on for so long.

    Asked about Britains involvement in the process, the British High Commissioner said that his country was following the developments on the island closely and was ready to take on an active role in supporting the efforts of the two leaders.

    He however stressed that reaching a settlement was essentially the responsibility of the two leaders and that Britain, at this stage, would not be playing a different role than the current one.

    The British Ambassador also highlighted the economic and political benefits a settlement would bring to the Turkish Cypriot people.

    Responding to a question on his assessment of the political leadership in the South, Mr. Millet said the fact that the Greek Cypriot people had elected a Demetris Christofias was proof that they were ready to accept reunification and a federal settlement to the Cyprus Problem.

    ´Naturally there will be people on both sides with opposing views the high commissioner said.

    Replying to a question as to whether or not Turkeys EU progress report will hamper efforts to reach a settlement on the island, the British High Commissioner expressed the view that there was no direct linkage between the two issues.

    He said that the EU recognized Turkeys important role, both in the world and within Europe.

    We as Britain attach great importance to Turkeys membership said Millet, but added that Turkey must too continue its reform process in order to join the bloc.

    Under the title Shut up Millet, Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Volkan newspaper (20.03.09) refers to the statements made by the British High Commissioner, Peter Millet, to the illegal Bayrak television. The paper reports that Mr Millet asked for the Turkish Cypriots to vote for parties which are in favor of the solution of the Cyprus problem and argued that with the solution the income of the Turkish Cypriots will increase by 12 thousand dollars. He noted that there is no other alternative for the Turks than the solution and asked Turkey to open its ports to Cyprus, something which the paper considers as attack against motherland Turkey. The paper alleges that Mr Millet made these statements to support the Republican Turkish Party and the Turkish Cypriot leader Talat. The paper alleges that EU officials have also made statements in favor of the CTP and Mr Talat and accuses the USA of preparing to invite Mr Talat to America before the elections in order to influence the free will of our people in favor of the CTP and Talat.

    [03] Bagis and Unakitan held talks with the head of the EC Directorate General for Enlargement, Michael Leigh. Opening new chapters in Turkeys membership talks on the agenda

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (19.03.09) reported that Turkish State Minister and Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis met Michael Leigh, the head of the European Commission Directorate-General for Enlargement, in Ankara on Thursday.

    Following their meeting, Bagis and Leigh had lunch together.

    Leigh was accompanied by the head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Turkey Marc Pierini and Jean Christoph Filori, head of the Turkey Unit at the European Commission Directorate-General for Enlargement.

    On his statements to reporters in Ankara following his meeting with Michael Leigh he said that the government was planning to take a number of "important steps" including a constitutional amendment after country's local elections, which are scheduled for March 29.

    "We are planning to take some important steps regarding the EU in cooperation with the opposition parties after the local elections," Egemen Bagis told reporters in Ankara following a meeting with Michael Leigh, European Commission's directorate-general for enlargement.

    Bagis said they took up on Thursday's meeting with Leigh the latest developments in Turkey's accession talks and their future course on prospective negotiation chapters.

    Moreover, AA (19.03.09) reported that Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan received the head of the European Commission Directorate-General for Enlargement Michael Leigh in Ankara on Thursday.

    Unakitan told A.A before the meeting that they would discuss opening new chapter headings in Turkey's EU membership talks, adding that they would also exchange views on taxation chapter heading.

    Unakitan said that Turkey wanted to complete membership negotiations rapidly and access the EU.

    Earlier today, Turkish State Minister & Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis held a meeting with Leigh.

    [04] Soyer said 813.217 persons were treated in 2008 in all the health services in the occupied areas of Cyprus

    Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen newspaper (20.03.09) reports that Ferdi Sabit Soyer, self-styled prime minister, has stated that 813.217 persons were treated in 2008 in all the health services in the occupied areas of Cyprus. In statements yesterday before the meeting of the council of ministers, Mr Soyer noted that the investments for offering the people better health services will continue. Commenting on information published yesterday in Kibris newspaper, which he accused of making the propaganda that the patients run away to the south, Mr Soyer reminded that the same newspaper was writing the same things about trade.

    Meanwhile, the self-styled ministry of health issued a statement on the same information and argued that the numbers published in the press regarding the Turkish Cypriot patients who are treated in the hospitals in the free areas of Cyprus are questionable. The ministry argued that the Republic of Cyprus receives money from the European Union (EU) for the health services it provides to Turkish Cypriots and, therefore, some questions exist as to the possibility of these numbers being exaggerated. The ministry said it will ask from the EU Health Commissioner the names of the Turkish Cypriot patients who apply to the hospitals in the free areas of the Republic.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (20.03.09) reports that Dr Ahmet Tandoglu, one of the founders of Baskent Private Hospital, complained that they are facing many problems because many patients are treated in the hospitals in the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus. In statements to Kibris he said that a general health security law should be adopted. He argued that the fact that many patients visit the free areas of the Republic for treatment is leading the health sector in the occupied areas to bankruptcy.

    (I/Ts.)

    [05] A new protocol for bringing tourists from Romania to the occupied areas has been approved yesterday by the self-styled Council of Minister

    Illegal Bayrak television (19.03.09) broadcast the following:

    Telephone charges have been reduced by the Council of Ministers which convened yesterday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer.

    Landline to landline calls across Turkey will fall from 13.05 to 11.01 Kurus per minute, which reflects a %16 cut in prices.

    A call from a North Cyprus landline to a Turkish mobile will now be 25 Kurus per minute, compared to 31.4 Kurus previously.

    The new charges will take effect as from the 1st of April.

    The Council of Ministers also approved a new protocol which will make it possible to bring tourists from Romania.

    The Romanian tourists will be brought to the Republic with charter flights to be provided twice a week between the 8th of June and 17th of September 2009.

    Some 3-thousand tourists will be brought to the TRNC within the framework of the protocol.

    [06] Erdogan confirms President Obamas visit to Turkey. Cyprus problem on the agenda of his talks

    Istanbul Hurriyet Daily News.com (19.03.09) reported the following:

    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan confirmed late on Wednesday that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the country on April 6-7.

    Erdogan told in an interview with a news channel that he had invited Obama to attend a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in Istanbul on April 7 and said it was meaningful that the U.S. president not only accepted the invitation, but decided also to pay an official visit to Ankara the day before.

    I didn't expect (an official visit) that soon... Combining the two occasions is very meaningful for us," Erdogan said in an interview with broadcaster TGRT Haber.

    He said Obama's visit carries high importance for both Turkey and the United States. Turkey is a country that the U.S. can not give up in the region, he added.

    Erdogan said the agenda of bilateral talks with Obama would include the Middle East conflict, efforts to end the division of Cyprus and Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

    The U.N.-backed Alliance of Civilizations initiative was lunched in 2005 in a bid to help overcome prejudices and misunderstandings between different cultures and religions. It is co-chaired by Turkey and Spain.

    Obama has voiced determination to improve ties with the Islamic world and said he would give a major speech from a Muslim country during his first year in office.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told broadcaster Kanal 7 late on Wednesday that U.S. national security advisor Jim Jones has informed Ankara that Turkey is among several venues the White House is considering for the speech.

    Obama's program in Turkey has not yet been finalized and it is not known whether he would make any speech during his visit, Babacan added.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Turkey earlier this month, saying that it was time to buttress relations between the two NATO allies, which went through a chilly period over the United States invasion of Iraq.

    [07] The Swedish Minister for E.U. Affairs dismisses the idea that 2009 is a deadline for Cyprus

    Todays Zaman newspaper (20.03.09) reports the following:

    Swedish Minister for European Union Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom has underlined that the European Union has "great responsibility" vis-ŕ-vis candidate Turkey to grant the country membership when it meets objective criteria.

    Sweden, one of the strongest supporters of Turkey's EU bid, will take over the EU's rotating term presidency from the current president, the Czech Republic, on July 1 for the following six months, a period which experts say could be a "make-or-break" one due to unresolved disagreements over Cyprus.

    In an exclusive interview, Malmstrom, a former member of European Parliament turned EU affairs minister for Sweden, said it was unfortunate that some EU capitals and some politicians were still skeptical about Turkey's membership, adding that the EU had a great responsibility to let Ankara in if it fulfills membership criteria. Calling the attempt to close the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) a constitutional coup, she also said she was relieved to see that the party was not shut down and that the solidness of the Turkish judiciary was proven. According to the Swedish minister, Turkey has undergone an important reform process under the AK Party government to get closer to Europe.

    She said she had sensed no indication that the AK Party was trying to take Turkey to closer to the Middle East, a claim that has been debated since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos in January over an Israeli operation in Gaza.

    Sweden, independent of the upcoming presidency, is very supportive of Turkish membership, and we will try to do our utmost under our presidency to move forward and hopefully open a few chapters, she said.

    We talk about the advantages of a possible membership of Turkey in all forums, it may sometimes not echo all the way back to Turkey. But it is very clear -- if you ask anyone in the EU, what Sweden thinks -- I think it is very clear, we are one of the most dedicated supporters of Turkish membership. You will see this when we present our priorities for the presidency; these will be reflected. We hope we can make some progress. There is no use in denying that among certain capitals and certain politicians, there is skepticism, and it is very unfortunate because we have given Turkey a promise. It is not for tomorrow; it is not for next year, but it is to be kept when all conditions are met. The EU has also to deliver and stand by the promise," she told Today's Zaman. Asked whether the year 2009 would be a "make-or-break" year for Turkey's relations with the EU as suggested by some experts, Malmstrom warned against putting the issue in such dramatic terms but underlined that it was an important year.

    She dismissed the idea that 2009 was a deadline for Cyprus. The island is represented by an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government in the EU. Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have held more than 20 rounds of talks to reunite the island.

    There is not really a deadline. But it is an important year; I hope there can be a breakthrough in the talks. I know the talks are going on in a positive, constructive atmosphere. We will always have relations whatever happens and we will keep on trying," she told Today's Zaman. "I really hope there will be progress, and I know there will be difficult issues. But it is not a deadline. There is always a tomorrow; we should always keep trying.

    In 2006, the EU suspended talks with Turkey on eight of the 35 negotiation chapters due to its refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus. Asked whether Sweden would freeze talks on more negotiating chapters with Turkey if there is no solution in Cyprus, Malmstrom said: For us, it is not about freezing more chapters but it is about opening those that are frozen. That is what must be done.´ But she added: ´This is a decision Sweden cannot take alone. We know the different moods in different European countries.

    Citing its own disputes with Turkey over oil exploration in the Mediterranean, Greek Cyprus blocks the opening of negotiations with Turkey on the chapter of energy, although analysts agree Turkey is a key strategic partner for the EU in energy security. Malmstrom said Sweden promotes opening talks on the energy chapter. I totally subscribe to [the idea] that energy should be one of the chapters that we should open; I know that many of my colleagues are of the same view. This is an issue where Turkey has a lot to offer, and we have a lot of cooperation that can be achieved, she said.

    Sweden was one of the least popular European countries in Turkey in the 1980s and the 1990s because of its criticism of Turkey's human rights record, but it now stands as one of the greatest supporters of Turkey's membership in the EU. Malmstrom explained that many changes have taken place in Turkey in recent years, mostly thanks to the reforms undertaken by the current government headed by Prime Minister Erdogan. Turkey has, under this current government, undergone so much reform, so it is really a change in direction that gives that message: 'Yes, we are a transforming country. We are willing to approach Europe and European values'.

    She said, however, that the Turkish government should focus on the reform process with renewed energy after the local elections on March 29. I hope after the local elections there would be a new speed. If that is done by the Turkish side, we, as the EU, have great responsibility to show we are here; we have a promise, a unanimous promise that once Turkey fulfills the criteria, it is welcome. For us it is very important to stand up to those promises.

    Critics say Erdogan is pushing Turkey toward the Middle East rather than Europe after his spat with the Israeli president. We should not be drawing too many geo-strategic conclusions from the spat between Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres.´ Asked whether she believed the Erdogan government was reorienting Turkey towards the Middle East, she said she had seen "no such indications.

    [08] Babacan said world leaders privately expressed support for Erdogans angry exchange with Simon Peres at Davos

    Todays Zaman newspaper (20.03.09) reports the following:

    Leaders of many world countries who avoided open criticism of Israel for its deadly operation in Gaza in January have privately expressed support for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his walkout at a Davos panel discussion in protest of the Israeli attacks, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said yesterday.

    Erdogan walked out of the Davos discussion in late January after an angry exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres, protesting the moderator for insistently trying to cut off his response to Peres. When it comes to killing people, you know well how to do it, he told Peres before walking out, promising never to return to Davos.

    Erdogan was given a hero's welcome on his return to Turkey, but a small group of critics said he hurt Turkey's image by breaking diplomatic rules of courtesy and said he ruined ties with Israel. But despite initial tension, relations with Israel were soon back on track.

    Some countries may opt to remain silent. When it's about Israel, different internal dynamics play out in many countries. But leaders of many countries have come to us to whisper, 'We cannot say much, it is good that you did', Babacan said in an interview on private Kanal 7 television. We have close relations with Israel, but this does not mean we have to turn a blind eye when a mistake is made.

    He underlined, however, that Turkey attached much importance to contacts with Israel and that problems could only be resolved through dialogue.

    Commenting on relations with the United States after American lawmakers introduced a resolution calling for the president to accept Armenian claims of genocide, Babacan reiterated that he hoped the US Congress will act sensibly because passage of the resolution could harm ongoing efforts between Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations after a 15-year hiatus.

    A step to be taken by a third country would harm the process. We hope no irrational step will be taken. We have been talking frankly about this to our American friends, Babacan said.

    Analysts say passage of the resolution was unlikely at a time when Turkey and Armenia are actively engaged in efforts to normalize their ties and when the Obama administration plans to win Ankara's support in a number of key foreign policy goals in the Middle East and Afghanistan. In his second visit to a foreign country since taking office, the first being his traditional visit to neighboring Canada, President Barack Obama will travel to Turkey, most probably on April 6. Iran's nuclear program, the use of Turkey in a US troop pullout from Iraq and Turkish contributions to efforts to beef up the Western military presence in Afghanistan in order to deal with a growing insurgency will be among the top issues to be discussed.

    Babacan said it was still not clear whether Obama will also use Turkey as venue to deliver a long-anticipated address to the Muslim world or whether he will attend a UN-backed meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, which will be held around the same dates in Istanbul.

    But in Madrid, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country jointly leads the Alliance of Civilizations initiative with Turkey, suggested that Obama's participation in the April 6-7 gathering was definite. Responding to criticism from the opposition at the Spanish parliament on Wednesday, Moratinos said Obama's participation was a response to those who try to downplay the significance of the Alliance of Civilizations gathering.


    [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITIORIALS AND ANALYSIS

    [09] From the Turkish Press of 19 March 2009

    Following are the summaries of reports and commentaries of selected items from the Turkish press on 19 March 2009:

    a) Economy

    Likening the economic situation in the country to a "war economy" in the first section of his column in Milliyet, Melih Asik declares that unemployment in the country has increased by 3.3 percent within three months. While governments around the world are trying to rescue companies, Prime Minister Erdogan is exerting his energy trying to bankrupt them, writes Asik, showing the 826 million Liras fine imposed on the Dogan Media Group as an example of this attitude. Claiming that the reason for this fine is the corruption reports unveiled by the Dogan Group, Asik concludes: "It seems that if the prime minister succeeds in driving the Dogan Media Group, which employs some 25,000, to bankruptcy, he will calm down."

    b) Ergenekon Investigation

    Assessing the significance of the diaries of journalist Mustafa Balbay in the first section of his column in Hurriyet, Mehmet Yilmaz says that they constitute a serious problem from the viewpoint of journalistic ethics, adding that, however, the diaries in question alone are not sufficient to convict Balbay. We do not know whether the Prosecutor's Office has additional evidence indicating that the entries in these diaries constitute a crime and we have yet to listen to Balbay's defense, writes Yilmaz, underlining that declaring a person guilty before a trial has ended contradicts the fundamental principles of law.

    The Ergenekon trial is in progress in two venues simultaneously writes Yalcin Dogan in an article in Hurriyet, specifying the first venue to be the court and the second the media. Accusing the pro-government media of conducting its own trial, Dogan declares: "Turkey is a state of law. It is a state of law based on its Constitution, its laws, and its traditions. It is a state of law in which the law is violated daily." The journals attributed to Mustafa Balbay are in the hands of the prosecutors, the court, and maybe the Security Directorate, but not in the hands of the defense lawyers, points out Dogan, questioning how and by whom these journals have been leaked to the media. Calling on Justice Minister Sahin to find the culprits and punish them, Dogan addresses the journalists who have already set up the gallows for the Ergenekon suspects asking whether they would have been that quick to pass judgment had they been themselves in a similar situation.

    Some of those who have extended their support to Balbay are now beginning to change their minds, claims Mehmet Akoz in an article in Sabah, adding that Balbay was not arrested for expressing his views but "for trying to overthrow the constitutional order through the use of arms." Agreeing with the instinct to help a friend in need, Akoz adds that, however, the support shown to Balbay at the premises of the daily Cumhuriyet last Thursday was not "an issue of humanitarian and professional help, but a political and ideological show." The aim was to portray the Ergenekon gang as the "formation of an innocent opposition" and to dilute and render unimportant the Ergenekon investigation and trial, claims Akoz, adding that on that day efforts were exerted to "create a public opinion that is friendly toward Ergenekon."

    In an article ironically entitled "[Retired General] Hursit [Tolon], your most reliable guide", Vakit columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak comments on the "new coup plan" revealed by Cumhuriyet Ankara representative Mustafa Balbay's recently disclosed notes on his conversations with a number of army generals. He asserts that Balbay's journals look set to implicate certain high-ranking military officials, businessmen, journalists, and CHP leader Deniz Baykal in the conspiracies attributed to the Ergenekon network. He also cites former presidents Suleyman Demirel and Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and former Deputy General Staff Chief Cevik Bir among other notables that could be included in the list of Ergenekon suspects as new secret documents keep coming to light in the investigation.

    c) Kurdish Issue

    Viewing President Gul's upcoming visit to Iraq and the Kurdish conference to be held in Arbil in an article in Hurriyet Daily News, Mehmet Ali Birand believes that with these two important events relations between Ankara and Arbil will be put on track. Drawing attention to Iraqi President Talabani's remarks on the need for the PKK to lay down its arms, Birand argues that Ankara should also take steps toward the solution of the Kurdish issue.

    In an article in Sabah, Mahmut Ovur welcomes the recent statements issued by Talabani, the thawing relations between Turkey and the regional administration of Kurdistan, Barzani's visit to the EU member countries, and the de facto "cease-fire" in the southeast as the harbingers of a peaceful period. Wondering whether the Kurdish conference to be held in Arbil will pave the way to the disarmament of the PKK, Ovur views Barzani and the PKK as the two key powers within the front representing the Kurdish political movements, speculating that if Barzani does not receive the support of Turkey and the EU member countries the Kurdish conference might not be held. Interpreting the messages being conveyed by the PKK regarding the conference as cold, Ovur explains the reason for it as a fear of liquidation. Even the possibility of an Arbil conference raises regional hopes, writes Ovur, concluding that all depends on the stand Turkey will be adopting.

    According to Talabani, at the Kurdish Conference to be held in Arbil the view that political problems cannot be solved through the use of arms in this day and age will be stressed and the PKK will be asked to lay down its arms, writes Okay Gonensin in an article in Vatan. Maintaining that those who know Talabani's track record might not believe him, Gonensin adds that, however, "those who want 'peace' and those who favor the silencing of arms should attach importance to this initiative." Gonensin predicts that there will be a section within the PKK that will want to continue the armed struggle and calls on the Turkish public to be courageous in taking the steps that will allow PKK members to come down from the mountains and to return to their homes. Warning that there will be those who will oppose these steps viewing them as "concessions to terror" and as part of a "US ploy" and claiming that they were taken though "EU pressure," Gonensin argues that the most important issue is to silence the weapons and to stop the bloodshed. The writer concludes: "The news announced by Talabani, is the news of a chance for peace for the Turkish public. Ankara is obliged to well assess this recent situation and not to miss this chance."

    Assessing the Kurdish issue in an article in Radikal, Murat Yetkin argues that it is not only Turkey that is disturbed by the PKK activities in Iraq. According to Yetkin, the United States is aware that if this issue is not resolved it will be very difficult for Turkey to establish relations based on trust with the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey's support is important for the Obama Administration, claims Yetkin, adding that the United States also attaches importance to Turkey establishing good relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Commenting on the serious efforts the United States is exerting in order to open the gas fields in northern Iraq to the European markets via Turkey, Yetkin asserts that the Iraqi Kurds have also understood that "it is not a good idea to attract attention on themselves by constantly stepping on Turkey's toes." Referring to the statement Talabani made to journalist Nur Batur to the effect that the arms to be laid down by the PKK might be handed over to the United States, Yetkin states that the PKK's Kandil administration is extremely disturbed by these developments that concern the future of the organization. Noting the various important developments that are to take place between now and the Kurdish conference such as the Nevruz celebrations, President Gul's visit to Iraq, the local elections, and President Obama's visit to Turkey, Yetkin concludes: "It should not come as a surprise if an overture is made by the Erdogan government within this time span."

    d) Local Elections:

    In an article entitled "The 29 March picture", Yeni Safak columnist Yasin Dogan discusses how the ruling AKP, the main opposition Republican People's Party, CHP, and the Nationalist Action Party, MHP, will perform in the local elections on 29 March. He claims that while the AKP might face serious competition in a number of provinces, it looks certain to win an open victory by obtaining a greater share of the overall vote than it did in the municipal elections in 2004. He also looks at the causes behind what he describes as the AKP's growing popularity despite the effects of the global economic crisis. He claims that the people do not hold the AKP responsible for the crisis and are aware that the current environment of "stability" and "confidence" would be adversely affected if the Government were to sustain a political "wound" during this "turbulent" period. He also notes the importance of the "Erdogan factor" and the prime minister's Davos walkout as factors behind continuing public support for the AKP.

    e) President Obamas visit to Turkey

    Under the headline, "Vote for difference, Turkey," Milli Gazete publishes a front-page report which highlights Felicity Party, SP, leader Numan Kurtulmus' following message in his address to a rally in Ordu yesterday: "Obama will ask two things of Turkey [when he visits Ankara next month]: Arranging for Turkish soldiers to act as a protection force in Afghanistan and allowing US soldiers to use Turkish soil in withdrawing from Iraq. I am issuing a friendly and brotherly warning to the Government here. Prime Minister Erdogan should not approve either of these demands."

    In an article entitled "Obama's project", Milli Gazete columnist Hasan Unal reiterates his assertion that US President Obama's decision to visit Turkey is part of an effort to persuade Ankara to back the establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. He warns that Turkish support for a "puppet" Kurdish state in the region would not only breathe new life into a US attempt to partition Iraq that has failed thanks to Sunni and Shiite solidarity against the United States but also amount to the "historic mistake" of encouraging the formation of a Kurdish entity within Turkey "like a malignant tumor."

    EG/


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