Ahmet Necdet Sezer
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: 075 - (28/07/03)
The US used to have its most amenable ally in the Middle East in Turkey. A democracy up to a point, but one where the generals held terrific clout over the politicians, particularly when the latter were threatening the secular status of the country, itself sacred to the Turkish state since Ataturk. The generals were in turn strongly pro-NATO and pro-US.
With a mildly Islamicist government in office since autumn last year, Turkey proved to be a democracy after all earlier this year. In March parliament refused the US passage for its troops northwards into Iraq from Turkish territory.
Now the generals are proving obstreperous as well. In early July 100 troops of the US 173rd Airborne division used rough tactics to arrest 11 Turkish commandos in an Iraqi Kurdish town near Kirkuk. The US forces aimed their guns at the Turks, put sacks over their heads and handcuffed them. Hardly the treatment expected from an ally.
General Hilmi Ozkok, Turkey's chief of staff, harangued the US ambassador, Robert Pearson, on TV and told him that the arrests had created the biggest crisis of confidence between US and Turkish forces ever. Another leading general, Hursit Tolon, hitherto a pillar of the NATO alliance like Ozkok, cancelled a trip he was to make to Washington.
The Kurdish issue
The rift of course is all about the Kurdish issue. The US say that they had information (from the Kurds no doubt) that the 11 troops were on a mission to assassinate the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, at the centre of Iraq's largest oilfield. A Turkish colonel, one of the 11, is supposed to have been thrown out of Iraqi Kurdistan twice before on suspicion of anti-Kurdish provocations.
In 1991-92 the Turks reluctantly fell in with US and UK plans to protect Kurdish enclaves from Saddam Hussein with their planes, although allies claim the Turks encouraged this development to avoid a massive incursion, and the destabilisation connected with it, of Kurdish refugees into Turkey. This created two Kurdish enclaves in 'no fly zones' that have done remarkably well subsequently with full US support. With democratic government and US aid to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure they are thriving, the one undoubted pro-US region of Iraq.
This example of successful self-rule among the four million or so Iraqi Kurds is seen as a real encouragement to Turkey's 13 million Kurdish population to aspire to something similar for themselves. Hence the logic of a spoiling action in Kirkuk ordered from Ankara, some US observers think.
The US administration remains angry at the unexpected March refusal by Turkey to help them in the Iraqi war, an entirely democratic decision it has to be said. Now things are going from bad to worse. As John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, says, himself almost killed by friendly US fire in a Kurdish convoy recently: "It is important and right, for the US to support its loyal allies, the Kurds. But it won't do the Kurds any good if Turkey becomes an outright enemy."
AKP steers a centrist course
The Turks are doing better than appearances suggest. An Islamicist party is in power, AKP, whose main themes are justice and development.
Its first premier after victory in late last year's election, Abdullah Gul, is still the main architect of policy. The leader of AKP, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, is his successor after an unsuccessful attempt to keep him out by the constitutional court. But Gul is setting the main course - towards avoiding precisely what his party was supposed to represent - fervent Islamicism. The fundamentalists are getting the trappings in place of the real thing. Gul is playing along in small matters, but is backing the West in the big picture. Indeed the aim is for Turkey to be seen as a major nation of the world again, certainly in accord with the life work of Kemal Ataturk the 'father' of the modern state, and lodestar of the military.
Blue Stream in trouble
The giant natural gas project, Blue Stream, which Turkey has with Russia, is hitting trouble and its terms are being renegotiated. With the economy down 10% in 2001, the 9% growth recorded last year still leaves GDP below the 2000 level. Far less gas than expected is being required.
Blue Stream brings gas from Russia across the Black Sea to Turkey. Built by Gazprom in partnership with ENI of Italy, it commits it to selling to the Turks. It is so vitally important to Gazprom that it is prepared to lower prices to compete with cheaper gas from the Balkans and the Middle East, notably Iran and Iraq next door.
The original deal was premised on the idea that Turkey would increase its demand fivefold to 50bn cubic metres annually well before the end of the lifespan of the project of 25 years. This is now far from likely. The Russians will need to rethink it.
Banking body takes over Imar Bank
The Savings Deposits Insurance Fund (TMSF) took over administration and control of Imar Bankasi on 4th July after removal of the operating licence of Imar Bankasi, Anatolia News Agency has reported.
TMSF issued a statement on the issue and said executive board and supervision board members were appointed to the bank aiming to carry out procedures envisaged under Article 16 of the Banking Law, and to protect rights of other creditors.
Turkey launches radar monitoring system
Turkey has launched a new US$45m radar monitoring system on Istanbul's narrow Bosporus Strait to cut the risk of accidents in what Turkey calls one of the world's most dangerous waterways. Turkish fears stem from the fact that a projected increase in oil tanker traffic could bring about more accidents and even an environmental catastrophe to the already busy Bosporus, which bisects Istanbul, a city of some 12 million people.
The 3-kilometre waterway is part of the sole route between the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. The new monitoring system will track vessels as they pass and notify those facing danger.
Turkish refineries to purchase 6 million tonnes crude oil from Iran
The Turkish Oil Refineries Corp (Tupras) will purchase 6 million tons of crude oil from Iran under an agreement with Iranian National Oil Company NIOC Anatolia News Agency has reported.
Releasing a statement, Tupras said: "In order to meet the crude oil need of the Tupras, an agreement was signed with Iranian National Oil Company NIOC in the Iranian capital Tehran on 1st July 2003.
"According to the agreement, Tupras will purchase 6 million tons of Iranian Heavy/Light, Lavan, Blend, Bahregan and Forozan type crude oil from Iran between 1st August 2003 and 31st July 2004," the statement added.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
President pays visit to Macedonia
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer made a three-day visit to Macedonia aimed at broadening economic relations. "We will continue to support Macedonian efforts for the integration into Euro-Atlantic structures," Sezer said after meeting his Macedonian counterpart, Boris Trajkovski, New Europe has reported.
Turkey is the country which is the closest friend to Macedonian in the region. Turkey has recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name and it is also the country which defends the Macedonian name on the international level," Trajkovksi said. The Turkish president was also scheduled to meet Macedonian Premier Brako Crvenkovski, as well as representatives of the Turkish minority, which compromises some four per cent of the Macedonian two million population.
Macedonian officials said earlier that the visit of the Turkish president would be used to boost economic cooperation between the two countries, estimated to be worth some US$67m in 2002. "The free trade agreement between the two countries needs to be redefined, and I hope that the private sector will invest more in Macedonia," Sezer said.
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