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 News from Turkey
synergy
Posted: Jun 27 2008, 07:01 AM


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Eissenstat: "Slouching Towards Disaster in Turkey" posted by Juan Cole [Informed Comment] Friday, June 27, 2008
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synergy
Posted: Jul 9 2008, 06:04 AM


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QUOTE
Wed 09 Jul 2008

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
#  Turkey: Armed men have opened fire from a vehicle outside the U.S. consulate
# CNN-Turk reports that at least six people were killed in the gun battle
# People in the heavily fortified building were not hurt

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- At least six people, including three police officers, have been killed in a shootout near the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, the city's governor says

Two other police officers were wounded in the attack Wednesday. A U.S. consulate official said no American citizens or employees were hurt.

Gunmen pulled up in a white car and opened fire at a police security checkpoint at the outer entrance of the consulate, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler told reporters at the scene.

Police fired back, resulting in a three- to five-minute gun battle, Ivan Watson, a journalist with National Public Radio reporting from the scene, told CNN.

Guler said the dead included three police officers and three assailants. Authorities did not immediately know whether the attackers were affiliated with any organization, he said. Video Watch footage from the scene

People waiting to obtain visas inside the heavily fortified building were not hurt. The outer entrance is more than 30m (100ft) from the main building which sits atop a hilltop.

At least three bodies remained on the ground as ambulances pulled up and police cordoned off the area with yellow tape and waved off onlookers.
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The most recent attack on a foreign mission in Turkey was in November 2003 when a string of bombings in Istanbul targeted the British consulate, along with two synagogues and a British-owned bank. The blasts killed more than 70 people, including the British consul general, and wounded hundreds.

Turkey is a secular country that is predominantly Muslim. There has been a lot of tension in the country between secularist and traditional Muslims, and the state has been battling Kurdish separatists for many years.

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synergy
Posted: Jul 9 2008, 02:58 PM


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QUOTE
SUZAN FRASER
Associated Press Writer
Wed 09 Jul 2008

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Suspected al-Qaida militants armed with pistols and shotguns attacked a police guard post outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday, sparking a gunbattle that left three attackers and three officers dead.

Turkish and U.S. officials publicly labeled the shooting a terrorist attack and a police official in Istanbul told The Associated Press that authorities suspected al-Qaida was behind it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists on the investigation.

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Turkey's foreign ministry said security around all American diplomatic missions in Turkey had been increased.

Yavuz Erkut Yuksel, a bystander, told CNN-Turk television the attackers emerged from a vehicle and surprised the guard.

"One of them approached a policeman while hiding his gun and shot him in the head," Yuksel said.

Footage from a security camera at the site showed four armed and bearded men emerging from a car and killing a traffic policeman, then running toward a guard post some 50 yards away as other policemen fired back, the Dogan news agency reported.

The shootout caused panic and scattered people who were waiting in a line for visas. U.S. security personnel went inside the compound because they are not authorized to engage in armed action on Turkish soil, Dogan said.

A fourth policeman and the driver of a towing vehicle were wounded in the attack, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said.

U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson said the consul general in Istanbul, Sharon Wiener, told him that that consulate staff were "safe and accounted for."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that she did not know who was responsible and for the attack and she would soon talk with Turkey's foreign minister.

"Obviously first of all the United States deeply regrets the loss of life and condolences go out to the families of those who were killed," Rice saida as she traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia. "I know that some policemen were among those who died and we very much appreciate what was clearly a very rapid and proper response from the government to try to deal with the security situation in front of our consulate."

At least two of the attackers were Turkish nationals, Guler said. Police said they were pursuing at least one attacker who escaped in a car after the attack outside the high-walled consulate compound in the residential Istinye district around 11 a.m.

NTV television, citing police sources, said officials feared the car might be loaded with explosives. Police would not confirm that report.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay said at the scene that there had been no claim of responsibility and police would not reveal the identities of the attackers and their possible affiliations for the sake of the investigation.

Television footage showed four people lying on the ground at the foot of the consulate's wall before officials removed the bodies.

"The Turkish police responded quickly and effectively. We are deeply grateful for the work that they do to protect our official U.S. government establishments here," Wilson said. "It is, of course, inappropriate now to speculate on who may have done this or why. It is an obvious act of terrorism. Our countries will stand together and confront this, as we have in the past."

The secure U.S. consulate building was built after homegrown Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida carried out suicide bombings in 2003 that targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul. Those attacks killed 58 people.

"There is no doubt that this is a terrorist attack," said Guler, who described the three slain policemen as "martyred."

The shooting coincided with the visit to Istanbul of top American officials involved in the fight against illegal drugs. Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, were attending an anti-drug conference in another part of Istanbul Wednesday morning. It was not clear if they had planned to visit the consulate but visiting U.S. delegations almost always visit diplomatic missions.

Istanbul prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin said the attackers were armed with pistols and shotguns. Forensic teams were seen examining a shotgun on the ground.

The consulate occupies an imposing structure on a hill in Istinye, a densely residential neighborhood along the Bosporus Strait on the European side of Istanbul.

A reporter for The Associated Press who visited the consulate last week drove unimpeded past an entrance for the public and parked on a residential street two blocks away. The area directly in front of the entrance was kept clear of vehicles.

Several guards stood in separate locations outside the entrance, but weapons were not on display; Turkish civilians seeking visas and other documents sat at cafes across the street.

———

Associated Press Chief of Bureau in Turkey, Christopher Torchia, and AP writers Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara and Murad Sezer in Istanbul contributed to this report.
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synergy
Posted: Jul 10 2008, 08:25 AM


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QUOTE
BY SUZAN FRASER and SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writers
8:15 am EDT Thu 10 Jul 2008

Turkish investigators are trying to determine whether of one of the gunmen in a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul was linked to al-Qaida terrorists, an official said Thursday.

Erkan Kargin, one of the three attackers killed by police outside the consulate Wednesday, had traveled to Afghanistan, said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Police have said they suspect the armed men were linked to al-Qaida even though the assault did not match the terror group's usual hallmarks, such as coordinated attacks by suicide bombers that cause mass casualties.

The Dogan news agency quoted Interior Minister Besir Atalay as saying Thursday that four people had been detained as part of the investigation into the attack, which resulted in the deaths of three police officers along with the three assailants.

One of the assailants fled the scene in a car. It was not immediately clear if he was among the four detained Thursday.

"They chose one of the best protected buildings in Turkey, not because they wanted to blew it up, but because they knew it would attract world attention," said Ihsan Bal, head of terrorism studies at Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization.

The bearded gunmen emerged from a car and shot a traffic officer dead, then swarmed the guard quarters at the entrance to the consulate, where two policemen were killed, according to security video. Officers fired back, killing three of the assailants — all Turks — as bystanders fled for cover.

Turkish authorities have been increasingly targeting suspected Islamic militants since al-Qaida-linked suicide bombers killed 58 people in 2003 by targeting two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul.

Turkey also has been cracking down on both ultranationalists who have attacked Christians and on Kurdish rebels, two groups it deems a threat to the country's security.

"There is nothing more sensational than attacking the U.S. consulate for an Islamic militant," said Emin Demirel, a Turkish terrorism expert and author of "Al-Qaida Elements in Turkey." "However, this attack certainly lacks the sophisticated hallmarks of al-Qaida."

___

Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara.
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synergy
Posted: Jul 10 2008, 09:11 AM


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QUOTE
BY SUZAN FRASER and SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writers
9:31 am EDT Thu 10 Jul 2008

Authorities detained four suspects Thursday in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul that ignited a firefight leaving three policemen and three assailants dead.

Police and Turkey's intelligence agency also were investigating whether one of the slain gunmen had any relationship with al-Qaida when he visited Afghanistan. Police suspect the attackers had ties to al-Qaida but so far say they have no actual proof.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay said Thursday that four people were in custody. One of the attackers escaped in a getaway car, but it was not immediately clear if he was among the four detained.

Erkan Kargin, one of the three attackers killed by police outside the consulate, had traveled previously to Afghanistan, according to a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Dozens of militants from Turkey have had military training in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and some also fought and died in al-Qaida ranks in Iraq, Turkish officials say.

Wednesday's attack came less than five years after local Islamic militants, loosely connected to al-Qaida, killed 58 people in four suicide bombings against two synagogues, the British consulate and the local headquarters of HSBC bank.

"There is nothing more sensational than attacking the U.S. consulate for an Islamic militant," said Emin Demirel, a Turkish terrorism expert and author of a book titled "Al-Qaida Elements in Turkey." "However, this attack certainly lacks the sophisticated hallmarks of al-Qaida."

Three gunmen were killed by police at the scene and a fourth attacker used a runaway car to escape, not the usual al-Qaida tactics of suicide bombings and mass civilian casualties.

The attack prompted Turkey to increase security at all U.S. diplomatic missions in the country.

If Kargin's suspected relationship with al-Qaida is confirmed, the police are likely to label the attackers as militants linked to al-Qaida in Turkey, said Demirel, the Turkish terrorism expert.

Homegrown Islamic militants have been posing an increasing threat to Turkey. As both a secular state and a U.S. ally, it is a high-profile target for Islamists who subscribe to al-Qaida's world view.

"Al-Qaida has chosen Turkey as a main target and it would not be wrong to assume that the group would have instructed cells in Turkey to act," said Ihsan Bal, head of terrorism studies at Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization.

Yet he added this does not mean al-Qaida leaders are issuing direct orders to all their Turkish adherents.

"In Turkey, not all al-Qaida cells have direct organic links with the group in Afghanistan. There are many groups that have taken on al-Qaida's ideology and act on their own initiative," said Bal.

The Hurriyet newspaper suggested Wednesday's attack could have been done in revenge for the death of an al-Qaida militant, Abdul Fettah, reportedly killed in Afghanistan by a U.S. bombing.

Fettah and two of the three slain consulate assailants, Kargin and Raif Topcil, are all from the same southeastern province of Bitlis, a Kurdish-dominated region where radical Islam has long had a stronghold.

But police have been careful not to single out Kurds — many of whom support an autonomy-seeking Marxist Kurdish rebel organization, the PKK — alone for their role in radical Islamic organizations.

___

Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara.
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synergy
Posted: Jul 27 2008, 04:15 PM


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QUOTE
July 27, 2008
Istanbul Bombs Kill 13, At Least 100 Wounded
By REUTERS

Filed at 5:02 p.m. ET

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Thirteen people died and up to 100 were wounded on Sunday when two bombs exploded in a busy shopping district in Istanbul, officials said.

"It is certain that this is a terror attack," city governor Muammer Guler told reporters at the scene.

TV showed ambulances carrying badly wounded people to hospital after the explosions at two different sites in the Gungoren district of Turkey's biggest city.

The victims were killed by the second explosion after a small blast in a telephone kiosk brought people out onto the street, NTV television news said.

"First a percussion bomb exploded and then a bomb in a garbage container exploded. Thirteen were killed and more than 100 people were wounded," Deputy Prime Minister Hayati Yazici told reporters.

Governor Guler said the "heinous attack" was not a suicide bombing.

"The blasts occurred in a very busy district and this raised the casualties," he said.

One witness said: "Tens of people were scattered around. People's heads, arms, were flying in the air."

"We received nearly 30 very heavily wounded people," said Abdullah Toker, a manager at Gungoren Kolon Hospital.

Several groups, including Kurdish separatists, far-left groups and Islamists, have carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past.

Turkey has been plunged into political uncertainty by a court case over banning the ruling party that begins on Monday.

The Constitutional Court will deliberate on whether the AK Party has engaged in Islamist activities and should be closed.

The court can find the AK Party not guilty and dismiss the case, or convict it and either fine or ban the party and some of its leaders, in which case the government will fall and early parliamentary elections be called, possibly in November.

The case has entrenched the opposition between a government which, though rooted in political Islam, denies the charge of trying to introduce Islamic rule, and an establishment which sees itself as the guardian of secularism.
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synergy
Posted: Jul 30 2008, 09:04 AM


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QUOTE
Father Recalls Sunday's Twin Bombing

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 30, 2008; A10

ISTANBUL, July 29 -- After the first explosion, Seyma Ozkan rushed from her bedroom to the apartment balcony, her father said. Things don't often blow up in Gungoren, a working-class district near Istanbul's main airport.

Her mother and father soon joined the curious 12-year-old. They watched from the fourth floor as wounded, startled neighbors ran from the blast site. Suddenly, Aydin Ozkan began urging his wife and daughter to go back inside.

"There's going to be another explosion," Ozkan told them, but his warning came too late. A second, more powerful bomb detonated on the crowded street, sending a piece of shrapnel flying toward them.

Ozkan, 52, in an interview Tuesday, recounted what happened next in a monotone, a cigarette between his fingers: The fragment pierced Seyma's heart, killing her almost instantly.

The Sunday evening attack, the deadliest in Turkey since 2004, killed 17 people, wounded nearly 150 and further unsettled a country already on edge. Turks are grimly watching the progress of two legal cases that illustrate the perilous rift between secular Turks and the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, which broadened its mandate in elections last year.

On Monday, Turkey's chief prosecutor told the country's top court that the ruling party should be disbanded and many of its members, including the prime minister, should lose their seats in parliament. Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya argued that Justice and Development had injected Islam into policymaking in violation of the constitution.

If seven of the high court's 11 jurists agree, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have to step down.

Party leaders, whose popularity has been boosted by a growing economy and their determination to win Turkey's membership in the European Union, say they are not trying to turn Turkey into an Islamic state.

In a separate case, Turkish prosecutors filed charges this month against 86 people, including former military officers, accusing them of planning to overthrow the government. In the past, military leaders have forcibly removed from power governments they judged too Islamic.

On Tuesday afternoon, made unseasonably cool by a morning rain shower, Turks on Gungoren's Menderes Street were quick to link Sunday's bombings to the political crisis.

Zeliha Oner, 56, a secularist, got into two screaming matches with women wearing Islamic head scarves in the span of 10 minutes. She said her finances have suffered since Justice and Development took office and accused its leaders of silencing critics.

"I blame the government," she said. "We don't have security."

Leyla Kucukyilmaz, 43, a party supporter, shot back immediately. "We elected people who pray," she said. "But we did so democratically."

A crowd gathered around them. Some clapped when Oner railed against the ruling party. Others egged Kucukyilmaz on.

Since the bombings, residents have hung scores of flags on damaged stores and homes. Sedat Cigdem, 40, walked up and down the street selling the red and white banners.

"They suffer, and this is how they show their rejection of terror," Cigdem explained.

Down the street, Kazim Buyuk, 65, rolled up his pant leg to display purple bruises caused by shrapnel from the first blast. He was eating nuts on a bench when the bomb exploded, he said.

"We are afraid," he said, speaking barely above a whisper. "We don't know who anyone is."

In remarks Monday, Erdogan suggested that the bombings were carried out by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a guerrilla group that seeks greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority. The PKK denied the assertion.

Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and the military has bombed the group's hideouts in northern Iraq in recent months. Turkish forces carried out a fresh wave of such attacks Tuesday, the military said. The operation targeted a group of about 40 fighters, some of whom the military said it killed, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, Erdogan seemed to back away from the allegation that the group carried out the Gungoren bombings, saying it would be wrong to draw hasty conclusions.

"Please, do not give a name to terrorism. Let the security forces work the case and let them give it a name," he told parliamentary supporters, according to news reports.

Inside the Ozkans' apartment, weeping veiled women comforted one another. A huge Turkish flag was draped over the balcony.

Zeynep Ozkan, 27, Seyma's only sister, sat on a sofa as a stream of stone-faced relatives and neighbors walked through the tidy apartment. Her sister, she said, dreamed of becoming a dentist. She was a voracious reader; novels were her favorite.

"I'm alone now," Zeynep said.

Special correspondent Zehra Ayman contributed to this report.
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synergy
Posted: Aug 16 2008, 05:09 PM


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QUOTE
The Raw Story

08/15/2008 @ 9:46 pm
Filed by Andrew McLemore

For controversial Turkish President Abdullah Gьl, the recent war in Georgia signals a "new world order" that will emerge from the rubble of South Ossetia and force the United States to share its power, The Guardian reported.

Gьl said America's inability to prevent Russia's invasion shows that the US can no longer shape world politics as it once did.

"I don't think you can control all the world from one centre," Gьl said. "There are big nations. There are huge populations. There is unbelievable economic development in some parts of the world. So what we have to do is, instead of unilateral actions, act all together, make common decisions and have consultations with the world. A new world order, if I can say it, should emerge."

The geopolitical turmoil in the Caucusus -- a region between Europe and Asia that includes the nations of Georgia and Turkey -- has placed Turkey in a difficult position between pleasing its neighbor Russia and not hurting its relationship with the US.

The conflict in Georgia proved Turkey's tenuous position regarding energy when Russian tanks cut the flow of oil to Turkey from a pipeline running through Georgia, Reuters reported.

Turkey's energy problems have forced it to seek gas from Russia and Iran, prompting an outcry from Washington.

Gьl spoke to The Guardian shortly before a meeting with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The US warned Turkey on Thursday against striking an energy deal with Iran after learning of the two presidents' meeting, Financial Times reported.

US officials claim the deal will undermine international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program.

"Such a deal by Turkey with Iran would send the wrong message at a time when the Iranian regime has repeatedly failed to comply with its UN Security Council and IAEA obligations," the US state department said.

Gьl said he doesn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but he "doesn't want to think about" the United States attack on Iran.

"I don't want to think about that. Everybody should take a lesson from what happened in Iraq," he said. "Diplomatic solutions are always better than hard solutions."
QUOTE
In his first interview with a foreign newspaper since becoming head of state, Abdullah Gül tells Stephen Kinzer of his vision for his country as a bridge between nations

    * Stephen Kinzer
    * The Guardian,
    * Saturday August 16 2008

Turkey's president Abdullah Gul

Turkey's president Abdullah Gul watches the 'Youth and Sports Day' ceremonies at 19 May stadium in Ankara. Photograph: Ates Tumer/EPA

Days after Russia scored a stunning geopolitical victory in the Caucasus, President Abdullah Gül of Turkey said he saw a new multipolar world emerging from the wreckage of war.

The conflict in Georgia, Gül asserted, showed that the United States could no longer shape global politics on its own, and should begin sharing power with other countries.

"I don't think you can control all the world from one centre," Gül told the Guardian. "There are big nations. There are huge populations. There is unbelievable economic development in some parts of the world. So what we have to do is, instead of unilateral actions, act all together, make common decisions and have consultations with the world. A new world order, if I can say it, should emerge."

Gül, relaxing in a hotel suite with a spectacular view of the glistening Bosphorus, spoke just hours before meeting with the visiting president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He rejected the idea, promoted by the United States and Israel, that the best way to deal with Iran was to isolate, sanction and punish it. "There are so many important issues, like the nuclear issue, Iraq, the Caucasus, Afghanistan," he said. "Iran is definitely having some influence of these issues, so we are talking."

Gül said Iran had a right to develop nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons. "We don't want to see weapons of mass destruction in this region," he said. "If it's in our neighbourhood, we definitely don't want to see it."

Asked about the possibility of an American attack on Iran, Gül replied: "I don't want to think about that. Everybody should take a lesson from what happened in Iraq," he said. "Diplomatic solutions are always better than hard solutions."

Few countries in the world have changed as dramatically as Turkey over the last decade, and Gül is among the most intriguing new political leaders to emerge here during that period.

When first elected, he seemed to be part of a new Islamic wave that was challenging the entrenched secular elite. He is a practicing Muslim who married his wife when she was 15; she wears the headscarf that some secular Turks consider a badge of reactionary Islam. Yet he and his closest political ally, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have led a political revolution that has brought Turkey closer to democracy than any regime in the modern state's 85-year history.

Gül said Turkey could play a decisive role in bridging the chasm that separates the west from more turbulent regions. His country's effort to join the European Union, he said, was its "main agenda".

"I wish to see Turkey as an island where the European standard of democracy is being fulfilled and the free market economy is functioning very well," he said. "This will be a real gift to the region, to the world, for peace. And this Turkey will be a source of inspiration for so many.

"As we are transforming ourselves in that direction, we will not forget our natural links and relationships and advantages with other countries - Muslim countries, central Asian countries, Caucasus countries, Middle Eastern and other countries," he added, speaking in fluent English.

"Turkey is having a positive impact on them, spreading the values of democracy, freedom, rule of law. Also, the economic changes here ... are admired. Maybe that is the indirect influence of this country."

For much of this year, political life in Turkey was frozen as the constitutional court considered a prosecutor's charge that the ruling Justice and Development party should be banned because it was a "focus of anti-secular activity". Last month the court rejected that argument.

Now, Gül said, Turkey's priority must be to resume its stalled progress towards political reform. "In the last two years, we spent our energy on domestic issues, and the reforms slowed down," he said. "Now, after the court case, there is a new era. This is a big opportunity for Turkey. Everybody realises that reforms are necessary."

Some European leaders, Gül said, fail ed to recognise the contribution that Turkey was making to stability in the world's most volatile region.

"This is a big asset for Europe," he said. "Turkey has great capacity to influence the region, indirectly, very peacefully, being an inspiration for changes. Turkey has been playing this role already. This has not been appreciated enough."

Opposition to Turkish membership in the EU was for years based on the country's failure to meet democratic standards. More recently, politicians in some European countries have sought votes by bashing Turkey and pledging to keep it out of the EU regardless of its progress toward democracy. These campaigns, Gül said, harmed Europe's long-term interests.

"Europe should realise that Turkey can do more for the stability and security of the region," he said. "Start with the Caucasus; last month, the problem was not serious, but suddenly we found ourselves in a war situation.

"Europe should encourage Turkey, and not create some artificial problems during the negotiation process with us. Some member countries or some politicians should not mix domestic issues and strategic issues. Domestic issues are conjunctural; today it's there and tomorrow it's not. But the strategic issues are always there, and we cannot sacrifice strategic issues for domestic issues. Unfortunately, nowadays we see this kind of shortsighted policies in some countries."

Gül repeatedly returned to the importance of Turkey's democratisation process. He said it would ultimately resolve all of the country's domestic problems, including the long-festering conflict with Kurdish nationalists in south-eastern provinces. "Some call it terror, some call it the south-east problem, some call it the Kurdish problem - whatever you call it, we will find a solution," he said.

"There are other problems - secularism and anti-secularism - those things will also find solutions in this climate. That is why I focus on the reform process. The problem was this: the lack of democracy, the standard of democracy. That was creating problems, not only in the south-east but in other issues. That is when we upgrade the standards, these problems will find solutions."

With that, Gül was off to meet Ahmadinejad. "Our values are different," he said with a smile, "but having a good relationship helps the stability of the region."
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synergy
Posted: Dec 8 2008, 06:50 PM


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QUOTE
By The Christian Science Monitor's Editorial Board
Mon Dec 8, 3:00 am ET

To celebrate Barack Obama's election as the 44th US president, villagers in a remote province of Turkey sacrificed 44 sheep. It was a small gesture in a faraway land, but one with a big message: hope for a revived relationship.

Polls show this NATO ally and Middle East powerhouse holds opinions of America that are among the lowest in the world. That's mostly due to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and related issues. The incoming Obama administration would do well to repair ties with this secular Muslim democracy, and take greater advantage of Turkey's role in a tense region where the countries' interests overlap.

To Turkey's north lie authoritarian Russia and the Caucasus states, site of frozen and hot conflicts. To the east sit the energy-rich Caspian Sea basin, Iran and its nuclear program, and, beyond that, Afghanistan. Directly south are Iraq and Syria, two troubled states in the region.

Ankara, the capital, has taken on the ambitious goal of "zero problems" on its borders and is trying to become a neighborhood troubleshooter. After Moscow rolled over Georgia in August, for instance, Ankara proposed a regional dialogue, but Georgia wasn't interested in talking to the Russian bear that nearly swallowed it whole.

Turkey has brought Syria and Israel together to negotiate over the Golan Heights. Last week, it hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan for antiterrorism talks. It is at long last reaching out to Armenia – despite a controversial history over the 1915 massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. Now it's offering to mediate between the US and Iran, and has been elected to a temporary seat on the UN Security Council – center stage for the Iran stalemate.

Turkey has offered its land for an alternative gas pipeline network for Europe and the Middle East, has greatly increased trade with its neighbors, and is opening about a dozen embassies in Africa.

Call this diplomatic and economic expansion "Ottoman Lite."

The US has much to gain from Turkey's emerging role, including a region-altering breakthrough in talks between Israel and Syria that need a big push from a President Obama. And Turkey will be an important player as the US pulls out of Iraq. Ankara has faulted the US for not doing enough to halt attacks on Turkey from Kurdish terrorists in northern Iraq.

Even if the two countries smooth over tensions, though, the road ahead will be as hilly as the Turkish capital.

At US election time, Turkish television obsessed over the prospect of the new US Congress passing a resolution – with Mr. Obama's blessing – that recognizes the Armenian massacres as genocide. Turkey staunchly denies the claim. Yet in focusing on this, Turkey makes the genocide controversy America's problem, when it's really Turkey's to resolve. The obsession hints at other issues to work out, including human rights abuses.

The US, on the other hand, must not expect Turkey to be the automatic ally of cold-war days. Russia has become its largest trading partner, and the Muslim party now in power feels a greater kinship with its Muslim brothers in the region.

Turkey is attempting to balance its allegiance with the West with a new attentiveness to its neighbors. It is a tricky balance indeed, but one that can also benefit Washington.
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Posted: Dec 25 2008, 10:11 PM


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QUOTE
Newfound riches come with spiritual costs for Turkey's religious merchants
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
While other Muslim societies are wrestling with radicals, Turkey's religious merchant class is struggling instead with wealth.
QUOTE
The New York Times

By Sabrina Tavernise
Friday, December 26, 2008

ISTANBUL: Turkey's religious businessmen spent years building empires on curtains, candy bars and couches. But as observant Muslims in one of the world's most self-consciously secular states, they were never accepted by elite society.

Now that group has become its own elite, and Turkey, a more openly religious country. It has lifted an Islamic-inspired political party to power and helped make Turkey the seventh largest economy in Europe.

And while other Muslim societies are wrestling with radicals, Turkey's religious merchant class is struggling instead with riches.

"Muslims here used to be tested by poverty," said Sehminur Aydin, an observant Muslim businesswoman and the daughter of a manufacturing magnate. "Now they're being tested by wealth."

Some say religious Turks are failing that test, and they see the recent economic crisis as a lesson for those who indulged in the worst excesses of consumption, summed up in the work of one Turkish interior designer: a bathroom with faucets encrusted with Swarovski crystal, a swimming pool in the bedroom, a couch rigged to rise up to the ceiling by remote control during prayer. "I know people who broke their credit cards," Aydin said.

But beyond the downturn, no matter how severe, is the reality: the religious wealthy class is powerful now in Turkey, a new phenomenon that poses fresh challenges not only to the old secular elite but to what good Muslims think about themselves.

Money is at the heart of the changes that have transformed Turkey. In 1950, it was a largely agrarian society, with 80 percent of its population living in rural areas. Its economy was closed and foreign currency was illegal. But a forward-looking prime minister, Turgut Ozal, opened the economy. Now Turkey exports billions of dollars in goods to other European countries, and about 70 percent of its population lives in cities.

Religious Turks helped power that rise, yet for years they were shunned by elite society. That helps explain why many are engaged in such a frantic effort to prove themselves, said Safak Cak, a Turkish interior designer with many wealthy, religious clients. "It's because of how we labeled them," he said. "We looked at them as black people."

Cak was referring to Turkey's deep class divide. An urban upper class, often referred to as White Turks, wielded the political and economic power in the country for decades. They saw themselves as the transmitters of the secular ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's founder. They have felt threatened by the rise of the rural, religious, merchant class, particularly of its political representative, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The old class was not ready to share economic and political power," said Can Paker, chairman of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a liberal research organization in Istanbul. "The new class is sharing their habits, like driving Mercedes, but they are also wearing head scarves. The old class can't bear this."

" 'They were the peasants,' " the thinking goes, Paker said. " 'Why are they among us?' "

Aydin, 40, who wears a head scarf, encountered that attitude not long ago in one of Istanbul's fanciest districts. A woman called her a "dirty fundamentalist" when Aydin tried to put trash the woman had thrown out her car window back inside.

"If you're driving a good car, they stare at you and point," Aydin said. "You want to say, 'I graduated from French school just like you,' but after a while, you don't feel like proving yourself."

She does not have to.

Her father started by selling curtains. Now he owns one of the largest home-appliance businesses in Europe. Aydin grew up wealthy, with tastes no different from those of the older class. She lives in a sleek, modern house with a pool in a gated community. Her son attends a prestigious private school. A business school graduate, she manages about 100 people at a private hospital founded by her father. Her head scarf bars her from employment in a state hospital.

Her husband, Yasar Aydin, shrugged. "Rich people everywhere dislike newcomers," he said. In another decade, those prejudices will be gone, he said.

The businessmen describe themselves as Muslims with a Protestant work ethic, and say hard work deepens faith.

"We can't lie down on our oil like Arab countries," said Osman Kadiroglu, whose family owns a large candy company in Turkey, with factories in Azerbaijan and Algeria. "There's no way out except producing."

Fortunes were made, forming new patterns of consumption. Istanbul, Turkey's economic capital, is No. 4 in the world on the latest Forbes list of cities with the highest number of billionaires. Luxury cars stud its streets. Shopping malls, 80 at last count, are mushrooming.

"Now, unfortunately, there is a taste for luxury, excessive consumption and comfort, vanity, exhibitionism and greed," said Mehmet Sevket Eygi, a 75-year-old newspaper columnist, who has written extensively about Muslims and wealth.

An Islamic concept called israf forbids consuming more than one needs, but the line is blurry, leaving rich Muslims struggling with questions like whether luxury cars can be offset by donations to charity, a central tenet of Islam.

"You have money, but do you buy whatever you want?" said Recep Senturk, a sociologist at the Center for Islamic Studies in Istanbul. "Or should you keep a humble life? This is a debate in Turkey right now."

Islam requires that the wealthy give away a portion of their income to the poor. In the Ottoman Empire, it paid for everything from hospitals to dishes broken by maids in rich houses.

Donations to Deniz Feneri, one of the largest charities in Turkey, jumped almost 100-fold in the six years ending in 2006, when they topped $62 million.

Even house designs take charity into account. Cak described a multimillion-dollar house whose design included an industrial-size kitchen where food was cooked daily and distributed in trucks.

Aydin, for her part, supports 25 families. The real problem is not finding a place to pray on a busy day out (mall fitting rooms work), but being truly charitable and putting others first when the frenzied pace of life pushes in the opposite direction. She holds onto traditions, like Muslim holidays, tightly.

"The world is changing but I don't want to lose this," she said.
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synergy
Posted: Mar 29 2009, 01:03 PM


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QUOTE
The Los Angeles Times

Turkey's municipal elections are expected to favor its current rulers, but the country's secularists have voiced bitter opposition to the AK Party.

By Laura King

10:06 AM PDT, March 29, 2009

Reporting from Istanbul, Turkey — Turks went to the polls today in municipal elections across the country that appeared likely to provide a vote of confidence for the Islamist-leaning ruling party.

But the vote, a week before a planned visit by President Obama, also highlighted the continuing tensions between secular-minded Turks and their more devout compatriots.

Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim but since its founding has observed a strict separation of mosque and state. A NATO ally, it is seen as a bridge between the West and the rest of the Muslim world.

Many secularists are still bitter over the decisive 2007 victory in national elections of the Justice and Development Party, known in Turkey as the AK Party. Opponents went to court to try to have the party outlawed for allegedly subverting Turkey's secular constitution.

Separately, nearly 150 people, including two retired generals, have been charged with involvement in a plot to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The military sees itself as the chief guardian of the secular system largely created by modern Turkey's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The AK Party, whose main platform has been economic development and an ambitious bid to join the European Union, appeared to have largely retained the confidence of voters despite Turkey's now-faltering economy. Unemployment has surged and the national currency, the lira, has slumped.

The party's backers tend to blame the abrupt end of Turkey's five-year economic boom on the global downturn rather than any failure of the ruling party.

"It hasn't been perfect -- there are some negative aspects -- but we are on the right course," said Sevida Yaman, a housewife who was waiting to cast her ballot at a crowded polling place in central Istanbul. She wore a head scarf, the emblem of an observant Muslim woman.

But voter Saif Yilmaata said he had come to the polls to express his opposition to the AK Party, which he accused of having an Islamist agenda.

"The government we have now is close to a dictatorship," he said.

With a strong mandate from voters, Erdogan is expected to move ahead with measures including a rewrite of the 1982 constitution, which was essentially written by Turkey's military, and pursue reforms of the Constitutional Court -- the body that only narrowly rejected a bid to outlaw the AK Party.

The prime minister also is expected to continue to seek a rapprochement with Turkey's downtrodden Kurdish minority. Conciliatory gestures toward the Kurds usually trigger bitter opposition from hard-line nationalists.

laura.king@latimes.com
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synergy
Posted: Apr 5 2009, 07:07 AM


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Turkey Relents on Rasmussen posted by Juan Cole [Informed Comment] Sunday, April 05, 2009
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synergy
Posted: May 4 2009, 07:10 PM


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QUOTE
By Seyhmus Cakan
7:02 pm EDT Mon 04 May 2009

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Unidentified gunmen armed with rifles and grenades attacked a wedding party in southeastern Turkey on Monday, killing at least 44 people, local officials said.

The acting governor of the province of Mardin, Ahmet Ferhat Ozen, told Reuters by telephone the assailants, wearing masks, stormed a building in the village of Sultankoy, some 20 km (12 miles) from Mardin, and opened fire on wedding guests.

Television broadcasters said there had been a blood feud in the village in recent years. State-run news agency Anatolian reported the daughter of the village chief, called a muhtar, was being married when the attack occurred.

Local media said the families of both the bride and the groom included members of the Village Guard, a heavily-armed state-backed militia set up to combat Kurdish separatist guerrillas in the area.

Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of the EU-candidate country, was briefed by his interior minister on the attack, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

FEUDS

Hospital officials said at least 44 were killed and at least 17 injured. Ozen said the number of dead could rise.

Ambulances rushed the injured to Mardin and local residents were called to the hospital to donate blood.

Local rivalry spilling into deadly feuds are not unheard of in southeast Turkey, although the size of deaths in this one is rare. The scale would also raise the incident to a matter of deep concern for national government, which is attempting to defuse tensions in the southeast born of separatist conflict.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said on its webpage that the attack took place in mid-evening and that four unidentified gunmen had been involved in the attack. Their whereabouts were still unknown.

It was not immediately clear if the incident was linked to the Village Guard or to Kurdish rebels. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels have been fighting Turkish forces in the southeast since 1984. Some 40,000 people have been killed in conflict. Few individual incidents associated with the conflict have produced such a high death toll.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove)
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synergy
Posted: Jul 6 2009, 04:16 AM


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QUOTE
July 6, 2009
Bomb Kills 4, Injures 9 In Southeast Turkey
By REUTERS

Filed at 4:36 a.m. ET

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Four workers were killed and nine were injured when a roadside bomb destroyed the vehicle in which they were travelling in southeastern Turkey, the provincial governor of the region said Monday.

The vehicle was carrying workers in the province of Sirnak heading to a road construction site, he said, when it hit an improvised explosive device laid by the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), he said.

Some 40,000 have died since 1984 when the PKK picked up arms to carve out an ethnic homeland in predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey.

Similar explosive devices have been planted frequently in the past by PKK guerrillas in the 25-year-old conflict.

(Writing by Daren Butler)
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synergy
Posted: Aug 28 2009, 09:19 AM


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QUOTE
By Steve Bryant

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey pledged to double its contribution to peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The reinforcements will bring the Turkish force to 1,600 troops from 795 and will arrive when Turkey takes over control of the rotating command of NATO operations in the Afghan capital Kabul in November, Davutoglu said at a news conference in Ankara today with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Rasmussen thanked Turkey for its contribution and called for “even more,” particularly trainers to help develop Afghanistan’s own security forces. Davutoglu said Turkey is already helping with training and didn’t make any new pledge.

Improving security and civil infrastructure in Afghanistan is essential to winning a conflict in which NATO “must prevail,” Rasmussen said.

He also called on Turkey and Greece to find “pragmatic solutions” to a stalemate over Turkish participation in the European Union’s defense system. The lack of a cooperation accord between the EU and NATO has produced “absurd consequences” on the ground that endanger troops’ lives, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Bryant in Ankara at sbryant5@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: August 28, 2009 09:08 EDT
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