Books on Turkey
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Update No: 095 - (01/04/05)
Russia the turnkey for Turkey, as for so many others
Turkey has long been living between the East and the West. But the connotation
of these terms has been changing of late. Kipling wrote that: "The East is
the East; and the West is the West; and never the twain shall meet."
Actually they always have to meet, whether they like it or not, to discuss
points of agreement and disagreement.
But what is the East today; and what the West?
It depends where you are. For Turkey the East is the Islamic world; and the West
is Europe and the EU, to which it aspires to join.
But where does Russia fit into the fault-line?
It is a new Third World, neither Eastern nor Western, but very much part of the
For centuries, Turkey and Russia have been rivals for regional supremacy.
Recently, the two countries have realised that friendly relations are in the
interest of them both. Accordingly, co-operation rather than rivalry appears to
dominate their ties. This development has been welcome by the EU, which sees
these countries as the two largest imponderables on the European horizon.
The general understanding is that Russia is a European country while Turkey
belongs to Asia, despite the fact that the two vast countries both span the
continents of Europe and Asia (although they no longer share a border). The
reason for the above distinction is that in both countries the majority of the
population as well as the capital city are located on the continent where they
are respectively assigned.
In December 2004, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to
Moscow before Russian President Vladimir Putin reciprocated with a trip to
Ankara in January 2005. This sequence of top-level visits has brought several
important bilateral issues to the forefront.
In 2004, trade between Turkey and Russia was worth some US$10bn. This figure is
now expected by both Moscow and Ankara to reach US$25bn by 2007. Russia is
Turkey's second-largest trading partner after Germany, while Turkey is Russia's
14th trade partner. Russia exports to Turkey fuel and energy products (72% of
total), as well as metals (16%) and chemical goods (4%). Turkey, in turn, sells
textiles (30%), machinery and vehicles (23%), chemical goods (15%) and food
products (15%) to Russia.
Turkish companies are present in significant numbers in Russia's construction,
retail and brewing industries. Russia's investment in Turkey is worth US$350m
while Turkey's investment in Russia totals US$1.5bn.
The two countries consider it their strategic goal to achieve
"multidimensional co-operation", especially in the fields of energy,
transport and the military. Specifically, Russia aims to invest in Turkey's fuel
and energy industries, and it also expects to participate in tenders for the
modernisation of Turkey's military.
In the strategic energy sector, the two countries are in agreement to implement
large-scale projects, some of which compare with the Blue Stream gas pipeline.
Among other developments, Russia will increase gas supplies to Turkey and will
allow Russian companies to engage in gas distribution in Turkish territory.
Talks are also underway on ways to increase Russian electricity deliveries to
· European Union
Moscow's initial reaction to Turkey drawing closer to the EU was lukewarm.
"If you enter the EU we cannot meet frequently," Putin was reported as
telling his host, Prime Minister Erdogan, during the former's visit to Ankara in
late 2004. However, at the two leaders' next meeting in Moscow in January 2005,
Putin already said that Russia was in favour of Turkey's EU membership,
primarily since it promised to open up new trading channels for Russia. ''We
welcome Turkey's success at the EU Brussels summit,'' Putin said in Moscow. ''I
hope that Turkey's integration in the European Union will open up a new horizon
for Russian-Turkish business cooperation.''
Regarding the outstanding issue of Cyprus (which is tied closely to Turkey's
EU membership bid), Russia has declared support for the plan put forward by UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan. ''We will support any resolution that comes out of
the implementation of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan," said Putin.
He added that the economic embargo on northern Cyprus was "unjust". In
April 2004, Russia used its veto to block a resolution that sought to outline
new UN security arrangements in Cyprus.
· World Trade Organisation
In return, Turkey's Erdogan has pledged to "fully support"
Russia's quest for membership of the World Trade Organisation. "Many
barriers in the way of trade and economic co-operation between our countries may
undoubtedly be removed after completion of Russian-Turkish negotiations on
Russia's WTO entry on acceptable terms," reacted Putin. The EU concluded a
deal with Russia on the latter's accession to the WTO in May 2004. Russia may
become a full member of the WTO in 2005.
· Chechnya / the Kurd issue
The conflict in Chechnya remains high on the two countries' bilateral
agendas. Many Turks trace their ancestry to the Caucasus, including Chechnya,
and they have always been sympathetic towards the Muslim militants in the
war-torn Russian region. Earlier, Russia issued calls for Turkey to crack down
on Turkish "philanthropic organisations" that allegedly channelled
money and arms to rebel groups in Chechnya. In turn, Turkey accused Russia of
backing Kurdish rebel groups who have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's
southeastern regions since the early 1980s. The recent rapprochement promises to
bring both countries closer to negotiated solutions.
The Caucasus remains a moot point between the two countries. Turkey's main
ally in the Caucasus region is Azerbaijan, whereas Russia's ally is its rival,
Armenia, which continues to insist that Turkey committed 'genocide' against its
people during World War One. ''We are all aware about the historical problems
between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Russia will contribute to the peace
process," Putin said. "We do not want negative relations with any of
our neighbours, including Armenia," Erdogan responded.
Playing the Albanian card
Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a very shrewd politician. He is determined
to advance the idea of Turkey joining the EU one day, but is well aware of the
immense hostility this arouses in established member countries, France and
Germany above all. To have British support, as Turkey does, is rather a
liability than an asset.
The more recent a country's adhesion to the EU, the more likely it is to be in
favour of Turkish entry. The UK joined in 1973. Albania has yet to join; but it
is certain to do so eventually after the valiant role it played in 1999 in the
The new countries of Europe can perhaps swing the matter for Turkey, if
sufficiently courted. One institution to which Turkey belongs and they don't is
NATO, a very good bargaining card.
The Turkish Prime Minister completed a two-day official visit to Tirana on 16th
February. Leading a delegation of businessmen and parliament members, he met
with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and other top
officials. The countries of Southeast Europe, especially Albania, are a priority
for Turkish foreign policy, Erdogan said, pledging his country's support for
Albania's goal of joining NATO. "NATO membership of Albania will be very
important for Balkan countries," he said, adding that Euro-Atlantic
integration would provide the region with a "strategic advantage."
Erdogan also announced that a Turkish university would be opened in Tirana, with
the goal of boosting awareness about relations between the two countries.
After his meeting with the Turkish prime minister, Nano hailed the visit, saying
it demonstrated the high level of bilateral relations. Albania is interested in
Turkey's experiences with the tourist sector, Nano said, urging Turkish
entrepreneurs to invest in tourist facilities planned for Albania's coastline.
'There are perfect relations in the political and military arenas between Turkey
and Albania. These relations should be developed in the economic arena as
well," Nano said.
The two leaders agreed on the need for participation by Turkish firms in the
privatisation of strategic sectors of the Albanian economy. To that end, Turkish
Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim and Albanian Transport and
Telecommunications Minister Spartak Poci signed a maritime co-operation
Erdogan's meeting with Moisiu focused on bilateral co-operation, the development
of economic relations, and regional issues. Moisiu congratulated him on the EU's
recent decision to launch accession talks with Turkey.
Erdogan also met with Parliament Speaker Servet Pellumbi and Tirana Mayor Edi
Rama, and addressed the Albanian Parliament. He then headed for Bosnia and
Herzegovina, the second and final stop on his mini-tour of the Balkans.
The US -Turkish relations in tension
US-Turkish differences reached a high acrimonious level, when on March 1st
2003, Turkish Parliament shot down a government proposal to let US use its
territory to open a second front against Iraq from the north. Since then Turks
have remained opposed to US policies in the region. When it appeared that the
acrimonious airing of differences between Nato allies USA and Turkey over Iraq
had ebbed somewhat, US efforts to 'franchise 'a' Cedar revolution' in Lebanon,
to weaken and isolate Syria have brought acute tensions back into the
relationship. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told media last week that he
would go ahead with his planned visit to Syria in mid-April. "Of course, we
will go (to Syria)," he said when questioned by reporters at the
Analysts commented that Sezer's visit could be interpreted as support for Syria
at a time when it was under mounting international pressure to end its military
presence in Lebanon. Turkey largely kept its silence when USA supported by
France commanded Syria to quit Lebanon forthwith.
Ankara has also kept quiet on sale of short-range Russian missiles to Damascus.
It would have howled over such a deal in the past. Russian Defence Minister and
head of the Russian Security Council Igor Ivanov told Israel's Channel 1 TV
recently that Russia is ready to provide assurances that non-portable,
anti-aircraft Strelets missiles with a range of 4-5 Kms being sold to Syria
would not threaten Israel.
US ambassador Eric Edelman had urged Ankara to join in for an immediate and
complete Syrian withdrawal. "What can be said on Syria is that the
international community is completely unanimous on UN Security Council
Resolution 1559," which calls on Syria to immediately pull out of Lebanon.
"We hope Turkey will join the international community. Of course, the
decision to do so lies with Turkey," Edelman added.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul explained that his country was fully
in line with the UN resolutions as "democracy and the dissemination of
freedoms in various parts of the region is Turkey's basic policy."
Diplomatic sources in Damascus reportedly revealed that the US administration
reacted angrily at the Turkish government's silence over a Turkish people's
delegation visiting Syria to voice its support and solidarity with the Syrian
people in the face of the US pressures and the Israeli threats.
USA has cautioned, even warned Ankara many times, not to have close relations
with Damascus, but Turkey has ignored such threats. Several bilateral high level
visits have taken place, the last one was in December by Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sezer's visit is in return for Syrian President Bashar
Assad's earlier visit to Turkey in 2004, which marked a turning point in the
Syria has begun withdrawing its forces from Lebanon near to its border as laid
down in the 1989 Taif Agreement , which had ended the 16 year civil war in
Lebanon in which nearly 100,000 people were killed and the nation almost
destroyed . Syria had gone in to protect the Christians and the Druzes, now
leading opponents of Syria. Last year the US and France made UN Security Council
pass resolution 1559, which called for Syrian with drawl and disarming of
various militias in Lebanon.
France became the colonial power in Syria following the First World War, which
ended the Ottoman empire and its rule over the Middle East. Paris created
Lebanon by detaching it from Greater Syria to give a dominant role to Maronite
Christians, who had forged closer relations with France as far back as the
After massive but peaceful demonstrations from anti- and pro -Syrian groups
ignited after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri
in February, an early morning bomb blast on 19 March morning in the Christian
sector of Beirut has rekindled fears of renewal of inter -communal violence and
During the cold war, while Turkey was member of Nato, Syria was a close ally of
USSR. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the change in the
international strategic scenario, especially after the US invasion of Iraq two
years ago, Turkey and Syria have come closer.
In late 1998 Turkey had threatened to invade Syria unless it expelled Kurdish
rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), sheltered
in Syria. Ocalan was expelled, caught up by Turkish agents in Kenya, brought to
Turkey for trial and is now lodged in a Turkish jail.
Turkish Foreign Ministry did try to lower tensions when it spokesman Namik Tan
told the media on 10 March that Turkey was strongly committed to its strategic
partnership with the United States. Rebuffing recent allegations that the ruling
Justice and Development Party's (AKP) had helped encourage rising anti-American
sentiment in Turkey, Tan stated that Turkey was a friend and ally to the US and
that such media allegations had no place in Ankara's relations with Washington
But utterances like the recent one by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the
2nd anniversary of US invasion of Iraq do not help either. He told Fox News TV
on 21 March that "Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later,
clearly if we had been able to get the 4th Infantry Division in from the north,
in through Turkey, more of the Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, Baathist regime would have
been captured or killed." "The insurgency today would be less,"
he said. Rumsfeld of course understands little about insurgency, rebellion and
war of independence against occupying powers throughout history, Vietnam.
Algeria and Kenya being recent examples.
Sezer approves tougher straits protection law
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on March 10th approved a new law on the Turkish
Straits. The law is designed to reduce the risk of pollution in the Straits by
not allowing the passage of uninsured ships in Turkish territorial waters. In
addition, ships which fail to meet world environmental standards won't be
allowed to pass through the straits. Turkish vessels which don't meet these
standards will also be barred.
All ships except warships and official government vessels (Turkish and
otherwise) will have to submit information on their cargo to the
Undersecretariat of Navigation.
Erdogan: "the media served foreign interests in exaggerating police
Speaking at a press conference on March 10th before flying to Spain to
attend a security summit, Prime Minister Erdogan charged that the media had
served foreign interests by exaggerating the police crackdown on an unauthorized
International Women's Day demonstration in Istanbul, adding that the incident
had been blown out of proportion. The media effectively denounced Turkey to the
world, he said, adding, "The police may sometimes act in the heat of
emotion, but this incident wasn't serious."
Erdogan added that the Interior Ministry was investigating the incident and that
such things also happen in Western countries.
Erdogan attends tubitak meeting
Speaking at a meeting of the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research
Council (TUBITAK), Erdogan stressed the importance of achieving progress in
science and technology. Erdogan stated that the defence industry and space work
were Turkey's priorities, adding that the government had prepared a strategic
framework document to coordinate science and technology with research and
development (R&D) efforts.
"This document will lay out our objectives through 2010," he said. The
premier also lamented that the resources currently allocated to science and
technology were insufficient for the country's goals, but urged the need for
Gul meets with Georgian foreign minister
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in mid-March met with his visiting Georgian
counterpart, Salome Zurabisvili, in Ankara. At a joint press conference, Gul
said that Turkey and Georgia were not only neighbours, but also friendly
countries, adding that Ankara backed peaceful solutions to conflicts in the
country's South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in line with political and
Touching on a number of joint ventures with Caucasian countries, Gul said that
the long-awaited opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was expected
later this year. For his part, Zurabisvili stated that Tbilisi attached
importance to Turkey's political support in its relations with Russia. She also
remarked that Turkey's European Union membership was needed for the region.
Meanwhile, the two ministers signed a joint protocol on cooperation against
Gul to travel to Britain
At the invitation of his British counterpart Jack Straw, Foreign Minister
Gul travelled to London in mid-March for an official working visit. The talks of
the two top diplomats focussed on Turkish-European Union relations and the
Cyprus issue. In addition, political, economic, cultural relations, as well as
the Mid-east issue, were taken up.
During his stay, the Turkish foreign minister also visited an exhibition
entitled "Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600" at the Royal
Academy of Arts.
Moody's upgrades ratings outlook on Turkey
The Turkish economy and the cost to local authorities of raising funds were
given a helping hand recently with an upgrading by Moody's Investors Service,
Anadolu News Agency reported.
The credit ratings agency upgraded the outlook on all ratings for Turkey to
positive from stable in the light of considerable economic progress since 2001.
Prospects for a significant deepening of economic, financial, and even political
integration with the European Union were an additional consideration, Moody's
said in a statement. At the same time, Moody's upgraded the ratings on the
government's Turkish lira-denominated instruments to B1 from B2 in recognition
of improved domestic debt sustainability.
The positive outlook affected the B1 foreign-currency country ceiling for debt,
the B2 foreign-currency country ceiling for bank deposits, and the B1 rated
bonds and notes issued by the Republic of Turkey, regardless of currency
denomination, the ratings agency said.
While it acknowledged that a heavy debt burden and a wide current account
deficit remained sources of vulnerability for Turkey, Moody's said its positive
outlook reflected both the way the economy has performed, with rapid
disinflation, robust investment and increased productivity, and the way it was
managed, with political stability and responsibility in macroeconomic
management. Moody's ascribed the success of legislating profound socio-political
reforms in recent years to the popular quest for EU membership. The EU project
would continue to support the continued modernisation and convergence of the
Turkish economy, Moody's said.
However, the agency added that Ankara still had to undertake difficult
structural adjustments to secure lasting economic stability in addition to
making painful political concessions to fulfil its EU ambitions, without any
guarantee that these would definitely lead to full membership.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Erdogan in Ethiopia
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held talks recently on bilateral
issues with his Ethiopian counterpart, Meles Zenawi, following his arrival in
the African country on an official visit. Turkey and Ethiopia agreed to
establish a joint business council to advise their respective governments on
bolstering economic cooperation, including prospects of promoting Turkish
investment in Ethiopia, the two prime ministers said at a press conference, New
Erdogan described the talks with Zenawi as "positive and
constructive." "We are committed to contribute to the economic
development of Ethiopia," he said, adding that both sides have also agreed
to shortly reopen the Ethiopian embassy in Ankara. His two-day official visit
headed a large government and business delegation aimed at enhancing economic
and trade cooperation between the two countries.
Motorola reaps rewards as a real IT solutions provider
Motorola's country manager, Murat Ongor, announced recently the company's 2004
results showed a 300 per cent increase in sales from the year before, Anatolia
News Agency reported. The parent company reported global sales rising 35 per
cent year-on-year, from 23bn Euro in 2003 to 31bn Euro in 2004.
During a press conference at the Divan Kurucesme in Istanbul, Ongor refused to
divulge exact revenue figures or Motorola's share of Turkey's mobile
telecommunications market, which grew 30 per cent last year and is projected to
surge 10 per cent in 2005. Motorola targets its own sales growth in Turkey this
year at triple the market performance.
A telecom analyst in Istanbul said the mobile telecommunications market in
Turkey last year was worth 7.4bn Euro. She estimated Motorola's market share at
8-10 per cent, which signifies maximum valuation, the company's sales last year
grew from around 245m Euro to 740m Euro. Motorola imports handsets and installs
network systems in Turkey.
"We also want to let Turkish people know that Motorola is a real IT
solutions provider, not just a mobile phone company," Ongor was quoted as
saying. "Innovation is key for us, and Motorola devotes nearly 10 per cent
of its revenues to research and development, which says a lot."
Motorola's county manager for personal devices, Yucel Kubanc, painted a clear
picture of the company's strategy covering music, design and technology.
"We're preparing to implement our cooperation with Apple iTunes, whereby
people can download songs from their iPods or computers onto their mobile
phones," he said. Kubanc assured that this would be available in a few
months, plus top design with RAZR V3, the slimmest phone in the world at 13.9
millimetres is also available.
"So far, Motorola has won PoC contracts with 23 network operators covering
27 countries and territories," said Kubanc. "This includes Turkcell,
which now offers PoC services to its subscribers using Motorola's network
infrastructure and V400p handsets."
Ongor added: "We prefer to put the Telsim affair behind us." His talk
of civil authorities referred to Turkey's banking regulators having taken over
Telsim in an attempt to collect part of the six billion Euro in costs to the
state from the collapse of Imar Bank, both entities formerly owned by the Uzan
family. The state has pledged to pay 600m Euro to Motorola from the expected
proceeds of a sale of the GSM operator.
Boost in ADNL use pushes up Turk Telekom's profit
The 2004 results of the Turkish fixed-line operator, Turk Telekom, slated for
privatisation this year, were announced on February 18th. The company posted a
profit of 2.1bn Turkish liras in 2004, against 1.9bn Turkish liras in 2003.
General manager of Turk Telekom, Mehmet Ekinalan, said that sales were 9.6bn
Turkish liras in 2004 and 1.5bn Turkish liras settlement from Turkcell after
disagreement over interconnection deals was settled in December, Anatolia News
The results of the company further revealed that last year it earned 146m
Turkish liras from ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line), an increase from
15m Turkish liras in the previous year. According to Ekinalan, there was an
increment of 455,000 ADNL users from 57,000 over the same period. The company
decided to increase the number of ADSL ports from the current level of 700,000
to two million by the end of the year. The company would accomplish
infrastructure investments this year worth 1.1bn Turkish liras, including
broadband connections, which became widely available in Turkey in 2004. Ekinalan
also said the number of hotspots for wireless internet connections would be
raised from 160 to 2,000.