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Turkish Press Review, 05-01-04
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From: Turkish Directorate General of Press and Information <http://www.byegm.gov.tr><LINK href="http://www.byegm.gov.tr_yayinlarimiz_chr_pics_css/tpr.css" rel=STYLESHEET type=text/css> e-mail : email@example.com <caption> <_caption> Summary of the political and economic news in the Turkish press this morning
04.01.2005FROM THE COLUMNS… FROM THE COLUMNS… FROM THE COLUMNS…
 GUL VISITS ISRAEL, PALESTINEThere are new winds blowing in the Middle Eastern peace process, said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul before flying to Tel Aviv yesterday. Gul told reporters that he hoped Turkey could help to restart peace talks between the region’s two sides. “Contributing to this process would be Turkey’s greatest duty,” said Gul, adding that he believed this weekend’s Palestinian elections would strengthen their hand in the peace process. After his arrival, Gul visited the Turkish Consulate in Jerusalem. “Turkey has good relations and a history with deep roots in both Israel and Palestine,” stated Gul. “I’m sure Turkey will help the peace, and this trip is meant to show that.” Gul later visited the Culture Center in Jerusalem. Today, Gul is expected to meet with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom as well as Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition leader Shimon Peres. /Star/
 ARMITAGE MEETS WITH GULUS Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage yesterday met with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to discuss recent developments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria as well as this weekend’s elections in Palestine. Gul told Armitage that Turkey is doing all it can to ensure that upcoming elections in Iraq come off without major problems. “We’ve talked with all the groups in Iraq to help the election process,” added Gul. He also reiterated Ankara’s concerns about Kurdish attempts to alter the demographics of the key northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which he warned would lead to serious problems in the region. In a joint press conference, Armitage thanked Turkey for its “strenuous efforts in Afghanistan.” Asked about the continued presence of the terrorist group PKK in Iraq, Armitage said Washington hopes “in the near future” to have a trilateral meeting in Ankara with Iraq and Turkey “to discuss the whole question of the PKK.” He said he had also discussed with Gul “the window of opportunity” in the Jan. 9 Palestinian elections for reviving the Middle East peace process under new Palestinian leadership. “We think that the new Palestinian leadership should be supported, the process revived to make sure that no one resorts to any political violence,” added Armitage. “Of course, I did say to Foreign Minister Gul that our policy remains that of a search for a comprehensive solution.” /Hurriyet/
 LOWER ELECTION THRESHOLD, PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM DEBATEDJustice Minister Cemil Cicek said yesterday that a proposal in last fall’s European Union Progress Report on Turkey to lower the 10 percent election threshold was aimed at more minority groups being represented in Parliament. Speaking to reporters after a conference on the criminal justice system, Cicek said, “The 10 percent election threshold was established to stabilize the country’s political life. Otherwise it would not be possible to pass the necessary reforms.” He stated that if the threshold was lowered, then a presidential system should be considered. “If we want permanent stability, then we need a presidential system,” said Cicek. He added that Turkey needed stability to get through difficulties during its upcoming EU membership negotiations. In related news, Burhan Kuzu, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy from Istanbul and head of Parliament’s Constitution Commission, yesterday came out against lowering the threshold. “If the threshold is brought down to five percent, then we could see nine parties in Parliament. Quadri-partite coalitions could then be established, which would lead to instability,” he warned. “On the other hand, under a presidential system, responsibility and authority would be clearer, and things would be more transparent.” He added that he believes such a presidential system is needed as soon as possible. /Turkiye/
 BAYKAL CALLS FOR EXTRAORDINARY CHP CONGRESS THIS MONTHBy a vote of 8-7 yesterday, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Supreme Disciplinary Board (YDK) rejected the explusion from the party of Mustafa Sarigul, the mayor of Istanbul’s Sisli district. Sarigul, who has openly challenged the CHP leadership and voiced his ambition to replace current leader Deniz Baykal, said the allegations against him had been made by Sisli organized crime figures targeted by his anticrime measures. He added that the CHP leaders who had failed to investigate the “baseless accusations” against him before making them public had perpetrated the real crime. Soon after the YDK vote, Baykal called on the CHP to hold an extraordinary convention later this month. Baykal also accused one YDK member of accepting a bribe for his pro-Sarigul vote. /Turkiye/
 WB’S VORKINK: “TURKEY STANDS AT A HISTORIC TRANSFORMATION”World Bank Turkey Director Andrew Vorkink said yesterday that Turkey stood at the point of a historic transformation like that of eastern and central European countries after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. In an interview with the Anatolia News Agency, Vorkink predicted that Turkey’s relationship with the European Union would have a positive impact on the country’s economic and social structure, adding that at the end of its EU entry talks it would be transformed from a developing country into an industrialized one. Referring to claims by several EU officials that Turkey has a weak economy, Vorkink stressed that such characterizations were wrong, adding that Turkey’s economy was much more active than those of many EU member states and candidates. “Turkey’s growth rate is 35 times higher than the average of the Union,” he said. “I believe that Turkey’s [per capita] income will increase by 50-60 percent within a decade after Ankara’s accession talks begin.” /Cumhuriyet/
 SINGLE-DIGIT CONSUMER INFLATION CAPS RECORD-BREAKING YEARThe State Institute of Statistics (DIE) yesterday released month-on-month inflation figures for December. Inflation last month was 0.45 percent on the consumer price index (CPI) and 0.13 percent on the wholesale price index (WPI), pushing year-to-year CPI to 9.32 percent and WPI to 13.84 percent. The 10 percent CPI year-to-year target was thus bettered, with Turkey seeing its first single-digit inflation in nearly three decades. In a statement yesterday, State Minister for the Economy Ali Babacan hailed the new figures as historic indicators of the success of the Turkish economy, adding that the economy had broken a record with its single-digit CPI. /All papers/
 TUZMEN: “EXPORTS LAST YEAR REACHED $64 BLN, EXCEEDING TARGETS”Speaking at a press conference yesterday, State Minister Kursat Tuzmen announced export figures for last year, saying that by the end of 2004 Turkey’s exports broke records by reaching $64 billion, exceeding the $62 billion target. “The success of our exporters has created confidence in the country,” he said. Tuzmen further stated that the 2005 export target would be $71 billion. For his part, Turkish Exporters’ Union (TIM) Chairman Oguz Satici underlined the success of the Turkish private sector despite difficulties from high input costs, unstable exchange rates, an over-valued Turkish lira, and international competition. /Aksam/
 FROM THE COLUMNS… FROM THE COLUMNS… FROM THE COLUMNS…
 WHAT CAN TURKEY DO FOR THE MIDEAST? BY SAMI KOHEN (MILLIYET)Columnist Sami Kohen writes about Turkey’s possible role in the Middle East. A summary of his column is as follows:
“Discussions of Turkey’s possible role in the Middle East recently resurfaced in time for Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s current visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The timing of Gul’s visit to the troubled region is important, because in the wake of Yassir Arafat’s death last November, the Palestinian leadership has been assumed by a more moderate, pragmatic figure. Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently decided to withdraw Israeli settlers from Gaza. The current atmosphere is quite promising, which I believe could both mend strained Turkish-Israeli relations and help Turkish diplomacy take a more active role in the region.
Gul wants to exchange views with Israeli officials about Ankara’s possible role in the Mideast. Despite some chilly developments last year, the two countries still enjoy strong friendship and cooperation. Although last year Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly criticized the Sharon administration’s violent attacks on Palestinians, Ankara has always believed that Turkish-Israeli cooperation is valuable and should be improved.
During his meetings today, Gul is expected to focus on future projects in such areas as water and investment. The Turkish side will also try to learn more about Sharon’s northern Iraq policy. Furthermore, Gul wants to determine what Ankara can really do in the Mideast to help the peace process move forward. Turkey is ready to contribute to peace and stability in the region. The new Palestinian leadership is clearly in favor of Ankara’s assuming such a role. Syria even recently declared it wanted Ankara to act as a mediator in the region. Finally, Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom last night stated that his country would greatly appreciate it if Ankara could contribute to the peace process.
But what can Turkey do for the Middle East? Turkey now wants to assume a more active role than in the past, as a mediator. Acting as a mediator rather than a facilitator requires our country to intervene directly in the process with a specific program or plan.
What would the United States say about this? What about the Quartet – the United Nations, Russia, the European Union and Washington? Let’s assume that all the ‘big players’ agree to Turkey’s new role. Will the relevant parties agree to resume peace talks to design a comprehensive peace plan, a roadmap?
I hope we’ll have answers to at least some of the of these questions by the end of Gul’s visit.”
 A THORNY VISIT BY NURAY BASARAN (AKSAM)Columnist Ferai Tinc comments on Turkey and the Middle East. A summary of her column is as follows:
“Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s Mideast visits are to include Palestine, Israel and Jordan. These visits will be a thorny road politically speaking. Despite this, will Gul be able to grow roses on these thorns? During last year’s flare-up in the Mideast conflict, Israel carried out very harsh and violent operations against Palestinian refugee camps, which disturbed Turkey. Erdogan then branded the operations “state terrorism,” which soured our relations with Israel. Later, reports that Israeli agents were active in northern Iraq only exacerbated the tension. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s subsequent visit to Turkey in an attempt to rein in the situation and get relations back on track, and Gul’s response, should not be forgotten.
Gul’s current visit is important politically, symbolically and substantially. He will push to keep Ankara’s relations with Palestine on the maximal level and to make this weekend’s elections in Palestine the beginning of a wave of peace. He will also discuss Turkish-Israeli relations. In addition, the Iraq issue will be brought up, and his visit may herald tough days to come.”
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