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: 076 - (28/08/03)
Turkey turns away from US and towards EU
The Turks are in a quandary. They feel themselves to be a nation that is a cut above their immediate surroundings. They are in the Middle East and are Muslims; but they still see themselves as honorary Westerners.
Ataturk, their ruler from 1922 to 1938, did not live in vain. They have a secular state and society; women are not obliged to wear the veil. They have a democracy of sorts, rather more real than many outsiders might have supposed.
That Turkey really is a democracy after all was proved in March, when it did something which has put the 'strategic relationship' with the US in great jeopardy. Its parliament refused to let US troops use south-eastern Turkey as a launch-pad to invade Iraq. The popular solidarity with a fellow Islamic country is just too strong. Turkey forfeited over US$16bn promised in aid and credits by Washington as a result.
Ironically Turkey now has an Islamicist government, which was immensely embarrassed by the vote. It did not want to ruffle the feathers of the pro-American Turkish military. Yet it had to go along with the parliamentary pronouncement; it could not possibly be seen to flout the vote or appear as soft on the Americans.
The real setter of policy in the government has not been the leader of the party in power, AKP, which stands for development and justice, namely Recip Erdogan, now prime minister, but the first prime minister after electoral victory last October, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. He has pursued a careful course, avoiding the Scylla of Islamic Fundamentalism and the Charybadis of being so pro-American as to alienate the fundamentalists .The last thing the Turks need is for Islamicist terrorism to spread from Saudi Arabia, and other Moslem countries with regimes deemed by the militants to be American stooges, to Turkey.
Gul has devised a clever strategy. He is steering a course towards Europe. The Turkish parliament under his influence has passed a key reform to curtail the power of the military over the country's political scene. It is all in preparation for an EU bid by Turkey.
A key factor is the vote on July 30th, upon which it was agreed that there should be an amnesty. The Turks have agreed to parley with the Kurds, the last Marxists left in Europe. It is curious that this is the last sticking point with the EU. The Europeans want the Turks to be tolerant towards the Marxists as the proof of their democratic credentials.
Gul has distanced Turkey from the US in a very genuine indignation. It is as if Washington realized that Ankara must be given a further opportunity at this juncture in its affairs to demonstrate 'opposition face.' US troops of the 173rd airborne division operating around Kirkuk arrested 11 commandos from the Turkish forces, deployed since 1996 to monitor a ceasefire between the two main factions running Northern Iraq. They were suspected of being involved in a plot to kill the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, but were released a few days later when no conclusive evidence emerged that they were, although explosives and other devices of ill import were found about their persons.
The Turks naturally hit the roof. The chief of staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, a pro -American previously, said that the event marked the "biggest crisis" in US-Turkish relations since the Second World War. The American claims of a murder plot were nonsense, fumed Gul. It was particularly galling for the Turks since they had just allowed the Americans in June to use their air bases to send humanitarian, but also military, stores and equipment to Iraq.
The truth is that the two countries' interests have been diverging since the end of the Cold War. Things might have been different if the elder Bush had heeded the advice of Ozal, president of Turkey during the first Gulf war, who advocated the removal of Saddam Hussein. He has been vindicated subsequently, the only world leader to read the runes right at the time.
His viewpoint was ignored, with disastrous consequences for Iraq, and deleterious ones for Turkey, as it so happens. Turkey has lost something like $ 75bn in trade with Iraq since 1991, while it has had to see a Kurdish zone set up in Northern Iraq under its noses. The consolidation of Kurdish self-rule there under the protection of the US and the UK in the 'no-fly zones' has been a great success. The Turks fear the contagious consequences upon their own 13 million Kurds. Separatist feeling is being fanned, they conclude. The spectre of a Kurdish renaissance is haunting them.
They are not necessarily right to be so scared. The Americans are not going to want to see a wholesale redrawing of the map of the Middle East, which would certainly be involved if the Kurds had their way. Turkey remains the logical ally for the US in the region The proof of whether this is so is still unfortunately in Turkish eyes that Congress refuses to recognize the slaughter of at least one million Armenians in 1915 in Turkey as genocide. Geopolitics often is a nasty game.
Fitch upgrade adds to Turkey's gains
Shares rose sharply in Istanbul recently after Fitch, the credit ratings agency, said it would soon upgrade Turkey's outlook to positive, the Financial Times reported on August 6th.
The Fitch comment boosted confidence, which was already high after the International Monetary Fund approved a long-delayed loan payment. Positive inflation data has also raised hopes of an interest rate cut.
The Turkish economy minister signalled that a much-needed injection of US financing was imminent.
The US$1bn grant from the US government, which is convertible into US$8.5bn in loan guarantees, has been delayed since March over fears of Turkey's inability to make progress on economic reform.
The release of the money signals a thawing of relations between the two NATO allies, which were damaged when Turkey refused to allow US troops to launch an attack on Iraq from its soil.
Turkey's domestic debts of US$125bn mushroomed after its 2001 financial crisis and the war in Iraq.
The aid could reduce Turkey's debt rollover costs significantly in 2004, according to the Turkish economic minister.
The benchmark ISE National-100 finished 3.4% higher at 11,499.89 led by industrial conglomerate Koc Holding, which rallied 7%.
Massive oil reserves find off Turkish Black Sea coast
A massive oil field has been discovered off Turkey's eastern Black Sea coast, officials from British Petroleum Exploration told reporters in Istanbul recently, New Europe reported. "It is still just speculation as to what oil reserves there are but we believe that it could be a couple of billion barrels (and the field) would have the potential to produce around 150,000 barrels a day," said Hugh McDowell, vice president at BP Exploration.
News of the enormous field off the Turkish Black Sea town of Sinop came as the Norwegian-flagged R/V Ramform Challenger, an oil exploration ship, began its passage through the narrow Dardanelle and Bosporous straights that link the Black Sea with the Aegean. The Ramform Challenger is to conduct three-dimensional seismic studies of the Black Sea seabed over a three-month period. McDowell said that the earliest any oil could be extracted from the Black Sea reserves would be 2005. Any development of the oil fields would be by a BP-Turkish Petroleum consortium.
Turkey, Russia to continue Blue Stream pipeline talks
Russia and Turkey have not yet worked out the specific details for supplies of Russian natural gas to Turkey under the Blue Stream project. Thus the two have agreed to continue consultations. Alexei Miller, CEO of Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, met in Ankara recently with Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister, Hilmi Guler, New Europe reported quoting the company's press service. They discussed a broad range of issues, including the situation facing the Blue Stream.
Moreover, Gazprom expressed confidence that the issue of gas supplies to Turkey under the Blue Stream project would be resolved in the very near future, company Deputy CEO, Alexander Ananenkov, said at a press briefing in St Petersburg. "In our opinion, gas supplies through the Blue Stream will be continued in the very near future and positive steps in this direction have already been noted," he said.
Ananenkov noted that from the moment the Blue Stream was launched at the end of 2002, Turkey has taken 500m cu m of gas. The Turkish side stopped taking gas from the Black Sea pipeline in March this year and proposed that Gazprom drop its gas prices. Russia and Turkey have not yet worked out the specific details for supplies of Russian natural gas to Turkey under the Blue Stream project.
After the last round of talks at the end of June 2003, Gazprom submitted a packet of proposals to Botas that, among other things, reduce the obligations of the Turkish company, Botas, to take gas under three contracts over five years, and also unify and slightly reduce gas prices under these contracts for a five-year period. Moreover, Gazprom has proposed to reinvest part of the funds received from the sale of gas through the Blue Stream pipeline into the development of Turkish gas infrastructure.
Under the contract for the Blue Stream project, from July 1st, 2003 the "take or pay" conditions of the contract come into effect.
This means that by the end of the year Botas should pay for supplies of 800m cu m of Russian gas, even if it takes less. The Turkish media reported that Botas plans to restart gas imports as part of the Blue Stream project from August 1st, 2003.
IMF loan payment spurs Turkish equities
Turkish debt yields reached their lowest level this year and equities registered a strong advance in Istanbul after the IMF approved a long-delayed loan payment, the Financial Times reported on August 5th.
The ISE National-100 index jumped 4.6% to 11,112.12, with the market also cheered by better-than-expected inflation data.
The IMF approved a US$500m loan tranche recently under Turkey's US$16bn pact. It also took the market by surprise by extending repayments of about US$11bn that are due to the fund in 2004 and 2005.
The market had been concerned for some weeks about the health of the pact as the government dragged its feet over a number of reforms promised in return for the payment. But parliament recently pushed through a raft of IMF-backed legislation, helping to secure the loan payment.
Exports to Iraq reach US$220m in last 2 months
State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen, said on 13th August that Turkey's exports to Iraq amounted to US$220m in the last two months, Anatolia News agency has reported.
Tuzmen who replied to questions from an Anatolia correspondent on exports to Iraq said that there was a big shrinkage in the country's exports to Iraq between February and April.
Noting that Turkey's exports to Iraq had reached US$220m Tuzmen said that he believed that Turkey would catch up with the export figure which was US$1-1.5bn before the Iraq war.
When asked whether or not opening a second gate to Iraq was still on the agenda, Tuzmen said: "It is still on the agenda. We are working to make Habur border gate function with build-operate-transfer model in the best way. The second gate is on our agenda."
Turkey gets contracts in Iraq worth US$90m
State Minister Kursad Tuzmen said on 30th July that Turkish contractors undertook business worthUS$90m in the last month in Iraq, Anatolia News Agency has reported.
"I think that we will record a significant progress in reconstruction work of Iraq," said Tuzmen speaking in a meeting held by Turkish Contractors Union.
Noting that contractors contributed much to the Turkish economy, Tuzmen said that the best performance of the sector was seen between the years 1990-1998. Recalling that contractorship services went down in the year 2000, Tuzmen said: "I hope we will have US$1bn in this sector this year. Our target is to reach US$3-5bn." Tuzmen said that he visited countries of Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia with contractors and consultant companies in the first half of the year, adding that he held high ranking contacts in these countries to support the sector. Tuzmen said he thought of visiting Kazakstan in September.
Referring to Iraqi market in his speech, Tuzmen said that Turkish companies completed an important part of projects like houses, hospitals, modernization of factories and pipelines as a result of the studies they started in 2000. "We invited an Iraqi delegation composed of 40 leading businessmen, we will organize important meetings with them soon," Tuzmen said.
Tuzmen said that train services to Gaziantep, Nusaybin, Al-Qamishli, Mosul and Baghdad would restart in the coming days.
Turkey-Syria-Iraq railway reopens
The railway between Turkey, Syria and Iraq which has been closed since 27th February 2003 due to war was reopened as of 1st August 2003, Anatolia News Agency has reported.
The [Turkish] Directorate General of State Railways (TCDD) said in a statement on 6th August that a protocol for reopening the railway was signed between TCDD and Iraqi Railways on 30th July 2003.
According to the protocol, TCDD's trains will travel to Iraq via Syria four days a week.
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