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Turkey was created in 1923 from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN and in 1952 it became a member of NATO. Turkey occupied the northern portion of Cyprus in 1974 to prevent a Greek takeover of the island; relations between the two countries remain strained. Periodic military offensives against Kurdish separatists have dislocated part of the population in southeast Turkey and have drawn international condemnation.

Update No: 064 - (27/08/02)

Turkey is in the throes of a crisis. Its economy has by no means recovered from a fearful battering last year when the lira was devalued by more than 40% and a swathe of bankruptcies hit the banking and industrial sectors. Unemployment has soared and inflation climbed to over 40%.

Political turmoil and early elections
It now looks as if there will be early elections on November 3rd. The present coalition government's tenure was due to expire in April 2004. But it is now split, seemingly beyond repair.
The elderly premier, Bulent Ecevit, is a veteran survivor and a brilliant intellectual, a translator of T.S. Eliot into Turkish and an interlocutor of philosopher Brian Magee. But his political sands are running out.
He has been in and out of hospital this year for a variety of complaints and many feel that he is no long physically up to the job. There have been seven defections from his government and what makes it galling is that the defectors, under former foreign minister, Ismail Cem, have left his own party, the Democratic Left Party (DSP) to form a new party. Indeed, half of the DSP deputies have defected too.
The defecting minister were almost joined by Kemal Dervis, the key figure in the government, indispensable to the enactment of the IMF US$16bn programme as Economy Minister. His record as a World Bank economist and vice-president reassures the markets and his decision to stay on in July after toying with resignation was greeted with all-round relief.
It is an irony that the DSP's two coalition partners, the Motherland Party of Mesut Yilmaz and the arch-nationalistic Nationalist Action Party of deputy premier Develot Bahceti, are keen to break up the government and face early elections since none of the three gets 10% in support in opinion polls, a serious matter in Turkey since obtaining at least 10% of the vote is a prerequisite for representation in parliament.
The most popular party in the polls, with 18% or more, is the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (AK party) while the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy party (HADEP) is also doing well. The situation is certainly fraught.
The AK party is led by Turkey's most popular politician, an ex-mayor of Istanbul, Tayyip Erdogan, who is a scourge of corruption in the name of Islamic rectitude. The charge of having been spectacularly corrupt taints the chances of ex-premier Tensu Ciller and her party, which is outside the coalition.

14-point reform package
The political crisis has surfaced now because of Cem and his like-minded colleagues to whose number Dervis can be added, are convinced that the time is ripe for Turkey to push for entry into the EU. Its poor record on human rights is the officially-cited reason for this by Brussels. Cem and company want to leave the EU no such pretext for inaction by pushing though major reforms.
On August 2nd-3rd parliament debated and passed a 14-point package of human rights reforms. It abolishes the death penalty in peacetime; allows for broadcasting and education in Kurdish, gives Armenian, Greek and Jewish minority trusts expanded rights to buy and sell property, and decriminalises criticism of the military and state organisations. It was immediately denounced by Bahceli and his Nationalist Action party, both in rallies and in parliament. He is challenging the bill in the courts. 
The package has been widely welcomed in Europe. But the EU warned that much would depend on its implementation. As Günter Verheugen, the EU's enlargement commissioner, said: "The Turkish position shows that the EU is right in being firm as regards human rights and the protection of minorities."

New general staff chief
There is a new chief of the general staff, General Himli Ozkok, a staunch secularist and pro-Europe figure, who is the land forces commander. He takes over as CGS on August 30th.
He is fluent in English and a graduate from NATO's Defence College. He is also strongly committed to the army remaining outside politics. No repetition of the 1980 military coup can be expected. But the military exercise a powerful influence through the National Security Council all the same, headed by the president.
The military, as guardians of the secular state, a role they feel was entrusted to them by Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey are bound to be opposed to the AK party coming to power. But whether that happens is not yet sure. November will be the time for consideration in the case of that eventuality.

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Turkey negotiating helicopter deal with Russian-Israeli company 

In what is considered a surprise move, Turkey has decided to re-launch talks with a Russian-Israeli consortium composed of Kamov and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), seeking to explore the possibility of co-producing 50 Kamov Ka-50-2 helicopters. 
The decision followed two years of negotiations with American firm, Bell-Textron, that reached a deadlock over what Ankara considers an "exorbitant price" of US$4bn for 145 third-generation attack helicopters. 
The decision made a major impact in international defence circles. It was reported that since July 8th, Turkish officials had held at least three secret discussion rounds with a delegation of three Israelis and four Russians. 
Bell-Textron officials, whose company produces King Cobra helicopters, told The Jerusalem Post that they recently became aware of the discreet discussions between the Russian-Israeli partnership and Turkish officials, although they have not yet been officially informed of the move by their Turkish counterparts. "That's why we are still continuing negotiations with Turkey at the technical level," the official added. 
In the meantime, Turkish sources have confirmed the reports. "Yes, we asked the Kamov-Israeli consortium for its updated prices after we faced serious difficulties in setting an optimum price with the American firm." 
The official added that although two years ago Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit had given Bell-Textron priority in the deal, Ankara retained the option of purchasing Kamov-IAI's Ka-50-2, if talks with the US firm failed. 
The Ka-50-2 is a highly capable combat helicopter, combining a Russian-designed airframe with advanced Israeli-made electronics. Nicknamed "Black Shark," the helicopter is heavily armed, and can attack both ground and air targets. It is also armoured to withstand direct hits by anti-aircraft fire, and features very high manoeuvrability due to the unique co-axial rotors, a distinctive feature of Kamov designs. 
The Russian-Israeli offering is expected to be priced at US$2.25bn for the first fifty helicopters sold to Turkey. Turkey stated that its current negotiations concern only the first 50 of the total 145 attack helicopters it requires. 
Until Turkey's latest surprise move, it was believed that the Russian-Israeli partnership had virtually no chance of wining the Turkish tender. In addition, it was rumoured that the Kamov-IAI option was brought into play by Turkey only as a means of pressuring Washington, it has been reported by

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Turkish, Iranian corporations sign oil agreement

Turkish Oil Refineries Corporation (TUPRAS) has signed an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Corporation (NIOC) to buy and sell 4.5m tonnes of crude oil, Anatolia News Agency has reported. 
Releasing a statement on 30th July, TUPRAS said: "As a result of contacts held by a delegation headed by TUPRAS Executive Board Chairman and NIOC Director-General, Husamettin Danis, in Iran between 23rd-26th July an agreement was signed with the NIOC to buy and sell 4.5m tonnes of crude oil between 1 August 2002 and 1 August 2003." 
"Under the agreement, the Turkish side will be able to raise the amount of crude oil to 6.3m tonnes in the same period. Also, a compromise has been reached between Turkish and Iranian sides to meet Iran's need for unleaded oil. Preparatory works have been under way to sign an agreement," the statement added.

Veziroglu in Istanbul, talks hydrogen energy

Professor Nejat Veziroglu, one of the innovators of hydrogen energy, was in Istanbul for the National Hydrogen Congress. Director of Miami University's Pure Energy Research Institute and chairman of the World Energy council, Veziroglu said he and a group of professors at Miami University had suggested the use of hydrogen energy to prevent the depletion as well as the damage caused by fossil fuel. "No one believed us at the time. They called us the 'hydrogen romantics," he told reporters
The professor said that once the foundations of the hydrogen energy system had been laid, many bus and automobile firms began working with hydrogen in 1974. "The oil companies joined the hydrogen convoy in 1998… The Airbus company is also working on a lane that will operate on hydrogen, and this plane will fly in 2015," he said, quoted by the Turkish Daily News.

Russian-Turkish gas pipeline on course for completion next month

Stroytransgaz (STG) plans to complete construction of the Russian section of the Blue Stream pipeline from Russia to Turkey in September this year, Interfax News Agency has reported.
STG Vice-President, Aleksandr Vorobyev, told Interfax that this would mean the completion of construction of the Blue Stream pipeline in full, as the Turkish section and the underwater sections have already been completed.
"The project should be completed at the end of September, but for this we still have a lot of work ahead," he said.
The Blue Stream project includes two dry-land sections - the Russian Izobilnoye-Dzhubga section and the Turkish Samsun-Ankara section, in addition to the Dzhubga Samsun underwater section, along the bed of the Black Sea.
The company's press service said that the company has completed building the first tunnel, 196 metres in length - through the Bezymyannyy ridge in the Bolshoy Kavkaz (Big Caucasus) mountains, as part of the Blue Stream project.
According to the press service, at the moment STG specialists are carrying out work to fit out this tunnel and at the same time finish a second tunnel, stretching 988 metres, of which 860 metres have already been completed.
Annual gas supplies through the Blue Stream pipeline will amount to 16bn cubic metres. Construction costs are calculated to reach US$3bn.

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Radisson eager to open in Ankara and Istanbul

Adding two Turkish hotels to its regional portfolio, Radisson Hotels and Resorts has signed an agreement with Turkey's Pension Fund to operate in Ankara and Istanbul.
Radisson Senior Vice President, Werner Kuendig, stated: "Turkey is key to our regional expansion plans and having three hotels in the country's two major cities reflects our strategy of being present in every major market."
Ankara's new Radisson Hotel is scheduled for a late 2004 opening. On offer are 214 guestrooms, one restaurant, a bar and a variety of meeting rooms, Mena Report stated. The Radisson SAS Macka Hotel in Istanbul is slated for completion in 2005. Radisson Hotels and Resorts operate in the Middle East and Africa with hotels in Amman, Aqaba, Bahrain, Cape Town, Istanbul, Kuwait, Muscat and Sharm-El-Sheikh and has hotels under development in AlQuseir, Ankara, Beirut, Hurghada, Istanbul and Taba. 

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